Friday, February 26, 2010

Lunchtime Special – The Wolfgramm Sisters at Basement Discs

L to R - Kelly, Eliza and Talei Wolfgramm at Basement Discs 26/2/10

What a refreshing change of music genre, seeing the highly engaging, eye and ear pleasing Wolfgramm Sisters, performing their brand of pop, rock, soul and blues at Basement Discs on this hot summer day in Melbourne.

I have grown fond of their debut self titled CD since acquiring it in January, so it was great to hear some it of played live today with a few new covers that are not on the CD - a couple of Pointer Sisters songs; “Shaky Flat Blues” for one, a great little blues number performed with great verve.

All three sisters took turns to lead the singing with Eliza performing, much to my delight, “Come Pick Me Up”, a Ryan Adams composition, Kelly doing the Rolling Stones “Loving Cup” and Talei “River Boulevard”, a Barbara Moritz tune. They also played two of their own compositions “Don’t Stop” and “King”, both fine songs that don’t sound in the least out of place in their repertoire and stand up to the excellent covers on their CD to such an extent that you could swear you’d heard them, or something like them, before.

What a talented threesome of young women they are! All have stunningly good voices and know how to use them expressively. Their harmonies are really spectacular, no doubt born of their sisterhood and practiced since infancy. They come from a musical family, so that’s no surprise.

In fact it was a fantastically good little show which I’d certainly like to see again. The Wolfgramm Sisters are a quality act and are sure to go on to fame and fortune.

Check them out on their My Space page.
More music news as far as Basement Discs is concerned...
They have a spectacular line up for March with various Music Festival artists scheduled to perform.
There's US singer/songwriter Kim Richey on 19th March, Mary Gauthier and Lil' Band O' Gold on Saturday 27th March and UK artist Eddi Reader on the 30th March.
And before all the above, The Junes (Sarah Carroll, Suzannah Espie and Glenny Rae) will be doing an in-store on 12th March.
A blockbuster month of music is in-store and on stage next month - can't wait!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Autumn Racing Season 2010 – Week 5 – Futurity Stakes

Typhoon Tracy winning the CF Orr Stakes

Has Typhoon Tracy scared off her opposition or what? There are only six acceptances for the Group One Futurity Stakes (1600 metres), the feature race on the cards for Saturday’s racing at Caulfield. Looking at the acceptances it appears to be a two horse race with Sniper’s Bullet being the only horse that could threaten Typhoon Tracy’s attempt to win another Group One.

Of course one of the other runners, the Gai Waterhouse trained Joku or the Hawkes trained Dao Dao, could surprise, but I’ll be barracking for Tracy.

The only other Group race at Caulfield is the Group Two Autumn Classic (1800 metres) for three year olds with, to my eyes, a rather uninteresting field. Viking Hero a son of old favourite Elvstroem could be a chance, as could Take The Rap, who came second to Linton in the Alister Clark Stakes, and perhaps, Extra Zero.

At Rosehill in Sydney there are several interesting Group Two and Group Three races, most notably the Hobartville Stakes, a race over 1400 metres for three year olds. The field has several youngsters I follow, Shoot Out and Manhattan Rain for starters, and the promising Kidnapped starting his autumn campaign.

The Group Two Silver Slipper Stakes (1100 metres) has a fascinating field comprised of three colts and eight fillies. Impressive unbeaten filly, Chance Bye kicks off her Golden Slipper campaign in this. Also in the picture are Ambers Waltz and last start winner Georgette Silk.

Oh, and Rebel Raider, winner of the Victoria Derby in 2008 and one time favourite for the 2009 Melbourne Cup, is resuming tomorrow in Adelaide in Race 6 at Morphettville. He was sidelined by injury last year. Let's hope he comes back in good shape.

Last weeks results were a mix of the expected, Denman, for instance, again without effort, winning the D’Urban Stakes, and the unexpected, with La Rocket winning the St George Stakes over Heart of Dreams and Miss Maren.

I was delighted that my hunch, Star Witness, won the Blue Diamond Stakes, coming from near last to overtake Shaaheq and Beneteau in the finishing stages. I had a bet on him on the strength of my hunch, and he paid handsomely. Starspangledbanner showed he wasn’t a one hit wonder with a stunning win in the Oakleigh Plate, though it was disappointing to see Weekend Hussler struggle to keep up. He pulled up lame and will again be spelled in the hope that he can return in the spring. Viewed is also out for the autumn after contracting a virus.

But the good news is that Linton will take on Denman in the Crown Guineas on Super Saturday on 6th March. It will certainly add some excitement to the race which otherwise would probably have been Denman’s on a plate, despite the pundits querying his ability to run a mile. A great contest is anticipated between the black and the grey.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Autumn Racing Season 2010 – Week 4 – Blue Diamond Stakes

The racing really heats up this week with the running of two Group One events at Caulfield this coming Saturday.

The feature race is the Blue Diamond Stakes (1200 metres) for two year colts, geldings and fillies. The acceptances resulted in an even mix of eight of each gender. Sydney colt Beneteau will start as the favourite and he has good claims for favouritism after his win the Blue Diamond Prelude on 6th February. However, the favourite doesn’t necessarily win, two year old races being what they are - totally unpredictable. Of the colts, the beautifully bred Star Witness (Starcraft/Leone Chiara) takes my fancy though he has drawn a wide barrier, as does Lonhro colt Secession. Of the fillies, Crystal Lily and Psychologist stand out as the best chances. Psychologist unfortunately has drawn a wide gate which will test her abilities to the max, and most probably lengthen her odds. Her win in the fillies Blue Diamond Prelude was sensational at her only start. Can she do it again?
Weekend Hussler winning the Oakleigh Plate in 2008
Weekend Hussler returns to racing next Saturday after a year spent recovering from a fetlock injury. He’s nominated for the Group One Oakleigh Plate, a race he won as a three year old in 2008. It’s a sprint over 1100 metres. It’ll be great to see the Hussler back on the scene and we can only hope that he comes back as good as ever. He’s certainly been thrown in at the deep end first up, and will face a top field of old and young sprinters including Lucky Secret, Here De Angels, fillies Avenue and Headway, colts Starspangledbanner, Tickets and Wanted.

The race card certainly offers better class fields than what was on offer last week, though I shouldn’t complain as I was fortunate to witness the run of Linton, a very promising young stayer.

Melbourne Cup winners Viewed and Shocking are part of the field for the Group Two St George Stakes (1800 metres) along with Snipers Bullet, Heart of Dreams, Sirmione, La Rocket and imports Changingoftheguard and Speed Gifted, and you can’t forget the sole mare in the race, the smart Miss Maren. You’d think Heart of Dreams would have a chance of winning this. His performance in the Orr Stakes was excellent, despite being outsprinted by Typhoon Tracy.

Denman appears to have the Group Two D’Urban Stakes (1400 metres) at his mercy with his main, though hardly threatening, rivals Spacecraft, Hanks and Most Immediate likely to fight out the minor placings. The anticipated clash between Denman and So You Think will not happen, as So You Think has disappointingly been ruled out of the autumn season after performing below par in a recent trial.

Sydney racing at Rosehill on Saturday also offers some interesting races, particularly the Group Two Apollo Stakes (1400 metres) which has an exciting field of smart gallopers that include Theseo, Vision and Power, Danleigh, Rock Kingdom, Alcopop, Rangirangdoo and Purple, most of them racing for the first time this autumn.

In Sydney last week, More Joyous blitzed the field in the Light Fingers Stakes with a stunning win, and Shoot Out surprised with a win in the Royal Sovereign Stakes albeit by the smallest of margins from More Than Great, thus putting himself into contention for further riches later in the season. Makes me regret that Graceful Anna is being spelled, considering that she beat Shoot Out fair and square on the Gold Coast on two occasions.

The races will be on free to air television this week, so I guess that takes care of Saturday afternoon for me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Music Treats in the Offing

March promises to be heavy duty as far as the live music scene is concerned. I’ve got tickets for six shows, four of them scheduled for two weekends in March.

The first of them will be Eilen Jewell on Friday, 12th March at the East Brunswick Club - already a sold out show. This is the first time Eilen Jewell has toured Australia, which in itself is not surprising as she has only attracted attention over the past couple of years with the release of her second and third records, Letters From Sinners & Strangers (2007) and Sea of Tears (2009). You know there’s something special about her from the first listen. She has a languid, world weary quality to her voice and her choice of songs is interesting and her musical arrangements are unusual – she has a great version of Shakin’ All Over on Sea Of Tears. She also has a fantastic band, particularly her guitarist Jerry Miller, who plays in a wonderful old fashioned rock n roll style.

Check her out on You Tube

On Sunday 14th March I get to see
Mary Gauthier once more, playing at Brunswick Town Hall. She will be launching her new CD, The Foundling during her Australian tour; apparently it is a concept album where all the songs relate to her own remarkable history. I do hope she brings Thomm Jutz the wonderful guitarist who accompanied her last time or, if not him, someone of equal brilliance.

I’m very much looking forward to the
Lyle Lovett concert at Hamer Hall on Friday 26th March, He must be one of the most unusual looking artists on the planet and his songs are marvellously quirky. Who else could write songs about penguins and ponies on boats?

When I was booking tickets for this show online at the opening of the general public offer, Ticketmaster really stuffed up, and I, along with several other people who were booking at the same time, were offered Row U in the Dress Circle which we naturally rejected. I subsequently discovered, after looking at the Hamer Hall seating chart, that there is no U row in the Dress Circle! Anyway, at the time, it gave the impression that seats were selling like hotcakes, when in fact they were not. I was by this time tossing up whether to wait for a second show announcement. Eventually I decided to try and book tickets for the show directly from the Arts Centre website, and was able to get Row K in the stalls. Rather disappointing as I would prefer to be closer to the front. I discovered a few days later that Ticketmaster had centre Row B and C seats available and cursed inwardly at my luck and panic earlier in the week. But who was to know?

The excitement continues on Sunday, 28th March with
The Flatlanders show at Spenserslive, where thanks to a friend alerting me early to the show, I was able to get limited seating tickets. Amanda at the Flop Eared Mule blog has been hanging out for a similar side show in Sydney, but so far it seems that Melbourne is the only city lucky enough to score one so far.

Good Friday eve, 1st April, sees me attending the
Old Crow Medicine Show concert at Thornbury Theatre, also sure to be a great show.

Then it’s a bit of a break until 17th April when we’re attending the
Justin Townes Earle concert in Geelong. Yes, it’s way out of my territory, but my brother, who was very impressed with JTE’s concert last year at Thornbury Theatre, suggested we go to this show and stay the night at his place in Ocean Grove. The Studio in Geelong is purported to be a great venue, so I’m looking forward to seeing the remarkable Justin Townes Earle perform live again soon.

After that I’ll be sated with live music for a short time at least.

But before all the above, I’m keenly anticipating the next Basement Discs in store at lunchtime on Friday 26th February, which will feature local girl band
The Wolfgramm Sisters.

The Wolfgramm Sisters are a trio of real sisters, Talei, Kelly and Eliza, who recently released their debut self titled album. It's a fabulous tribute to their favourite songs and songwriters, performed in the style of their favourite female singers. They display astonishing panache performing classic songs like Little Feat’s “Sailing Shoes”, The Rolling Stones' “Loving Cup”, and even Ryan Adams’ “Come Pick Me Up” sung soulfully in the style of old girl groups like the Staple Singers or the Pointer Sisters. Of course, they have the voices to carry it off splendidly.

Check them out on the link above – you’ll be impressed, and if you’re in the city at around 12.30pm on Friday, 26th come and see them for free at Basement Discs.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Day At The Races – William Reid Stakes Day

Yesterday morning broke grey and rainy and I almost changed my mind about attending the races. Fortunately the weather had cleared by lunchtime, so I took myself off to Moonee Valley in the hope of furthering my fortunes and enjoying the afternoon trackside.

I reached Moonee Valley just after Race Three, so had plenty of time to consider the form before Race Four the TBV Newmarket Insurance Brokers Plate a race over 1200 metres for three year old fillies.

I put my money on Piece Of The Sky, an unfortunate choice as she came last. An ominous sign that my luck was not in. The race was won by Ariarni, whose form looked nothing special.

ariarni1 (Medium)

I hoped my luck would change in the next race, the Rosier Commercial Furniture Handicap, an open handicap over1500 metres. I picked Barbaricus as my bet choice as he has good form in top company. All for nothing, as outsider 7 year old gelding Stillme stole the bickies.

stillme1 (Medium)

Race six was the first of the Group races of the day – the Group Two Alister Clark Stakes over 1600 metres for three year old colts and geldings.

I had a look at them parading before the race to try and suss a winner. Linton a magnificent grey gelding caught my eye…

race6_linton (Medium)

Linton was having only his third run and his first in the city. There was a bit of a hype about him, as he’d won a race recently in Cranbourne by 7 lengths.

Perhaps I watched a potential superstar of the turf yesterday. Linton won very convincingly and also gave me my first win of the day. He’s bred to stay and could well win a Melbourne Cup in the future.

Here’s Linton after winning the Alister Clark Stakes.

linton1 (Large)

The feature race of the day was of course the Group One William Reid Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres.

To kill time I went and had look at the horses pre race.

race7_mentality2JPG (Medium)
Light Fantastic
race7_lightfantastic2 (Medium)
race7_shellscrape (Medium)

race7_turffontein (Medium)

I had my money on Nicconi and old favourite Light Fantastic, but they both finished unplaced. Light Fantastic led for most of the race, but was overtaken by the late finishing Wanted (who ran second, again!), Sniper’s Bullet (third place getter) and winner Turffontein.
trurffontein.3 (Large)

I was about to leave after this, but decided to stay for the Sunline Stakes and watch the wonderful mare Zarita race. She provided my second win of the day, being far classier than any of her opponents, running wide to snatch victory with style.

I did manage to get some nice photos of her this time…
zarita3 (Medium)

After collecting my winnings on Zarita, I called it a day and caught the bus home rather tired after being on my feet most of the afternoon.

It was a pleasant afternoon’s entertainment and there wasn’t much of a crowd at Moonee Valley which is how I like it. Perhaps the rest of Melbourne was put off by the weather, but it improved as the afternoon wore on.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Autumn Racing Season 2010 – Week 3 – William Reid Stakes

Typhoon Tracy after winning the CF Orr Stakes
Moonee Valley stages the next Group One race of the season, that being the William Reid Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres. Last year, and for several years previous to that, this race was named the Australia Stakes. Apache Cat won it in 2008 and again in 2009. There is a slight chance that Apache Cat will return to the scene of his triumphs to lead out the field, as was mooted in a comment made by his owner Robyn Lawrie on my post on his retirement.

And what a field it is!

Had she not sustained an injury in track work, star filly Black Caviar would have been gunning for her first Group One win in open company, and sixth win in succession, but alas it is not to be. She will be out of action for six months. I’m terribly disappointed and I’m sure her connections are heartbroken about her injury and her missing the rest of the autumn.

So Nicconi will be the new favourite. He has the class and form to win. Also in the field is an old favourite of mine, Light Fantastic, who if he shows any of his earlier brilliance will be in the finish. The entire field is first class what with former smart Sydney middle distance runner Mentality, class sprinters Turffontein and Sniper’s Bullet and three year old colts Shellscrape and Wanted all being part of the mix. Master O’Reilly the 2007 Caulfield Cup winner looks a bit out of place in this race, but he might surprise.

As I was hoping to cheer Black Caviar in person - planning to attend Moonee Valley on Saturday - I’m pleased that Light Fantastic will be running and hope I can snap a decent photo of him. It’s a small consolation for missing Black Caviar.

The rest of the card is rather lacking immediate interest, but there are some excellent races in Sydney this weekend. More Joyous returns in the Group Two Light Fingers Stakes, and Manhattan Rain and Demerit in the Group Two Royal Sovereign Stakes, so I’ll be keeping an eye on those races as well.

Last week’s results, as far as Typhoon Tracy and Denman are concerned, turned out true to prediction. Typhoon Tracy won the Orr Stakes with consummate ease beating home Heart of Dreams and Sirmione by a couple of lengths, and Denman effortlessly won the Wellington RC Stakes by four lengths from Carrara and Most Immediate. Tracy now has broken the hoodoo on winning in open company. Her next assignment will most probably be the Futurity (1600 metres) on 27th February. Denman will clash with Cox Plate winner So You Think in the Autumn Stakes on March 6th, a race keenly anticipated by all racing fans.

The surprise of the day came from Psychologist in the fillies Blue Diamond Prelude – she blitzed the rest of the field leading from start to finish winning by a large margin. Beneteau won the colts Prelude by a similar margin.

Avenue found the Rubiton Stakes too hard first up where she finished fifth. Here De Angels won, beating that other old sprinter Lucky Secret into second with Rostova running third.

This post originally read quite differently, but I had to hastily revise it after the scratching of Black Caviar. Let's hope nothing else goes wrong between now and Saturday, though as Melbourne was dumped with rain this afternoon, the complexion of the William Reid Stakes may change.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I want one – Melbourne’s latest attraction

Baby elephant with mother Dokkoon - photo from The Age

Melbourne Zoo’s first ever baby elephant had her first press viewing yesterday, and enchanted the media contingent to such an extent that the Minister for the Environment was left in wings, waiting for his turn.

And of course, Melbourne is besotted, myself included, with the baby. I’d love to dash out to the zoo today for a first hand look at the little elephant, but imagine the crowd would be impossible.

The as yet unnamed elephant calf was born three weeks ago with much fanfare and celebration to Dokkoon, one of the Asian elephants adopted by Melbourne Zoo in 2005. She and two other female elephants joined the zoo’s two resident older elephants, Mek Kapah and Bong Su, in a new elephant enclosure which is a vast improvement on what Mek Kapah and Bong Su had to live in before.

Mek Kapah now has a herd to lead and has become first best friends with Dokkoon. She has also developed a relationship with the new baby.

Anyway, see for yourselves the new wonder of Melbourne and feel your heart melt.

Zoo video with keeper commentary

The Age media release - another video

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Autumn Racing Season 2010 – Week 2 – Orr Stakes

This coming Saturday sees the keenly anticipated return of many of the stars of spring, most notably, in my case, the resumption of my favourite mare Typhoon Tracy ( pictured above) in the feature race of the program.

The Group One Orr Stakes (1400 metres) has a field of 10 acceptances that include two Melbourne Cup winners in Viewed and Shocking, Sirmione, winner of the 2008 Australian Cup, the very classy middle distance runner, Heart of Dreams and good sprinter/miler Sniper’s Bullet.

Tracy is the sole female in the race and has drawn barrier 1, from which she will no doubt charge to take, or share, the lead. She shouldn’t be troubled too much by the stayers; her main dangers will be Heart of Dreams and Sniper’s Bullet. This race offers her best chance to win in open company with no Whobegotyou or Predatory Pricer to swoop from the ranks and overtake her. Go Tracy Go!

The rest of the card looks interesting as well, with Denman, Carrara and The Handsome One all entered in the Wellington RC Stakes (1400 metres). Denman was also nominated for the Orr Stakes, but his connections obviously selected the softer option. It would have been very interesting to see him up against Typhoon Tracy. He’ll probably win this, with Carrara as usual coming second, though I’d like to see The Handsome One put up a challenge.

The two Blue Diamond Preludes, one for colts, the other for fillies, also look interesting. I’m keen to see how Panipique performs against the likes of Sweet Cheeks and She’s Got Gears. Panipique won her first race by a couple of lengths several weeks ago, and she is trained by the in form Peter Moody, so has an excellent chance. Psychologist having her first start, also looks interesting.

Avenue, another of Peter Moody’s stars of the spring, is nominated for the Group Three Rubiton Stakes – a sprint over 1100 metres. A tough assignment, if she runs, against top sprinters Here De Angels, Lucky Secret and the super smart filly Irish Lights who was scratched from the Lightning Stakes last week so as not to clash with Starspangledbanner who had just been acquired by her owners, Coolmore. That race was won by Nicconi (the Foolish Pleasure factor) with Wanted and Shellscrape filling the minor places. Starspangledbanner ran fourth.

Nicconi will run next in the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley on 13 February against unbeaten filly Black Caviar – should be a ripper race which I hope to witness in person.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Lucky Update

You may remember, back in October last year, I wrote about the rescue of Lucky the baby ringtail possum.

Here she is now…


… making her way out into the wide world. (photo by Pat)

As you can see she has thrived under the care of Pat, who over the months, has grown very fond of her.

Pat only recently allowed the small colony of ringtail possums, of whom Lucky is part, out of their cage at night. Apparently they all bounded off into the bush with alacrity, but return each morning to their nesting box.

So it’s really heart warming to think of Lucky wild and free with her own “family” of possums to hang out with.

As I now work on the same floor as Pat, I get to see and handle all the wonderful creatures she has in her care. The little ones who need 24 hour attention, Pat brings into work. She has had tawny frogmouth chicks, sugar gliders and recently an exquisite little marsupial called a dunnart.

The dunnart is a desert dwelling carnivorous marsupial related to the Tasmanian Devil, though minuscule in size. The one Pat had in her care was a baby fat tailed dunnart, half a finger’s length long, a perfectly formed, immensely appealing little beast. It will grow to about the size of a mouse on reaching maturity.

I must admit I’d never heard of a dunnart before, so it is fascinating to come across these unusual and relatively unknown native animals at my workplace no less.

Here’s a photo of an adult fat tailed dunnart.

Gary Bell

Aren’t they simply the cutest beasties ever!