first pick of the festival

The launch of the 2010 Perth International Arts Festival Program was celebrated at the Perth Concert Hall with a full-house.

Attendance at the Program launch is a must. From receiving the festival brochure in the morning post, poring over the offerings, attempting to set a budget, confirming and adding more choices during the launch, to meeting up with friends and colleagues that we may not have seen since the last festival.

Our first picks from the brochure were:

After attending the launch celebrations, we would like to add:

Added to that are the Festival Films, Perth Writers Festival, and Visual Arts.

Phew! Now just have to get the money out and book.

The queues were long at the program launch, so having read that we could book online we enjoyed the refreshments and mingled.

I was unsuccessful at booking online as I hoped :( I persevered and attempted to work around issues as they arose, but finally hit the Contact Us button to view a HTTP Error 500 – Internal server error. Because friends said that we would not be able to choose our seats, I gave up with H promising that he would go into town to get them first thing in the morning.

the festival has started

The 2009 Perth International Arts Festival programme launch on Wednesday marks the beginning of the festival for me. Not only do we get to experience a glimpse of the festival, but the excitement of the events and activities to come is shared with some enthusiasm.

Throughout the evening, I found myself talking to complete strangers about the festival. Topics included: Welcome To Country, amazing didgeridoo playing, insights into the programme, presentations, and of course what tickets were you going to buy? Like the programme launch last year, BOCs set up terminals so that Friends of the Festival could purchase tickets then and there.

The formal part of the evening was held in the Octagon Theatre and the programme launch party was held in the Somerville Auditorium which was in a huge marquee surrounded by vintage cars, dance floor (with dancers), and live music. Food and wine were plentiful, but because the weather was cold and wet, those that wanted elbow room headed for the perimeter. The waitpersons all wore wigs to suit the theme, so they were easy to spot, but they too experienced difficulty making their way through the crowd.

We received our programme in the mail on the day, so it was already earmarked to take along to the programme launch. I got tickets for all that we planned, but I may get some more having seen the presentations.

Tickets so far:

Festival Films are on from 1 December, so still plenty of time to get our ticket pack to start the season.

Beauty in Trouble

With only four films left to see, Beauty in Trouble is the first film from the Perth International Arts Festival 2008 that has stood out from the rest that we have seen for being rather ‘ho hum’.

Apart from the music, it was a bit like Home and Away: The Film. This was one drama that was tedious and drawn out to 110 minutes.

The best that it has going for it, is that we can say that we saw (or will have seen) all the festival films. Yes, we stayed to see the end.

A memorable scene is Evzen (Josef Abrhám) demonstrating that even nice guys have a finite limit to the amount of empathy and tolerance shown to others, especially when their generosity is assumed as a given. Perhaps ‘Beauty in Trouble II’ will be realising that Evzen is still too nice.

five artists five songs

This request was sent to me by anxiolytic.

1. List your five favourite artists
2. List your five favourite songs by those artists
3. Tag five other people to do it

I struggled with ‘favourite’ as a qualifier, as I tend to go for songs and albums, rather than artists. But I narrowed the list down by thinking of the songs that I would be happy to play over and over. In no particular order.

White Stripes
- Fell in Love With a Girl
- Icky Thump
- My Doorbell
- Conquest
- You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)

Led Zeppelin
- Black Dog
- Stairway To Heaven
- The Song Remains the Same
- All My Love
- Dazed and Confused

Jimi Hendrix
- Red House
- Are You Experienced
- Foxy Lady
- The Wind Cries Mary
- Purple Haze

Lee Sappho
- It’s None of My Business (What You Think about Me)
- Glad To Be Alive
- Stop Sniffin’ ‘Round My Patch
- Mister Mean
- Nobody Loves Me (Like My Old Man)

Ed Kuepper
- Real Wild Life
- Hang Jean Lee
- Yellow Dog
- The Way I Made You Feel
- If I Had A Ticket

Tagging trs80, Celeste, Teri, Anne, and Zanchey.

unreserved standing

For us, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings was the last Perth International Arts Festival music concert.

Sharon Jones can ‘move’ and the songs together with the Dap-Kings, well you can’t but help but move too :)

We decided that rather than sit on the couches at the back of the dance floor that we would go and stand between the stacks. The sound was not super good here, but it was great atmosphere for dancing and watching the band up close. The only thing that spoilt it was the Paris Hilton wannabees, or princessess and pornstars [1] as Emily Maguire calls them. I had a couple push in front of me and stand right in front so that I no longer had room to sway never mind dance. They moved on eventually as the people who were dancing next to me were very indignant on my behalf and called them out and didn’t give way to them. I must admit I thought ‘unreserved standing’ was like ‘unreserved seating’, i.e. once you had your seat or standing room, it was yours until you gave it up.

The non-stop musical performance by the Dap-Kings and Sharon Jones singing and strutting was energetic, and they appeared to be able to do this with little effort. It was only very much later that the Dap-Kings started to look a bit hot in their suits. The brass section was great, trumpet and two sax (tenor and baritone).

The concert was part of the 100 Days, 100 Nights tour, and it was great to see this song performed live having seen it on YouTube. Another song that I thought was cool that I have been able to find online is Answer Me. Other tracks are on the Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings MySpace.

We didn’t stay for the After Party, there was enough crap on the dance floor to make it positively revolting if not dangerous. There was quite a queue to go into the venue, so with us going out a couple more could go in already barefoot and holding their strappy sandals. Interestingly, as we walked up St Georges Tce to catch the bus, there were a lot of young things making their way down to the Music Box. I found out later that they had come from the Future Music Festival. One of which asked for directions who had become separated from her friends and stated that she was afraid of being ‘mugged’. As H said, this is Perth not New York, and if anything similar is going to happen on St Georges Tce then it would be ‘assault’. Some were rather worse for wear (alcohol must have been cheaper at Future Music), and some carrying water bottles so that they could stay moist.

I think I’ll give festivals a miss for a while. I feel that the tickets are overpriced for what you get. Not sure about the Music Box, but other venues such as the Fremantle Arts Centre do not allow passouts, and there is a limited variety of fastfood and drinks (depending on sponsors). If you were going to an all day or weekend concert, such as the Blues ‘n’ Roots festival, you have to have a certain level of festival fitness.

[1] Princessess and Pornstars, Life Matters, ABC (25.4MB MP3, start 28:12 in)

devotion in black and white

The Tero Saarinen Company and Boston Camerata‘s collaboration and production of Borrowed Light was austere but enthralling.

The inspiration for the choreography and music are drawn from the Shakers, with some of the songs transcribed from original manuscripts. The programme explains that these songs had not been performed for 150 years and until Borrowed Light, outside the Shaker community.

When one of the Boston Camerata began to sing the hairs on my arms prickled. I have never been able to comfortably listen to soprano. Fortunately, for the rest of the 70 minute performance the singers did not utilise the high soprano notes. Some of the songs were simple chanting, others were pretty, and others were almost manic and disturbing.

The Tero Saarinen Company dancers performed a number of dancing styles, but mostly it appeared to be in character with the Shaker songs. They sometimes used their costumes as props, for example, their thick brown leather looking belts were used to support and lift each other. The swirling frenzied dancing reminded me of the dervishes, or spinning tops – until they dropped using different levels to great effect.

The stage consisted of a bare dancing floor surrounded by matt black walls. Two of the walls allowed the dancers and music ensemble to climb and stand on platforms on different levels. This added to the atmosphere, particularly when there was activity on the dance floor and movement and sound enamating from the high and low platforms. The light was often on the singer or dancer, but the others were always on stage and appeared as silhouettes.

Although I didn’t listen to the words all the time, some of the songs I found uncomfortable to disturbing. Especially when danced to with such ferocity. It reminded me of the story of The Red Shoes.

I’m pleased that I chose to see the performance of Borrowed Light (programme) although I did not come away with feelings of being entertained. More that I had witnessed a special moment, the amazing result of a collaboration between singers and dancers of an historical event.

no future

Nouvelle Vague performing reinterpreted new wave and punk songs arranged by band members Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux and sung to a bossa nova, calypso or reggae beat was very very clever and a lot of fun. The uber feminine vocals, drums, keyboard and synthesiser, acoustic guitar, and the electric bass were skillfully played to create a great atmosphere for dancing and shock horror, even singing along.

‘Too Drunk to Fuck’ caused me to laugh out loud for two reasons. One, sung by two attractive French women with sensual feminine voices to a musical arrangement that was definitely not punk. Second, any reputation that Perth needs to establish because they are going to Sydney next can get fucked because any encouragement for louder crowd participation lubricated by alcohol at Beck’s Music Box is just not going to happen. Having decided that paying $7 for a beer (a Beck’s at that), $35 for a bottle of Watershed’s unwooded chardonnay was not going to do it either.

I agree with H, the vocals were ‘bright’ at the live performance. I had listened to Dance With Me prior to the performance, so was expecting softer vocals, but it was pretty cool and a huge contrast to the earlier Lords of the New Church version.

Nouvelle Vague’s web presence offers some video and audio and it was kinda fun to listen again to their rendition, and seeking out video/audio of the originals. The following list is not exclusive, but just some of the songs I remember from the night, probably because they were familiar from an earlier time :)

The pieces marked with an asterisk I have been able to find on Nouvelle Vague’s web site, MySpace, or Uber.com.

Nouvelle Vague are practised performers and thoroughly entertaining. However, I was bemused by some of the audience sitting near us that didn’t appear to understand the pun [1], recognise the contrast to the original work, or sometimes parody. To be quite honest, if you went along to listen to “the nice singing”, you could have stayed home and turned on your home entertainment system and held any conversations about “he said that”, and “she said what” by inviting your friends to your own soirée.

[1] “… new wave and bossa nova mean the same thing …” — Dorian Lynsky, The Guardian

Coopers Music Box

I think “Coopers Music Box” has a good ring to it, and they would serve beer from Coopers Brewery.

The Perth International Arts Festival outdoor venue used to be a verandah at the Perth Concert Hall overlooking the Swan River. Now it is on the Esplanade, ‘it’ being the ‘music box’ aka Beck’s Music Box serving Beck’s. Although the view of the city is not as pretty as looking over the river, the venue I think is much better – at least for the audience.

Just a few tweaks to the drinks list, and I think the venue will be perfect.

Although Coopers appear to be more into racing, it appears they sponsor other events too. C’mon, let’s have a Coopers.

murundak

As I came away from The Black Arm Band’s performance of Murundak at the Fremantle Arts Centre, I overheard people saying that the event was “awesome” and “fantastic”. Overall, it felt flat to me.

I did not go because of the folk or world music. Although my taste in music is somewhat eclectic, this is one genre that I will change stations from. My expectation was that it was a social commentary through the history of indigenous music. It was in a sense, as Rachel Maza-Long provided narration between the songs, and the screens on either side of the stage displayed what was on stage (from roving camera) and film-clips of indigenous children and family, communities, and political rallies. But for some reason this felt too well orchestrated, and I would have preferred for the music to tell the story by the performers getting up and playing and or singing their part in the story.

The evening began with the Welcome to Country. This also included a potted description of indigenous history and the meaning of ‘murundak’. Although the programme and reviews state that murundak means ‘alive’ in Woiwurrung, the indigenous woman that read the introduction said that it meant ‘savage and strong’. I thought that this was a great start to what promised to be a special and powerful event.

Highlights of the evening included being able to put faces to names such as Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach, Mark Atkins’ amazing didgeridoo playing, Kutcha Edwards singing ‘Is This What We Deserve?’, and at least knowing one song (Yothu Yindi’s Treaty) led by Shellie Morris.

Reflecting on Murundak this morning, I have sought out references to The Black Arm Band, individual artists [1], and the History Wars while listening online to Murandak, Mark Atkins, and Paul Kelly. Also, thinking about what I learnt in school about indigenous life did not match my experience as a child in the Pilbara. It’s no wonder that I’m confused – still.

One of the hopes that I have for the future is that Sorry also means that history and cultural studies texts will be rewritten to include all history and cultures.

[1] The Black Arm Band: Archie Roach, Ruby Hunter (*), Bart Willoughby, Stephen Pigram, Peter Rotumah, Kutcha Edwards, Mark Atkins (Maguari Productions), Lou Bennett, Joe Geia, Emma Donovan, Dan Sultan, Ursula Yovich (Vibes Australia), Rachael Maza-Long (*), Shellie Morris, David Arden and Shane Howard. Special Guests (Perth): John Butler, Jessie Lloyd and Della Rae Morrison.

* The Black Arm Band web site also includes biographies and links to other people involved in the music and production.