June 26 2011

Music Under the Stars–Part II

In my last missive, this curmudgeon related the sorry tale of a venue sorely underprepared for a rock concert. If you haven’t read it yet go read it now – I promise I’ll wait. If you have read it then let’s press on.

The venue may have run out of food but it didn’t run out of beer thus proving that the management weren’t stupid. The amber fluid flowed as the first act – New Zealand’s Ben Merito – took to the stage. Ben’s act is a fusion of reggae and…errr…something else which has the ability to get the feet moving. In between songs he engaged the audience with some chatter. I wish I could tell you what he talked about but I couldn’t understand a word he said. Whatever he did say was accompanied by a huge grin so he was either very happy or he was telling us to bugger off through gritted teeth.

The second act – Lior – wasn’t quite as engaging. He seemed to glare at the crowd and eventually looked like he was ignoring anything and anyone off stage. In fact he seemed to pay little attention to anything that was not him and his guitar; not even his string quartet. That’s right, he had a string quartet which ranked high on my puzzlement scale. I’m not sure if the four ladies of the quartet were there merely to add some beauty to the proceedings or if they actually contributed to the music. All I could see was the occasional sweep of a bow here and there followed by long periods of inactivity. Curios! At least I had something to look at (for the first time in my life I wished I could have been a cello.)

Lior and Quartet

The main intermission arrived and the ol’ bladder urged me to find an appropriate building. Having completed that chore I headed back to the stage only to find that the front of the venue had magically sprouted a horde of people. I got some dark looks as I pushed my way to the front – try explaining that you actually have a spot at the front, “wife’s up there, honest” to the inebriated, angry ladies who think you are robbing them of their vantage point. Luckily, not one of the tattooed hulks (the men with the ladies, not the ladies themselves, although there was one…) decided to “smash” and I was soon back at my spot next to the Librarian.

Paul Kelly was about to open his act and the crowd was buzzing. Someone stumbled against my back and I turned around to see a young lady craning her neck to look over my shoulder. She apologized profusely and seemed to be so excited about seeing Kelly and Finn that I just had to offer her my spot at the rail. She was equally profuse in her thanks and explained that she was part of a musical duo that played a lot of Kelly and Finn music. She was filled with excitement when Paul Kelly finally began his set.

I have never seen Paul Kelly in concert before and I must say I have missed out. It was magical. Paul was joined by his nephew, Dan, (I’ve seen Dan in concert a couple of times already but not his uncle) who provided guitar and high voice (courtesy of extremely tight trousers) accompaniment. The duo became a trio when Neil Finn joined them for a song towards the end of the set. The magic was so palpable it sizzled.

A short break followed the Kelly set and I became an unwitting participant in some crowd theatre. The principle actor in this play was a woman (Ms Drunk Twit) who decided that the musical gods owed her a spot at the front of the venue. She had fought her way past the couple behind me in spite of their protests that they had been waiting for hours to get that spot. Ms Drunk Twit answered that she’d been waiting for six years. Hey, don’t look at me, it was Ms Drunk Twit that said it. I hope her retort was a result of the amber fluid and not a reflection of her intellectual capacity.

The play continued as she found her path to the fence blocked by yours truly. She started whining about how much she needed to get to the front and how I was mean to block her way. Whining like that merely steels my resolve so she switched gears and whined that it was her birthday and I should let her push in as a present. Her whining continued to have no affect on me but it irritated a very young lady who turned around and asked Ms Drunk Twit to shut up. Unfortunately, Ms Irritated had dyed her hair blue and was on the rubenesque side so she became fodder for Ms Drunk Twit’s vitriol. She and her partner (Mr Moron) launched into a diatribe against Ms Irritated before turning back to me again.

“He won’t let me in,” began the whine and Mr Moron poked me between the shoulders saying, “who? You mean this guy?”

Let’s just say that she stopped her loud whining shortly thereafter. Let’s just move on to the final act of the night instead.

Mr Neil Finn looked tired, sounded tired and was tired. He had very recently been on a plane from London. Those of you have done the London-Perth plane trip know how much fun that is. So how did he manage to produce one of the best concerts I have seen? It was just him on stage and he owned us all.

Neil Finn would have to be one of the greatest song writers to have walked this planet and his live performances are worth every cent of hard earned cash. Words fail me so let me paint you a couple of thousand instead:

Neil FinnNeil Finn

At one point Neil flouted the security setup and asked for a member of the audience to join him on stage. The first one over the fence and onto the stage would win the right to play guitar with him. A mad scramble ensued while security looked on in dismay and, no doubt, a few choice words directed at Neil Finn.

The lucky winner was none other than the lady to whom I gave up my spot. She launched herself over the fence and ran onto the stage while others were falling over the fence (bloody Finn said security and management under their breath.) The lucky lady said that her name was Sue Johnson and that she plays guitar with a duo called Juliet’s Diary. Then she tuned up with Neil and accompanied him on a song:

Neil Finn and Sue JohnsonNeil Finn and Sue Johnson

Sue was the envy of many a woman, and some men if I heard the comments correctly. I know I would have loved to play guitar with Neil Finn. Unfortunately the only instrument I can play is the CD player.

So another night of musical magic ended. Thanks to Neil, Paul, Dan, Ben and … the girl with the cello for a wonderful night. The Librarian and I sat in our car waiting for the car park to clear. A few other people also found the idea of waiting awhile a lot more palatable than fighting the traffic. The view across the hills was breathtaking and we took it all in as we recalled the event we’d just seen. At least the Librarian was enjoying the view across the hills. I was enjoying a totally different view. Thank you to the couple in the red car parked a few meters from us.

April 26 2011

Music Under the Stars – Part I

“Hasn’t it been a decade or so since we saw the last sign?” I inquired of The Librarian.

We were on our way to the Red Hill Auditorium where Paul Kelly and Neil Finn were due to perform in a few hours. Our GPS (a lady of the British aristocracy judging by the voice) had got us into the hills and told us we had arrived at our destination while we were still on the highway in the middle of nowhere. I think this is the GPS’s way of – very politely – getting her own back at me due to my penchant for ignoring her directions. She bow refused to say anything further so we had to look for signposts to the venue. We had seen a solitary small sign several minutes before – Red Hill Auditorium, it said, while leaning to the left.

I stayed in the left lane which gave us some wonderful views down into Perth. Picture perfect views, in fact. I declined to take any photos, though, due to the fact that I was driving (and looking for another bloody sign). The fact that I didn’t have a camera with me sealed the deal. The views on our left suddenly gave way to a clump of trees and another small sign saying Red Hill Auditorium. Aha! The turnoff must be around that bend. It was!

Except it was on the right hand side of the road.

Several figures dressed in fluorescent orange were gesturing frantically to the right as we rounded the bend. One of the figures carried a glow stick and she used it to direct us into the trees. No! Wait! There’s an almost invisible dirt road between the trees. Nice work, Red Hill Auditorium management. Larger and more conveniently placed signage is too conventional.

We had made an effort to get to the auditorium with plenty of time to spare but even so vehicles already graced several bays in the car park. The former inhabitants of those vehicles made up a queue to the auditorium that already snaked towards the dirt road. I figured that everybody there wanted to rush to the front of the auditorium so I tucked my empty water bottle under my arm and started warming up for a sprint.

What’s that? Oh, the empty water bottle! Well, you see, the management of the auditorium expressly forbade anyone from bringing food or drink into the venue. We were, however, granted permission to bring an empty water bottle each which we could fill at the taps provided inside the auditorium. Every other venue we had visited allowed picnics and water bottles but they always served great looking food at very reasonable prices so we were looking forward to buying our food this time. The water bottle “thing”, however, had us scratching our heads.

After an eternity – the sound checks were running overtime, apparently – we were allowed inside. The stampede began but the Librarian and I held our own as we ran towards the front. So imagine our bemusement when the majority of people just ran for seating somewhere in the middle of the auditorium or made a beeline towards the food stalls.

At this point I must address the Red Hill Auditorium management. Do join me again in part II where I recount the antics of beautiful people and may even get around to the music. See you then and bring a friend.

Dear Red Hill Auditorium management.

I want to compliment you on the splendid handling of food services in your establishment, to whit:

  1. the brilliantly conceived notion of forcing us to buy our meals from your incredibly tiny selection;
  2. the concept that $10 for a cheese kransky is “reasonably priced”;
  3. the concept of replacing such niceties as a bun, some onions and sauerkraut with a paper napkin thus making the kransky an “healthy” option;
  4. the provision of only two food stalls and two beer stalls to serve thousands of hungry and thirsty people;
  5. the provision of just enough food so that it runs out half an hour after the venue opens.

Yours sincerely,

Flying Saucer Jones

PS Your decision to replace grass with concrete prompts me to enclose a bill to cover my expenses in procuring a replacement arse. Please remit promptly.

November 15 2010

An Evening With Crowded House

It didn’t start off too well.

We were stuck at the traffic lights, the Librarian and I, just a stone’s throw away from the gates of Sandalford Estate. The lights cycled through their limited spectrum again and again while the traffic inched its way forward. That, my friends, is what happens when the Sandalford Estate hosts a concert – their gates are that close to the traffic lights. Still, the sense of anticipation kept growing through each light change and that was a surprisingly good feeling; kind of like the feeling you get before, err, never mind.

I can’t remember how many light cycles we endured before we got through that infernal intersection but we eventually made it through the gates and into Sandalford Estate for the first time in our lives. The attendants waved us on towards our parking spot which turned out to be close to the security stations. The queues outside the stations were building by the second so we quickly grabbed our esky, rug and jackets (in anticipation of another cool and windy November night) and joined the throngs of shiny, happy people.

Just before the station a large sign advised us on what the good little boys and girls were allowed to take into the concert area and what the naughty little boys and girls should not even think about taking in. The Librarian was pleased to see small digital cameras on the “allowed” list since she was carrying a couple of those gadgets, and I was pleased to see that same list also contained blunt metal cutlery – one does like to butter one’s bread just before eating, one does. Unfortunately, the security guard disagreed with the sign’s blunt metal clause and told me he could dispose of them for me – helpful chap.

So I trudged back to the car with my blunt butter knife. No butter on my bread then. The Librarian took the rest of the items through security without any further hassles and went looking for the best vantage point while I fumed my way back to the car – if not for that meddling security guard I could have carried out my nefarious plan to butter the patrons to death, curse him.

Butter knife safely ensconced in the car I trudged back through security only to meet the Librarian making her way out. She had found an ideal spot but one that wouldn’t allow our (apparently) large esky. It was her turn to trudge to the car while I went looking for an ideal spot.

I couldn’t find one.

There was a rope several metres from the stage and all the patrons were sitting behind this rope. There were picnic rugs as far as the eye could see. The best spot I could find was one about two hundred metres from the rope.

Several minutes later I was hanging my head in shame. The Librarian had found a spot two meters from the stage.

In my defence I swear I didn’t realize we were allowed past the rope. How was I to know that the rope was merely the demarcation between the “esky and low backed chair” area and the “rugs and bags only” area? No, really, how was I to know? But well done, Librarian. We couldn’t get any closer to the stage without imprinting the chain link fence on our bodies.

From then on the night kept getting better. Jet planes were constantly passing low overhead but the roar of their engines were, thankfully, drowned by the music of the two opening acts (The Ghost Hotel and Oh Mercy.) There’s not much to say about those opening acts except that they were fine but nothing memorable. I can’t even describe the members of the bands. Except for Oh Mercy’s bass player. I can describe her in detail.

(Err, sorry! I was reminiscing. Ahem!)

The interval between the second support act and Crowded House provided the ideal opportunity to take my bladder for a walk. Destination: portable rooms with bright orange doors. One set of doors labelled “FEMALE” was graced with a very long queue of less than happy looking women. A second set of doors labelled “UNISEX” was graced by an equally long queue of people, none of whom were men and none of whom looked happy. The third set of toilets was labelled “MALE URINALS” (note to self: look up female urinals) with no queue at all.

I walked past the long queues and smiled at the ladies. They didn’t smile back. Barely a couple of minutes later I walked back past the long queues and smiled at the ladies again. The looks they gave me told me they wanted to rip a certain part off me and beat me over the head with it.

There were many more people in front of the rope by the time I got back. The rugs were folded, the cameras were prepped, and nature provided us with a breathtaking sunset. The excitement was building. Then, suddenly, the lights on the stage blazed and Matt Sherrod ran onto the stage.

“Roarrrrrr,” said eight thousand voices.

Mark Hart and Nick Seymour appeared.

“Roarrrrrrrrr,” said eight thousand voices.

And then there was Neil Finn bounding onto the stage.

ROARRRRRRRRRRRRR,” said eight thousand voices much to the surprise of the jet passing overhead.

And then Crowded House and eight thousand of us sang. It was one of the most beautiful things I have heard. Several times during the show Neil stopped singing and stood back to listen. He even stopped to point out that we couldn’t see the stars due to the clouds so he wanted us to make our own stars. The stage lights went down and Sandalford Estate was lit by thousands of mobile phones while we sang.

Nothing spoiled the night. Not even the the woman who turned up from nowhere to rub up against the Librarian before rushing off into the crowd again (this was not even remotely arousing, not with that strange woman; it was merely bizarre.) Not even the Perth noise ordinances which ensured that the concert finished at 9:45pm (please don’t ridicule us Sydney, Melbourne…everywhere else.)

The sky was ablaze with colour (“puces, pinks, mauves,” said artist Nick Seymour; “fucking purples,” rejoined Neil.) The Sandalford Estate was awash with music. The night was alive with magic.

Thank you Crowded House.

Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery

November 22 2009

Tim Finn Rocks the Quarry

I discovered the music of Tim and Neill Finn when I was a young lad and they were in a little group called Split Enz. (That would be a century ago, eh Saucer? Why you…) I have loved their music ever since. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to see them live in concert back then. Fortunately the Finn’s still tour and I have the coin and the time to see them when they come around to Perth. This time around it was Tim who came to town and performed three sold out shows at the Quarry Amphitheatre.

The Quarry gets its name from the limestone quarry that it was in the 1830’s. The quarry was, obviously, started for purposes other than an excavation of a future venue for concerts but it makes for the best venue I’ve been to. It only holds about 550 people but that makes for a better experience for me.

It was a magical night. The rains that pelted down last week abated on Thursday and the clouds were long gone when the Librarian and I lined up just outside the gates. While we waited for the gates to open a Quarry staff member gave us a mini programme and our bank account breathed a small sigh of relief that it wouldn’t be losing weight on that front. At 6:00pm the gates opened – this place is punctual – and our tickets were validated. Then the Librarian and I raced to the front of the amphitheatre and found seats in the very first row. Front row seats! Right in front of the microphone!

Flushed with our good fortune (and the exertion of racing to the front) we looked around the Quarry and noted that we were actually at the younger end of the age spectrum. It was a veritable sea of silver follicles. There were some young whippersnappers around but the silver sea was otherwise undiluted by youthful follicular pigmentation. Smiling happily at each other we opened our picnic hamper and indulged in the cold feast therein while people around us forced themselves to eat the food they purchased at the Quarry cafe. Hot food. Hot, delicious smelling food. And reasonably priced, as it turned out. At least the cold feast was delicious. And cheaper.

A young lad called Andy Bull opened the proceedings as we finished our meal. He is quite a talent and one to look out for. Andy’s voice sounds like it got stuck on the edge of puberty and he makes some funny, self effacing jokes about it. He was so entertaining and talented that the Librarian and I decided to buy his CD during the intermission. Our bank account – by now quite complacent after the mini programme episode – was startled at the sudden debit caused by the purchase of not only the CD but a couple of ice creams and a tea towel bearing a painting of the great Tim Finn. (The tea towel will, no doubt, remain a stranger to the dishes and cutlery in the kitchen.)

While our bank account whimpered we resumed our seats and, right on time, out strode Mr Finn singing Dirty Creature. This is the Librarian’s favourite Split Enz song so she was thrilled. This was brilliant Tim Finn, and it only got better. His backing band was tight – it was especially good to see Eddie Raynor on keyboards – and the rhythm section was quite superb on songs ranging from the Split Enz days, through Crowded House, the Finn Brothers and Tim’s solo work. Then they made my day by finishing with my favourite Split Enz song, I See Red.

I tell a little lie, of course. While it is my favourite Split Enz song, I See Red, wasn’t the last song at all. There were two encores and, I suspect, would have been another if not for the local council’s ban on concerts going past 10:00PM. (And by local, I mean Perth. Rock on, people of Perth, but not after 10:00PM; people are trying to sleep!)

And so, Tim, Eddie and the band said good night and the Librarian and I left the Quarry. We stopped at the beach for a while. Sitting in the sand we watched the moon playing peek-a-boo behind the clouds that were drifting in. For just a few moments longer we basked in the magic that was Tim Finn at the Quarry.

Set List For Tim Finn, Quarry Theatre, 21 Nov, 2009

Dirty Creature
She Got Body
6 Months
Luckiest Man
Chocolate Cake
My Mistake
Not Even Close
Couldn’t Be Done
Weather With You
Straw To Gold
Made My Day
I See Red

First Encore

Nothing Unusual
What You’ve Done
Fraction Too Much Friction

Second Encore

Light Years Away
Astounding Moon

Thanks to Pez who posted the set lists to the Frenz Forum thus filling the gaps in my recollection of the set list.

March 1 2009

Finn, Washington and Gorillas. Oh my!

Mum graciously gave up her time to look after the kids last night while The Librarian and I went to see Tim Finn in Fremantle. We got to the Flybynight Musicians Club with plenty of time to spare which gave us seats in the second row and directly in front of the stage. There were a handful of young couples in the crowd surrounded by a sea of grey or greying hair. Young whippersnappers.

The downside of arriving so early was the long wait in a stifling hot room. Yes, even I found it too hot. I don’t think I’m being too cynical to suggest that the bar doing a roaring business at the back of the room wasn’t complaining about the heat. Just saying.

We sweated on, 8:30 finally rolled around and the opening act, Meg Washington, strode onto the stage. She is only twenty one and I wonder how she felt when she looked out at the sea of grey. It didn’t seem faze her. She was pretty impressive, like Missy Higgins but better. A love song for an interspecies couple was my favourite. Interspecies? Let me explain:

Several years ago there lived a woman who was quite taken with Bokito, a gorilla at the Rotterdam Zoo. So taken, in fact, that she visited him several days a week. Bokito soon came to think of her as either his mate or a stalker that annoyed the hell out of him. Either way he decided to do something about it. One day Bokito leaped across the moat surrounding his enclosure, said ‘ook’ to the visitors in the zoo restaurant and gave the love-struck woman a broken arm and several bites. The woman must have a strange sense of what constitutes a love bite because she continues to think of the gorilla as “her darling”. But enough about Bokito and his shenanigans. Let’s move on to the main event.

Tim Finn climbed onto the stage shortly after 9:30 and launched into a version of Chocolate Cake with Brett Adams accompanying on lead guitar. The lyrics were modified a little to include references to Barack Obama which provided a fun and funny start to the show. Initially somewhat subdued, Tim still managed to produce the magic we were hoping for and it only got better as the night wore on.

The fogey on stage treated us fogies – and the handful of whippersnappers — in the audience to songs from his latest album as well as classics from his Split Enz and Crowded House days. For me the highlight was an impromptu medley of hits with Tim joking that all his songs were written in the same tempo so that such a medley was possible.

The show ended all too soon even with two encores. Tim looked like he was in a hurry – maybe he had a plane to catch. The Librarian drove home and we basked in the after glow of a really good concert. Even our Aztec-blue Corolla purred happily as it got to hit freeway speeds.

Two thumbs up from us for Tim, Meg and the gorilla.