Friday, April 23, 2010

My 22/04/10 in 20 photos

I opted to post it on my LJ so as not to fill up the blog with photos. So here is the link:

My 22/04/10 in 20 photos

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Mountain Goats at the Corner Hotel, Melbourne

John Darnielle is* the most generous performer around. So intense but playful and happy, you can tell it's a joy for him to be onstage and it's a joy to watch. People's brows furrow, mouths hang open in awe, hands tremble, clasp one another, tears well - intimate, intimate moments between you and the Mountain Goats.

The whole band seems very aware of how much their music has come to mean to so many people. John sincerely thanked everyone for being there, several times, comparing this show that sold out a fortnight ago to his first show in Melbourne (also at the Corner Hotel) attended by forty-fifty people. This crowd was literally like an army or some kind of cult, everyone yelling along, hurling lyrics back at him, hoping we all die, making it through this year, hailing Satan, knowing that some moments flare up with love.

Everyone has their own Mountain Goats lyric that they've completely fallen for and would do anything to hear it sung. I saw a girl with her eyes fixed on John's, mouthing words and nodding every now and then, like she was meditating. I saw a man who looked like a biker completely transfixed during Woke Up New, his eyebrows raised, honestly on the verge of tears. When John sings your favourite line, it's incredible. Moreso than it is with any other band. Last night mine was "if somebody asks if I'm okay I don't know what to say". I wanted to cry, wanted to bawl right there and then. But when I realised how much I invested in this one band I started to feel ridiculous and had to laugh.

It's the same with the music. One moment John will be talking about self mutilation and then making jokes about how his fringe used to be so long over his eyes because it kept half the sadness of the world out. You gotta admire his repartee with the hecklers who can't stand silence shouting out "NO CHILDREN!!!!". Two songs in some guy yelled for it and then John goes, "I don't mean to be a dick, but it is only the start of the show, I mean..". Then the next anecdote explains how this next song is about a video game.

Of course, this all exposes me for the raging fan that I am. I get that people don't dig their music or just can't be bothered, but their music is performed in such a human way, John is charming without being ostentatious and honestly is just fucking amazing. If that still means nothing, respect the fact that they came out for not one but two encores. During one of the encore songs, he jumped offstage into the crowd, picked people and grabbed them by the shoulders and sang right into their faces. It was slightly alarming, I'll admit, and my heart nearly stopped when he came in my direction, but he grabbed the guy next to me for ages and then everyone began hugging him as he sang "I'll be the best house guest .. " Then when the song was finished he points to the other side of the stage and goes "I'll get you guys next time". Yeah, I'll be there.

*and that would be all if I didn't think 'how lame is that statement'

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Mountain Goats 08.04.10

The Mountain Goats 08.04.10
Kings Arms Tavern. Auckland, NZ.

Expectations were medium to high when we settled into a nice spot behind the sound desk waiting for John Darnielle and his chums (Peter Hughes on bass and Jon Wurster on drums) to play. Neither Sam or I can remember which song they played first, but I was excited to see that he had taken his keyboard with him to our little part of the world. Darnielle is renowned for his between song banter, and he didn't disappoint. Introducing songs with five minutes stories about his youth, comparing himself to a car wash with "brushes and shit" and telling us about the first time he toured Europe with Chris Knox and how he cried in the back of the van a lot. Even though he talks about sadness, he does it with such wit and light-heartedness, explaining before one song that it was written in a state of profound self-pity "which is okay when you talk about it at a show in a different country but at the time it was pretty heavy."

He is unusually open about the personal nature of some of his songs, talking about adolescent mutilation, "sometimes you just don't feel like you own your own body so you take measures to feel like you do." And mentioned his step-father and how "when you grow up in a violent home, it doesn't mean there's no love, but it's a damaging kind of love." One thing I dislike at gigs is whenever there is any silence between songs people simply must yell out song names. Darnielle didn't seem the least bit annoyed, commenting on song names with things like, "I would love to sing that song" and "I am so fond of that song" and "Well I wasn't going to but I'll see what I can do."

I found that standing at the back gave me perspective about the gig, we still had a good view but didn't have to suffer through the hot, sweaty, rubbing up against strangers part. Last year when I saw them I was right by the stage, so much so that it hurt my neck to look up, however it does give you a bit more detail. For example, there was a great moment when Jon Wurster lost his drumstick, but managed to pick up his spare drumstick for the next beat. I now know when to use "that guy doesn't miss a beat!" Lame remarks aside, it was pretty cool.

A highlight for me was Psalms 40:2, when we see Darnielle as a man possessed, furiously pouring out lyrics with an unrelenting energy. Then there was Genesis 30:3, a love song, when we see a different side of Darnielle, a sweet, introspected man cooing soft words "I will do what you ask me to do, because of the way I feel about you.' The tempo and mood fluctuated, in one song the band would be giving it their all with the whole crowd moving, the next song it is just John and his guitar. They end the set with This Year, which is a toe-tapping, leg-shaking, head-nodding crowd pleaser, a great finish to a perfect set.

Darnielle, to me, is the best kind of musician; unpretentious, genuinely talented, and prolific as hell. From their performance, it is not hard to see why they are one of my favourite bands in the world today.

*Sorry I can't remember more of the songs, I have a pretty bad memory for that kind of stuff yet somehow remember most of his anecdotes.
**Obviously the quotes aren't word for word, but they are pretty close.


I, like Susie, will have to mention the Harry Potter series. They are the kind of books you disappear into completely, the kind of books you stay up all night reading, not ever wanting to let that world go. They are just good.

Okay, suddenly I can't think of any books. Oh! Ofcourse I will mention Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. A book like this only comes along every once and a while and it will have a profound effect on you. This book brought me to tears, and often, because it deals with so much sadness, but also happiness, and both make me cry. When a book makes me cry, that means it's quite good, by the by. I love Safran Foer's writing and especially in how he portrayed the protagonist, Oskar.

Next, Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. I really got a lot out of this book, but it took a little while for me to realise it. After I read it, I was researching the book as I chose to base my fanfiction (for uni) on it. It was in hindsight that I realised how many layers it had, much like the multifaceted nature of a Steppenwolf. And I love the language, even though it has been translated from German, it is still very powerful.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is also one of my favourites. It is just so different to how it is portrayed in the modern day, and I hate how the original story has been twisted so. Victor Frankenstein does have a conscience, and his monster is only a monster because he is named so (Frankenstein calls him daemon). It is at times chilling, horrifically sad, and, that funny little word, poignant.

That will do, because I hear the dogs barking downstairs and I want to go hug them.

Friday, April 9, 2010

my favourite books, a history of

Stacey, we both know I'm the waffler in this relationship, but I challenge you to whittle your books down to less than this. This is a hard topic!!

This list is excluding all seven Harry Potter books, because they are of course favourites of mine. And all Enid Blyton books. I think that I have favourite books from each different period in my life. I'm trying to work out whether favourite books are subject to age or whether I will love them forever and as a result I've been rereading a lot of books lately. I think I'd still enjoy the whimsy of The Faraway Tree and stuff, and wish I could be the sixth in the Famous Five and drink warm blackberry cordial with the Secret Seven.. I'll have to wait til I have kids to relive those glory days.

let's start with Raincheck on Timbuktu by Kirsten Murphy. There's not really much to the story, it's just about a few friends going through year eleven together, the protagonist's mum gets breast cancer and her friend has a dodgy boyfriend. Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and so on. There's a boy involved. Nobody knows what they want to do with their life/after high school (do we ever??). There are heaps of books like it, I suppose, but it's just so clever. There are jokes about Lisa McCune not winning a gold logie.. I just liked how colloquial the humour was. I've read another book by Kristen Murphy and sadly it's pretty much the same, except deals with boys. I can't decide whether that's really a bad thing. It's good to know that I could depend on her for similar literature. This book was my all time favourite as a 14 year old. Other favourites at the time include: Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty, Queen Kat, Carmel & St Jude Get a Life by Maureen McCarthy and Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta.

So then favourite would be something like.. The Bell Jar. Which I don't have to explain. And simultaneously, Catcher in the Rye & The Perks of Being a Wallflower (by Stephen Chbowsky). It's evident what phase I was going through at this time, is it not? I recently read Perks again and devoured it in one whole sitting. Charlie the protagonist has that same thing that Holden has (and that he himself admires in books) in Catcher in the Rye, the kind of voice that makes you just want to be his friend, and a slightly skewed way of looking at the world.

Also a lingering favourite from my mid-teens is Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody. It's like a sci-fi fantasy series set far in the future where Earth has been ruined by people of our generation (or a bit beyond, but essentially computers/machines).. but none of the technology has survived, it's all been hidden away or is underwater or in caves underground etc. There's a bunch of youngens who have "special powers", presumably gifts from a type of nuclear fallout, that have estranged them from the normal folk. They all reside at Obernewtyn where they live harmoniously and learn how to control/use their powers. The series starts relatively simply, but becomes incredibly complex. The thing that keeps me coming back is the gradual revelations about how we destroyed the Earth with our machines. The Obernewtyn kids just have no idea what our existence is like and it's really interesting how they learn about computers and stuff. I say lingering because there are books still being released. Think back to when we knew there were more Harry Potter books to come. Good times.

Current favourites (this is probably what Stacey wanted me to write about, but I don't care, this is my damn blog and I'll write what I want). I read The Hours by Michael Cunningham a few years ago and adored it. Probably because somewhere between Sylvia Plath and JD Salinger I read a few Virginia Woolf books and fell in love with her. The film is also quite good and Nicole Kidman is virtually unrecognisable in it! Hooray! Plus Meryl is the best and we all know it. Sophie's World is an incredible read as well, it kinda turned my mind inside out.

Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido was a book loaned to me recently, a book that made me gasp and imbued me with all those goodly imbuements that books should imbue one with. I think I have a soft spot for books that are journeys of self discovery peppered with romance and travel, because that's essentially what this book is. I love love loved it, it made me get teary on the train and yes, it was "unputdownable". Oh GOD and of course, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera was a summer read and oh my god was it a favourite. I can't believe I nearly forgot it. It was just fantastic, full of passages that made me go "YES!! that is IT", clever, insightful, scary, beautiful, apt in every single way. Just so calm about the things that shake me to my very core. We finally arrive at my probable current favourite book.

I have loved many more books in my time but I best leave it there. Perhaps it would have been more of a challenge to write about books that weren't favourites.. Then again, I don't think I choose books that I don't think I'll like.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Books, again

The question I ask of m'colleague is this:

What are your favourite books and why?

As an aside, how annoying is American spelling?