mordwen: (music)
Doug and I are holed up trying to unpack ready for our grand Driveway Sale, but we meant to go out and Do Things this weekend. Illness prevented most of it (sorry especially to Stu who was DJing at Carnivore with Michaela VJing; we really wanted to catch that).

Anyway, we dragged ourselves out on Sunday regardless of low-grade fever because we had tickets to Ash Grunwald/The Beautiful Girls/Blue King Brown/Cat Empire at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. There was an enormous queue to start with, so we went down and looked at the tail end of the art market under the Flinders St Bridge, had drinks on the balcony at Blue Train overlooking the river, passionfruit and grapefruit gelato as we walked back to the gardens and randomly ran into Sylph and Kia who we met last week at Rainbow Serpent (wonderful people; Doug has an awesome portrait shot he took of Sylph), then rocked out to Blue King Brown. They were awesome as usual but the real stars were Cat Empire.

They've got their mojo back and it's trebled. Harry seems to have gone and had singing lessons and now has some numbers where he sounds like the woman from Juno Reactor. The song they played first for the encore was tribal and unearthly, with deep Juno Reactor "Song for Ancestors" feel to it, a serious shift from the Dean Martin meets klezmer of another new-ish track. Old classics like "The Wine Song" never fail to amuse and they ended on a brilliant anthemic rendition of "The Chariot". The highlight, though, has to be "Two Shoes" with guest flamenco by Richard and Johnny Tedesco from Arte Kanela. Oh. My. God. Richard Tedesco is HOT. Also the woman he danced with. There was another great guest dance troupe doing a black tie comedy dance routine and as usual, Cat Empire keyboardist extraordinaire, Oliver McGill, did absolutely insanely incredible things with that keyboard, from wild circus music to seventies funk to lounge and back again.

As the sun set and I danced with my honey and we chatted to the random guys we'd just met from Warrnambool, I just felt transported and safe. Then Doug's fever kicked in again and my hips started to remind me about the aching thing and reality set in again. But just for a moment there, it was perfect.
mordwen: (music)
Arrived in New Orleans and wandered around the Vieux Carré. Resisted the impulse to revert to Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite fangirl worship (but did go to Bourbon St for Lost Souls' sake). Ate oysters there. It's an awful strip of strip clubs now.

The rest of the quarter is gorgeous: old terraces and iron work. Razor wire strung with mardi gras beads is the only odd note, an indication of the poverty here and the crime rate.

Doug went to bed early, having slept badly last night but I wanted my New Orleans experience, so, after dinner at Kyoto near where we're couchsurfing (and one of the restaurants recommended by PZB), I went out to see John Rankin play at a nearby hotel. While I was there, I got chatting to someone at my table who said that if I was only here two nights, I had to go see the Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf because they were the coolest band in town right now.

Sho' nuff. I went there and they are awesome. They are Ozomatli quality and energy with an extra dose of soul and jazz and minus the hip-hop. No time for a proper review, sorry.

Tomorrow, jumbalaya and gumbo and other delights.
mordwen: (music)
There's just something about ten-piece man-bands that combine latin rhythms, reggae beats and horns that do it for me. Cat Empire (Melbourne), Les Hurlements d'Léo (Bordeaux) and Ozomatli (Los Angeles) just make my hips sway, my feet move, my smile ache and my heart sing.

Tonight, I took Doug out the the Mountain Winery in Saratoga and we ate delicious food (crab cakes and seafood salad and crème brûlée with berries) and then we danced and laughed and partied to Ozomatli and drank good Zinfandel and for those moments, all was good in the world and there were no borders and love conquered all. I rang Matt and played him music down the phone (I seem to do this at concerts these days; it makes up for not having my friends there I think...) One of the guys in the band said, "Hey, it's like some big backyard party North Cali style!" and it was: open air, starlight and hundreds of people on their feet clapping their hands. I think one of the best things was all the kids -- in the end, Wil said something about the 5th-grader he'd encountered on one of his forays into the audience and dragged the kid on stage. Experience to remember.

And then we got back onto Benzaiken (the scooter) and rode down the mountain around those curvy roads back home in the starlight.

For those slightly north of us, they're apparently playing somewhere in Berkeley on Saturday...
mordwen: (Default)
Things are sort of starting to settle down here. I've had another week of extraordinary busyness and some emotional upheavals on the home front (if I owe you e-mail, please be patient for just a touch longer).

I'm trying hard to focus on the positives, so here goes:

Favorite new bookstore: Bird and Beckett on Diamond (thanks to [personal profile] anthologie, who had her reading there last week). I managed to buy not only her book, but Blessed Unrest, which I've heard discussed on NPR and have been looking forward to greatly, and The Dream of the Poem, a book on Hebrew poetry in Christian and Muslim Spain from 950 to 1492. Anyone who's read my series from when I was in Toledo in 2003 will know my fascination with this era.

Favorite new relaxation space: Watercourse Way, which Doug took me to one night. Oh my. We had the Moroccan-themed room with our own spa, sauna and plunge pool. It's a gorgeous place, beautiful music. You hire rooms, pay by the person and then lock the doors. I couldn't help but think it's exactly what we need for those Friday night soaks, [profile] fizit. No more of this silliness where it's women-only because we're in the Japanese baths public space.

Favorite new band: this is a hard one, because I've just experienced three awesome groups. DeatHat, a haunting sound that would fit right in at Woodford; Klezident Evil, which plays klezmer and, yes, video game soundtracks; but for pure raucous entertainment, I'm going to have to vote for SmashUp Derby, who I saw today at the San Jose Pride festival. I rang [profile] nihilla and [profile] crystal_storm to play them bits of this: George Michael's "Faith" vs The Cure's "Closer"; Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" vs U2's "Bloody Sunday"; and many more awesome LIVE mashups. I think my favorite was "Smells like Teen Spirit" with "Billy Jean" sung over the top of it but it's a hard choice. There's heaps of songs to download at their site. Go play.

Favorite new area of SF: Okay, this is really just an excuse to mention that we went up to SF to see Helen Lawson-Williams, who I went to primary school with, and who was in town for work. But we did end up wandering around Caffe Greco and popping into the Apple store up there, and checking out Chinatown and it was a lovely day out.
mordwen: (music)
Eternal gratitude and props to [ profile] e_dan who saw fit to purchase Ember Swift tickets for tonight's gig at The Corner.

The day at High Vibes was marred by shocking weather (freezing winds and pouring rain) and an importune interruption in the form of magazine work, but the evening was divine, Ember and Lyndell's voices angelic again and yet political and powerful, exactly the kind of world I want to live in, where my revolution is one I can definitely dance to. The final instrumental, Phoebe's Song for peace, was, as always, just incredible. Lyndell's violin and bowed guitar is mind-blowing. I'm devastated that they won't be at Woodford and don't think they'll be back till 2008, if only because Doug won't get to see them.

I gave Ember our left-over Montreal metro tickets which she thought was deeply amusing and fabulous. I'm very glad they're going to good use. It's so funny that I just missed these guys in Canada, after so many years of telling them I'd see them soon over there.

Home to an e-mail from someone about Evaldas, the gorgeous Lithuanian I met at the forest festival in 2003 . Intriguing... will respond when I've thought more about that one. Hi though, if you're reading, Julija.
mordwen: (music)
Today's musical styles couldn't have contrasted more. The afternoon was upbeat reggae and African rhythms in one room, West Papuan and pacific in another and smells of cooking wafting through. This evening was serious young men (and they were all men), black-rimmed glasses on structured white faces, hunched over laptops or electric guitars, creating squirls and beeps against a backdrop of experimental art, cigarette smoke and scotch and dry.

I loved both of them.

The best of the afternoon's music all seemed to feature Nicky Bomba on percussion somewhere in the band while the evening's best were Amplifier Machine and Because of Ghosts, the first a dreamy ambient excercise is sparseness with violin and guitar and a real drum kit, the violin dragged gently across the cymbals every so often as it wailed, then held close to the speaker for some feedback, loops and pedals and distortion as far as it could be pushed; the second reminded me of Godspeed You, Black Emperor, quiet, drawn-out beginnings leading to walls of guitar and drum, crashing crescendos of sound and then back to looped tinkling from brandy balloons filled with water, their rims rubbed into a mic.

As for the art, it's harder to remember which bits were which as I wasn't taking notes. I thought the birds of Zero Dollars piece was great, especially when filled with manuscripts in Latin and red ink. The beginning and middle section of Cornelius Wilczek's work was amazing: the russian animated carriage racing through the snow and the boy in the jungle with the animals who is then transfixed by the mirage of the dancing fifties' stripper in the heat of the dry grasses. I'm not sure whose work it was because the programme lists two names, but the 60s footage of Australian children playing during Becuase of Ghost's set was great too.

And of course, I had great company: first [ profile] fizit, where we caught up on our lives and talked of work and other stuff, and then James Geurts, my artist friend, where we spoke of art and life and politics and being driven.

One thing I've realised from today is how much I enjoy having purpose. I love having this magazine company starting and organising the picnic again because I love being able to say to people, "so, I'm doing this thing, can I get you involved in some way?" Teaching wasn't like that. It didn't have the same external focus and engagement that is energising me now.
mordwen: (music)
Things I would like to go do/see in the near future:

The Unquiet World exhibition @ ACCA (free), on now.

Some of the Gypsy films at ACMI (films $13/$10, season passes $60/$48), starts Thursday.

The opening of James Geurts's exhibition Tidemark at the SPAN gallery on Tuesday 13th June. (Met him in Linz in 2003, went to giant bouncy castle in Vienna).

Flamenco at Arte Canela on Johnston St at some point ($10 for a spot at a table, $5 for standing room, Friday and Saturday nights, 10pm, Thursdays at 8.30 -- serves dinner too.)

Various Friday night musical adventures at Café Quince ($10/$8). There's gypsy stuff coming up and afro-caribbean...
mordwen: (music)
Thursday night I dropped by the Stencil Festival Opening night (and wrote up a story for {ariel flux}). Friday night I dropped down to Café Quince down the road from my new place to listen to Phil Carroll and Ernie Gruner play tunes from all over Eastern Europe, gorgeous klezmer swirling around me. Chatted with them after the show and got a CD to review, so that story will be coming soon too. Spent most of the weekend marking so I didn't get to go to many of the stencil festival events I wanted to attend (so anyone who did make it should go add a story into {ariel flux}), but managed to finish in time Sunday to sneak out for coffee with Matt at Atomica and then an evening of jazz at the Spanish Club as part of the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival. Glorious, lazing in beanbags in the dimly lit plush red surroundings while different acts played various classical studies for trumpet or minimalist experimental genius for guitar and snare.

All in all, life is very, very good right now.
mordwen: (music)
Oh wow. Just got my regular Multicultural Arts Victoria newsletter and saw this: Diafrix & Daara J @ the Arts Centre, Sun 23 Apr, 5pm.

"Rap, reggae, soul & Cuban music will be layered with traditional rhythms as Hamer Hall explodes in a blur of colour, sound movement & hip hop. Free activities in Hamer Hall foyers from 12pm with food, music, dance & story-telling & three low cost workshops in African drumming, dance & singing. Don’t miss this awesome show! Bookings: or 1300 136 166. Tix: $35/$55"

Diafrix was the duo of 18-year-olds from Black Harmony Day and Daara did that track "Esperanza" that I adore and tracked down after the Reclaim the Streets a little while back.

It's pretty expensive and short notice (MAV is shocking at that) but I'm going to save my pennies. Anyone interested?
mordwen: (music)
I think the Cat Empire may well be one of the best live bands in Melbourne. Every single member of the band is so incredibly proficient at their instruments and the results are so tight and irrepressibly danceable that it's impossible to catch the vibe of the group in a studio situation. Half of the glory is the seamless segues, whether it's into a TV theme turned into walls of crashing sound or a gentle transition from The Chariot into Harry performing a soulful "Hotel California" in French.

The show, the last for the season, featured two guests, Norman [last name to be confirmed] on a wicked blues guitar and Bob Valentine leading the crowd in a singalong of "Lean on Me".

What stands out more than anything is the variety and talent: both in improvisation and response, shifts in timing, flamenco trumpet, freestyle solos, dub-influenced hip-hop and scratch into the carnival chaos of Eastern European tunes and straight back into ska, followed by rock'n'roll piano to rival Jerry Lee and a sliding blues groove.

Highlights from tonight's gig included "The Chariot" as a second encore, "The Wine Song" as the beginning of the first encore and old favourites early in the show like "How to Explain" which starts with a mournful trumpet solo and ends in a crescendo of joy ("music is the language of us all..."). It's one of the ones that, at 3:36 on the album, seems like a brief footnote to popular singles like "Hello Hello" but in concert run to much longer as the Empire Horns come in and Felix and Jumps move their hips in a way calculated to make every woman in the room swoon.

A superb night, topped off by an almost empty Punt Rd with [ profile] subtle_eye and I both on Vespas riding into the night. Sweet.

[Thanks to [ profile] nikkicat13 for cat herding, as she put it. It was a fun crowd to go with.]

Mmm, music

Feb. 11th, 2006 04:17 pm
mordwen: (music)
Last night was superb... The support was Mihi Rangi, ex-Akasa. She looked familiar when she got on-stage and her voice and percussion were amazing but it wasn't until she did "World Citizen" and said she was ex-Akasa that I realised who she was. She was doing it all with a loop pedal so it was frigging incredible. It's the first time I've seen her perform since Mel Shanahan killed herself, since I wasn't here for the funeral and can't remember why I didn't make it to the 2nd anniversary refugee fundraiser memorial concert on December 10 last year... hmmm...

And of course, Blue King Brown were great. Their last songs of the set are always wild, with great basslines and irresistable percussion. In some ways, I can't wait until they are more established so that we have a wider range of fantastic songs for them to choose from and the weaker tracks currently in the middle of the gig will just vanish. They always open strong with a powerful pure percussion piece, arranged during the SKIN days, and then go into some reggae and harder material, but really it's "Water" and that last track they end on which doesn't even seem to be on the EP that are the most powerful so far. Yay for [ profile] crystal_storm who joined me and [ profile] foregroundmusic and [ profile] quackhandle (students of mine from last semester) who were there to shake their booty too.

Yesterday daytime was pretty good too. [ profile] rickybuchanan and I caught up for lunch and had fun playing font identification games with Identifont which I'd almost forgotten about and talking about life, the universe and everything.

Tonight, we have a choice between a free refugee music festival at Kensington Community Centre or spending money I don't have right now to see another Oscar-nominated film. I know which I ought to be doing... but I also know which one is easier to do on my own -- anyone interested? Also, [ profile] xammy is in town for the documentary conference, and he's suggesting lesbian stand-up comedy... I've never been a huge stand-up fan, but we'll see.
mordwen: (music)
1. Tomorrow night [Friday]: Blue King Brown @ the Evelyn, Brunswick St, Fitzroy. Don't know when it starts exactly but if people would like to meet me there around 9, I reckon that'd be nifty. I have no idea if there's a cover charge, but it can't be much, can it? Never heard of them? Funky Melbourne-based guitar and percussion group with Blues influence and political lyrics. Line-up includes Natalie and Carlo from Skin, the percussion group.

2. Sunday, it seems I have been a silly monkey and am booked in to volunteer all day on the registration desk at the Australian International Documentary Conference... at the same time as the Midsumma Carnival. Thankfully, the conference is at the Hilton on Wellington Parade and the Carnival is at Treasury Gardens, so I'll be ducking down there during my lunch break and probably before and after. Anyone who wants to catch up, respond here or text me on the day.


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