Snaps from the Kaleidoscope Tightrope

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I’ve just come from a bloody awesome night of poetry, music and spoken word, and like a total nerd I decided to immediately blog about it. I was lucky enough to be one of the artists performing at the thing – called the Kaleidoscope Tightrope (which is fiendishly hard to spell) – but I also took a few snaps during the rest of the show. Here they are.

Props to Scott Sneddon aka Darkwing Dubs aka Scotty aka What actually is your name now? for organising such a fun and varied night of performance. Highlights included Matt Hsu jamming on his trumpet from atop a table, Lucy Fox and Laura Trenery showing us their mad tatts, and James Halloran singing a vaudeville opera.

Thanks to Metro Arts for the venue and Brisbane Festival for being awesome. If you haven’t been to any Brisbane Festival events yet, it’s on until the 28th September. Get involved! Metro Arts will be hosting another poetry night next Wednesday, as part of their Basement Late Night series, curated by another differently excellent local poet. Seriously there is so much to do in this city. I can’t keep up.

Sleep time. Good night.

PS. I’ve only just started using a DSLR (embarrassingly, seeing I work at a camera shop), and this was my first foray into low-light shooting. So, if any photographers out there have any tips/comments on how I went, my comment section is open!

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Being comfortable is not the same as success

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So, I saw Bloc Party live last night, for the first time in all the years I’ve loved them. No big deal. Just a long-standing dream fulfilled. Whatevs. I didn’t cry or anything. I didn’t.

But quite apart from the euphoria of seeing one of my all-time favourite bands jumping around right in front of me, I was struck by how very, very beautiful is Mr. Kele Okereke. Not just the superficial kind of beautiful – although, let’s face it, he’s doin’ alright – but the kind that comes from someone who is completely in their element.

Photo from Wiki Commons.

Kele Okereke, lead singer of Bloc Party. If you don’t know who that is, don’t worry, this blog post won’t be ALL about them. Read on!

I don’t know what’s better than watching someone do the thing they love and absolutely nail it. He was, as the song goes, “on fire”. (Last fan-geek Bloc Party reference, I SWEAR.) The man swarmed around the stage, pulled the audience into his hand and held them there, strutted and kicked and spun, and utterly charmed the pants off the mosh pit. Right at the top of the second encore, if he had declared, “Alright Brisbane, let’s march on the city,” damn it, we would have.

It could have been the strobe lights, or the smoke machine, or the wild cheering of the crowd as Kele urged them to “dance, you fuckers”, but it seemed like light was shooting right out of him. This is the guy who music magazines tell me is “incredibly shy”. Well, maybe around music journalists, but not on stage. The stage was clearly his zone, and he was inhabiting every bit of it.

As always when watching people like that, I found myself hoping I could live in my “zone”. Ken Robinson (good old Sir Ken) talks about this in his book The Element (2009). Basically, his premise is that everyone has a particular talent, something that excites them and fires them and will bring them great success. Their element. But, unfortunately, with the education system set up the way it is, people are taught to ignore their passions and to waste their talents. Highly successful people are usually people who paid attention to their passions – instead of listening to the naysayers – and made full use of their special quirks and abilities.

It’s easy to say, “Yeah, right – chase your dreams, champ. Great advice. Oprah, etc.” But the more I think about it, the more I wonder, why wouldn’t we follow our passions? What if our passions are very specific signposts from our intuition (or subconscious, or a higher power, or anything you want to use to describe the ethereal cloak that hangs between us and all the things we can’t figure out)? When we meet someone we’re attracted to, we know it because we feel it. I think we feel a similar tug when we encounter our ideal occupation – something that makes us feel right. Like the first time I found out about poetry slams, or the first time Paul McCartney held a guitar, or the first time the internet saw Jennifer Lawrence.

If I have a special ability that I’m great at and makes my life more fun and can be developed without struggle because I love spending time on it, then WHY THE HECK wouldn’t I devote my energies towards that? The argument made by educational institutions (and a whole lot of parents) would be: because you need to make money. Otherwise, your life will be hard (and fair enough, money helps things along somewhat) and you will make other people’s lives hard, too. You’ll be a miserable drain on society, or something of that nature.

That argument is bullshit, frankly, because it is predicated on the assumption that particular occupations can guarantee you success; if you follow the path correctly and work hard, you will achieve a “good life”. This is rubbish. Not to quote motivational Facebook statuses here, but there are no guarantees in life. Your life will probably be hard whether you finish law school and get a clerkship, or quit and take up the piano. Life: hard. Sorry, kids. But I think that’s because we’re not here to bounce along and try to “get all the bananas” (Donkey Kong? Anyone?). Life’s not like the closed circuit of a video game universe, where you can win the highest score as long as you know all the correct combinations. I think we, as a society, have made a mistake, and gone along thinking that life is about getting the most comfort possible.

I think life is actually about learning. And learning new things – about ourselves, about others, about reality – is rarely comfortable. Fun, challenging, satisfying? Yep. But not comfortable.

Was Kele completely at ease when he was on stage performing last night? He’d be the only one who knows, but I would guess, probably not. Someone who is one hundred per cent comfortable doesn’t work that hard at excellence. They don’t push themselves further. But someone who’s living in their element? Well.

They make the sky run with starlight.

“Barry Morgan shows off his organ”, Feb 2012

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A review I wrote for Buzzcuts and Perth Now of the Fringe World show, Barry Morgan’s World of Organs. After the show, I had the pleasure of meeting Barry himself. Such a grin!

Barry Morgan and I

You might know Barry Morgan, Adelaide’s celebrity organ salesman, from his appearances on the music quiz show Spicks and Specks.

Barry’s trademark toothy grin and his prodigious skill on the keyboard were all he needed to win over television audiences. So, when it was announced that Barry Morgan would be coming to Fringe World, I was curious to see how he would flesh out his camp keyboard act into a one-hour show.

Barry Morgan’s World of Organs is a mildly strange experience from the moment you walk into the Perth Town Hall. Underneath the grand proscenium arch sits a 1981 Hammond Aurora Classic with matching Leslie speakers, looking very small indeed in contrast with the pomp of the venue. A badly recorded voice comes over the speakers, announcing the star of the show. Then out walks Mr Barry Morgan himself, all smiles and big hair.

The organ salesman immediately launches into his hilariously camp patter, announcing “this organ must be sold tonight!” The rest of the show is an extended sales pitch, with Barry avidly trying to convince audience members of the wonders of the electric organ.

Barry works the crowd with delightful ease, throwing out organ innuendos that never seem to get old. On this night, the audience seemed at first uncertain, but quickly got into the spirit of things with sing-alongs and shout-outs.

Although Barry’s talent on the organ is the central spectacle, the show has a great audio-visual element. A screen hangs over the stage onto which Barry projects photos from his childhood and footage from the stage.

Aside from a very strange moment when Barry abruptly disappears from the stage to “change into something more comfortable” and then returns wearing an almost-identical outfit, the show runs along smoothly.

Happily, this is a Fringe show that is suitable for all audiences. It’s a fun, light-hearted hour of comedy that will be especially pleasing for music-lovers.

Voiceworks #87 Launch: WA knows how to play

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Last night we launched Voiceworks #87 PLAY in Western Australia, and holy moly it was awesome.

Comedian Libby Klysz was our host for the launch, a perfect host for the PLAY issue as she joked around with the audience, played up performers’ introductions, and promised everyone “games … with prizes!”

First cab off the rank was sweet singer-songwriter Caroline J Dale, whose quirky lyrics and gorgeous voice never fail to win over an audience.

Next we had a poem by emerging artist Alex Wolman, who led us on a dark journey through relationships and suicide. Sj Finch came in with the lighter side; the dotdotdash editor and Voiceworks contributor performed a clever and entertaining piece that had the crowd chuckling.

Everyone was pretty engrossed by the performances, but in between-times they had a chance to wander around: looking at the Perth Zine Collective‘s amazing array of hand-made zines; buying copies of the latest Voiceworks issues; and admiring artwork by Western Australian artists Sam Pash and Mel Pearce, whose works have been respectively published in Voiceworks ‘V’ and ‘Play’.

Zinester and Voiceworks contributor Anna Dunnill opened the second bracket of performances with a reading of an intelligently written piece. She was followed up by hip hop poet David Vincent Smith (dvs) who slammed us with a barrage of clever wordplay. Holy shit that guy can poem. dvs was supported by his friend DJ Silence, who mixed sound effects and hip hop beats behind dvs’s poems, adding yet another dimension to the words.

Last, but certainly not least, we were blessed with a performance by the beautiful ‘Ofa Benness. Best known around Perth for fronting her band Odette Mercy & The Soul Atomics, last night ‘Ofa had ditched the band and played a solo set. Performing a mix of singing and spoken word, between songs she chatted with the audience, relating the theme ‘Play’ back to her life and her music. Then ‘Ofa brought the whole venue to a standstill with her breathtaking vocals and wryly beautiful lyrics. I totally have a girl-crush on her.

We wrapped up the night with a pretty raucous game of Heads and Tails, and two happy and highly competitive audience members went home with book prizes kindly donated by Express Media.

Many, many thanks to Mojo’s Bar for being such a welcoming venue, to Libby Klysz for being an entertaining host, and to all the performers for kicking ass. I can’t wait for the next launch.