February wasn’t much
of a reading month, or it was, but I’ve been stuck reading Darkmans by Nicola Barker which isn’t a hard read exactly, but it’s long and scattered and takes a while to get to each of its well-made points. In any case, I’m promising to finish that by the first week of March, and then I’ll be tackling all the journals I bought at the Perth Writer’s Festival (vlog of that coming soon) which should make for a more bookish month.
Look Who’s Morphing by Tom Cho–Tom Cho constructs a worthy exploration of identity wrapped up in an almost manic series of short stories that each feature the metamorphosis of the narrator into fantastical pop culture heroes. The style is matter-of-fact in the face of all the fantasy that is occurring, which leads the reader more directly into the underlying questions of identity quicker than if it were written in a more whimsical style. The reader can get a little distracted by looking out for the next pop culture reference, but that’s really only a first-read-through issue. It’s a quick read, more to do with the ease and eagerness you’ll find yourself reading it than brevity, and it’s a good thing it is as I’ll likely be returning to this one to uncover more comments on identity within its pages. A great debut.
The Hangover–A bunch of my friends had told me that The Hangover was hilarious, they couldn’t stop laughing, oh that bit with the tiger, etc. so I went in to watching this with the of anticipation of being highly amused. And I was, don’t get me wrong. But I was more impressed by the interplay between characters than the slowly unfolding plot. I admit that there’s not much you can do that will be revolutionary in the ‘massive-party-shenanigans’ genre, so the backwards way that it presented it was about as ingenious as one could hope to get. But I dunno, it just didn’t seem to get me howling. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to? Easily the best party movie I’ve seen, but then again that’s not hard.
Whip It–The Directorial debut of Drew Barrymore, and doesn’t it show. Not the debut part, but the Drew Barrymore part. It’s a little bit kooky, a lot about mother/daughter relationships, and very much a parable about how you must be true to yourself. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine if Drew is projecting just a little bit here. Leaving that aside, it’s a cute story. It’s got Juno from Juno playing Bliss (Ellen Page) and Maeby from Arrested Development playing Pash (Alia Shawkat). They’re best friends stuck in a backwater Texas country town who attend a roller derby match, where Bliss decides that’s what her future career is, and hides it from her etiquette-pageant obsessed mother. Cue indie coming of age against the odds. Okay, I’m being a bit glib, but like I said, it’s cute, not revelatory. A bit of fun for a weeknight.
Man of Aran–There was a toss up as to whether to put this one in concerts or movies, but I ended up putting it in movies due to the focus of the night being on the images of Irish settlers on the island of Aran. British Sea Power provided a live soundtrack to one of the most fascinating documentaries I’ve seen. This kind of living doesn’t really seem to exist any more, and though some of the more dramatic scenes were staged by the early documentary film maker Robert J. Flaherty, it doesn’t fail to impress with its very polished tale of life in some of the harshest conditions known.
British Sea Power, Beck’s Music Box–Holy shit, these guys were amazing. A completely different concert than that of Dirty Three, it was the first time they’d been in Australia. I’m glad we took the leap of being the first people to wander up to the stage and grab first dibs on a place next to the singer’s mic, because that meant we had the best position in the house to take in the awesome naval might of this band. I hadn’t realised that there were two separate singers in the band (Yan and Hamilton), but there was, and a violinist. It was pretty demure at first, but that soon transformed into a session of great rock, complimented with various crowd antics by Noble. By the end of the set they were throwing pot plants around and crowd-surfing to the back of the music box and back, kicking their guitars and giving each other piggy backs. I took some pretty nice photos of the event, so keep an eye out for those. Amazing gig, make sure you catch them if they ever come back around.
Dirty Three, Beck’s Music Box–Excusing the fact that the only full-strength beer on offer is the execrable Beck’s, the venue for PIAF’s concert series has always been a favourite of mine. It may be temporary, but it still manages to provide a better staging are for the various artists that prance across its width than most of the permanent venues in Perth. I think it’s the open setting. Anyway, this was the first time I had seen the Dirty Three all together on the same stage: I’d seen Mick Turner and his multi-instrument audio/visual display before Cat Power years before, Warren Ellis with Nick Cave, and Jim White with Cat Power earlier this year. Individually they are stand-out artists in whichever act they happen to be in, but together, hot damn! They were playing their excellent album, Ocean Songs as part of the Don’t Look Back series (in which, ironically, the artists certainly do look back–way, way back in the case of the Dirty Three). The banter between songs was grinworthy and Ellis’ fiddler’s kicks punctuated the soaring soundscapes regularly. Oh, and to the hipster twats standing next to us: if the band isn’t singing it doesn’t mean you have to talk for them, especially if you are going to be shouting inane banter to each other throughout the entire night. Still despite that, great show, great band, great venue.