Thursday, August 25, 2011

More of Sydney

With a couple of trips up to Sydney in a fairly short space of time recently, and with time walking around in the usually confusing city for me, I finally feel like I have a bit more of an idea of familiarity and a not-so disorientated impression of the central area.

On the weekend just gone, after being delighted by another impressive Hawthorn win in the lead up to the finals, I got up pretty early on Saturday morning and picked up Nicole on the way to the airport. Finding fog as soon as I crossed from North Melbourne to Carlton, it got thicker as we neared Tullamarine. We found that this had subsequently caused the airport to be shut down for the morning, and a 90 minute flight delay for us. Luckily we were in the air, and arrived into Sydney, without too much drama.

With our delay, this meant that Team Wilson were in the area to pick us up from the airport, given that I was planning to meet them in town when we got in. The car is not Evie's favourite place to be right now, so when we got into town, Jess and I walked across Darling Harbour with Evie contently in the pram, and we met Andrew at Pyrmont for lunch.

Basking in the sunshine, we sat on the decking of Cafe Morso and enjoyed a lovely lunch. Evie cuddles, and catching up with the Wilsons, perfect!

Returning back into the CBD, I did a bit of shopping before getting to our place for the night, the gorgeous art deco heritage listed The Grace Hotel. A "Secret Stay" deal found on Need It Now, this restored hotel from the 1930's was a bonus to the weekend! Nicole and I then met up again, and got ready for our night out, before wandering down to Circular Quay for dinner, and then pre-gig drinks at The Opera Bar. Belinda and Ross, and Claire and Kirsten joined us for wine and the view of the Bridge and Harbour, before we headed to our reason for the weekend trip.

On Sunday Nicole and I made our way out to ANZ Stadium, after not finding anywhere in town open for brunch, to meet Belinda and watch the footy. A preview to a potential final next month, we watched Sydney play the Saints. Amused by the scoreboard informing the crowd on the obvious umpiring decisions of the day, we saw the Swans confirm a win in the end.

What a great weekend away!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gotye: An Animated Album Preview

Having purchased and savoured my first listen of Gotye's new album, Making Mirrors on Friday, the prospect of seeing it performed live at the Sydney Opera House was even more exciting than the idea was when we grabbed tickets for this show. On Saturday night Nicole and I took our fourth row seats in the Concert Hall for just that!

Part of the Graphic Festival, this show, was billed as a combination of the new album, Wally's stagecraft, backed with fresh and handpicked animation.

The "support act", if you like, was the screening of The Lost Thing, with a live mini-orchestra performance of the soundtrack. This short won Best Animated Short at the Oscars this year, and is a film directed by Aussie Shaun Tan, and narrated by Tim Minchin. A cute and emotive story of finding our place in the current rat race, the animated streetscapes seemed to have pulled inspiration from John Brack's Collins Street, 5pm

Opening with the album opener, Making Mirrors, Eyes Wide Open was the first powerful full track, to wow us right from the start. The released clip for this song released last year was the accompaniment, and this combination made for a powerful performance.

Checking with the crowd if it was ok that if he didn't manage to start the clip for State Of The Art, he could reset it, Wally triggered the animated sequence with the opening beats perfectly, which provoked an awed response from the full Hall. Having the animators in the crowd, whom he acknowledged, this track stood out as a very Gotye-esk track. About a home organ, this has autotune featured, and the sampling of previous album tracks.

Rather nonchalantly, Wally started in on the track that everyone around Australia is currently talking about right now, Someone That I Used To Know featuring the background visuals of the music video. As the track built, we all wondered how the cameo vocals would be added to this performance…and when they started it seemed like a recorded addition, before the tiny Kimbra walked on stage playing her role in the track. Awesome.

Hearts A Mess, which followed, was emotional! Seeing this performed live is such an intense experience! Wally’s vocal range and passion in this, whilst bouncing between instruments is awe-inspiring. Such a talent.

Playing Save Me, and talking about his current relationship, showed the softer, lovely side of Wally on stage, before Bronte and the animated clip cemented the sentimental elements of the new album. So beautiful.

Playing the album, live, with his energetic backing vocalists who also featured on horns and stand out clapping sequences to bring a track to life, was a showcase of over 2 years of work bringing together this collection of tracks and musical inspiration. Finishing with the soaringly uplifting Learnalilgivinanlovin, the not flawless show was a complete treat.

Walking out felt very reminiscent of the feeling coming out of a gig earlier this year, totally in awe of the musical experience and genius that was a feast for eyes and ears for the whole show.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Eva – Tales From The Life Of Eva Cassidy

I had read that Clare Bowditch was doing a show about Eva Cassidy earlier this year, so when it hit the bigger stage of The Athenaeum, and Jessie mentioned a date, I was very keen to go. I love everything Clare does, and her involvement and enthusiasm had piqued my interest to know more about Eva.

After getting to see a Buddy and Cyril goal fest at the MCG, Jessie and I drove to pick up Marea, who had watched Heath play footy for the afternoon, before returning to the city. Rachael joined us at Stellini, a tucked away little treat in Little Collins Street, for dinner and wine. The meal was really lovely, and the Italian feel of this restaurant made for a great start to the night.

Taking our seats in the front row of the Circle, we were soon enthralled and enchanted by Clare telling us Tales From The life Of Eva Cassidy. A ‘song stylist’, as labelled by Eva’s mother, Cassidy was not a big selling star in her short 33 years, but found album success after her demise from Melanoma in 1996. Playing to mainly a local bookstore and a tiny crowd, Eva’s interpretation of a range of tracks have been more appreciated since her death.

Clare interspersed the songs of Eva’s with stories she had collected through talking with Chris Biondo, and other people close to Eva in life. With Ashley Naylor, and The Blues Alley Band supporting her on stage, Clare admitted that she usually doesn’t get to play the type of songs she would do this night, except for at a karaoke venue. Singing Time After Time and True Colours, Clare’s voice soared in this venue.

Naylor shared some of the storytelling, which so much of the time felt like we were in their lounge room and just chatting about this artist they had discovered. Clare told us many of her own stories, weaving them with the Eva story, with parallels about the struggles and challenges to conform to the music industry wishes. People Get Ready, Songbird, and Bridge Over Troubled Water were so lovely, and clearly had the Eva spin on the original.

Much of the press and early reviews of the show had featured Clare’s recount of her first discovery of Eva, which she retold, and then played the Sting cover Fields Of Gold. Not knowing Eva’s music, I overheard a woman near me comment that Clare was not trying to be Eva, but was singing the songs Eva brought to life.

The message in Clare’s show was the untapped talent that was Eva in life, and the potential in us all. She encouraged each person in the audience to appreciate one’s talents. Somewhere Over The Rainbow was the fitting end to the show, being Eva’s most celebrated and well known recording.

Having Clare share the life, story and songs she had discovered in her research of Eva from the stage in such an intimate feeling show was such a treat, and a tribute to Cassidy, but also a showcase that is the amazing talent of Bowditch.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Laurnie for Mum’s 60th

After months of debate, Mum decided that a weekend away with all her girls, and a little footy, was what she wanted for her milestone birthday. So for the first weekend of the month Katie and myself, Jessie and Heath, and Melissa and Greg took Mum down to Launceston to mark her 60th, and spend some quality time together.

Getting into Launceston on the Friday night, we made a snap decision to get a mini-bus for the weekend, and we all instantly got Vengabus stuck in our heads. We then drove towards town, and found a supermarket to get supplies for the whole weekend, before discovering our amazing apartment for the 3 nights.

41 On York was somewhere Melissa had stayed before, and was pretty central for all we wanted. A three bedroom modern apartment, the lounge had bizarre blue mood lighting and Grecian white columns, plus a balcony overlooking downtown Laurnie. Comfy, ridiculously roomy, and fully heated, it was perfect.

Saturday was Mum’s actual birthday, and started with an amazing cooked breakfast by Jess and Health and Katie. We then loaded into the bus to check out the Cataract Gorge, before getting down to the dock for a cruise under the bridge and along the three rivers of Launceston. The cruise promised ‘fascinating commentary’, and it actually was. We learnt things about Laurnie!

For lunch we drove out towards the Tamar Valley, taking in the mountains and river views, before deciding on the Elmslie Winery for lunch. A gorgeous meal, and wines, and then dessert, in this dreamy setting allowed us to toast Mum’s day, and have a great meal all together.

Back to our apartment for more wine and cheese, we soon made our way out to the Country Club Tasmania, so Mum could go to the casino, as was her wish. Tonic was the bar we found, and we grabbed a table and wine, and possibly terrorised the two piece acoustic band with our enthusiastic singalong participation, who happened to play an impressive and complete range of tunes. When they finished, the DJ caved to our persistent request for Sonja Dada’s Lover Lover, and our night was complete! It has been sometime since the 4 Reid girls have been out drinking and dancing together, and we had a great night! We did try to carry on once back in town, but one of us was rejected for being, shall we say, a little untidy, and so we just kicked on back at the apartment.

The footy at Aurora Stadium was Hawthorn verses North Melbourne on the Sunday, and we walked down to the ground ready for the match. Sitting in the Northern Stand, this day was one of the coldest I have been to the footy in a long time, reminding us all of those arctic days at Waverley Park! Huddling in from sideways rain, and the freezing temperature, we all breathed a foggy sigh of relief as the Hawks managed to overcome a fightback from the Roos, to win comfortably in the end. Thawing out back at the apartment with a home cooked roast dinner and wine, to finish of the cullinary weekend.

Monday morning we took it easy before leaving the apartment, and then took a drive out to Evandale, just out past the airport, based on Jessie and Heath’s recommendation. A cute, historic town, we stopped at the tearooms for morning tea, before checking in back at the airport for our flight home to Victoria.

Mum had such a lovely weekend with her girls, and the boys, to celebrate her birthday, something she's been raving about to anyone who asks! Mission completed! Ha!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Die In Oregon, Innocent Saturday and Life In A Day

Back to the Melbourne International Film Festival, and my movie selections, my next film on my schedule was the documentary How To Die In Oregon. Following several personal stories of the choice provided to palliative patients by the legalisation of physician-assisted suicide in the US state of Oregon. The important message from each person’s story was that this afforded them a choice about their end, in contrast to the lack of control their life ending disease had bestowed upon them. Cody’s journey was the most powerful, and prominent, throughout the doco, and was so very moving. Cody’s medical answers, prognosis and then working through the option of having her end point decided, and also how this was discussed and prepared for with her young family. But the film also showed the fight for the spread of this legislation across the US, and also the plight of the volunteers who support people to end their lives through a lethal dose of a prescribed medication at a time they chose and prepared for. The ability to plan, to leave things finalised, and also to say goodbyes were the other clear advantages of such decriminalisation, and this documentary was a strong advocate for such a progressive and yet reasonable option.

On this particular evening, I skipped my late night movie, which was to be Michael, cos I was so over-tired from my Splendour weekend, and knew I could not have got through a sub-titled movie about paedophilia, and still be able to drive home to Ballarat. Turns out this movie won the award for TeleScope Award for Best New Talent from the EU for this year. A bummer to miss it.

Innocent Saturday was a Russian movie about the day the Chernobyl reactor had it’s meltdown, and about one young Communist party member who overhears about it, and tries to escape – with his downfall being that he tried to help at least one other person do the same. Convincing a girl he clearly lusted after to flee with him, our protagonist finds himself being pulled into the most unexpected activities, considering his plight to avoid nuclear radiation exposure in their little town. Pulled into a shopping trip after missing the train, for shoes of course, his girl then decides she needs to try and get her passport for their escape…but is dragged onstage with her band to play a gig for a triple wedding, paid for in advance. The infectious festivities, and then the lure of a wine-fuelled gathering with the band and old mates, often has the pending disaster forgotten. A film about real life carrying on regardless of such global events, and the notion of knowing about something ominous and how one person could convince other’s of catastrophe and their need for action.

On 24th July 2010 people all over the world answered the call to submit video footage to You Tube, for Life In A Day. This film wove this footage together to create an international snapshot of real life that day, all over the globe – from a wedding service where a couple had written each others vowels, to a father-to-be fainting as he video-ed his child coming into the world, to the full moon from every corner of the world. People going to work, looking after their child, mourning loss, telling their grandmother of their sexuality, of calling their mother for advice about how to tell a girl you love her. Vision from ordinary people, some commenting on questions posed in the task, capturing our world. No narration, this movie was funny and moving, and ultimately life affirming.

So, just 6 movies for this MIFF, but actually all very good, and 3 excellent films that I totally recommend (being Face To Face, How To Die, and Life In A Day).

Robyn Moore

At the beginning of this month, the Ballarat Make A Wish Branch had our next function, hosting Robyn Moore as a guest speaker. Now the fellow volunteers of the committee who had seen her before raved about her inspirational impact and entertaining delivery. In all honest, I hadn’t heard of her before – but in fact, as a little research showed she is a prominent voice, being the voice of Blinky Bill, all the female characters in the Aussie political satire radio serial How Green Is My Cactus, and a host of tv ad jingles.

Robyn is also the National Patron of Make A Wish Australia, and volunteered her time for our evening. She has Ballarat family links, and throughout the night she connected with the 150 people who come along to the night, with local stories.

Michelle came along with me for the evening at the North Ballarat Sports Club, and I joined my fellow volunteer committee, numbering 15 at the moment, in hosting the night.

Sharing stories from her own life, with the experience of her mother with Alzheimer’s, and also the many, many Wish kids’ lives she has been part of, Robyn reminded us of the effect we all have on each other, and indeed, on ourselves through actions, words, and attitude. She reminded us of the positivity we are each responsible for within our own experiences, and also the outward projection to others.

Her stories and the amazing lessons she has learnt over the years from the children with a life threatening illness making a wish were beautiful and so real. Robyn had us laughing, and quite a few times brought tears with her stories, reminding us that the importance of caring for each other, and also of laughter.

A very life affirming and inspiring night.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Splendour In The Grass: Day 3

Reveling in the fact that the non-camping option allowed us to return to normal beds, a proper shower, and decent sleep, Carl and I were fresh and ready for our third and final day at Splendour In The Grass, again with juice and rum to get us started on the bus journey to Woodford.

We met Alli at the Mo-Rockin' Wine Bar, for wine on the hill, before we made our way out to the Amphitheatre, for Hungry Kids Of Hungary. Let You Down, Set It Right, and Scattered Diamonds stood out here, with the set including the band letting big inflated bouncing balls loose on the crowd.

Now, my camera tells me I saw The Vaccines next, and I vaguely remember the stage back drop, but can not tell you anything about their set! Rum and vodka had clearly made their mark.

Cloud Control was a band I was very keen to see in the lineup, having not seen them live since they hit the big time with their Bliss Release. Gold Canary and Death Cloud were awesome, the latter inspiring a dancing flash mob all up the grassy hill.

Next, Carl was very keen to see Oh Mercy, since I recommended this year's release to him, so we made our way over to the "Gotye Tent" to catch the second half of their set. A decent crowd in the tent, while daylight started to fade outside, tracks like Let Me Go, Keith St, Mercy Valley and Stay Please Stay had the crowd singing, with older songs like Seemed Like A Good Idea also featuring.

A gap in our band lineup desires, Carl and I met up with Alli and Charmaine at the SS Strongbow boat bar, chilling in deck chairs, before I headed back to the Amphitheatre for Elbow. I found the portion of this set fairly lacklustre and ungenerous really. I have since read that Grounds For Divorce was great, with crowd participation, but I saw none of that energy. But I did leave to get back to the "Gotye Tent", for the next band.

Noah And The Whale filled the GW McLennan/Gotye Tent, and produced an awesome sound, with violin on stage and all. Tonight's The Kind Of Night, Life Is Life and the infectious singalong that was L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. made this set the pick of the day for me.

Joining the majority of the crowd, I then trekked back to the Amphitheatre for the rest of the night, and caught the second half of the Kaiser Chiefs from the Upper tier. I Predict A Riot, Angry Mob and Oh My God were clear crowd favourite, with a rocking set.

In stroke of pure luck, with my phone's battery on it's last legs, I managed to find Carl sitting just above where I was at the time, and joined him to watch Pulp. A band as old as me, I will confess to not knowing much of their material - but Common People was brilliant! Jarvis Cocker was the supreme entertainer, made the set punchy and completely engaging.

Then it was time for the final, headlining act of the festival. Coldplay arrived onstage to a brimming Amphitheatre, and whilst not being the biggest fan of Chris Martin and co, I'll have to admit that their set was totally amazing.

Yellow was played very early in their 90 minute set, and this band pulled off their set without all the dancers and production of the first night - just a band playing their music, and having the crowd eating out of their hands. Martin was chatty throughout, pulling out Aussie references for almost everything. Violet Hill and Viva La Vida were huge full crowd singalongs, with the dedication of The Scientist to Pulp, hoping we didn't see them live for the last time.

Encore opened with Clocks, and merged to Fix You, which included a tribute to the late Amy Winehouse, before ending the festival with their new track, Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall.

What a weekend of music! One of the best weekends ever, Splendour delivered, even with it's criticisms about being the most expensive festival worldwide. With the sheer number of acts that I saw, it worked out to be less than $20 each - wow!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Splendour In The Grass: Day 2

Armed with breakfast juice and rum for the morning bus from Maroochydore to Woodford for Splendour In The Grass Day 2, Carl and I were set for a big day to back up the one before. Chatting with several of the lads making the same trip, once we were past security and the gate, we all walked straight into the Mo-Rockin' Wine Bar, to share bottles of wine.

When we finally dragged ourselves away from full strength alcohol (all others served at the festival were mid, boo), and the grassy, chilled hill in this bar, Carl and I headed to the newly christened "Gotye Tent", after the set from the day before that blew us away....for The Jezabels. Carlos claimed I would love them cos they have a female in the band, and whether my music taste is really that gender bias or not, they were awesome. About to release their debut album, and thus another band to keep an eye out for.

I stayed at the "Gotye Tent" after this, for Sparkadia's set, and was so glad I did, even though I will see him in Ballarat next month. AB had the fairly full crowd eating out of his hands, and singing every song, mixing his two albums. Animals and Jealousy, and then the big tracks from his 2011 album, Talking Like I'm Falling Down Stairs, Mary and China had every voice joining in with every word - sounded amazing!

Up next at the same tent was one of the key reasons for my desire for Splendour, being Seeker Lover Keeper. These 3 Aussie talents filled the tent for their harmonies and folk lyrics, being Sarah Blasko, Sally Seltmann and Holly Throsby.

An abridged version of the gig I had seen in Melbourne just the weekend before, including the joke about their SLK banner, their live performance was as emotive and beautiful. Such dreamy tunes, with Even Though I'm A Woman and Rely On Me so powerful. Such amazing talents!

Leaving the tent with the rush at the end of the set, I ventured to the Mix Up tent, for Architecture In Helsinki, another I was very keen to see over these days of music. Another band with a 2011 album to showcase, they also managed to disperse new and older material throughout the set.

The new releases like Escapee and Contact High were huge, as was Heart It Races and Hold Music, but album track I Know Deep Down stood out for me. A cover thrown in for the older among the dancing tent, I've Been Thinking About You, by Londonbeat, was sensational! Although many of the younguns around me didn't know it. Set of the day by the Melbourne group, so great to see them live again, and getting more and more love from the crowds.

After this energetic set, I took some timeout on the hill by the "Gotye Tent", where I managed to hear a little of Gomez and do some crowd watching. Festival folk are so funny!

There wasnt much crowd movement in the changeover of bands here, where Regina Spektor had this area overflowing. Not having been into much of her stuff, she really impressed, and I made my way into the crowd to get near the sound stage to hear her performance better. Just her and her piano on stage, she chatted to the enormous crowd and charmed us all with her sweet voice.

Back to Mix Up for the final band of the night, I caught the last half of Pnau - and was totally impressed! Another band that had a full tent dancing and singing, and just having a great time to their tunes. Embrace was the singalong of their set, and an amazing way to end the day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Splendour In The Grass: Day 1

Planting the idea of going to Splendour In The Grass back in April, when I caught up with Carl, we managed to get our non-camping tickets when they first went on sale, and then finally, the big weekend was here! I flew up to Brisbane where he met me at the airport on the Thursday evening, and we drove up to his parents' place in Maroochydore, which would be our Splendour base for the weekend.

Here, over beers, we started plotting our weekend, with the schedule. Of course, my excitement for the weekend started for real, after making a trip to Bunnings during the Thursday work day, and finding some gumboots. Much recommended Splendour attire, I had pictured horrid industrial looking boots - but managed to find hip, fire-engine red garden boots! I wore them in around the office before I had to leave, letting the excitement build!

Catching a bus with just one other guy at Maroochydore on the Friday morning, it turns out our fellow passenger was a paid blogger for The Vine. As were reveled in our jealously, we soon directed our envy towards the two girls who sat in front of us from the next stop, clearly affected by their "special water".

Arriving at Woodfordia, we worked our way through the line up and passed the dog squad inspection, and we were in! Making our way to exchange real money for drink tickets, we overheard a little bit of Illy in the Mix Up tent, before trekking out to the Amphitheatre ready for Jinja Safari.

With vines wound around their mic stands, this little band played such an engaging and lively set, with a stage-dive followed by a run to end the set, creating a pied piper-like trail of people running through the crowd.

Walking up the hill to check out this awesome natural theatre setting, we listened to the Indigenous welcome to the site, before returning to the front of the stage for a journey back in time, and Jebediah. Culminating in Leaving Home, these guys captured the memories of all of us in the crowd old enough to remember them starting out.

Carl and I then left the Amphitheatre, in search of food and more drinks, and found the Mexican Cantina for margaritas, and something to eat. Here we got separated, as Carl learnt from someone that James Blake playing at the Mix Up text was the "future of music" - I think we were both between the Cantina and hearing the future of music sound very Luther Van dross-like, and nothing awe-inspiring...thus, having eaten, and seeing no sign of Carlos, I started making my way to the GW McLennan Tent, for a much anticipated set of the day.

Off the back of just a 5 track EP at the time (now with their newly released album), Boy & Bear played to a brimming Tent, bringing the crowd alive with their harmonies and catchy folky tunes. The overcrowded tent danced to Blood To Gold, and sang along in a massive collective voice to Rabbit Song, new tracks like Milk & Sticks, and the closer being Feeding Line, were big crowd hits. The harmonies for Mexican Mavis and The Storm, just gorgeous. A blend of the tracks known from the EP, the new release, and then forthcoming album songs, this set was so energising and heart-warming - these guys are so big right now!

Returning to the GW McLennan, I managed to get a really great spot for the Gotye set, being about 15 from the front. Opening with Coming Back, and then Eyes Wide Open, Wally flitted between drums, his sound board and computerised xylophone, and vocals, dressed in his smart waistcoat. Thanks For Your Time also got a run, after which much of the crowd at the front urged Wally to turn up the vocals, which he did - this improved the sound for down the front.

With Kimbra having her own set on the same stage earlier inthe day, she joined Wally on stage for the current smash, Somebody That I Used To Know. So amazing! Following with Heart's A Mess, the crowd joined Wally in one of the singalongs of the festival.

Finishing the set to mark his triumphant return with his new album, Learnalilgivinanlovin was full of energy and had the packed crowd dancing.

Carl and I found each other, in the glow of just how massive the rest of this year is going to be for Gotye and how amazing the set had just been, we started the walk back to the Amphitheatre, and for the headliner of the evening. Finding the bottom tiers closed off and at capacity, we continued the walk up to the Upper Amphitheatre, giving us a great view of the stage and the massive and excited crowd filling the enormous setting.

Kayne West is not my kind of music, and an odd selection for one of the headliners for mine, however the massive crowd that night loved every ego-driven moment...with his countless dancers on stage, his fireworks and dancing production, for much of the 3 "Acts" I could barely make out which was he on stage, and whether he was actually singing.

To be fair, the tracks I did recognise were huge, and he had the rest of the crowd mesmerised. Gold Digger, Diamonds from Sierra Leone, and Stronger were electric throughout the crowd. But I will admit to napping for much of his long set with all the tricks!

Such a long, and awe-filled day of music! A very late bus back to Maroochy, to rest and prepare for the next day....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Swerve, Norwegian Wood, and Face To Face

Having missed a total of 5 Melbourne International Film Festival sessions because of my missed flight/delayed boat, I finally got to my first movie on the Monday after the cruise. MIFF continues to be one of the best things about Melbourne in Winter!

Swerve caught my eye in the Aussie Showcase section, when booking up my 10 plus 3 sessions for my e-mini Pass this year, with the Aussie actor who featured in the final season of ER (David Lyons). Introduced by the producer and director, and bringing a couple of the actors to the mike for this intro, including Vince Colosimo, the energy and excitement for the film was pretty big! And big the film was - this movie has it all, from drug heist to Wolf Creek like moments, to train escapes and a heap of pretty amusing deaths. Set in outback Australia, in a small town where our protagonist gets stuck after going to report an accident....and finds himself quickly entwined with the towns tangled community. Perhaps with too much in it, this film was fun and funny.

The next night after working in the Melbourne office to ensure I could get to my MIFF sessions (priorities!!), I saw back to back sessions, which also included the run from the Forum up the hill to the Greater Union complex. All part of the Festival!

Adapted from the book, the dreamy Norwegian Wood depicted Haruki Murakami's coming of age story. Beautiful cinematography from Mark Lee Ping Bin, of In the Mood for Love fame, added to the dreamy flow of the story and the character's journey through loss, love and depression.

One of my favourite films from this years viewing was next, being another Aussie movie, Face To Face. Based on 'actual case notes', it reads in the intro, this film depicts the attempt at resolving an assault by an employee on his employer, without involving the courts - so, through a face to face mediation-style session. Matthew Newton stars as the facilitator of this session, and is brilliant - perhaps there was some method acting training he was drawing on from his own brushes with the legal system.

Essentially, this gathering of employee, his mother and a friend for support, and then his employer, his wife, the foreman of the worksite, and a handful of other parties from his workplace, the aim is to talk it out, and come to a solution. But, as Aussie culture and workplaces are, there is so much bubbling under the surface that is gradually revealed, that our facilitator seems at times to be out of his depth...and yet, manages to pull it back, and work through each crucial point. Racism, bullying, infidelity and the life backgrounds we all bring to our workplaces that impact our every day actions. It's going to be released in limited cinemas in a month, and I recommend it! A great, and powerful movie about the undercurrents impacting on our society.

Seeker Lover Keeper

The anticipation of the release of the new Aussie female supergroup album, following the news that Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann had recorded music together, had been building all year. Their inclusion on the bill for Splendour In The Grass was one of the main motivators for my ticket purchase....and then they announced shows before the festival. So Nicole and I had to go!

Making our way to the Thornbury Theatre, and upstairs to the balcony overlooking the stage and the seated diners below, Seagull opened the evening, in an odd support selection. Not really engaging the crowd at their tables, Dust Storm was a stand out for me.

The room hushed for the three talented singer-songwriters to arrive on stage, and open with Bring Me Back, as their album does. It was instantly clear that the harmonies of these three ladies would melt our hearts for the night.

Sarah dominated the vocals early, with Sally contributing a couple of lead tracks too. The girls joked about how excited they were about their banner, but that now they just felt like nerds having it up. They each swap positions, depending on the song, and then lead, and the keys or guitar that's needed.

On My Own and Light All My Lights were without their Aussie male actors vision, but oh so lovely. Sarah's quirky dance style continues to endear.

When Holly finally has lead position, she fills the room with Even Though I'm A Woman, and blows us all away with this favourite track. The Theme I, and Rely On Me are also stand outs of the set, with the emotion and personalised delivery of If The Night Is Dark and Rest Your Head On My Shoulder was so beautiful and powerful. Just gorgeous.

The encore featured the girls doing a song from each others discography, with Sarah giving us a jazz version of Holly's We’re Good People But Why Don’t We Show It?, Holly singing Sally's I’m the Drunk and You’re the Star, and lastly Sally singing We Won’t Run from Sarah's album from 2 years ago. This bunch of female musical talent finished with a track that inspired their collective work, being Stevie Nicks' Wild Heart.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Sydney Double Header

Making the most of my accidental extra day in Sydney, I booked tickets for the rugby for the Saturday night, and then joined Belinda and Belinda at the SCG to claim our seats for the footy in the Members.

Beers and a quick lunch at the Fox and Lion at the Fox Studios complex, Dillo met us before we made our way back to our seats, and the opening bounce.

Sydney verses the Western Bulldogs, and being Barry Hall's last match on the SCG, albeit for his newer club, set the scene. Being a guest in the Member's provided a pretty good view of the match, and Barry sticking it to his old club with 5 goals. But the Swans had the last laugh, with a massive 39 point win, easy in the end.

Making our way from the SCG to ANZ Stadium involved a walk and then the train for myself, Belinda and Belinda, before being upstanding for the anthem in preparation for the pre-World Cup, Tri Nations clash between the Qantas Wallabies and South Africa. My first live rugby match!

Not really knowing anything about the game, and shivering through flu symptoms and the cold conditions of the night, the Aussies dominated the night, and the crowd were totally into it.

Catching a very, very early flight back to Melbourne at last on the Sunday morning, and after a little nap, Jenny and I made our way into the MCG, for my third footy match of the weekend. We got in nice and early, to be sure of our presence for the tribute and minute silence to mark the passing of the great Allen Jeans.

An iconic, paternal figure throughout those years through the 80s, myself, Jenny, Jessica and Mum took in the images of the successes of this great man, and his role in the history of our club.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

All At Sea

Leaving our island hopping portion of the cruise, our group completed another night of Sports Trivia, before launching into our biggest night on board. Everyone seemed to be up dancing at The Attic by the end of the night, as the ship sailed into rougher seas, making the dance floor move significantly.

The captain promised rough seas heading home, and whilst I am sure there is much worse, rough waters we experienced. The day after the big night, our cabin of three took in a lot of much needed sleep. We did, however venture out for the cabin crawl of our group, given that each room of our group of 25 was on a different floor. Working our way from Deck 6, to ours on Deck 8, a few on 9, to Fi and Dave's with their balcony, to Narda's and Barb's on 11 with their wind tunnel-making balcony, we managed to see most room types of the Pacific Jewel. We also learnt that the back end of the boat, and lower down, were faring better as the waves around us got higher.

This night we marked Fi's birthday, with a pre-Sports Trivia gathering of the group at the Casbar, with drinks and nibbles, and a cake. We were finally allowed to win trivia, in an unexpected showdown. Dinner at Waterfront - which sadly I ended up abandoning after ducking to the loo, and witnessing two spewers on the way out.....ewww. That totally ruined my appetite, and brought on thoughts of sympathetic sea sickness.

During this last full day, the captain had announced that he was taking a detour on the way back, to avoid the roughest seas. This then meant some question over our arrival time back into Sydney the next day. By 6.5 hours in the end, with many people changing flights, and me missing just a whisker.

As it turned out, though, Melissa was on a work junket showing an Italian client around Sydney, and thus I got to camp out in her room at the Radisson Plaza until I could fly home without selling a kidney.

This then meant that after having drinks and canapes with Melissa and her client, I got to meet Fi and Dave, Sarah and Lynda, and Dillo at the Edinburgh Castle for more drinks, in what Fi started calling the first cruise reunion. Surely the first of many, after such a great time away together.

Lifou Island and Noumea

The night before we arrived at Lifou Island, Vanuatu, during our cruise, our cranky Sports Trivia host recommended that we search for some hidden caves, for a waterhole and a swim. When we tendered off the ship for this island visit, we followed the directions of going right instead of left, being where everything seemed to be.

After being a little lost, and starting to think Anthony was getting his revenge on our loud and overly successful trivia team, we found a road from the markets to the second church that could be seen from the boat as we docked. Here, we found some villagers with a sign and an apparent successful business plan - and would take us to the caves for a fee.

B, Dillo and I were lead down a little path by a guy, who then passed us onto another guy further down the track. As the track got steeper, and smaller, we wondered if we would make the news, never to be seen again....but soon, sure enough, we reached a final jump down, and a dark cave with a black water hole. Now the locals were totally careful and set up for this, with a torch to ensure anyone coming down could see their footing, and then also get a view of the water. After a local demo of the jump in, Dillo was in.

Freezing, he said, but a pretty cool place to be having a dip! Soon another group arrived down there, and then the familiar voices of Peter and Liam, Narda and Barb and Enya found us too. The kids were straight in, as we marveled at the set up, with just a circle of light above us.

Back out into the world, we then walked back down the road, and to the other end of the road, to the Notre Dame de Lourdes. A view of the cruise ship out at sea, and the beach below, we decided that a patch of sand had our names on it for the next few hours. Perfect.

Cocktails out on Oasis as the ship sailed again, we then joined the big group for Sports Trivia, before this evening we had dinner at La Luna - the Asian inspired restaurant on board. 5 courses, little morsels mostly, but so much of it, the food was so good! We sung happy birthday to Fi here, cos we didn't know when her actual birthday was, and thus declared every day of the cruise Fi's birthday!

Our next and final stop from our ship was the city of Noumea the next day, being back in New Caledonia. Finding the Hop On Hop Off bus, we rode this past all the beaches, to get to the Tjibaou Cultural Centre as our first stop.

Here, we walked through The Kanak Pathway, through the gardens, which journeyed through the story of the mythical founder of the kanak people. The path ended at the door to enter the distinctive buildings, within which were art galleries, both contemporary and traditional, including rooms of history.

Back out into the sunshine and humidity for our hot day of our cruise, we grabbed the bus back around to the beaches, and found a piece of sand. After dozing off for a bit, we eventually wandered back towards town, taking in some ice cream, Saint Joseph's Cathedral, and a rather disappointing Coconut Place (Place Des Cocotiers), before reboarding our ship.

Our usual sail away party as the sun set on the Oasis deck had been featured on the daily cruise newsletter, and thus, everyone was on deck to watch us sail out of New Cal. Pina Coladas, the sun setting and the sky turning pink and purple, as land disappeared.

Isle of Pines, Mystery Island and Port Vila

Our first stop of the cruise was much welcomed, after 2 full days at sea, and would be our first of 3 stops in New Caledonia. The Isle of Pines is a small island off the main arm of this French province, and was our first experience of being tendered out from our ship to shore.

Doing as instructed, we took a number to board a small tender boat that would take us to shore, and waited and waited and waited. 2 hours later, we got to get out feet on our new country. Fi and Dave joined Dillo, B and I on the beginning of the walk up the hill in the middle of the Isle to check out the view - but were discouraged from completing the climb by someone coming back down, telling us how long it took. There was beach time to be had! So we parked up on the white sand, and took a dip in the ocean instead.

Finding the only bar on this side of the island, we then had a cocktail and a bite to eat, while discovering the bogan population that belonged to our cruise.

Back on board, B and I adjourned to the Oasis desk, to watch us sail out of our first port of call, with cocktail in hand. Here we listened as the Italian captain told us of the area, our night of sailing ahead, and about the Isle of Pines. A piece of land discovered by Captain Cook, although he didn't actually land here. He spotted smoke from the pine covered hills, and assumed it was inhabited - that wouldn't count in our country count!

We watched the sun set, and then the full moon rise, before retreating inside, to Sports Trivia.

The evening marked Sarah's birthday, one of Fi's friends from school and co-birthday girl for the cruise, and thus a group dinner all dressed up was had at the Waterfront Restaurant.

The next morning was our next stop, being Mystery Island, Vanuatu. An uninhabited island, the locals from surrounding ports all come across to set up markets of their wares for the ship's visit. Another tender boat experience, but having learnt from the day before, we managed to get across without the lengthy waiting times. I took a walk around the island, a full lap, before joining B, Dillo and Dave for a nap on the sand. This holidaying stuff is hard work!

Back on board this time, to watch the footy that was being broadcast - the Collingwood and Carlton blockbuster. Aussies just can't be without their footy, love it! Another round of Sports Trivia, our group becoming a feature, we then had dinner, and managed to catch another game and a half of the footy happening back home. The evening, again, ended at The Attic, with the same tunes still stumps.

The capital of Vanuatu was the next day's port, where we could walk off the ship. Fi, Dave, B, Dillo and I had booked ourselves on our only shore tour for this stop, being a semi-sub boat to go snorkeling.

Taken out into the bay of Port Vila, we could see the fish and coral below through the perspex-bottomed boat, and gain a preview of what we would see when we were in the water. Having about an hour to swim, or float in my case with life-jacket on, we all milled around in the water within range of the boat, checking out the life below. The colours and life were pretty impressive!
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