Friday, July 31, 2015

A Harbinger of Spring–Racing at Moonee Valley

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Tawteen kicks off her Spring at Moonee Valley tomorrow.

Though you wouldn’t know by the weather, Spring is just round the corner and it means that a new season of first class horse racing is impending.

Tomorrow is the birthday of southern hemisphere racehorses, and a quite interesting race meeting is scheduled at Moonee Valley to mark the occasion.

Having renewed my Moonee Valley Season pass, I have a hankering to return trackside to take in some racing action. The weather will most likely be awful, but I don’t intend to spend all afternoon there.

The most fascinating race on the card in fact is Race 1, the United Refrigeration Handicap for three year old fillies over 1000 metres.

I’m keen to get a glimpse of Petits Filous who won her first race at the Valley a fortnight ago on a heavy track by 6 lengths.  Shades of Black Caviar you’d think, but it’s really too soon to tell how good she really is. Tomorrow will give us some insight no doubt. She’s up against some other class fillies in The Big Dance and Haybah, the former winning her first race at Bendigo by a good margin, and the latter already with a Group 3 win under her belt. Stream Ahead also looks a chance having, like The Big Dance, won her debut race at Bendigo by 2 lengths.

Tawteen, who I have been following kicks off her spring campaign in Race 6, the Ranvet Handicap (1200 metres). She goes well fresh and has won at Moonee Valley several times so should be in the finish.

Speaking of classy fillies I’m looking to the return of Fontiton and Sistonic, who looked very promising early in the  autumn, but sustained injuries which ruled them out for the rest of the season. They’re not running tomorrow, but should appear in the near future.

Many of last spring and autumn stars are now retired to stud, so one is left scratching around for class acts to follow. Lankan Rupee will be back on the scene later in the spring, and his great rivals Chautauqua and Terravista  are also expected to return.  Also I’m really keen to see how Western Australian filly (now mare) Delicacy goes this spring. She has the rare distinction of winning two Derbies (WA & SA) and two Oaks (WA & SA) in the same season. Unfortunately she won’t be racing in Melbourne, but will be kept to her home state.

Other horses  I plan on following for the Spring are Alpine Eagle, Rich Enuff, Vancouver, Pride of Dubai, First Seal, Cosmic Endeavour, Mongolian Khan and Volkstok’n’barrell, along with old faves like The Cleaner, Catkins, Fawkner and Lucia Valentina. No doubt others will catch my fancy as the season progresses.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Blue Stars & Birthday Greetings–Ryan Adams Shines at the Forum Theatre

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Ryan Adams rocking out at the Forum Theatre 19/7/15

It was a chilly night in old Melbourne town last Sunday evening, and  keen fans queued early to get good positions in the general admission sold out show, myself among them (I arrived at around 6.25). There was a delay in opening the doors, so it was around 7.20pm that the audience was finally permitted to enter the lavish interior of the Forum Theatre, where the Gods smile down on the masses from their plinths on the walls and along the aisles.

I was disappointed to discover that my favourite booth up the front, along with the other front booths, was reserved. It was my understanding that General Admission is on a first come, first served basis and I was unaware that seats could be booked.

So, unwilling at my age to stand for hours in the mosh pit, I was obliged to grab what seating I could  farther back than I would have liked – hence the less than perfect photos I managed to snap.

All the above inconveniences were more than compensated for by the quality of entertainment on offer, and that included the support act, American singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis.

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Jenny Lewis live at the Forum Theatre 19/7/15

Admittedly I am not all that au fait with Jenny Lewis’ artistic output, possessing only Rabbit Fur Coat in my CD collection, which I have not listened to for years. Her latest record Voyager was produced by Ryan Adams, so naturally she sang a few songs from it, Just One Of The Guys and She’s Not Me are the tunes I recognised from my You Tube research on the artist leading up the show. Originally she was associated with rock band Rilo Kiley and in my opinion the songs she played last night from that era of her career were the winners. Acid Tongue is a great song from her first solo record, whereas Portions For Foxes  dates back to her time with Rilo Kiley.

Her set was engaging and entertaining and she looked a treat playing her rainbow hued guitar, dressed in a white trouser suit.  She had an ace band supporting her, but I’m unable to find details of their names, though several were female.

Ryan Adams and The Shining trooped onto the stage at around 9.15pm and instantly launched into the first track on the recent Ryan Adams Self Titled album, Gimme Something Good, closely following that with the bouncy Let It Ride from Cold Roses.

I felt the first half of the show was a little flat, but the band warmed up over the two hours they played and by the end of the night I was totally enthralled. The set list encompassed songs from most of Ryan Adams back catalogue of albums and included many favourites of mine – Oh My Sweet Carolina (Jenny Lewis joined him for this), When The Stars Go Blue, La Cienega Just Smiled, and particularly Sweet Illusions, rarely performed live, which I was really hoping he would sing. There were other rarities, in terms of the concerts I have witnessed, like I See Monsters, Nobody Girl and To Be Young.

It was mostly a rock n roll concert with several songs ending in extended jams, where Ryan was able to channel his inner rock child. Quieter ballads were interspersed with the rockier numbers so it was a wisely chosen sequence of songs.

The last few Ryan Adams shows I have attended were dimly lit, but Sunday night you could actually see Ryan’s face distinctly. He suffers from Meniere’s Disease, an affliction of the inner ear, and bright flashing lights exacerbate the problem. He obviously is concerned about the lighting in his shows, and found a sympathetic lighting technician in Gigi to whom he composed a Happy Birthday song off the cuff in gratitude. It was funny and clever. He also passed a birthday cake into the audience to be delivered to the lady in question in the lighting section at the middle of the theatre.

Gigi created some wonderful lighting effects, the twinkling blue stars in the background being particularly appropriate.

The Shining are a completely different band to the Cardinals (Ryan Adams former band) both in style and sound. The Cardinals had a touch of country twang and gorgeous ringing guitars, whereas The Shining are more a straight rock n roll band. They are guitarist Mike Viola,  bassist Charlie Stavish, drummer Freddie Bokkenheuser and keyboardist Daniel Clarke.

It was great to hear New York, New York played in the fast tempo it was originally recorded in. All the previous times I’ve seen Ryan Adams live, it has been sung in a distinctly slow bluesy fashion – very nice too.

I ended up not going to the second concert, as the friend I was accompanying cried off, so I found another taker for the tickets, a Ryan Adams fan, who was pleased to purchase them at a discounted price.

Ryan Adams and The Shining played for a solid two hours, so it was after midnight by the time I got home. As a result I felt rather tired yesterday, so felt relieved I did not have to go through the hassle of getting to the theatre, waiting in the queue etc. etc. again.

And the verdict?

Every Ryan Adams concert I have attended (seven now) has been different and you never really know what to expect. This year’s concert was probably not the best I’ve seen, but it was very enjoyable nonetheless. I’ve always thought that the Cardinals show at the Forum in January 2009 was the best, closely followed by his solo show at The Regent in March 2012. Sunday’s show is probably my third favourite Ryan Adams concert.

Anyway, it’s always a thrill to see Ryan Adams live in concert – I’ll certainly attend for as long as I am able.

Ryan Adams Set List

  1. Gimme Something Good (Self Titled)
  2. Let It Ride (Cold Roses)
  3. Stay With Me (Self Titled)
  4. Dirty Rain (Ashes & Fire)
  5. This House Is Not For Sale (Love Is Hell)
  6. Dear Chicago (Demolition)
  7. Magnolia Mountain (Cold Roses)
  8. My Winding Wheel (Heartbreaker)
  9. To Be Young (Heartbreaker)
  10. Peaceful Valley (Jacksonville City Nights)
  11. Kim (Self Titled)
  12. Oh My Sweet Carolina (Heartbreaker)
  13. When the Stars Go Blue (Gold)
  14. Shakedown on 9th Street (Heartbreaker)
  15. My Baby Don't Understand Me (Natalie Prass cover)
  16. New York, New York (Gold)
  17. Improv song: happy birthday GiGi
  18. I See Monsters (Love Is Hell)
  19. Sweet Illusions (Cold Roses)
  20. La Cienega Just Smiled (Gold)
  21. Trouble (Self Titled)
  22. Nobody Girl (Gold)


  1. Come Pick Me Up (Heartbreaker)

My next musical treat is Shane Nicholson at Caravan Music Club on 8th August. He has a new album “Hell Breaks Loose” and will be launching it at the Caravan.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Only Four More Sleeps…

…until the Ryan Adams concert at the Forum Theatre on Sunday night.

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Concert Poster for Ryan Adams 2015 Australian Tour

Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to the concert, which has Jenny Lewis as the support act. I’m also going to the second concert on Monday at the same venue.

I know this is not the sort of thing I would normally do, but I originally purchased a ticket for the first show at the pre-sale. However, the friend I was planning to go with was too late to obtain a ticket as they sold out in a flash, so she got tickets for both of us to the second show. I was initially intending to sell my extra ticket, but changed my mind and decided to attend both concerts, Ryan Adams after all being my favourite singer-songwriter.

Ryan Adams is currently in New Zealand and has created something of a Twitter sensation by championing a stray kitten that he came across in a cemetery when walking off his jet lag his first night in Auckland. His twitter campaign has resulted in the cat being rescued.

I find it endearing that he has a special “speaking to cats” voice.

The concert poster above is typical of his latest tour posters, all of them having a supernatural theme (reflecting the name of his band, The Shining), but I’m a tad disappointed that the Aussie one does not feature cats.

The last time I time I saw Ryan Adams live was in March 2012 when he performed a solo tour. It was a wonderful concert that highlighted the beauty of his voice and music. I recommend listening to his solo live concert record “Live at Carnegie Hall”. It’s available as a 6 LP Vinyl set (with 42 tracks), or a ten song CD.

Melbourne is currently in the throes of a very cold snap, so it will warm the cockles, not to mention the body, to experience the special magic of  Ryan Adams live in concert again.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Milk Carton Kids–Midwinter Magic

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The Milk Carton Kids at the Athenaeum 30/6/15

Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale aka The Milk Carton Kids last toured Australia in June 2013 and wowed those of us who saw them when they passed through then. We were charmed and amused by their minimalist but sublime performances, so it was a no brainer to buy tickets for their concert this time round.

Appearing this time at the beautiful old Athenaeum Theatre, one of the oldest Melbourne theatres still in use - established in 1839 – it is a small intimate venue that is perfect for the quiet, understated perfection of The Milk Carton Kids style of performance.

Opening for the main act was Wollongong born singer songwriter Timothy James Bowen who was an unknown quantity to me.

Joey Ryan took the time to introduce him to the audience, delivering in his dry way a back handed compliment, stating that Timothy James Bowen had a better voice than himself. Tongue in cheek, he added that normally The Milk Carton Kids would choose support acts with worse voices.

Joey wasn’t wrong, Timothy James Bowen has an expressive sweet tenor and performs with passion and conviction.

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Timothy James Bowen at the Athenaeum 30/6/15

Timothy sang a short set of six songs, all of his own composition (with a little help from family and friends). He started with the lovely Breathe Easy then moved on to his specially commissioned song that was featured on the Virgin Mobile Making Australia Better Campaign. It is appropriately entitled Answer The Call.

Another song The Dharawal addresses indigenous issues, relating as does to a little known historical event, that being the massacre of the Dharawal people in 1816.

After a short interval the star act took the stage. The Milk Carton Kids are a rare act. They perform unplugged and unamplified, with just one microphone between them. There are no flashy light shows, just a single spot and an unadorned setting.

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The Milk Carton Kids at the Athenaeum 30/6/15

They launched their show with the Haruki Murakami inspired Secrets of the Stars, the fourth track on their new record Monterey, which is an exquisite and quietly understated work of genius.

Three more songs from the album followed in quick succession, Asheville Skies, Getaway and The City of Our Lady, after which Joey Ryan paused for the first of his dry and amusing dissertations which had the audience in stitches. He remarked that with four songs played they were half way through the show, only kidding of course.

The title track of their previous CD The Ash & Clay was next to be performed, followed by the title track of Monterey. In their 13 song set the songs were mostly drawn from those two albums, with Michigan being the only song from an earlier recording, Prologue in fact.

Interspersed with the songs Joey & Kenneth entertained the crowd with gentle banter. Australia’s Prime Minister got a not very complimentary mention, the audience endorsing this view emphatically. Joey mused that perhaps people who came to their shows were of a leftist bent.

There was also a running joke about whether there were any children in the audience, which started when Joey apologised for the tone of language used at the time – a few rude words is all I recall hearing  - and wondered if there were children present. Some dag at the back with a deep male voice yelled “Yes!” which caused great hilarity and even broke down Joey’s deadpan cool.

During the musical moments a hushed quiet is de rigueur to appreciate the MCK’s act. They play their old 1950s guitars softly and harmonise in quiet voices, but the effect is mesmerising and enthralling - you can hear all the words and distinguish the two voices and the guitars. Kenneth Pattengale’s  playing is wonderfully ornate and complicated and he received much applause for his mastery of the instrument.

The Milk Carton Kids is a high quality act of unusual beauty and surprisingly hilarious. They combine sublime melodies with enchanting harmonised vocals and deep lyrics. They are up there with the likes of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Gillian Welch and the other giants of American folk music.


Timothy James Bowen Set List

  1. Breathe Easy
  2. Answer The Call
  3. After Wintertime
  4. The Dharawal
  5. Whatever Makes You Happy
  6. Love Is Loving You

The Milk Carton Kids Set List

  1. Secrets of the Stars
  2. Asheville Skies
  3. Getaway
  4. City of Our Lady
  5. The Ash & Clay
  6. Monterey
  7. Honey. Honey
  8. Shooting Shadows
  9. Hope of a Lifetime
  10. I Still Want A Little More
  11. Snake Eyes
  12. Michigan
  13. Heaven


  1. New York
  2. Memphis

Photo of MCK set list