Party in the Park

Second gig in this fair old land that is Aus. Again, I hurriedly bought tickets for this before leaving the UK after hearing that the Cat Empire were playing. Which, in retrospect, was a brilliant idea. When I got the tickets the only billed acts were the Cat Empire and the Jezebels, who I hadn’t heard of before. But that didn’t really matter, because if they were playing with the Cat Empire they were going to be good. A couple of days before the gig I got an email from the organisers giving details.

So, with a few days before the gig I made an effort to look up the other bands online, even if it was only to listen to one or two songs. I also thought it was delightful that all the bands playing at Party in the Park hailed from Australia. The event turned out to be more like a mini-festival, with a bar, a couple of food stands, and a large shaded area with lots of bean bags, which was fun. It was held in a cricket ground which mean just by being there you felt somewhat middle-class. It was a lovely crowd, everyone was very well dressed, even though there was range of people from 18 to 80. It was nice to spend the last part of the afternoon in the sun, watching all the shiny happy people enjoy the good weather and good music.

The first band that played were Sons of the East, a trio local to Sydney. They are an indie/folk band, with definite hints of Mumford and Sons. Though, we’re all inclined to say that as soon as a band appears with a banjo and harmonica now, which is a shame. But they played a good mix of songs, great music to listen to in the sun. They seem to have parts of Sydney flowing out of their instruments. All of this made for an enjoyable start to an evening of good music.

The second band that played were an almost all girl group band Little May. It was refreshing to see an all girl band come up on stage and play their own instruments. I know there are girl bands out there that do play their own instruments, I just don’t feel they get as much exposure as they should. Anyway, I’m going slightly off topic. Little May had a mix of raw guitar and bass with electro-y piano and soft vocals. They managed to blend them together in such a way that they didn’t grate, but complemented each other. They managed to get the crowd off the ground where they had been watching to actually come up and dance, which was excellent.

The third – and final band before the two headliners – was a band called Husky. Husky are another indie/folky band. They set started off fairly slow and low-key, though as they played through their songs they upped the tempo and got more and more people dancing. The highlight of their set however, was their final song, ‘I’m not coming back‘. It was a very memorable song both lyrically and musically, and left the crowd begging for more.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with the Jezabels, I’d only listened to one song before I saw them, so I wasn’t fully prepared for what they were going to do. They were vocally similar to Little May, in my opinion, without being samey. Hayley Mary on lead vocals did give Little May a shout out, and commented on the guys that had shouted ‘take your top off’ during Little May’s set that they were ‘bearing their fucking souls, which is way more intimate’ than a naked body. This obviously got a massive cheer from the crowd, and it was nice that she had been listening to their set and had the balls to call out the perpetrators. I felt the set was comparable to a La Roux gig, but that might just have been because the lighting was very similar (purples, pinks and blues – which, incidentally, mean that my photos aren’t great). The Jezabels are definitely a band I would make an effort to see live again, would recommend to anyone looking for a dancey band that stands apart from the rest.

Aha, now we get to the main event of the evening. The Cat Empire. So, if you’ve got this far without knowing who Cat Empire are, let’s take a minute to change that. Cat Empire are described as ‘Jazz/Ska’ but in reality they’ve got elements of salsa, blues and pop in their music, as well as jazz and ska. The band consists of a bajillion people. Well, there’s six of them. But still. That’s a fair amount of people on a stage at anyone time. The gig was everything I wanted it to be and more. They opened up with ‘Brighter than gold‘, which, as far as I’m aware is their latest single. Their set list had a good variety of songs, from ‘Chariot‘ to ‘Like a drum‘. The energy in the crowd was uncontainable, without being (too) violent. The fusion of instruments on stage is an exhilarating mix. As well as the core band members playing percussion, keys, trumpet, double bass and decks, they were joined on stage by The Empire Horns, a brass duo with Ross Irwin on the trumpet and Kieran Conrau on the trombone.

Each band surpassed expectation, as did the weather. The atmosphere went from chilled to dancey to there-so-much-energy-here-all-my-hairs-are-standing-on-end. All in all, the night could not have gone better.

Tim Minchin – Sydney Opera House

The more astute of you will have noticed that I have already written about Tim Minchin, and I’m not one for repetition. However, I think this gig deserves to be mentioned for a number of reasons.

  1. It’s was my first gig in the Southern Hemisphere, that counts for something, right?
  2. It was at (well, outside) the Sydney Opera House
  3. To quote Loki, ‘I do what I want’

Now that’s sorted, onto the actual gig. As I said, it was my first gig in the southern hemisphere, and, more accurately, Australia. I bought the tickets to Tim Minchin on the steps before it was confirmed that I was going to Aus, but who cares? I’m here now, and I got to see an excellent gig. As mentioned in the previous Minchin post I’ve never actually been to a straight-up comedy gig of his, which is weird but also not. So, since about 2005ish, his debut at the Melbourne and Edinburgh fringe, Minchin has been described as a musical comedian. Which, I do agree, he was. But that wasn’t his first calling. Before making it big he wrote a couple of songs for a number of plays, did a bit of acting, just dabbling in the area we know as ‘performing arts’.

Since his success from ’09 onwards he’s been increasingly (in my opinion) typecast as ‘that funny guy that makes fun of religions and plays the piano’, which is all well and good. It does seem to me that Minchin has been trying to break out of that mold though. For example, he wrote the music for Matilda – which went on to win about 30 different awards, including a couple of Tonys and Laurence Olivier – has played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, and now he’s writing another musical (Stage adaption of Groundhog Day).

What has convinced me of his apparent effort to move away from his comedic alter-ego, and into the realms of his clever, articulate and deep self have been his recent gigs, especially this most recent one. Yes, he did play his classics, like Prejudice and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nerd, and of course, the very serious Cheese. But he also played a lot of his songs that aren’t comedic, which is so nice because he is a fantastic songwriter, and he should be appreciated for his more serious songs as well as his comedy. He played a range of songs, including Drowned – a personal favorite of mine. And Seeing You, which is a song from the Groundhog Day musical he’s providing the music for. Both of these are excellent examples of his deep writing.

The highlight for me was not the main body of the show, but the encore. Before Minchin left the stage for the first time he introduced his last song (Darkside) as ‘the last song we’ll play before we go and the come back on again, because of the French you will shout’, which is my preferred way to introduce the encore, rather than pretending it’s spontaneous, as many people do, both comedians and musicians. (I’m looking at you Bill Bailey. THREE ENCORES?! Hmm)

ANYWAY, Minchin came back on stage – as promised – as the audience were shouting ‘French’ at the top of their lungs. He began by talking about his family, mentioning that music plagues his family like a disease, and rattled off a list of names of brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins and aunts that were all musically persuaded.

He then started introducing a song which I had heard of before, so naturally, I was excited. It was called Harbor Lights, and he explained that it was written by his uncle, Jim Fisher. He started singing, and as he got halfway through the first verse he was joined, on stage, by a Mr.Jim Fisher, and they sung it as a duet. It was really beautiful, and very different to Minchin’s style. Fisher is a bluegrass singer, and the combination of his battered old guitar and the piano was really something else. If that wasn’t enough, he was then joined by his cousin, Tom, on electric guitar, his brother Dan, on acoustic guitar, who then sung another verse together. THEN, two violinists enter stage left, Tim’s cousins Lucy and Susie, and two singers, his sisters Kate and Mel. And the whole family starts singing this beautiful song together. It was such an amazing moment, and a wonderful thing to watch.

They then played a cover of the Rolling Stone’s Shine a Light, with Dan taking the lead. I’ve taken some VERY amateur clips of both of the above songs, the footage doesn’t do them justice, but they’re here and here if you want to see them.

To be able to hoist the majority of your family onstage for an audience of 700ish people, and play two beautiful, poignant songs, and to pull them off harmoniously is no mean feat. To see the whole thing in action was indescribable.

Now, have some pictures. (I was far away, and being primarily a pianist, Minchin doesn’t move around a lot, those are my excuses this week) I’ve also re-edited a couple of older pics, so you can have those for good behavior. Oh, and I did some art of Tim Minchin’s face. I’m not really sure why.