Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pearl Jam Pearl Jam Pearl Jam

Eddie Vedder vici! Playing with Ben Harper in Auckland last Friday

I don't think I can, need to, or want to word it better than Scott Kara, particularly when mentioning the performance of Black as being poignant and the fabulous guitar solo that was happily extended by the band and greatfully received by the audience on Even Flow, but oh my goodness, Pearl Jam was just as I'd imagined. I have been waiting for so long, so so long, and now it has been and gone, and I am still not quite aware that I've seen Pearl Jam live.
But as waxed lyrically about in a previous post, Ben Harper and the Relentless 7's live version of Lay There and Hate Me was one of many cherries on top of the performance at Mt. Smart. It made me even more happy to be that woman that loves the was amazing to see Ben cranking on the slide finally, it was actually Beth Orton's Stolen Car* that first introduced me to the technical side of Harper, and it was just such a thrill to see him in action!
Until next time, have a great week!
*Apologies for a) the lack of slide solo and b) the fade out of this version.

Friday, November 27, 2009

a Golden Rule for Powderfinger

''If you had your time over again, would you do it all the same, down
through all the twists and bends...'' - Powderfinger: 'Sail the Wildest Stretch' from the new album Golden Rule

Powderfinger have been at my side since around 1998. Initially it was involuntarily that their music was on my radar. Internationalist came out that year, but I wouldn't discover the entire album until 2003. The Day You Come was a favourite with the then ubiquitous Triple J albums.

But what's not to love about these Aussie rockers? Named after Neil Young's famous tune Powderfinger. Poignant lyricists. Modern rock'n'rollers. They are unfailingly passionate about music and dedicated patriots of Australia. Policitical when politics needs a shake up, dedicated to causes that support humanity: "musicians have a guilty conscience in general about their lives being quite good and tend to be aware of social issues" (Bernard Fanning, Nov. 07).

These blokes have integrity. Having been at the centre of a few racial outbursts (the Black Tears we hear on Dream Days at The Hotel Existence is not the Black Tears that Fanning et al penned for original studio sessions...apparently a bit too political for the record label), from what I have read and heard over last decade, Powderfinger tend to be fairly level headed when it comes to defending their stance on politics, and in particular indigenous issues in Australia. But that's for another post...

I suppose what I adore about Powderfinger really does come back to the music. They clutch onto the blues, (particularly with Since You've Been Gone which Fanning wrote for his brother) singing with a voice that captures heartwarming and heartbreaking moments. There is conviction in songs like Who Really Cares (featuring The Sound of Insanity), Love Your Way and Up and Down and Back Again. Waiting for the Sun, the opening track to the album Odyssey Number Five (2005) and Vulture Street's 2003 single On My Mind make rock'n'roll accessible to those who enter the realm with caution. Powderfinger, when I first 'discovered' them, was almost too 'heavy' for me. This was clearly before I stopped listening to the radio and ventured into the depth of grunge and dabbled in the tastes of my older cousins and friends back home.

When it was announced the lads were playing at the Big Day Out, I a) presumed an album was about to be released ('shib!' I screeched) and b) made the call to attend my first (and no doubt last) Big Day Out in 2010.

Golden Rule is...interesting. The opening track El Camino De La Muerta reminds me not of Powderfinger but of Ray La Montagne's Meg White before turning into some sort of instrumental 30 seconds of Tourism Australia music. At 42 seconds we are then launched into classic Powderfinger- Bernard coming in a few bars after that distinct sound the lads have developed with basic electric guitar and brassy drums. They have these rather confronting lyrics that still have room for compassion. A Fight About Money at the moment disappoints me. It's reminiscent of late model Snow Patrol and that hideous Save the City blah blah blah rubbish. Sail the Wildest Stretch though returns to the ballad-that-builds-to-a-peak that the guys do so well, while closing title track Golden Rule seems to have drawn inspiration from Pink Floyd. Bernard maintains a slight monotone in parts that reminds me of the Time's 'quiet desperation is the English way', and Poison in Your Mind harks back to the hiatus driven solo album of Fanning's (Tea and Sympathy)...a really pretty sub 3 minute track that you can't help but repeat 3 times over easily! Think it Over has a feature in music that sucks me in every time- a choir of sorts coming in half through the track. There is nothing so uplifting as a chorus of voices to lead you in to a little guitar solo. In this case there's a cute little marching drum beat as well, and the whole end of the song is quite an experience!
All in all, I guess Golden Rule is well timed for summer with its release. I'm not sure it's the best effort from the best band of our time, but blind partiality is probably a vice of mine at times, and Odyssey Number 5 changed my life, as did Tea & Sympathy. Well, that's an outrageous claim, but it is these two albums that are dearest to my heart.
I'll let you guys discover the rest of the album in peace!
Until next time,

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Family Reunion

It's very rare at the age I'm at to hear about someone being unable to make a gig or party because they have a family reunion. A wedding, sure. Another birthday, again, heard of. But what about the family reunion?

Several times over the last couple of years I've been in conversation with various friends and they've casually dropped in a retrospective yarn on their family reunion.

"Ah...hold on, when was this reunion?"

"I told you I was going, it was a couple of months ago now, in Hokitika*"

And this is why family reunions are fairly quiet the outsiders. Being 25 and heading to Hokitika on Labour Weekend with relatives? You'd have to pull a front and feign dread. But on the inside, what a weekend you're about to have!

Usually held in small towns, the family reunion takes up a lot of time for the organiser and or the host. Somewhere along the line a budding genealogist has gotten all excited about some WWII documents that attribute Uncle Ian* to being part of Hitler's downfall* and all of a sudden 6 other cousins exist in Te Puke* and yay! Time to celebrate. You get the core relatives on board- the favourite aunt and uncle and the cousins you've spent your growing up years with, the second cousins that you've long dropped the 'second' from, tell everyone to keep Easter 2011 free, start arranging Grandad's transport and hey presto! A reunion is shaping up.

I had a memory flash this morning of being 11 years old, woken up by my dad at the bach around 4am, handed a t-shirt and told gently to get up and get ready for our roadtrip down to Te Kuiti. For the untrained eye, this t-shirt was merely a plain white one, the size 10 girls version of Dad's XL. But for the family geeks, the back of the t-shirt, emblazoned in bright blue was...a short version of our family tree**. I was more excited about the promise of a pie for breakfast. Steak and cheese at 5.30am. Sweet deal.

Anyway, the folk in Te Kuiti absolutely adored us. We were matching father and daughter AND we were being fashionably informative. It's a bit vague, but I do remember some characters- a couple of the children my age went to my school; bloodline connections- awesome.

At every family gathering, there's the gangly teenage kid wearing all black, the thick as thieves sisters-in-law that married brothers who have ousted another brother*, the cool older boy cousin, the cool older girl cousin, a couple of newborns and finally the great great grandmother everyone fusses around now that the great great grandfather's passed on, left this earth etc.

But when you talk to Grams* you realise she's played her cards right: onto it, full of good yarns and knowledge, perfectly able. There's usually a glint in the eye somewhere that lets you know she knows she's on a cushy number at this family gig. It's merely her ability to hit 90 that's gotten her full privileges such as first to the food table and evading the "HELLO! My name is...." sticker.

What was exciting for me a kid though, before I went through the brief 'that's so uncool' stage before returning to being all about the family, is just listening to people like the great great grandmother. I let everyone else fuss. You learn not only about your own family and the prior generations that contributed to your makeup, but also the area in which they grew up, raised our grandparents and parents. For me (on one side) it's the King Country/Waikato districts. I think what's particularly special about these regions is the richness of a pioneering spirit that is still very much in the air today.
It's not unique to New Zealand, think Otago, the far North, East Cape. We're lucky in New Zealand to still be able to see areas where virgin bush was only cleared recently to develop farms, or see buildings that were the original structures when towns like Piopio (population wise is Piopio a town...?!) were established. It gives you a wider sense of your place (I want to say 'in the world', but it will be reminscent of those cheesy Otago University ads. Flag.) within the family and how you came to be where you are now.

I suppose what's great in this day and age is the use of the net: families have their own websites for posting photos, while it's a bit jock-ish, it does bode well with keeping in touch, and Facebook and Skype as well help the world seem more accessible.
Enjoy your next family reunion...I can't wait for ours!
*not true. Not the names, the events, the locations. None of it.
**very true. So true. It became a pyjama t-shirt very quickly.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

One: hundred and sixty kilometres. One: lake. One: hundred thousand toes on feet pedalling round Taupo...

It's only SIX DAYS until around 10,000 riders take off around Lake Taupo in the 160km epic event that includes the ever so long Hatepe hill and scenery that's likely to whirr by around Kinloch and Acacia Bay...the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

Good luck Dad! Is this the 4th or 5th time now...

Until next time, and, of course, good luck to everyone getting amongst at the Great Lake next weekend.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Awkwardness from the ground floor up...

Long before tension pre-empted the inevitable union of lovers in elevators on Grey’s Anatomy, a characteristic of the human condition that is awkwardness has plagued, no doubt, every one. Every single person in the world.
Being awkward is such an intriguing notion. Anything can throw you if you're not prepared. Intimacy, a backward comment, pallor that is odd, obesity, disabilities, a bandage on the face, seeing your victim of drunken texts the next day, week or year. Confrontation. Wanting to avoid confrontation. Turning up to an event (this is more a female situation) wearing the same dress as someone else. Seeing an article of clothing you've just donated to the op shop on the person next to you in a cafe. Disagreeing. Saying 'Jesus', 'Jesus Christ' or 'For Christ's Sake' really loudly when you really shouldn't. Failing to convince someone of innocence. Being caught dashing from the bedroom to the bathroom (or vice versa as the case may be) naked. Lifts and elevators.

I find it hilarious. Even when walking into a lift with your best friend, and another party joins you in the 1m² area (if that at times, more in others) silence prevails. All of a sudden it’s rather interesting that there is a stock standard emergency phone. And a small digital indicator letting you know what floor you’re reaching/passing through. Your shoes get a good eyeballing from everyone else in the lift.

It's only life experience with lifts and elevators that tell you this because you too, have your eyes cast downward, qucikly making the transition from floor to ceiling and not daring to pause in between.

What’s weird however is that the longer the ride, the more bold people are with what they look at. Peripheral vision gives the mind a heads up as to whether they’ve got a chance to quickly glance at your profile, your hair, your lipstick, your face in general. But in confined spaces, it's almost as if the person you're about to check out knows you're about to check them out. Curious, they too use their peripheral to check you out and low and behold, EYE CONTACT. 'Shit', you both think 'they've seen me looking at them'.

It’s like being on the tube but not. At least in London people just stick to themselves or their copy of The Independent (great paper)- it’s always one of those Tier 3 rites of passage- learning how taboo it is to, well, breathe on the tube isn’t it- anyway. Lifts.
My pet hate is being in the lift with a guy, age is regardless. The lift hits ground. The doors open. As a fellow human being, you make the polite gesture of allowing them to go first, but as a female you naturally expect that they allow to exit first. But. THEY DO! What on earth is that kind of behaviour? That makes me wish I'd purposely made the joyride with me even more awkward. Crikey those men deserve a slap. When I'm in a more..delicate...mood, I'll mouth 'after you' behind their backs.

Enjoy your next ride in the lift...


Monday, November 16, 2009

Music: The Scenic Route

I don't listen to the radio very often.

Every now and then I'll hound loved ones for what they are listening to. I don't really You Tube either apart from nabbing links for The Whisky Bar, and forget Myspace. I've always wanted a job in a music store, but they're harder to get than a job in a surf shop when you're a teenager.

It's not that I want to avoid technology despite being fairly technologically inept. It's more because I am desperately holding on to the rituals of flicking through cds at music stores on solo missions that can last for hours, reading Rolling Stone, or issues of NME and Q passed on to me from my Britpop fiend friend. I love reading an artist's cd jacket or typing in one name on Google, Wikipedia to see who influenced them during their rise to fame. I continue to idolise Nick Hornby's Rob in High Fidelity (by the way, what was John Cusack thinking with this new movie 2012? Hideous!)

It doesn't matter whether these influences have been correctly identified by the biographer/Wikipedia jock or not, it can often be band/artist I've never heard of, or better yet, can lead to making 'that' discovery we have all had at some point: imagine only just discovering that Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison & Jeff Lynne were the men who comprised Travelling Wilburys... thinking 'who is Jeff Lynne?' then encounter the magical hit Evil Woman sung by Electric Light Orchestra- Lynne was lead singer.

Discovering (thanks to one of NZ's best guitarists) fallen-through-the-cracks rock band Ten Years After, and growing to love their epic blues numbers and guitar riffs has been a fantastic little epic journey for me. Then to read that they are named so because in 1966, it had been ten years since Elvis Presley burst onto the scene, and changed the face of music, rock n roll, society, forever made me smile even more.

It makes me a massive nerd, this I realise, but how much fun it is to be on a seemingly endless little journey through music history. The greatest thing about music is how it's replenished decade after decade with new genres or dynamics that have facets of ingenuity combined with elements of music that harks back to previous eras of blues, soul, jazz, rock, country, bluegrass, roots, taking a little bit of world music and combining it with pop (think Graceland, think Michael Jackson, think Timberlake. Think Public Enemy's remake of Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth). Cross-pollenation of genres when Chris Cornell lends his voice to Billie Jean, when Pavarotti sings with Bono on Miss no, even better, Bryan Adams.

I plan on marrying (one of many weddings to musicians...) Ray La Montagne. This self-assurance cemented when I read that he turned his back on music due to a rubbish father who was a musician. Ray was terrible at school, got a job in a shoe store, heard Stephen Stills' (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) Treetop Flyer and bang. Done. Musician. Heartbreaker. Heartwarmer. All thanks to Stephen Stills. And I thought everyone only focused on Crosby and Young...

In December Fleetwood Mac visits New Zealand as yet another classic band to hop on the bandwagon of reunion tours. Sold out for the first concert and no doubt hugely popular second concert, New Plymouth will be home to tonnes of black and purple velvet, white gypsy skirts and black eyeline for three days as folk from all over New Zealand flock to hear their favourites. Fleetwood Mac t-shirts will be aplenty. But what makes Fleetwood exciting is that a) there are 2 'eras' of the band which both have so much to offer, and b) you could put a song like Go Your Own Way or Everywhere (late 80's Fleetwood, focus had shifted from Buckingham to the girls by this point), on at an event today, and most people will know their songs.
This is what is exciting about the scenic route in music: the more you know, the more you want to learn. You get hungry for more music. And why shouldn't you? It's an international language. Everyone can take what they want from it, whenever they like. And sometimes, the only way you'll find some of this music is by stopping into a record store, having a sift, a peruse of the bargain bins or the store guy's recommendations...or for those who are content with technology, checking out Last FM...

Until next time!

Think this is a dram worth recommending?