Monday, March 3, 2008

Back in town

I've been away for a week or so, back in Perth for a wedding. Here are some pics I took down in the south west of Australia...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sydney Tea Party

One of my all-time favourite bands, The Tea Party, are no longer in existence, but their former lead singer, Jeff Martin, is touring Australia at the moment.
He's set to play here in Sydney next week, but unfortunately I am out-of-town, back in Perth for one of my best mates bucks party and wedding. Should be a laugh catching up with all of my mates again. We all get older on the outside, but stay the same age inside - so a weekend in Yallingup, should churn out a few classic stories.

The link with The Tea Party and in particular Jeff Martin, ties in well. Martin, a Canadian, married an Australian girl and now lives (unless things have changed in 8 years - which they most probably have) down south in the Margaret River/Yallingup area.

So, when he visits my adopted home town of Sydney, I'll be lying on the beach somewhere near his home town in W.A.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sights from the road

I thought I would post some of my favourite photos, taken over the past few years....

Bubbles on Broadway, New York, 2007
I found hope somewhere between Little Rock and Dallas, Arkansas, USA, 2007

The Wild West, Monument Valley, Utah, USA, 2007
View from the Southbank, London, UK, 2007
Finding the kings, Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt, 2007

NYC Taxi, New York, USA, 2007

Sunset on the Thames, London, UK, 2007

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Here are a couple of songs in tribute to Valentine's day....

Lamb - Gorecki
I can't get enough of this song. I think I went through a phase where I listened to it everyday. The perfect love song.

Ryan Adams - Sylvia Plath
A different sort of love song. Probably, technically not one at one - but, I wish I had a Sylvia Plath.

Bring on Saturday Night

The Counting Crows played a show at the WXPN World Cafe the other night. Adam Duritz went through some of the new material which is on the new double album Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings.

The show was very Storytellers-esque, with Adam talking about the lyrics and themes of each song and what each of the songs meant in context with the rest of the album.

I am super excited about the new album - I am definitely a big CC fan - and this album is long over due.

The tracks are available to listen to over at I am Fuel, You are Friends - along with a pretty cool Valentine's day mix.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Heading Westward

I, by no means, am a hip hop fan. The whole hip hop/rap/R&B scene, with its bling bling, money flaunting sideshow has never really been something that has drawn my fancy. So, I have tended to stay pretty far away from this genre, dipping my toe in with some DJ Shadow every now and then pulling right back out.

But, recently I have grown some admiration for Kanye West. My first foray into Kanye’s world was when I inadvertently saw him ripping up the stage on BBC1 at the “Concert for Diana”. His was the stand-out performance of the night – putting P Diddy (with his “we miss you Diana” calls) to shame. I caught a “Life and Rhymes” episode he featured in over the weekend, and then watched his kick ass performance at the Grammy Awards on Monday night – which has led me to make this statement….I think I like Kanye West’s music.

Controversial I know, but anyone who collaborates with the ever-brilliant Daft Punk must have a bit of talent – shouldn’t they?

Easily the best performance at the Grammy’s, with Kanye shining though, surrounded by a sea of mediocrity – that is the current state of American popular music. A pumping version of Stronger, followed by a touching tribute to his recently deceased ‘mama’, enjoy…

Monday, February 11, 2008

Back from Bondi Beach

Here are some pics from Bondi yesterday...

Walking Trent's Line

I am late bloomer when it comes to Nine Inch Nails. I remember in high school a few friends really loving this band - starting back in the Head Like a Hole days, and even more so after the release of The Downward Spiral.
At the time I wasn't into the industrial sound, it has only been in the past three or four years that I have truly began to love this type of music and appreciate the brilliance of Trent Reznor. I suppose, that like most of musical reportoire, it was a live album that sucked me in. Live: And All That Could Have Been was an album I downloaded from Napster and fell in love with immediately. It seemed to fit with my life at that time - with the heavy sounds becoming the perfect backdrop to the gloomy dark days of life in London and my daily walk through Soho.

I caught NIN live at the Brixton Academy in the months before I left London. It was a kick ass show (that is the most apt way to describe it). It is all power and all passion. A highlight from that night was Hurt - probably my favourite NIN song - and probably the slowest.

I watched Walk The Line, the Johnny Cash bio-pic, the other day and it reminded me of a great version of Hurt which he recorded, short before his death. The film clip below is the last one Cash ever created, and it seems fitting that it was for this song - given the challenges he overcame in his life.

It is one of my favourite covers - you can see that the song really means something to Cash - you can hear it in his voice.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lucky lane

Went for a walk on Friday down Lucky Lane (a trip into another world :) ) so I thought for this Sunday's post i'd write about some of my favourite "road songs"....

Sullivan Street - Counting Crows

Take the way home that leads back to sullivan street
Where Im just another rider burned to the ground

I have always loved this song, ever since I heard August and Everything After. I love the version on the Across a Wire CD. For me, it's a great "homesick" song.

Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen

Its a town full of losers
And Im pulling out of here to win.

Nick Hornby wrote about Thunder Road in the opening chapter to his novel 31 Songs (the book I wish I had written, and in more than one way an inspiration for this blog). He decribed how it made him feel, especially the last line (italicised above), like there was something better out there for him, something to look forward to. It's a great song, with some killer lyrics, one I definitely try and listen to at least once a month for a little inspiration.

Long Road - Pearl Jam

And the wind keeps rollin
And the sky keeps turning grey
And the sun is set
The will rise another day

One of my favourite Pearl Jam songs, from the classic Merkinball disc of the late 90's. I read a great story about Long Road the other day, maybe on the Red Mosquito forum, i'm not sure. But it described how the song was written, and how Eddie came up with the music immediately after he had heard that a friends family member had passed away. Apparently Ed went into the sound booth and just started hammering away on the open D-chord that rings out at the start of the song. The other guys (including Neil Young) joined in soon after and that's how the song came about.

The original version (in the clip below from a Bridge School concert) was sung with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the brillaint Indian musician, but I prefer the live Pearl Jam versions - especially Perth 2003 and Wembley 2006, as I was there singing along. The clip below is Eddie at his best though, feeding off another artist, taking a song to a whole new level.

Street Spirit - Radiohead

Rows of houses all bearing down on me
I can feel their blue hands touching me
All these things in all positions
All these things will one day take control
And fade out again and fade out

It's Radiohead, it's from The Bends, what more do I need to say? Brilliant band, brilliant album, brilliant song. When I was living in London this song felt really right, with the endless rows of houses down every street, I really felt the song when I was there. Whenever I hear the first lyric it'll always take me back there - which is why I love it I think.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Lyrics that strike a chord...

I'm going to start a few posts that mention a few of my favourite songs and (generally) the lines, the verses or chorus that really make a perfect song (in my eyes anyway).

I'll start with my favourite Pearl Jam song...

I Got ID

My lips are shaking my nails are bit off.
Been a month since I've heard myself talk.
All the advantage this life's got on me.
Picture a coffin in the middle of the sea.

And I fight back in my mind.
Never lets me be right.
I got memories. I got shit so much it don't show.
Oh, I walked the line when you held me in that night.
I walked the line when you held my hand that night.

An empty shell seems so easy to crack.
Got all these questions. Don't know who I could even ask.
So I'll just lie alone and wait for the dream where I'm not ugly and you're looking at me.

And I stay in bed. Oh, little ive seen there.
If just once I could feel loved, oh, Stare back at me . Yeah.

But I walked the line when you held me in that night.
Oh, I walked the line when you held my hand that night.
Oh, I walked the line when you held me close that night.
I paid the price. Never held you in real life.

My lips are shaking...

I remeber the day I bought the 'Merkinball' single - the Pearl Jam emmissions from the collaborative effort with Neil Young, Mirrorball - which featured this song.

I bought it on the same day in 1996 that I got my tickets to see the Smashing Pumpkins. I had lined up at the ticket booth for about five hours (with about 100 other keen fans) to get a ticket. Once they were in my hand I went into the shopping centre and bought this CD, it had just been released that morning.

This song, along with Long Road on the same disc, has always resonated in me. To my ears these lyrics are so apt. If I had to write the perfect song then this would be it.

I've heard it played live at both of the last two Pearl Jam concerts I have been to - Pistoia, Italy in 2006 and Wembley Arena, London 2007. Pistoia was particularly memorable - in that setting this song really couldn't help but make an impact.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Wellies, Mud and Music

News out of the UK today triggered some good memories of the festival season. News of the festival line-ups for the impending year used to give me hope that soon the wet, cold, dark days of winter will slowly turn into the the wet,cold, light days of summer - bringing with it a smorgasbord of sounds for every music fan.

Glastonbury kicks it all off - in the often muddy fields of Somerset in the west of England. The years I lived in London the pictures coming back from the countryside more often than not featured rain and floods - surrounded my thousands of smiling faces.

Glatonbury is a unique festival. Punters go for the experience, which is typically seperate to the music. Tickets are ballotted off - to the hundreds of thousands of hopefuls - even before the line-up is announced. This year however, there has been a some insight offered from Michael Eavis - the Glastonbury impresario - as to what everyone can expect.

Jay-Z will headline the famous Pyramid stage this year. speculated on this news for the past week or so after Eavis remarked that a "black artist from New York" was heading over for the festival. That narrowed it down quite a bit - with the big money dumped on Jay-Z and Kanye West. Now the web is abuzz with questions over whether "Mrs Jay-Z" will be tagging along.

This headliner is quite a change from the traditional Glastonbury fayre. In previous years the likes of Muse, Coldplay and Radiohead have had the nod from organisers to be the name featured at the head of the line-up.

Bands bring their A-game to Glastonbury. The storied atmosphere tends to inspire musicians from the world over. I guess it is the closest thing they'll ever get to Woodstock so they go out there and leave it all on the stage.

Those that were there still say that Radiohead's 1997 headlining performance is one of the greatest shows of all time.

They returned in 2003 - my first year living in England - and again, they were amazing. One of the best things about Glastonbury is the extensive TV coverage of the festival offered by the BBC and BBC2. It's hours and hours of footage - with the headline acts getting broadcast live and uniterupted all over the UK - so that everyone can enjoy it.

Unlike the purely commercial ventures, such as the V Festival (which is basically a once a year roadshow for salesmen to pitch their products to that years batch of 15 to 20 year olds), Glastonbury is a festival for and about music culture - not pop culture as so many other ventures are these days. It doesn't chase the disposable income of Gen X, Gen Y or Gen Z - intead if offers an experience outside of consumerism, all sponsored by Greenpeace!

I tried to get tickets to Glastonbury last year - but missed out in the ballot (the odds were only slightly better than lotto by the way!). So I never got to go. I hope to one day - it's on my list of things to do along with Coachella and the Bridge School Benefit.

I'll let you know how I go.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

There's a trapdoor in the sun...


In light of the events of the past week I felt that this post might have some relevance.

Through death, many of the world's great music has come to an end. Many a great musician has had his day, meeting an untimely, unceremonious end, leaving the world with a legacy as a eulogy.

Names like Jim Morrison, Layne Staley, John Lennon, Jimmy Hendrix, Jeff Buckley and Kurt Cobain spring instantly to mind.

Where others have survived, prospered and challenged musical stereotypes, such as Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Page and Pete Townsend, their musical peers have lost their life at the peak of their powers - leaving their fans and followers to ask why?

I remember when Jeff Buckley died. Two days after my 18th birthday, on May 29 1997. I heard the news on the radio early the next morning. I remember feeling selfishly about it all. Remorseful that I was never able to see him play live - missing my one opportunity to see him when he visited Perth a year earlier, plying his trade as an up-and-coming superstar.

I have read through alot of musical debate about Jeff Buckley. There are two sides of the coin - those that proclaim his musical greatness, praising Grace as one of the finest albums of all time. others claiming that his passing has brought him matyrdom, with fans exaggerating his skill, offering him divinity in death. I myself am firmly in favour of the former.

I still listen to Grace once a fortnight.

In other instances death has brought new life. Would we have ever experienced the brilliance of the Foo Fighters, had Kurt not ended his life on that fateful day? His death allowed Dave Grohl to shine, bringing a new era of stadium rock to the world. I am grateful for that. Selfish I know, but hey I was never big a fan of Nirvana, my allegiance was always with Pearl Jam, they were my Seattle rock gods. And nowadays the Foos can slot in to my playlist any time.

Hendrix and Morrison - unquestionable members of the rock 'n' roll monarchy, now immortalised in death. Both victims of alcohol, both dead before their time. If they were alive today would they still be creating innovative new music? I don't hear the Rolling Stones bringing out anything original these days, or Bob Dylan. I'll bet money that the loudest cheers of the night at any concert they are playing will be reserved for the likes of "Start me up" or "Times they are a changin". Don't get me wrong, I respect both of these artists greatly, Bob Dylan especially. But I love Bob Dylan 30 years ago - not Bob Dylan today.

My conclusion is... sometimes it's your time. Sometimes you are revered more in death, than you would have been had you survived. Those passed are all great losses - but hey, most of them left more on this earth than the rest of us combined, you have to be grateful for that.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lazy Monday in Sydney

Here are a few pictures I took out and about in Sydney today...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Big Day Out Wrap

Gig: Big Day Out, Sydney Showgrounds 25/01/08

For me, this year's Big Day Out was a different experience to all of those I had been to before. It was my sixth in total and, although the music was great, it didn't have the same spark as all of those in the past. The last one I attended was in 2003 - I'm now wondering whether it's the festival or whether it's me that's changed in that time.

The best thing about the Big Day Out in the past has been the vibe. Back in Perth (where my last five BDO experiences have been) I knew hundreds of people in the crowd. Growing up there, I always seemed to bump into a familiar face, in the pit, at the bar, anywhere in the crowd really. I kept on thinking that it would be the same this year. I knew it wouldn't, but just like Pavlov's Dogs, it is something ingrained in me - and when it didn't materialise it felt like something was missing.

My personal highlights of the day were all off the main stage. Enter Shikari were brilliant. A young band from St Albans in England, they rocked. I'd been talking them up all week - so I was expecting alot - but they delivered. It was raw, innovative, fast and strong - and I loved it.

Brilliance also came in the form of Tom Morello (the Nightwatchman) and Billy Bragg.

I had seen Billy Bragg once before, back in Perth in 2002 (I think) at a theatre show. I had been a fan for a while, and the show was my first real experience of modern folk/protest singing. Watching him perform at the Big Day Out reminded me of Bob Dylan and the other protest singers of the 60's and 70's. One man, with a guitar on stage singing about issues that affect us all. It was pretty powerful - and I'm looking for a bootleg of his alternate version of 'The Great Leap Forward' if anyone has it.

Tom Morello peformed with all of the passion and anger we have come to expect from him in all of the years he has been with Rage Against the Machine. Like Billy Bragg he performed solo, belting out brilliant songs, with the crowd eating out of the palm of his hands the entire time. Probably the highlight of the day was the version of Midnight Oil's 'Beds are Burning' with two of the member of Anti-Flag - they nailed it - and it fitted in perfectly with the day.

Unsurprisingly the Arcade Fire and Rage Against the Machine were both outstanding. Rage came out strong, and with a heaving crowd played all the hits. I made it to the front of the pit for the entire Arcade Fire set, which was a thrill. More band members than you can count on two hands on stage at any one time, they embody enthusiasm in music. They bounce around, share instruments, sing along to every tune - if I could see them play everyday I would certainly be a happier man.

Looking back I guess the Big Day Out is still the same festival it has always been. But for me it has certainly changed. The bands are still great, but I guess enjoy more when I'm there with all of my friends. Getting crushed in the pit together, fighting our way to the bar together and randomly bumping into each other in the most unlikely of situations throughout the day. That's what makes it a Big Day Out.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Big Day Out Eve

Big news in from the Big Day Out camp, Bjork has cancelled her appearance at the festival, after doctors advised her that her vocal chords swelling up following her performance at the Sydney Festival last night.

The organisers are offering a full refund for those who want it, which is pretty cool of them.

Personally, I have seen Bjork before, at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. It was a small, intimate gig, where she was accompanied by her two DJ's and a string quartet. It was just after she released Vespertine, and it was a brilliant concert. I was planning on skipping Bjork at the Big Day Out, so I didn't ruin my serene impression of her music - I just felt that a Big Day Out mainstage wouldn't do her justice.

Anyway, that is a dilemma that I don't need to worry about anymore. All of the acts on the mainstage are moving up one slot now, which throws out a few more schedule conflicts - namely Arcade Fire and Karnivool - two bands I had in my must see category.

So, here is the plan for tomorrow....

1. Finally complete my goal of seeing all of my all time favourite bands live (the last piece in the puzzle being Rage Against the Machine)
2. Don't get killed in the RATM pit
3. Don't let the idiot 15 year old kids (who have only recently jumped on the RATM bandwagon and probably have no understanding of their music or their message, and think that a Zapatista is some kind of Mexican food) ruin my day
4. Leave it all behind in the pit - there's nothing like bouncing up and down with 60,000 of your newest 'single serving friends'

Here is my list of my 'must see bands' for the day, together with some hopefuls. The must see's are easy: Rage Against the Machine, Arcade Fire, Enter Shikari, Karnivool (now not possible). The hopefuls are: Silverchair, Billy Bragg and Tom Morello. I reckon I'll get to see most of them.

Anyway, I'll update tomorrow with the BDO 08 review. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Life of Ryan (Adams not Shekler)

Something that has been entertaining me over the past few days is Ryan Adams' YouTube page. Probably the most creative singer/songwriter of our generation, he is just a truly prolific creator of music - and amazingly he manages to produce quality along with his quantity.

I've been laughing at his antics at my desk each day, sending around the links to my friends (I'm not sure if they quite get it). But it got me thinking. Passing some spare moments at work today I tried to think of my top 10 Ryan Adams tracks. It was tough, there are a lot of goods songs in the catalogue, but I narrowed it down to the below (and just so you know, they are in no particular order).

1. La Cienega Just Smiled
2. Come Pick Me Up
3. Dear Chicago
4. English Girls Approximately
5. Sylvia Plath
6. Damn Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)
7. Oh My God, Whatever, Etc
8. Oh My Sweet Carolina
9. This House Is Not For Sale
10. I Taught Myself How To Grow Old

I've seen Ryan Adams play live twice. Once in 2006 at an NME gig in London at the Victoria Apollo. I had to pay £80 to a tout for a ticket (which cost £20) and I had to stand outside in the cold rain for 30 minutes, but it was worth it in the end.

Ryan played a solo show and it blew me away. I had been a big fan for ages (since Whiskeytown), but I never had the chance to see him play - and I was in the mood for some inspiration - so I did what I had to do to get a ticket that night.

I didn't even get a seat (it was an all seat venue). I had to stand in a crowded section up the back, rammed in with all of the others who missed out on the 400 or so tickets that sold on the internet a few months earlier. But, as soon as he walked out all thoughts of the cold rain, standing room only section, and the £80 hole in my pocket, disappeared.

The setlist on the night was quality - with the first half being purely accoustic guitar and piano, and the electric guitar getting a go where needed in the second section.

Don't Get Sentimental On Me
My Winding Wheel
ElizabethPlease Do Not Let Me Go
Sweet Lil Gal
Why Do They Leave?
Dear Chicago
Everything Dies
The End
Let It Ride
Magnolia Mountain>Beautiful Sorta>Magnolia Mountain

set 2 9.50-11.00
Call Me On Your Way Back Home

The Hardest Part
What Sin
Cold Roses>NY NY>Cold Roses
Stella Blue
The Rescue Blues
Come Pick Me Up

The second time I went to see Ryan Adams he was playing with the Cardinals, at Shepherds Bush Empire. Ryan played drums for the support act, which was Neal Casal, the guitarist from the Cardinals, and was at his comedic best throughout.

It was a great show, but I had high expectations from the solo show earlier in the year - so it didn't blow me away. But hey, a Ryan Adams show - it was still one of the top 20 gigs I have ever been to.

Just for comparisons sake the NME gig is in my top 5.

Monday, January 21, 2008

They are the new blue blood, They are the great white hope

Gig: The National, City Recital Hall, Sydney 21/01/08

I couldn’t help but smile last night. My most recent favourite band, The National, were in town and I was there enjoying every last minute – and I really do mean every last minute.
A brilliant set performed with power and finesse, in a venue which leans towards intimacy despite its cavernous feel.

Clogs started off the night, setting the pace of the night with 2,3,5, which Padma Newsome described as the beat Bryce Dessner was playing on his guitar. To me Clogs are a new breed of band, tying in eclectic beats and rhythms to form beautiful melodies that peak and trough throughout a five minute song, taking the listener through an often dysfunctional collection of sounds, which culminate into harmony in the most mysterious of places.

That’s probably a really complicated way of describing it – but trust me the music is complicated. Beautiful, but complicated – it’s not your traditional four-four foot stopping beats.

Clogs played for about an hour, before making way for The National.

It was a surreal gig, for the crowd, and I bet for the band. As the name of the hall implied it felt more like a recital than a rock show, with a well behaved crowd applauding raucously for around 10 seconds after each song, before slipping into a deftly silence as we awaiting the opening chords of the next.

Saying that it was surreal definitely doesn’t mean it was anything other than spectacular. The National are a powerful unit, super tight with each other and very much masters of their music. Each song was performed with studio precision, but with that extra touch of spice to give it a live edge.

Personal highlights of the night were Mr. November (where Matt jumped into the seated crowd), Abel, Slow Show and Squalor Victoria.

Not from last night, but a good live version of Mr November all the same!

The band were joined by all of Clogs for many songs throughout, plus Padma’s sister as well as two magnificent horn players – who added a whole extra element to the songs.

If I had someone to go with I would be there again tonight, and tomorrow. It was a great show, with feeling. The National are the new blue blood, they are the great white hope.

Friday, January 18, 2008

She's talking in her sleep...

The Counting Crows have just released two new songs for free download from their website (1492 and When I dream of Michelangelo). Both songs are from the new double album "Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings", which I am pretty excited about.

Listening to them brought back some great memories of the Counting Crows, and namely Anna Begins, my favourite song from August and Everything After, their first album.

"Her kindness falls like rain it washes me away, and anna begins to change my mind. And every time she sneezes I think its love, and all along, I’m not ready for this sort of thing.
She’s talking in her sleep, she’s keeping me awake, and anna begins to toss and turn, and every word she says is nonsense, but understand it all.”

The weekend before I left Perth to move to London the music gods blessed me with the most amazing send off. My plane tickets had been booked for at least six months beforehand, my bags were pretty much packed – and somehow they knew. They offered up a big double header – Counting Crows on Saturday night, Pearl Jam on Sunday – I couldn’t have asked for anything more……no, no bloody way!

For at least the past eight years the Counting Crows and Pearl Jam had been my two favourite bands. I had every album, knew every song, every chord, every lyric – it was just too perfect.
I got tickets to both – sleeping out for two nights with friends to get Pearl Jam tickets – and scoring Counting Crows tickets over the phone. Pearl Jam played at Perth’s largest indoor arena, the SuperDome, Counting Crows at an intimate inner city venue, Metropolis (now more famous for the gang violence which occurs there every weekend than the concerts it holds).

Counting Crows were first, on the Saturday night. In a stroke of luck my friends band, Fourth Floor Collapse, opened for them on the night. That in itself was amazing. FFC was a local band my friends and I had followed for a long time. My best mate's brother was the lead guitarist and several of the other band members had gone to the same school as me - so I knew them quite well.

My mate and I got to the CC concert nice and early to line up. We caught the soundcheck and were amongst the first few people into the venue. We eventually ended up in the centre of the venue, right against the stage – probably the best piece of real estate at the entire concert –so we were pretty pleased.

Before FFC had even hit the stage we were greeted by a surpise vist by the Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz. Adam came out to the stage and sat down right in front of us and talked to the crowd for at least 30 minutes. He signed autographs and shook hands and showed a genuine interest in speaking with all of the fans who turned up early, which was absolutely brilliant and, to this day it remains one of my personal “rock” highlights.

FFC opened and dedicated a song to me (pointing me out to the packed crowd) which was a thrill – and the Counting Crows rocked. The guitarist, Dan, scored twp backstage passes for my friend and I, so we could meet the Counting Crows after the show.

It has taken me a long way to get there, but finally here is my point. On the night Adam talked about Anna Begins. He said he was nervous because in the next few days he was heading to Sydney and he was going to see “Anna” for the first time in over a decade. He told us the story of Anna Begins, which goes roughly like this …

Before the Counting Crows got going Adam took some time out to backpack through Europe. He was travelling from Italy to Greece and on his ferry he met a girl called Anna. He had brought a big bottle of red wine along for the journey and so had she, so they sat together and drank. Romance was in the air and they ended up living together in Greece (?, I could be wrong here) for the next few months, where he wrote the first half of Anna Begins.

Adam eventually had to leave to get back to San Francisco, leaving Anna to continue her trip.

Anna was an Australian girl, and it was essentially a travel romance – albeit a good one. Anna knew the song was about her, Adam had told her, but she had never heard him sing it live and that was about to happen in Sydney in a few nights time.

He also told this story at the Counting Crows Storytellers session which you can read about here.

For someone about to embark on a European journey of my own, this story filled me with hope. Needless to say, my friends and I took the same ferry journey, and we drank red wine. Coincidently we too met some Australian girls who keep us company on the torturous 11 hour journey across the Adriatic sea, but no-one like Anna.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sunday night spirits

Back in 2002/2003 my friends and I were live music junkies. Growing up in Perth we were never short of a local band or two to satisfy our craving for a mid-week gig. Whether it was the Tuesday nights regular slot at 'The Paddo', to hear the Jeff Buckley-esque sounds of Nathan Gaunt, or the frequent Saturday night trips to the Swanbourne and the Grosvenor to catch Fourth Floor Collapse, there was quality and there was quantity.

Moving to London somewhat changed that. It wasn't that there was a lack of local talent to see, it was just too damn hard to get there to see it. A Tuesday night out in Camden meant catching the last tube home, which meant 4 hours sleep, something I wasn't really willing compromise on at the time. That's not to say that I never went to gigs. I can honestly say that if you love music, then London is one of the greatest cities in the world to be - probably only surpassed by New York.

In 5 years I saw more bands than I can recall. From Radiohead, to Bjork, to DJ Shadow, to Pearl Jam (5 times in 2 years), to Ryan Adams, the list is endless. Every great band I have ever loved I was lucky enough to see whilst I was living in London in that 5 year stint.

Coming back to Australia I knew that it was all going to change. Bands come here, but not that often. When they do come, the ticket prices are outrageous. I know they have to cover costs, Australia is a long way to come, etc etc etc, but there is a huge difference in paying £25 to see the Foo Fighters at the London Astoria (which holds about 1300 people) to $101.00 to see them at the monolithic structure which is Acer Arena.

So, come last night I knew what I had to do.

On Friday night my lovely friend Georgie had invited me to come with her to watch one of her best friends bands perform in a basement bar in Kings Cross. Fortuitously for me the venue happened to be about 100 metres down the road from my place, so who was I to refuse.

What I found in this dark basement bar was a beautiful musician producing some fantastic music. Ophelia of the Spirits was her name and she reminded me there and then why I love local live music. With a sound reminicent of an early version of Sarah McLaughlan, the haunting and powerful piano led tunes are still resonating with me today.

There is something fantastic about sitting three metres away from a singer/songwriter when she is belting out a beautiful tune on a piano which just gets me sucked right in.

So, I'll definitely go and see Ophelia of the Spirits again. Hopefully next time I'll have some footage to put up here so you can see what I mean.

Until then, bring on The National...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The January Heat

It is a humid and overcast day in Sydney, but it's not getting me down. January is probably the best time of the year over here, it is where the city comes alive and all the bands come down to play.

In the past few weeks it has really kicked off. Last Saturday I went along to a free concert from Brian Wilson, taking place just down the road in the Domain (a park right next to central Sydney) as part of the Sydney Festival. Braving the light rain and heaving crowds was worth it just to hear "God Only Knows" played live by the great man, which is certainly up there as one of my favourite songs of all time.

Last night I went down to the same park with a few friends to catch the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. The crowd was huge - mostly family types - but there was a cool vibe nevertheless.

Next on the radar is The National. I've only recently fallen in love with this band - I read some really positive blog posts about them so I decided to give them a try - and I am so glad I did. They are playing a few shows in a fortnight and I have been lucky enough to score a ticket.

After The National comes the Big Day Out. My first one in 5 years, having been living outside of Australia since early 2003, I am quite excited. Here's hoping that Australian crowds have grown up in that time. I hope not to be trampled, kicked and punched too excessively in the Rage Against the Machine pit come nightfall on January 25th.

Tonight I am heading down the road to one of my local pubs to watch a friend of a friend on piano. If she is any good I'm sure I'll write about it tomorrow.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Into the Wild

How can one film make such a difference to my year?

The Pearl Jam boards had been raving about it for weeks. Margaret from "The Movie Show" gave it 5 stars and shed a tear when reviewing it on air. Eddie Vedder composed the soundtrack for god's sake. You could say that my expectations were a little high heading into the theatre.

Not since I walked in Grand Cinema Warwick to watch Almost Famous on the day of release 8 years ago had I been so eager to watch a film, and not since Almost Famous have I walked out so moved. I remember calling up my friends and saying " we're going out" the minute I walked out of the theatre - Kate Hudson had blown me away - and all I wanted was to meet my 'Penny Lane' that night.

Numerous trips to New York followed. I walked past the pond in Central Park where 'Lady' opened up for the first time, I drove down Route 66 looking for the Continental Hyatt House, but all to no avail.

But back to "Into the Wild".

Having lived the past 5 years of my life away from home (Australia), setting up shop in London, it is fair to say I have a penchant to travel. Ever since I was 5 years old I wanted to get on a plane and see the world. Well, when I turned 23 I packed up and left.

Into the Wild resonates with me. It is the sort of movie I will watch over and over again - and never get bored. For me Eddie Vedder provides a hauntingly deep accompaniment to the film. Most Pearl Jam fans agree, his songwriting hit a new chord in this film - drawing on the depth and character of Pearl Jam's last album (Self Titled) and creating a sound that just fitted with the movie.

Heavy Rotation

For me, more than anything, bands are like friends. I met alot of my best friends/bands in high school and to this day they remain the same - just for the record, I am 28.

When I was 14 I was introduced to Pearl Jam for the first time. It was not Ten that initially blew me away - it was instead the outrageously strong performances of "Animal" and "Rockin' in the Free World" that Pearl Jam performed at the MTV Music Video Awards in `1993 which sucked me in. I remember recording both of these songs from the TV onto cassette tape and playing them to death. As a 14 your old - it all seemed too perfect. I bought Vs the next day and since then I have never looked back.

I use the friends/bands comparison not without some background or merit. In high school I met my best friends, and to this day we still remain that way, and I met my favourite bands at the same time. Take a look at my mp3 player, the artist list reads like a who's who of 90's rock, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains, Counting Crows, Nine Inch Nails, Ben Harper, Tool and the Smashing Pumpkins all take pride of place.

Like friends, nowadays it takes alot for a new band to enter my circle. I have my core group of everyday "connections" and anything else seems to get in their way. No-one will ever replace them, and there is always a high bar to reach. In saying that though there are exceptions. It takes a lot more than a catchy riff though to make the rotation.

In recent years there have been a number of bands who have cracked the playlist. Either through releasing a sublime album, catching my ear at a live performance, or somehow magically conjuring their song into my head, a number of artists have cracked my "top friends" list.

Just for the record these include the likes of Ryan Adams, Jimmy Eat World and Jeff Buckley, just to name a few.

The inspriration behind this blog comes from Heather Browne. She writes a blog called "I am Fuel, You are Friends". The blog bug certainly "dropped" as a result of this site.