Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Big Rig Diner – Not The Ticket

The Big Rig Diner

Traversing the backstreets of Darlinghurst and Surry Hills in a rusty Ford last night, we were in search of cheap eats. The little hand had just passed 11 and, not being inclined towards pizza or kebabs or Mexican (I carry the fussy gene), we were drawing blanks.

"Ruby Rabbit!"
"No I don’t want to dance I want to eat."
"No, the diner. "
"Oh yeah, the diner. I heard it’s shit."
“Let’s just go. It’s near your bus stop."
"Oh yeah it’s near the bus stop. Clincher."

And so we stacked ourselves into a booth at the Big Rig Diner. Sweaty skin sticking to vinyl, sceney kids nodding ‘hey babe how’s it going’ from the other side of the room, lip reading as top of the pops circa 1982 blared over conversations. I’m about to say that it was the worst food I’ve ever been served, but before I do, I would first like to say that the staff are darlings.
They mucked up our order and comped us our starter to make up for it even though we didn’t complain or particularly mind . They smiled and smiled and smiled, all of them, and they’re a bit cute to look at too.

The problem with cute staff, however, is that the chances of them also making great food are slim because their ‘good looks’ genes crowd out the ‘good cooks’ genes. At the Big Rig Diner they fail in the kitchen with flying colours. The Caesar salad came so heavily doused in dressing that oil literally dripped off the lettuce leaves into a big puddle in the bottom of the bowl. It was slimy, at best. The ribs tasted of burnt meat and nothing much else, and the steak wasn’t much better. The only thing they got right was the chips, and I would venture a guess that if we’d ordered hotdogs they would’ve been good too because they’re almost impossible to screw up and tend to taste better when served in genuine diners (as opposed to cafes), you see.

As I don’t like hotdogs, I will never eat there again. If only there was an all-night organic salad bar on Oxford St. With hot staff.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

you just got friended

Sometimes, when I log in to Facebook, I think I am popular. But then I realise that all the messages in my inbox are from promoters pressuring me to come and spend all my money in their bars. If they were really my friends they would have pressured me in person.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ksubi Book Club: Eyewear for Nerds

The new Ksubi eyewear range, Book Club, drops into stores this week. I have three pairs on order because they are amazing.

This may be a little known fact, but Ksubi are actually very big on quality - all their shades are fully UV protective and are made by the same group that produces specs for Karen Walker and Oroton. The design is still all done in-house though, which is why the frames are all quite unique. I'm yet to see a Le Specs knock off in General Pants (touch wood it stays that way).

The look for this range is all about flat frames. A couple of previous styles have been reworked (the Regor is a sleeker reincarnation of the Ksubi classic, the Old) and the long-awaited Tiga will finally be available in three colours.

Head down to the Bondi or Paddington stores (or Armadale if you live in Melbourne) to see the full range.

Crux in black, $329

Skeleton in black/tortoiseshell, $329

Bellatrix in matte clear, $289

Tiga in mottled black/clear, $289

Lyra in ksubi leopard, $289

there's no such thing as a free lunch

Why must free drinks always taste like water?

Why is it that free pizza always tastes like cheese, just crust and cheese?

And the most probing question of all:
Knowing that we will be served free water and melted cheese, why do we still turn up to events promising free drinks and free pizza with the expectation that they will in fact taste of alcohol and pepperoni?

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We are a generation of party-going nutters.

Monday, November 9, 2009


“But women never know when the curtain has fallen. They always want a sixth act, and as soon as the interest of the play is entirely over they propose to continue it.”
Lord Henry to Dorian, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde, 1890)

It is a universal truth that when it comes to douchebags, women just can’t let go. This phenomenon, otherwise known as Doormat Syndrome, is as common as the, er, common cold. Now I’m not a man-hater by any stroke of the imagination. I visibly cringe at feminists' remonstrations to the sisterhood to unite against people who are not in the feminist sisterhood. Nevertheless, when I was recently stood up for the third time by the same guy and STILL wanted to call him, I did feel the need for a little girl-power pow-wow. So, this one's for the girls . . .

Doormat Syndrome has many faces; Needy Girl, Naive Girl, and the Masochist are but a few. Personally, I'm your garden-variety Fixer, that being a woman who thinks she can save the world, one jerk at a time (no pun intended).

Fixers turn people into projects. They are the ones who say such ridiculous things as “he will change because he loves me,” and “ I think I should give him one more chance,” and “but underneath all the B.S he’s really a good person.” They unwittingly attract human train-wrecks and go to work at once on putting them back together again. The shittier the man’s behaviour is, the more necessary the Fixer believes herself to be to him, and the harder it is for her to down tools and move on.

Luckily Doormat Syndrome in all its manifestations is not terminal. He’s Just Not That Into You (in either book or movie format) is recommended in initial stages of recovery, as is vigorous discussion of the offender’s douchbaggery with friends over a glass of wine. If you lack self-control, deleting his number will prevent drunken texting. Ladies, take your cue from Oscar Wilde and let the damn curtain fall.

this will be fun

What: Pete Versus Toby summer range launch
Where: Ivy Pool
Wear: As little as possible (30 degrees people, 30 degrees!)
When: from 1pm
Perks: drinks are freeeeeee til threeeeeee

Outside the PVT store in Bondi

The PVT boys set up shop on Curlewis St in Bondi a good year or so ago (a lopsided mash up of office, shop and hang-out goings on) and are seeing the beginnings of a cult following with their tongue in cheek tees and quirky prints. They remind me of the early days Ksubi crew only with less hype - relaxed, artistic and a wee bit 'devil may care'.

Anyone who calls their new range ailartsuA Dreaming (I'm assuming copious amounts of weed were involved in the range naming process?) is surely the thrower of good parties and so this coming hot, hot Sunday, the Pool is where I shall be. If you want to come too make sure to RSVP to

So are you coming? Don't say no. That would be so uncool.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


If only there was such a thing as a CAPITAL EXCLAMATION MARK, I would use it all the time(!).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Flash Mob hits Bondi Beach

The whole flash mob thing's probably getting a bit tired - there's been a slew of half-arsed, badly done mob dances lately - but this latest one is cute, mostly thanks to Mr Red Budgie Smugglers, who gets the whole thing started.

Crazy, this whole thing happened four days ago while I was at work only 200m away, and yet I first heard about it on the net.

My ALL-TIME favourite flash mob video:

Fancy being a mobster? Visit the official website for worldwide flash mob updates.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Highbrow Goodtimes on Low Dorra Budget

Good news, people. For the piddling price of a Goldclass movie ticket, highbrow 20-somethings can indulge in a night at the theatre, thanks to Sydney Theatre Company's policy of offering $30 tickets to under 30s.

Coupon-clipper that I am, this year I have taken full advantage of STC’s overt ageism. Seeing Cate Blanchett in full force on stage (first in War Of The Roses and then in A Streetcar Named Desire) was worth the ticket price alone.

Next on my ‘to see for thirty bucks’ list is The Mysteries: Genesis. Back in times medieval the masses couldn’t read, so Bible stories (ie: The Mysteries) were performed on wooden carts in village squares, and that is how people learnt that Eve was a sneaky wench and Cain was a murderous douche. The Mysteries are the very antithesis of the King James Bible’s court language. Raucous, rollicking, theatre for the everyman. Book tickets to STC’s reimagined Mysteries here.

Smart people buy cheap tickets to the theatre

Monday, November 2, 2009

Incu presents Topshop and Topman

Two months ago I was in London and practically raped and pillaged Topshop, only to return two days later and find the three floors of entirely new stock. Blimey. You can literally shop till you drop in London and then some.

When I heard Incu was bringing Topshop and Topman downunder I was curious - how will a high turnover business model like Topshop work in such a tiny market, especially when selling from the racks of what is known as being more of a boutique, higher end store? The launch last week was much talked about but will it translate to sales?

I waited out the weekend and ducked in today to flick through the racks, looking for telltale signs of frantic ransacking, but no. There was plenty of stock. Every size in every style was neatly displayed, boutique style, and in a way I was quite disappointed - this is not the Topshop experience! I should be elbowing some minger out of the way to get the last size 8. If the slag beats me to the punch I should miss out and have to wait two whole days for the next shipment to arrive. This is how Topshop works, this is the thrill of it!

The prices are on par with UK prices, which is pretty darn good considering that it's apparently bloody expensive to import. That said, 20 quid sounds so much cheaper than $40, even though they're one and the same. The buyer's done a pretty good job in terms of the selection although, just quietly, some of the pieces in Incu right now are items that I saw in Topshop last season. Which means that they may well be on sale online. Like the Kate Moss Halter Mesh Dress. Maybe (definitely).

Overall I am ambivalent. It looks like Topshop, it smells like Topshop, but at the end of the day it's still just Incu selling things that the Northern Hemisphere got to buy/wear/get over months ago. I still wonder if it will be a money-spinner long term, or if the novelty will wear off and highstreet shoppers will just go back to their Sportsgirl bargain dumpbins. I did buy a cute top . . .

My new top, $40 at Incu Oxford St

Kate Moss for Topshop dress, $120 instore at Incu
or 35 pounds (approx $70) at

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How Lovely, the Western Sun

The light is special in Western Australia. Shadows are long, dusk is golden, and sunsets are peachy. My friend Jai took these photos in Margaret River and I especially love the shot below (portrait). All the different shades of white and Valli's sweet but knowing expression suggest a sense of purity that is multi-hued; that lies in the grey area between the poles of black and white.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Darlo, you're bangin'

Grungy indie kids (Gaslight), dancing pill poppers (Oxford Art, Q-bar) or same sex pashers (Slide, The Columbian), Darlinghurst has had many lovers. She was used up of late and had begun to look like the hussy who stays out till tomorrow and then moves on to a recovery bar. Seamy and stale, in need of a spruce up.

BEFORE: Darlo, letting it all hang out

The Crown/Burton/Oxford St triangle has seen a flurry of bar openings these last few months, which has transformed the dingy end of Darlo into a hive of BondiScenesters+DoubleBayDollies+SurryHillsHipsters hobnobbery.

Ching-a-Lings, Low 302 and Pocket round out the small bar trifecta – finally somewhere cosy to drink where you can get a proper cocktail, listen to bang on music and get bar food other than birdseye wedges. The Winery is Gazebo’s Surry Hills sister and lends a bit of chic (tiptoeing on the border of being oversized and commercial) with a great wine list and an excellent menu upstairs, although the cocktails are average.

Doctor Pong came next and I predict a limited lifespan. Kitted out with ping-pong tables and chesterfields, the idea should work but it just plain doesn’t. Soulless, sparse, and populated with leftovers from The Gaff – I lasted five minutes before leaving because of an allergic reaction to the backpackers.

Last out of the stables, The Pond. A short stumble from Pocket, the Two Thousand crew have set up a home away from home. The basement bar, with low couches, crates and an adjoining courtyard is all dimly lit nooks and crackly jazz music. Upstairs the menu of local produce changes daily and is served at long wooden tables, much like eating in a country house kitchen. The food has been cracked up to be one of The Pond’s main selling points, but I’ve sampled about half of the bar menu and three or four of the mains and they were good but not amazing. Bang for buck, I’d say.

AFTER: Darlo, bitching

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cops In Jeans

Based in Bondi, this leggy blonde (whose name I failed to catch) sources vintage fabrics and whips up all sorts of dresses, skirts, body suits and the like. She'll mostly make just one or two of each item (depending on how much fabric she can get her hands on), so you won't catch anyone else cruising the eastern suburbs in the same outfit.

Cops In Jeans floral trapeze dress $149

You can buy Cops In Jeans creations from the online ebay shop - best thing about the website is that Blondie is also a bit of a hack at styling, so every piece has a little pictorial accompanying it showing how to get your retro/sex-pot/cutie-pie on. And if you happen to live in Bondi and want to try your pick of the bunch on before you buy, drop a line to and if you ask very nicely Blondie might be able to pop over with a little selection.

Cops In Jeans lace bodysuit $79.99

Cops In Jeans leather skirt currently on auction

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Thick necked and sweaty as a bore, Tex Perkins is at first sight more lumberjack, less minstrel. But as any number of his fan-base will tell you, this is all part of his appeal. A man’s man with a breakable heart, who can drink his mates under the table, come home late and then write a song for his lover to make amends. Women want him, and men want to be him, and to top it off he plays a mean guitar solo and sings in tune.

Perkins’ heyday as a mid-level rock/sex god was the late 80’s/early 90’s, fronting bands The Beasts of Bourbon and The Cruel Sea. Known for his riotous onstage antics – he has performed naked, and once inside a giant condom – Perkins has always guaranteed a great live show, and so, not quite knowing what to expect, I joined the throng of mostly middle aged (no emo tweens in sight) punters for his show at The Metro on Saturday night.

Swaggering onto the stage in a shroud of smoke and with beer in hand, Perkins and band launched into a lively and varied set, beginning on a poignant note (“She speaks a different language but I seem to understand …”). From there they swerved to black humour (“On Sundays I perform miracles, I turn paycheques into wine...”), and then to the utterly ridiculous as a pornographic educational video rolled whilst Perkins warbled on about “reeeeaaaaal love.” Long-time collaborator Charlie Owen was a highlight on the classical guitar, although the entire band were solid and each and every member quirky in his own way, especially Joel Silbershier (on bass) who, at surely no bigger than 5ft 5”, provided comic relief simply by standing next to the hulking Perkins, let alone with his squawking vocal moonlights and funny little clapping interludes.

While this gig showcased a somewhat more mellowed Tex Perkins as compared to the pub-rock-sex-symbol-Perkins of the 90’s, there was no compromise in entertainment value. The audience sang, laughed and cheered; the band hammed around and played with gusto (and considerable skill); it was good times all round. I should also make mention of Jordie Lane, a Melbourne up and comer (although by Australian indie standards he has already up and come) who, with his band, was the support act for the night. One part old school troubadour, one part rockabilly, Lane has a delicious, classic voice that is to the ear as buttered rum might be to the tongue, and woos his audience with a confidence which belies his years.

And so, with mock tears and much silliness, Perkins group-hugged his band, bid his amorous audience goodnight, and was gone. The venue emptied pronto with punters most likely racing home to their baby sitters, while my girlfriend and I surveyed the mass exodus, quietly amused that we had enjoyed the gig every bit as much as these sweaty 30-somethings. And secretly, I may just have a bit of a crush on Tex Perkins myself . . .

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Abbey-Lee for Chanel SS10 at Paris Fashion Week

My love affair with clogs began at the tender age of three, when my Mum kitted me out in smocked dresses and a toddler-sized pair of wooden and leather navy clogs. Like money, clogs are neither good nor bad. It all depends on what you do with them. Socks and Crocs is offensive in the utmost. Karl Lagerfeld’s white studded take on them for Chanel at Paris Fashion Week however? Deee-lightful.

For we plebs who can’t afford Chanel, Funkis does a cute range of matte and patent clogs that all sell for under $160.

DO: Funkis t-bars, my next purchase. Available at

DON'T: You know why.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chris Jordan - making art of consumer stats

On the ever-popular subject of consumerism, we Westerners are inundated with information - statistics, tables, reports, study findings, etc. Apparently, however, the human brain cannot comprehend numbers upwards of a few hundred thousand or a million, and so, even with all these stats so readily available, we cannot fully comprehend their meaning and are therefore somewhat oblivious to the effect we are collectively having on the world around us.

U.S based photographic artist Chris Jordan aims to bring a sense of consumer awareness to his fellow Americans (and really, Westerners in general) by translating these inaccessible facts and figures into a visual language that we can understand. Beginning with anything from plastic cups, barbie dolls, shark teeth and other such dross, Jordan creates grand-scale images which create a sense of context and scale, giving us an idea of the way many many small actions snowball to create a startlingly large whole effect.

Plastic Cups, 2008
Depicts 1, 000, 000 plastic cups, ie: the number used on airline flights in the U.S every six hours.

Zoomed in to actual size

Barbie Dolls, 2008
Depicts 32, 000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the U.S in 2006.

And zoomed in

Jordan's hope is that his artworks may "serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry." First we become aware; then we can consider our behaviour in light of that and effect change. Have a listen to what he's got to say in his spiel for TED ....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Parisian shortbread, Turkey and cats.

Sylvie's stellar decorating skills are on display in the Sibel's reception area

Should you find yourself in city of Antalya on the Turkish Mediterranean coast (well you never know), and should you be weary from your travels, in need of a room with a western bathroom and a cracking aircon then listen up – the Sibel Pansiyon will light your fire.

Tucked in the back alleys of the historic Kaleiçi district of the city, the Sibel is a Parisian shortbread in the budget hotel cookie barrel. The unseasoned traveller may at first mistake the hotel for a kooky upmarket cattery whatwith the boggling number of moggies sprawling on all available surfaces, however a quick turn about the streets and one will find that the stray cat is in fact the national animal and no respectable establishment (restaurants included) would count itself Turkish without at least fifteen. Thus the Sibel is both undeniably French and Turkish, and it is with the marrying of the two that the story began …

Some years ago a charming Parisian songbird named Sylvie met a dashing Turk. They fell in love, married and moved to Antalya with their son, who grew up to be very thin and possessing the most wild of beards. It is Sylvie and her son who greet us when we arrive with the warmest bustling, chatty welcome (truthfully the son is more of an inert object than anything, but Sylvie has enough joy de vivre for the two of them). Exclamations ensue –
‘Oh but you came so far today!’
‘Oh but you do enjoy your trip so far!’
‘Oh oui oui of course we can do that for you, oui!’
And we are escorted by this Warhammer playing son from the quaintly shambolic reception area (reminiscent of Nanna’s lounge room) to an equally quaint room decked out with Turkish carpets and French countryhouse furnishings. The most unique thing about this room though is the prospect from the window – we are literally across the road from the ruins of an Ottoman-period church, which is surreal to me considering not a building existed in my neighbourhood until a measly two hundred years ago, if that.

And finally breakfast. Never have I had such an eager hostess, such nodding and smiling and delightful French babble, such lovely cheese and delicious peaches (plates of which kept appearing on the table once Sylvie discovered we liked them, until we either had to burst or walk-away-Renee). We sat in the ivy and cat strewn courtyard bathed in goodwill, listening to crickets and feeling the balmy morning air settle on our skin and I honestly wished breakfast would never end.

But end it did and our delightful Turkish-French cross culture experience is yesterday's news - we're road tripping to older F-off sized ruins at Ephesus - Kaleiçi UPSIZED. For any intrepid traveller who may wish to pick up where I left off, the 411:
Nightly rate is 60 Turkish Lira for a double, breakfast and internet included.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

Mia Wasikowski as Alice

Helena Bonham Carter as Queen of Hearts

New preview for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland came out today . . . predictably equal parts dark and quirky (as any movie starring Helena Bonham-Carter is bound to be). Can't believe we have to wait till 2010! Tim Burton is such a tease.

VIDEO: Alice in Wonderland

Shared via AddThis

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On the Subject of Pockets

I went to Pocket Bar on the weekend, a cute new hole in the wall on the corner of Crown and Burton in Darlinghurst. They’ve got a good wine list and it’s all reasonably priced – my round of 3 drinks cost just over $20 – and during the day they serve boutique roaster Little Marionette’s coffee, which is easily as good as Sydney’s better known specialty roasters Single Origin and Campos. The staff look cool but aren’t too cool to be friendly, the vibe is chilled and comfortable (deep, plush couches and concrete floors) and in the evenings they have an entire menu of crepes. Tre bien, oui oui.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pocket Rockets A-go-go

Charlie Thorpe a.k.a Dash

Amy Meredith's Christian Le Russo

Singing, dancing pocket-rockets were the M.O on Saturday night, when Amy Meredith supported Dash and Will in a night of good old fashioned sweaty fun. Indie music haven the Hopetoun was the perfect venue – the no bullshit vibe (no Diet Coke served here, or fresh lime for that matter. Yes, I asked. Yes, I live in the eastern suburbs) was fitting for Dash and Will’s bolshy, acerbic set and Amy Meredith front man Christian Lo Russo’s tongue in cheek stadium pop theatrics.

I walked in just in time to see Lo Russo take to the stage and launch into a surprisingly energetic, ambitious set. For such a small guy he throws himself every which way with such conviction and glee, and I couldn’t help but grin - anyone that ridiculous is, by default, amazing. The fact that he really can sing (his soaring top register is remarkable) and that these Sydney boys are a good-looking bunch of lads makes them easy marketing fodder. And the fact that they list Heart Break High as an influence and that Lo Russo’s equally height-challenged parents are his number one fans (in the crowd whooping, waving and singing all the words) makes them cool cats with tragic undertones, which really is the best kind of cool. One bone to pick before moving on: what’s with the band name? Look out for their as yet unnamed debut album due out soon, and if you haven’t seen them live already, get thee to a gig.

Charlie Thorpe (Dash) and Josie De Sousa-Reay (Will) are Josie and the Pussycats for the noughties. Brash, pouting De Sousa-Reay is no bigger than Kylie Minogue but has all the attitude of the Spice Girls put together, while Thorpe has a more mysterious, broody presence and the sweeter voice of the two, and they foil each other beautifully. Much of their music is based on strong vocal harmonies and call and response melodies and Thorpe’s delicious alto notes and wispy, girlish top notes add depth and range to De Sousa-Reay’s extroverted performance, which would otherwise run risk of seeming trite.

Playing a mix of old and new material, the Melbourne girls got the packed room moving in that indie-crowd-awkward-dancers-someone’s-elbow-is-in-my-back kind of a way, thrilling the keen beans at the front if the number of aforementioned elbows in my back is anything to go by. Current single Out of Control was a winner of course and their new song Didn’t Know (to be released on their new album Up In Something in August of this year) and a charming Easybeats cover were highlights.

Still only in their teens, Dash and Will probably have some growing up to do before they carve out a definitive niche in indie pop – they’re still uncomfortably close to The Veronicas’ territory – but they’re damn good fun in the meantime. A rocking gig, and two young bands that, with a bit of spit and polish, could definitely shine down the track.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Remember the Time (when Michael Jackson was black)

For all the saccharine, sentimental tributes flying through cyberspace today you’d think Michael Jackson was in line for sainthood. If we’re honest, it was only yesterday half the world was calling him Wacko Jacko, and with good reason – hell, there’s even some who’ll be glad to see the back of him.

Prince of Bahrain Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who bankrolled MJ for 2 years as well as paying his legal fees of US$2.2 million from a 2005 molestation court case (he later sued MJ) springs to mind, as do the apparent victims of MJ’s penchant for playing sex games with children. To be fair, the molestation charges were never proven but while the judicial court system holds the defence innocent until proven guilty, the court of public opinion is not necessarily so gracious (or bound by technicalities). Considering the number of charges brought against him and the suspicious circumstances surrounding them (most notably the US$22 million out of court settlement with his first serious accuser), one can’t help but call to mind that old aphorism “there’s no smoke without a fire” (even if it is just an eency weency fire).

There’s also the bizarre relationship between MJ and ex-wife and mother of his eldest two children, Debbie Rowe, which involved two rounds of IVF, a quickie marriage, an equally quick divorce after Rowe found herself unable to bear any more children, and the mutli-million dollar payout she received in exchange for granting MJ full custody of the kids. Sure, the Rowe/MJ freak-show, his propensity to cross-dress on occasion, his hissy-fit meltdowns and obscene shopping sprees (memorably caught on film for Martin Bashir’s 2003 doco Living With Michael Jackson) do not sum up MJ’s legacy. But let’s not forget all his flaws and appalling behaviour in favour of granting the man demigod status.

Lets remember the King of Pop as the man he was – damaged and flawed, tragically fragile, and blessed with the most extraordinary creative and musical giftings that the world’s seen since, ah, around about 1971. Oh and a shit hot dancer . . . favourite ever MJ video below, how good is the breakdown half way through.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pony Up! gideeyup up down under

Montreal cuties Pony Up! were in town this week to promote their sophomore album Stay Gold, follow up to the hugely popular Make Love To The Judges With Your Eyes. According to bassist Lisa Smith, Aussies are Pony Up’s #1 fans – still in the ranks of the ‘almost famous’ in their native Canada and some parts of Europe, the Ponies really took off here when Triple J put the instantly recognisably ditty The Truth About Cats And Dogs (Is That They Die) on high rotation – and so it was surprising then that the band didn’t look happier to be here when they played at Oxford Art Factory on Thursday night.

Performing to a decent (though hardly sold out) crowd, Pony Up! turned out a solid but somewhat lacklustre set that felt more like a rehearsal than a show, only seeming to warm up just in time for the encore. The fact that the two lead singers, Laura Wills and Jess Moundroukas, were stuck behind their instruments (guitar and keys) the whole time probably didn’t help, but save for a bit of jumping up and down and skirt twirling on Laura’s part, the lack of personality, banter and enthusiasm onstage made the foursome come across borderline apathetic.

That said, the Ponies’ new songs are everything indie pop should be – hooky, hummable, and downright fun. A slightly rockier, darker edge showed that the band has grown up with this new album, and it was in the moodier songs that they shone, particularly Laura, whose voice has more depth than one might have thought from the first album. Perhaps the smartest thing about Pony Up’s music is that they follow the K.I.S.S rule of keeping it simple (stupid) and so their songs are easy – easy to listen to, easy to sing, easy to like – and in pop, that’s a good thing.

Supporting Pony Up! was Ben Fletcher’s Sydney based outfit The Devoted Few, whose sound is more thoughtful rock than the Ponies’ effervescent pop and fit the bill nicely (although incidentally the line up choice probably had more to do with the fact that the two bands share the same management, Laughing Outlaw). Fletcher is a pleasure to watch, so thoroughly absorbed in the heartfelt, melodic music that he makes, and the rest of the band does a great job of supporting him whilst letting him be the main attraction. Their layered sound was also well suited to the venue - Oxford Art has not a bad little sound system – and it was nice to be able to hear all the nuances of the performance. Special mention must be made of the guitarist bearing an uncanny resemblance to John Lennon for being particularly aesthetically pleasing in a John Lennon kind of way.

Hopefully for Pony Up! Thursday night’s gig was a temporary flat-line on the chart. The songs are there, as are the heckling groupies (“Can I be in your band?”), all they need next tour is a live show that lives up to the energy and spark of their albums.

Pony Up!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Trespass

A moonlight stroll in Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens last night took an unexpected turn with the appearance of a couple of law-enforcing, burley Rangers in a golf buggy. My protestation that we had no idea it was an offence to be there after dark was to no avail - not surprising I suppose, given that we jumped the fence to get in. Snaps to Nat and Kenneth the Rangers for doing their jobs with vigour and integrity (although less vigour would have sufficed) and for their considerate offer to escort us to our gate of preference after they'd screwed us with a fine.

Kenneth and Nat the Burley Rangers, Me the Trespasser

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ken Lee

This Bulgarian Idol contestant wins the prize for most un-researched, fly-by-the-seat-of-one's-pants interpretation of a popular song. Bloody brilliant.

"Ken Leeeee, tulibu dibu dauchoo . . ."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Call

I recently saw the play The Call (presented by the Griffin Theatre Company), which is loosely based on the life and times of Al Qaeda recruit David Hicks. Set in a small country town, The Call depicts the journey of the protagonist, Gary, from his drug addled, hoonish youth, to his limp attempts at marriage and fatherhood, and finally to his surprising conversion to Islam. Gary aches for purpose in his life and, after failing to find meaning in his day to day country town life, responds to an inner sense of being called to Islam, immersing himself in ritual and prayer. The effect of Gary’s conversion is largely negative – he isolates himself socially, abandons his family in his search for enlightenment and discards old friendships with a self-righteous ruthlessness – and the play closes with a symbolic suggestion that Gary is no closer to finding true purpose than he was at the opening of the play.

Playwright Patricia Cornelius does not appear to be commenting on the religion of Islam so much as posing the question of whether our secular, ‘self’ orientated Western society is failing to meet our deepest human need of a greater sense of purpose. Gary muses that “to believe so completely in something that it’s worth dying for, that’s all a man could want for”, and it has to be said that religion, on the most part, offers this. It could be argued that the principle driver in Western society is the pursuit of happiness (in the form of physical wellbeing, financial security, and hedonistic excess to name a few) and that even many a philanthropist is motivated just as much by his desire to feel good about himself as he is by genuine concern for others. What then, for those who find that the pursuit of happiness does not, in itself, fulfill them?

The question we all asked when David Hicks was first taken into custody was “how on earth did a regular Aussie guy from the burbs wind up training with a fundamental religious regime in the foothills of Afghanistan?” Cornelius has sketched a feasible explanation, offering the notion that, when a society neglects the common human need for a cause outside of oneself (or for a sense of being called to greatness, if you will) then in the absence of something to believe in, people may put their faith in the next best thing they can find, whether it be right, sane and productive – or not. It’s not a new concept; historians would no doubt identify this proposition as a key reason for countless fascist regimes getting off the ground; Charles Dickens illustrated it with searing insight in A Tale of Two Cities, his novel set during the French Revolution in which the hopeless and downtrodden lower classes, stirred and united by the common cause of fighting injustice, excuse their atrociously violent uprising as a justified reaction to the persecution they suffered at the hands of the nobles.

Cornelius leaves her audience with the impression that, although Gary may believe he has found his calling in life, he is no more enlightened than he was when we first met him, confused and aimless, in the opening scene. It’s interesting that, rather than offering a glib solution to the questions she has raised, Cornelius instead chooses to give a caution that we would do well not to let our disillusionment with our secular, self-focused society lead us to adopt a cause or beliefs out of rebellion, resentment, or naïve hopefulness. Ultimately the audience is left with the message that, in seeking, we should be mindful that the first answer to present itself may not be THE answer - after all, any cause or faith that does not stand up to careful scrutiny is hardly “worth dying for”.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thought Slide #2

The little fish swam till there was no swim left in her
but it was all for naught. Big fish always have little fish for breakfast,
it’s just the way things are.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cassette Kids: even indie pop-rockers need a little soul

Cassette Kids are a scene marketing dream. Cute blonde singer, sceno looks all round (all the boys are currently sporting mos), more onstage posing than their fans can poke their iPhones at, and a rocking set of catchy songs that elicits frenzied indie dancing action. They must be doing something right because this week they’re supporting Lily Allen on the Australian leg of her tour, a nice little career highlight right there.

I saw them play for the first time last week (At the Beachie. It’s becoming a habit - I’m cheap and I love free gigs) and it was a good show. I wonder though, is “good” good enough? They’re certainly competent musicians and the songs are solid. They’re great performers, particularly Kat Noorbergen (aforementioned cute blond singer) and they’ve got the look down, what with their Kicks and their Nudies and hair that’s been styled within an inch of its life to look un-styled. But, with all those boxes ticked, there still seems to be something missing. It’s like the glue, the feeling, is lacking and so all the parts don’t hold together properly and the whole is no greater than the sum of its parts.

Comparison to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is inevitable (Kat could be a blonder, younger Karen O) and it’s this comparison that probably best highlights what I’m angling at. Karen O and the YYYs have that rare commodity: the X-factor. Aside from being skilled musicians, they completely embody the sound they make – they way they move, look, dress, everything is coherent and the impact is fantastic. They’re not trying to be cool or different, they just are, and so we can’t help but tune in (even people who aren’t fans would most likely agree that they’re great at what they do and that Karen O is one cool cat).

Cassette Kids seem to be too wrapped up in the styling of being an indie cool band to really feel the music that they’re playing, and so for all their energy and enthusiasm onstage, they ring a little hollow. It’s the little things that all added up to give me that impression – the way the bass guitarist threw himself around the stage but only once in the whole set looked to the drummer to lock in with him; the way Kat yelped her high notes every single time as though what started as a unique vocal styling has become a fallback easy-way-out technique and so sounds stale after the first four or five songs; the way the only one on the stage whose body moved completely with the music was the guy on keys/samples, who I’m pretty sure also happens to be the only unofficial member of the band; the way the songs, though catchy, lack a sense of musicality and all sound similar on the first listen.

The band is entertaining enough and they’re definitely stacked near the top of the pile. They’ve got all the right bits and pieces in place to be deserving of their Sydney ‘It Band’ status, but if they want to join the big league they’re going to need some soul to hold it all together.

Cassette Kids at Beach Rd Hotel

Cassette Kids at Beach Rd Hotel

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bat for Lashes - New Video

If Luke Steele (aka Empire of the Sun and The Sleepy Jackson) was a hot girl he would be Natasha Khan (aka Bat for Lashes). The new video for the first single off the Two Suns album, Pearl's Dream, is cooler than cool. If anyone else had done this video I would have scoffed but she owns it and I'm frothing over it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

as a wave comes into shore

How do I know You love me?

You see all that is good in me. You appreciate my complexity, comprehend my paradoxes, and You believe me when I say I want to be better. You hurt me now with piercing honesty to save me from blindness to my own human condition. And then You stick with me while I fall apart and love me back together again because You see what I can’t – the whole me.

And when You do, I trust You. As a wave comes into shore, I increase in assurance; I love, I turn towards You and You get the best of me.

(I love You because You loved me first.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thought Slide #1

Run away with me? We will go to a place where statues keep bears and cobblestones lead the way to hidden forests and golden towers . . .

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Old Man River = tops

grainy mobile phone shot, apologies

Let me start by saying that Ohad Rein and his band are - in the words of Derek Zoolander - incredibly, incredibly good looking. The fact that they smile a lot, make beautiful music and are excellent musicians also contributes to me rating Old Man River (OMR from now on for the sake of preventing RSI) as an all round tops band.

I caught their show last night upstairs at the Beach Rd Hotel (God bless the Beachie for putting on great shows every week for freeeeeeee) and considering the only songs that I knew were the obvious hits, Sunshine and La, I was surprised that I was able to sing along to most of the songs with the rest of the crowd. Such is Rein’s pop sensibility; though he uses exotic instruments (most notably the sitar) and is heavily influenced by Indian music, his song writing is so solid and his songs so laden with hooks that one can join in before the first chorus is even half way through. Upon closer listening though, OMR use a lot of interesting harmonics and breakdowns and I get the impression that I’ll need to a) buy the album, and b) have it on loop on my Ipod for a while to fully appreciate the songs with all their layers and carefully placed interludes.

Perhaps the best thing about the gig was all the infectious smiling going on. The songs are so uplifting, the harmonies so delicious, and the band members themselves clearly love what they do, so I suppose everyone couldn't help beaming at each other, at the band, and then at each other again. Apart from the distraction of the drunken twits ballroom dancing (wtf??) in front of the stage, I was completely wrapped up in OMR’s utterly delightful sing-a-long, and was quite disappointed when it ended. I shall now download the album and continue karaoke-styles in my bedroom . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Shout Out to my Ashun Browdas

Do the right thing: BE A MAN

Monday, May 25, 2009


If Whimsy were a woman she would be four and twenty.

Lithe and wan, open, delightful -

she would flick her hair, skip two steps and then

to entwine her fingers with those of her lover. She would stay in bed till four in the afternoon, she would sing, and her laughter would tinkle like a thousand tiny shards of glass.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's all in the LABEL

I went to see a band play the other night at Oxford Art Factory. No ordinary band mind you; in fact, they are quite an extraordinary group of individuals because the five members met at a centre for the disabled in Melbourne and are either blind, deaf, autistic or have Downs Syndrome. They’re a solid band (as any quick google search will attest), but I got there just in time for the last song so I’m in no position to bang on about that. What I want to talk about is a label.

A few days before this particular gig I was invited to come and see “a disabled band” play. Just like that. No mention of radio play, gigging background, genre, or any other defining elements, just a simple and effective label: “disabled band”. The label worked – my curiosity was piqued, I talked about it for the next few days, invited other friends down, and we all showed up to the gig. I was delighted to catch the last few minutes of these enthusiastic musos rocking out, lapping up the applause and posing for photos with fans afterward.

The next day I got to thinking. Would I have been as delighted for any other band of able-bodied 20-somethings? Would I have even bothered to turn up to a gig of some band I’d never heard of and whose music I didn’t know if they hadn’t been disabled? Maybe I just contributed a couple of little drops to the ocean of discrimination against people who have disabilities by treating them as a novelty act, rather than taking them seriously and enjoying their music just like I would the music of any other person.

It has to be acknowledged that getting a band up and running and on the road with a national tour is no small feat given their particular physical and mental disabilities, but I think that perhaps there is a thin line between giving due credit for triumphing over obstacles and identifying these people primarily by their setbacks. So, in the interest of tearing off the label that I over-zealously slapped on them last week, check out this video and make up your own mind about them . . .

Rudely Interrupted playing for the UN General Assembly 2006

Friday, May 22, 2009