Hello there music lovers, time for my monthly wrap up of what’s been happening around the traps, or more specifically… what I have been up to during January 2020.
Kicked off 2020 on 7 January not with a gig, but a documentary presented by Films for Change ‘John and Yoko: Above us Only Sky’ on the making of Lennon’s iconic album ‘Imagine’. Loved this so much. A lot of the footage is taken from the original film that accompanied the album, shot mainly at John & Yoko’s residence Tittenhurst Park and premiered in 1972 after the album release. There is a lot of wry and informative commentary from John and other musicians (including a very hairy George Harrison), critics and journos on the inspiration, development, production and presentation of the songs.
For me it presented a different view of the John and Yoko often portrayed in the press, particularly Yoko. An vindictive press always showed a tiny dark haired woman unsmiling, perpetually hidden behind huge glasses with a weird artistic bent, who had somehow bewitched John and broken up The Beatles. This doco shows a different side – a woman very much in love, smiling and relaxed, solicitous of her involvement in the production of the album, and also her thoughtful reflections on growing up in a devastated post war Japan, and how that informed her art. That was the biggest “AHH” for me watching this, learning a lot more about Yoko Ono without the insidious influence of mis-media, as well as Julian Lennon’s reflections on his life at that time, with the benefit of hindsight.
If you get the chance to see it, DO. So much to love about this album and the pool of talented musicians, producers surrounding John in its making, but it is the personal glimpse of a couple in love and transforming that love into art which is truly inspirational.
Jeff Duff and his David Bowie – Unzipped show @ The Spotted Mallard (12 Jan). Jeff is a great entertainer, and he didn’t disappoint here. Every number was given loving treatment, by a very witty, energetic and unfiltered performer and classy band. The Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust and other Bowie characters deserve to be lauded at every opportunity, and Jeff and these guys certainly do it best. As Jeff will tell you when proudly displaying the gift awarded to him by the Bowie foundation for his contribution to promoting David and his body of work. Another must see if you can, Jeff pops up a couple of times a year…so watch out for his return to Melbourne in the second half of 2020.
The Teskey Brothers along with Cash Savage and the Last Drinks and Thornbury Theatre, held a Bushfire fundraiser on Jan 16. Well this was a no brainer to attend and we were lucky enough to get tix to…if they hadn’t been heading OS Teskeys could have filled the theatre 3 times over at least! Thornbury has had a face lift and looks all the lovelier for it, though the bar queues are still a pain. Teskeys delivered as always, this a particularly emotional performance, the highlight being Hold Me with CFA volunteers up on stage to sing with them. You can find video of this number on the event site or Thornbury theatre FB page..take a look it really was special. Final tally raised was in excess of $52,000 for the event…fabulous effort!
Rob Snarski and Shane O’Mara residency at the Union Hotel– I went twice (18th and 25th January) and loved it both times. Rob has a lovely voice, matched perfectly with Shane’s guitar, and he (Rob) usually does a reading a droll anecdote or two, from his book as well for an extra treat! It really was a fab way to spend a late afternoon – early evening summery Saturday, with good music, great friends and your choice of bevvy.
Tex Perkins and Matt Walker …if you’ve read my earlier blogs “All about the music” parts 1 & 2 you’ll already know how much I love these two guys and performing together…something else! Saw them at Northcote Social Club on January 19, Tex was at his dry witted best, channelling his inner rock star perfectly. The ‘finger’got a special mention, and he had some fabulous banter with the audience. And Matt…sensational as always… this guy really is just so good, it’s such a pleasure to listen to him playing guitar. They also played a couple of new tunes written together…fingers crossed that turns into an album in the near future!
Elton John…hmmm, I admire Elton and his work but wouldn’t call myself a massive fan. Still, farewell concert and all that, so I decided I’d like to go – I’ve missed out on plenty of artists that I’ll now never be able to see, I didn’t want to leave Elton off the bucket list! Plus Hanging Rock in January (26th) sounds like such an idyllic setting…I’m in!
Well, I’m going to say, it was average. Good not great. If you were further back than the first few rows you were basically watching the big screen not the stage – drawback of any big venue I guess. I could live with that. What I couldn’t forgive was the technical glitch that saw Elton without a mic every time he stepped away from the piano. An oversight early on one might think, but clearly Elton had a lot to say to his audience at his farewell show, so how did this continue for the ENTIRE PERFORMANCE without being rectified?? I was astounded, and royally pissed off.
Elton was in fine voice however, backed by a great band, clearly experienced and comfortable playing together. There was a wide variety of songs from his vast catalogue, including instrumentals and soundtracks (No Lion King or Pinball Wizard though folks) and some songs probably known only to real aficionados. Which is fine, and I’m sure there is (in fact I know there is!) a science to the ordering of set lists, but there was a problem with this one. Too many lesser known songs, instrumentals and slower quieter numbers grouped together in the middle. The crowd around us on the hill lost interest and were chatting amongst themselves for a good half hour. And then people started leaving and not a dribble of exits – a flood! Which was an absolute shame because the last 30-40 minutes including the encore was absolutely fantastic and made me remember why I wanted to see Mr John in the first place.
The shine was taken off by the car park debacle which the hanging rock management needs to address – frustrating at best, at worst…a tragedy waiting to happen. In summary, Robyn and I agreed – we were glad we went but stand by our assessment – it was good, not great. Which is not how you want to finish your touring career I would think.
19-Twenty saw these guys at the Spotted Mallard on the very last day of Jan – yeah that scorcher! Not as hot as these guys though…hoo-wee! Found by my friend Yasemin, we had a listen on Spotify, and thought why not? And we were impressed from the very opening bars of their first number. They hit the stage rockin’ and didn’t stop until the closing notes of their encore! A three piece similar to Stray Cats and The Living End with guitar/vocalist, drums and double bass and similar loud rockabilly energy to these two bands as well. Bassist John Gwilliam was all over, under and on top of his double bass, matched by Kane Dennelly’s furious guitar work and versatile vocals, and percussionist Sydney Green who even stepped out from behind his kit to play a bit of slide guitar.
They played mostly original songs but incorporated Cab Calloway’s ‘Minnie the Moocher’ into their opening number, did a wonderful version of ‘Amazing Grace’ and paid tribute to one of their influences The Angels with a rockabilly version of ‘Am I ever Gonna see your Face Again’ complete with that iconic crowd refrain. Sadly no footage of this band’s version of the song but I’m sure you’ll enjoy The Angels vid…still rocks!
You might be wondering about the relevance of some pics I’ve included this week. Well in late January my friend Chris nominated me for a Facebook challenge – to display an album a day (ten in total) that influenced my musical taste and nominate a friend to do the same. Only a couple of days in I realised, ten was not enough, and resolved to go to 13 (following another friend Dave’s example) Well…that wasn’t enough either, so we ended up with multiple albums on the one day, and some commentary just because…I can. The albums pictured here are my biggest influences…there are many more I could add, thanks to my friends who played along and covered some I missed and vice-versa.
It was a LOT of fun, and has opened up my listening choices for February, and of course as a result I’ve also updated my littlebird current obsessions playlist if you want to check out what’s tickling my fancy now, and also…what survived (or didn’t) the January cull! (Removed tracks now on my past obsessions list)
Not a bad start to the year I must say! Lots of good stuff coming up in February – and not just music, some comedy, exhibitions and more Films For Change. It’s all art – I love it!
I’ll leave you with this little article about the tangible benefits of going to see live music regularly, so if the music itself doesn’t convince you…get out there and add nine years to your life!
Peace & Love