Items filtered by date: May 2013
Tuesday, 14 May 2013 08:08

Live Review: Melbourne Ska Orchestra

Nicky Bomba describes playing with his rag-tag band of ska-sters as being the conductor of a runaway train, and before Melbourne Ska Orchestra have so much as played a song I begin to understand what he means.

As this maniacal drummer takes the stage backed by his crew of horn-wielding brass hipsters, I find myself wondering whether they will actually be playing music, or whether this will be some sort of weird interpretive dance routine and somehow I've stumbled into the wrong Tivoli. Luckily MSO decide to play music from their freshly-waxed debut longplayer, rather than performing a brass version of the Riverdance.

The album's good, and you will never find me saying otherwise. However, after Saturday night it is very clear to me that this musical masterpiece is one that needs to be seen live to be appreciated. As MSO bounces it's way through crowd favourites ‘Lygon Street’, ‘He's A Tripper’ and ‘Dean Went To Mexico’, it's clear that Bomba isn't just showing off selections of ska's two-tone history.

It's the group's breadth of singing talent that is keeping the crowd swaying, with each track seemingly unearthing a new, fresh talent. Where do these singers keep coming from? Maybe Bomba has a trapdoor under the stage where he keeps his vocal enthusisasts, and he yanks them out at the appropriate time. I don't know. I don't care either. I may have some permanent hearing damage, and I may have spilt a drink on that guy's girlfriend, but it doesn't matter. The gig was amazing.

Melbourne Ska Orchestra played The Tivoli May 11
Published in Reggae/ Roots
Friday, 10 May 2013 05:34

Sons Of Sin tickets

Having earned their crown as Brisbane independent theatre royalty, The Danger Ensemble prepare to unleash their most provocative work to date, Sons Of Sin, at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in May 17-25.
 


Sometimes shocking and always chaotic, Sons Of Sin traverses the turbulent terrain of a post-feminist era, using a magnifying glass and nine sons to set fire to manhood in crisis.

TO WIN ONE OF 5 DOUBLE PASSES TO THE 7:30PM PREVIEW PRODUCTION AT THE JUDITH WRIGHT CENTRE TOMORROW, THURSDAY MAY 16TH:
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Published in Competition
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 20:52

Sons Of Sin: Theatre In Preview

Thomas Hutchins and The Danger Ensemble ask 'what’s in a man?'

Coming to the Judith Wright Centre this month is new production ‘Sons of Sin’, created by independent theatre group The Danger Ensemble and starring young actor Thomas Hutchins. The play uses a group of twenty-something male actors and a drinking game to explore the meaning of masculinity.

“The stereotypical idea of a man now is someone who doesn't cry, doesn't dance or dances very poorly — violent creatures that don't really have a soft side. We're really opening up the man in this show to see what really goes on behind the scenes of this rough facade that we all put on because it's what we feel a man should do or look like.”

Hutchins and co. will actually play a drinking game on stage and use a mix of classical texts and personal confessions in a largely improvised performance.

“Every night the show will be different and every show will have a different duration. We don't know how the show's going to go, we don't know which parts of the show will be performed each night because it's all by chance around the game … It's informed by stories from the history of men and life itself, the Earth and the universe — it's quite a large scope that we're dealing with. At the base of that is a very personal story from all the performers in the show, there's some very personal aspects about our lives and about how we are becoming men in today's society.”

The performance uses alcohol as a catalyst for all of this, a stylistic choice that reveals the role that drinking plays in the culture of Australian men today.

“We're looking at the rites of passage and how you go from being a boy to a man in this society. In Australia's culture, drinking is a very big part of that. When boys become men there's this idea that it's done with alcohol, there's always alcohol present, so that's the rites of passage that we’re using. Showcasing these games where there's no real winner. The winner is the person who loses. That's how men function; we want to win, but with winning comes great loss.”

Described by Hutchins as “sexy, drunk and violent”, the show uses a vast range of classical texts, including the Bible. “The men in the Bible are fascinating. You have these angels that turn into devils … these men who seem pure and who are doing good things and then they fall.”

The Danger Ensemble aims to produce innovative, provocative works that challenge the future of live performance, and ‘Sons Of Sin’ reflects this in its improvised style and mesh of different storylines.

“We love new things, we're in a culture where we can do ten things at once and this type of work is innovative. There's not one story, that idea is so dated, I don't want to see one story anymore. We're in a culture which has so much stimulus so when I want to go to theatre that shouldn't be any different. My brain can keep up with doing more than one thing at a time. I love that it's different for every audience member; you can leave the theatre thinking one thing but your friend can think something else and that's not incorrect. There's no incorrect response to good work.”

‘Sons Of Sin’ plays at THE Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts from May 16-25.

 

Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 20:46

1066: The Bayeux Brought To Life

 

Small Crown Productions will be re-creating the historical events recorded in the Bayeux Tapestry in conjunction with this year’s Anywhere Festival.

The Anywhere Festival is a Brisbane-based project which aims to promote the production and placement of theatre in unconventional venues. '1066: The Bayeux Brought to Life' is a dramatic interpretation of the Bayeux Tapestry, a historical artefact which portrays the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. Director Paul Adams says the play, which incorporates storytelling, dance and projection, was born from his love of history and a fascination with the English language.

“I think that the story is quite incredible. It's captured on the Bayeux tapestry, which is a 70-metre-long, hand-embroidered account of the two years leading up to the Battle of Hastings. The battle itself changed the shape of England and particularly the English language because William of Normandy who later became William the Conqueror didn't speak very much English. Therefore it was after the Battle of Hastings that the French and English language started to meld together and that's driven much of the way we speak today.”

The production, which will run for an hour, will be staged in the Queensland Museum. Paul says that punters can expect to be blown away by the epic proportions of both the story and the set.

“We're using the Collectors Cafe in the museum as our space. It's got beautiful high ceilings and our designer has done an excellent job re-creating the imagery of the tapestry. I had a crazy notion for a set and she managed to make it happen which is incredible.

“To be able to bring the tapestry and such significant historical events to life through theatre is brilliant. The tapestry itself is fascinating so the opportunity to use it as an inspiration to create a piece of theatre has been an absolute joy.”

'1066: The Bayeux Brought to Life' will run at the Collectors Cafe, Queensland Museum as part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival from May 8 – 18.



 

Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 20:41

Spring Breakers: Film In Review

Until recently, Harmony Korine has been the underdog of a fiercely independent film-as-provocation subculture of American cinema, along with filmmakers like Vincent Gallo and Larry Clark.

A skater, painter, author and photographer, his films have been decidedly on the experimental and performance art end of the spectrum – apart perhaps, from the very verité 'Kids', which he wrote when he was 19. Thereafter followed four resolutely non-commercial features: 'Gummo', 'Julien Donkey Boy', 'Mister Lonely', and 'Trashhumpers' (about degenerate oldies who hump trash); all lo-fi films set in low-income enclaves, about low-brow things like fucking, skating, drinking, drugs and casual violence. 

And then 'Spring Breakers' happened: his fifth feature, his first commercial success, and about as different aesthetically to his previous work as Chaplin’s 'Great Dictator' is to 'Die Hard'. At first glance, you’d be hard pressed to see Korine in this film, for all the slick, high-def visuals, production values, and the big-name stars (Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, James Franco). “Yeah, I can see that,” the writer-director demurs.

'Spring Breakers' is a candy-coloured cultural nightmare, in which bikini-clad babes cruise the streets of Miami on scooters in slow-motion, straight out of a rap video; jacked up on coke, brandishing machetes and fake guns, they rob a diner like it’s part of a video game; bare-breasted, they jiggle under phallic yardglasses, waiting to be showered on.

“There’s elements of the visual style of rap videos that are kind of sifted through — like a cultural mash-up, or an impressionistic reinterpretation of those things, of that culture,” says Korine. “It’s a meshing and a melding and a blending and a kind of mutating of all of those things.”

In this respect, Korine follows in the footsteps of Brian De Palma’s American nightmare 'Scarface' (explicitly referenced in the film), in which Cuban immigrant-on-the-make and wannabe gangster Tony Montana, assessing ‘80s Florida, says: “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, you get the women.”


But while 'Spring Breakers' features another Tony, in the form of white-boy rapper, dealer and wannabe gangster Alien (James Franco), the action belongs to the four party-hard girls who arrive on his patch of turf for spring break. In the real world, some terrible violence would befall these girls; but in Korine’s world, they cut through the scene like a razor through butter, moving with a sinister kind of amorality; untouchable, unreal. What does it say about the American dream that these girls are the ultimate predators?

But Korine is reluctant to engage in deep analysis, insisting that his film “is not an indictment or an essay. I don’t ask myself any questions. I just make movies, make things, mind my own business, play basketball, eat tacos. I do what I want to do. I entertain myself. I just don’t want to know anything about why I do anything.”

'Springbreakers' will be released in cinemas May 9.

 

Published in Film
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 18:19

Lil' Fi: Sunny Blues

Well into her third decade of performing, renowned blues/ roots artist Lil’ Fi reflects on her past as a white girl from Bundaberg, diving into a world previously unknown to Australian females. 

“What got me writing was when I was singing these old down home blues and I realised I'm not a black American from the deep south – I'm a white-skinned girl from Bundaberg. My blues are different to those from the deep south. So I started singing my own version of blues but I wanted more humour in more songs, and no one was singing it with an Australian accent, certainly not within the blues style.”

Across the '90s and into the early 2000s, Lil' Fi won a stack awards including five-times Best Female Vocalist at the Australian Blues Music Awards. It could’ve been more if not for her desire to let others have a go at winning.

“I got to the point where I stopped entering the awards because I felt that I should let other people win them. I got a real good run at it; I got to program the Woodford Folk Festival when I was 26 for 5 years. I ran a music festival of my own for another ten – I've had some remarkable experiences in my musical career and I'm very grateful for the Australian blues music industry. To get that sort of recognition is very special.”

True to her modest self, Fi acknowledges her achievements aren't necessarily from being better, but rather her hard work ethos.

“I've travelled all over Australia, for some years it had been nine or ten months at a time so I think I was well known enough. But I'm a hardworking muso, I sing from my heart and I don't think those other musicians were any worse, it was just recognition of a job well done and having a red hot go.”

Nowadays, Fi isn't as productive on the touring circuit, focussing instead on being a mother, but still makes time for the odd show here and there – including an upcoming performance at Bond University

“We're really excited. I love playing with our full seven-piece on stage, you don't really get to do it with the smaller venues. So being able to play with the same band that we did at Byron [Bluesfest] will be fantastic.”

Lil’ Fi headlines Live At Bond at Bond University Sunday May 19. 

 

Published in Rock

Queensland’s musical history will be showcased in a new exhibition at the State Library.

Live! Queensland Band Culture has been a year in the making and will feature numerous pieces of memorabilia, audiovisual elements and interactive exhibits documenting 160 years of Queensland music history.

“It's probably taken about a year since we started working on it,” Event Coordinator Kristy Madden says. “All the materials have been collected over many years for the library. I've always played in school bands and stuff, and going down to the pub and listening to a local band is just a part of my life. This exhibition has really opened my eyes to how much talent we have in Queensland.”

Live! will run for four months and will contain a vast array of entertainment including live bands and interactive exhibits.

“There will be heaps of audiovisual exhibits and opportunities for people to experience significant moments throughout Queensland's 160-year history.  It won't just be a history lesson, there's interactive elements to the exhibition, and of course the live bands make it very entertaining.”

One of the major elements of Live! is the Deadly Brothers exhibit, which will feature five of Queensland's top indigenous musicians. Kristy believes it is very important to display how indigenous culture has impacted the Australian music landscape.

“The Deadly Brothers section is really important because it showcases the indigenous influence on Queensland music. We showcase Harold Blair, the first indigenous opera singer which was a real musical landmark.”

The Live! Second Saturdays monthly events will feature bands from all genres and will be themed according to: ‘All That Jazz’, ‘Tear It Up’ and ‘Golden Days’, with the first event this Saturday to be ‘I Heart Queensland’.

“I Heart Queensland is a bit of a mixtape. We've got some young bands like Velociraptor and The Gin Club (pic), but we also have the oldest band in Queensland, — the Brisbane Municipal Concert Band, so there's something for everyone.”

Live! kicks off at the State Library this Saturday May 11. The exhibItion runs until Sunday September 15. slq.qld.gov.au/live

 

Published in Rock
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 18:12

The Bellrays: Educated Aussies

According to The Bellrays guitarist Bob Vennum, Aussies know a fair bit more than just how to drink beer. 

“Australia is  a little bit different than most places because a lot of the fans actually talk about music. They are really up on the history of music and rock, and they just came across as a very educated audience which is really cool,” Bob says.

“It's fun to meet people who are happy and dancing and they just want to have a good time. It's really cool when they come up to you and they start talking about how you stole that one riff from that album from 1969. They are listening to what you’re doing, and putting it in context to the musical history that they know and that they're there to support us by coming to our show.”

Since the early days of The Bellrays, Bob says it was a positive outlook on life that helped get the band through life's tough times.

“You're always sort of looking at the next hill, so to get over there, climb up to it, and see what's on the other side, you just keep having to put your pants back on and just keep going. Life is adversity and you just gotta get through it. Lisa [Kekaula] our vocalist and I have always had this deal. We've always held onto what it was that we wanted, and if we honestly didn't see a way to get that, then we probably would have stopped long ago. We're very hard headed that way and we knew that we had something, so to give up on it would be a pretty big drag.” 

Releasing their latest album, 'Black Lightening', Bob says there's plenty more brewing in the inspiration mill for future albums, possibly even a book.

“We've started recording a new record but it's in the very early stages. We're writing new tunes and recording them as we go, so there will be a new record out hopefully next year ... There's a lot of stories we can tell so keep your eye open for the book that we write eventually. It will all be in there in the book we write when we're finally done.”

The Bellrays play The Hi-Fi June 13 and the Coolangatta Hotel June 15. 

Published in Rock
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 17:43

Sunnyboys: A Delicious Treat

If you were a kid in the 1980s you probably ate a Sunnyboy or two.

The original 'Sunnyboy' was a pyramid-shaped ice cream that came in a brightly-coloured tetra-pack. One side would be a hard, solid rock of ice, the other side soft and syrupy. Kids would guzzle down their favourite half and tear open the tetra-pack to see if they'd won a free ice-cream. It's this simple feel-good summer memory that led power-pop pioneers Sunnyboys to name themselves after this summer treat; they wanted to encapsulate that feeling of being young, happy and free. It followed that when the band took the stage in the early 1980s it was their style of syrup-laden sunshine-pop that propelled them to the top of playlists everywhere. Yet amid the glory-run of Sunnyboys' first few years, behind their well-groomed ‘Countdown’ appearances, the band's leader was plagued by personal demons. No one saw the demise of the band coming and, in 1984, no one really understood.

"We were pretty surprised at the time, we didn't actually recognise it as mental illness." Bill Bilson, Sunnyboys drummer and original member, reflects on the original life of his band with the patience and wisdom that comes with age and hindsight. Emotions have waned with time, and the reflection is objective, fair and unflinching.

"Jeremy [Oxley] wasn't actually diagnosed with schizophrenia until much later on. At the time we sort of felt that he was going through a lot of emotional changes due to things happening in his personal life — pressures of touring, exhaustion. I mean, we were worked to the bone there for a while. We toured a lot and it took its toll. I think he probably felt some pressure to come up with the goods as well, you know, to write. It was difficult to recognise that he had mental health issues at the time... he was still basically Jeremy, he just seemed to not be in a happy place."

In the end, the decision to call it quits wasn't dramatic or fuelled by ill-will. It was a mutual one, borne out of necessity and of an understanding that, for Jeremy's sake, a change was needed.

"It was something that needed to happen at the time because of Jeremy's health. I'm not sure if 'regret' is the word I'd use for myself... I was probably more disappointed. I thought we had a few good albums left in us. It took a little time for it to sink in, after a whirlwind couple of years. There was no ill feeling. Everyone in the band still communicated and got along very well."

For many years Sunnyboys fans have been teased and tantalised with the prospect of a fully-fledged reunion. Partial incarnations of the band persisted throughout the late 1980s, and in 1998 a near-complete revival occurred when Sunnyboys performed for Mushroom Records' 25th anniversary. Many were left wondering why the band didn't persist after that performance — surely enough time had passed by then, surely reformation was on the cards? It was not to be — fans would have to wait another decade yet.

"[In 1998] Jeremy was not in one of his better periods. At the Mushroom concert we basically just did two songs, so it was relatively easy. At that particular time putting the band back together would not have been a wise decision. If you'd asked me in 2000 I still would have thought that it would be very unlikely that we'd ever get back together and play again. But in the last couple of years it's all really fallen together and become really quite good."

It was under a pseudonym that Sunnyboys finally re-emerged, tentatively venturing into the spotlight once more at a Hoodoo Gurus gig. Bill can't remember where exactly they'd performed under the name "Kids In Dust" before, but he assures me it has been many, many years since the moniker was last used. 

"The Gurus had talked about the Sunnyboys playing; there was talk of Pete [Oxley] and Jay [Jeremy] doing an acoustic set. Jay thought it was a little daunting because it was something he'd never done before and said that he'd feel more comfortable playing electrically with the full band. It was exhilarating, exciting. With such a long time in between gigs it felt fresh again. It was really quite enjoyable."

Finally then, it seems like Sunnyboys are back... for a while, anyway. Their drummer, at least, seems filled with optimism, even if age does bring with it new challenges.

"Jeremy's in a great place at the moment, he's feeling very comfortable within himself. The main challenge for me though is probably the physical requirements. Being the age I am now it requires me to work a little harder on my fitness levels!"

Sunnyboys play the Coolangatta Hotel May 24-25.

Published in Rock
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 17:33

Afrika Bambaataa: The Crypt Keeper

If Kool Herc is the father of hip hop, Afrika Bambaataa is the Godfather. And he’s going to the mattresses. 

A Bronx legend known as an originator of both breakbeat DJing and electro funk, Bambaataa has never been one to let genre stand in the way of a good tune. He believes boundaries have no place in hip hop, as evidenced by the influence of Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra and Gary Numan on his signature track, 'Planet Rock'. But he looks around today and sees people fixated on authenticity; on what is 'real' hip hop and what is not. 

“Well, those are the people that just don't know,” he says dismissively. “Most people say 'hip hop' today and they just think of rap records. Most don't even recognise the whole cultural movement of hip hop. Most radio stations, when they play hip hop, all they're into is payola and getting money for commercial tracks; they don't care too much about the culture. Most of the people who get in there, they claim they're in it for the 'culture', but they're not. They just want a paycheck. And they're going to dictate to you what rap music is today? 

“Then you go to these parties today, and people get mad if you play the breakbeat. They say, 'oh, can I hear some hip hop?' What's wrong with you, man? The breakbeat is hip hop! If you want to hear a rap record, just say you want to hear a rap record! These people have jacked up what hip hop truly is, and was, and made it commercial. That's why you've got apartheid now in hip hop. You've got people who think, 'this is real hip hop'. It's not. 

“They don't even know that hip hop is all different categories and styles of music. You can have your R&B, you can have your hip house, you can have your trance, you can have your jungle hop, you can have your Calypso reggaeton style of hip hop... I always give credit to the people who are progressive-minded. People like Missy, Outkast, Busta Rhymes. These are great people who are not scared to play with the different sounds of hip hop and different sounds of music.”

As you can probably tell, Bambaataa's not a big fan of US radio stations. He believes they continue to wield influence, and they don't use it for good. Among other things, he blames them for hip hop's short attention span — whereas classic rock and funk acts can continue to get airplay and tour sizable venues for years, if not decades, after their commercial peak, hip hop isn't so kind to its elders. 

“I blame the stations,” he confirms. “Because if you played all that [older hip hop] music along with what's happening now, they still would get respect. Some people want to hear old funk music, some people want to hear old soul music. Those type of people will pack out a Temptations show; I mean, they might not be able to fill stadiums, but those people will pack out a club to see Ohio Players or Dr John. Whereas in hip hop, well, when was your last hip hop record? It could be Busta Rhymes today and Lil Wayne tomorrow.

“They say this is what the people want to hear, but they're liars. That's what somebody told you that you ought to be playing, but you know you could play other things. If you're gonna play a gangsta record with people cussing each other out, why can't you play a Public Enemy record? It's like, if you can play a rock record by a new group, why can't you also play The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. If you play Sean Paul, why can't you play Bob Marley? It's like a game being played on the people.” 

Whether there's a mainstream audience for it or not, Bambaataa is doing his part to ensure the history of hip hop is preserved. He's donated his immense record collection to Cornell University, curators of the largest collection of historical hip hop music in North America, and he's also been given a special role to play there. |

“I'm a visiting scholar,” he says of his three-year appointment, “teaching hip hop culture and trading knowledge with the students and the staff, working on the hip hop archive, speaking on certain things that we deal with in the hip hop culture throughout the world. A lot of people have donated to the hip hop archive at Cornell University, and it's amazing to see hip hop sitting right next to the Gettysburg Address, sitting right next to indigenous treaties, sitting right next to books dealing with witchcraft and religion and all types of things. It's amazing.”

For students with a sense of history, it must be a thrill to learn from Afrika Bambaataa. But he'd rather they didn't stand on ceremony.

“I always tell everybody to keep it humble,” he laughs. “You know, I feel strange when they say 'Professor Bambaata' or things like that. Just call me Brother Bam! When we're trading knowledge, when you hear from all these other geniuses, it's just amazing, speaking with them on different subjects and topics. People just get all up in it.”

Like Professor Henry Jones on a treasure hunt, Bambaataa will be stepping away from the podium briefly to tour Australia this month. “I'll be coming with my Serato and my MC and we're going to play our music and we want people to party and dance and act crazy,” he says. “I play the music and it's up to you to make the party happen. So let's party. Let's party on the mothership.”

Afrika Bambaataa celebrates the 30th anniversary of ‘Planet Rock’ at The Hi-Fi Friday May 17.

Published in Urban
Page 6 of 7

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