Monday, May 30, 2011

My weekends in East Sussex are always lovely. When I'm in Australia, I miss Jamie's company, even though much of our time together is spent arguing about socialism or watching shoddy 80s films.The Coles have an an adorable cat named Bert.  I miss Claudia at home, so his affection is appreciated.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We're only young and naive still.

The Naked and Famous - O2 Academy Oxford - 19th May 2011

The Naked and Famous were getting a fair amount of radio play on Triple J before I left Australia and made a few appearances on the summer festival circuit. They're a perfect festival band in a lot of ways, super energetic, strong vocals, catchy tunes you can dance to. They're what would happen if MGMT went poppier, grew some balls and added a female vocalist. Thanks to their singles being used in some high profile advertisements and tv shows, they've taken off in the U.K.. This little New Zealand band  took to the stage in Oxford and seemed somewhat suprised that the packed room of people in front of them knew the words to their songs. The synth-heavy album has a fuzziness to the edges that makes it easy to listen to. This falls away in the live show and it's all crisper and more aggressive. Thankfully, Alisa Xayalith's voice is up to the challenge and she carries the show. Also, I'm jealous of her shiny, shiny hair.

Friday, May 20, 2011

7 Years

Jamie's terribly upset that I haven't mentioned him here yet. It's a strange experience to return to a friendship after very little contact for many years. Some things stay the same, but certains shifts in personality become very obvious through changes in the dynamics. We still fight like crazy, but he lets me stay whenever I feel the urge to spend the weekend in East Sussex.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I can hear you, louder than ever.

Cold War Kids - Shepherd's Bush Empire, 16th May 2011

I came to the party late with Cold War Kids. I knew of them but didn't pay attention until they released the song Audience from the Behave Yourself E.P. in 2010. That track was probably my favourite individual song from that year. It's also my default 'sing at the top of your voice in the shower' song. I didn't manage to see them on their recent Australian tour (huge mistake considering how strong the latest album is) and I also missed out on a London show that took place soon after I'd arrived because I didn't know about it until after it had sold out. I got lucky and they returned for a second London show within 3 months.

In many ways they are a typical Californian rock band, but there's an undercurrent of blues and southern soul throughout their music that really appeals to me. I consider them similar to The Black Keys for that reason, but in the case of Cold War Kids, the influence is more subtle. Nathan Willett has this brilliantly strong, but surprisingly high voice. There's something about it that reminds me of female American soul singers, and it cuts right through live. There's a lot of physical contact between the band members on stage and you get the sense that there's no fakery. They're genuinely engrossed in what they're doing, feeding off each other's energy and throwing themselves into it.

It's always fun watching live rock that you can dance to. Listen to the filthy bass heavy opening of Hang Me Out To Dry and tell me it doesn't make you want to move.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Better not to quench your thirst

Warpaint - O2 Oxford Academy - 13th May 2011

Warpaint's debut album The Fool is dreamy, melodic, layered and mellow. Their live show is certainly melodic and layered, but not at all mellow. Listening to the album, it's hard to believe that there's a full blown rock band in there and I was surprised at how heavy the live sound was. The live arrangements aren't dramatically different, but everything's louder and more urgent. The bass and drums come through much heavier and it results in music the audience really wants to dance to. Like Fleet Foxes, the band's individual voices are strong enough to recreate the dense vocal harmonies live.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

May Day

The first of May is quite the event in Oxford. I hauled my arse out of bed at 5:30am so I could catch the Magdalen College Choir sing from the tower rooftop at 6am. This was followed by a whole lot of Morris Dancing down the high street. There are balls held the night before, so many of the people on the streets at dawn are students in evening wear who have pulled all-nighters. Years ago these students would hire out boats and go drunk punting on the river. Crowds would gather to watch them from the bridge because they'd end up capsizing or falling in. Hilarious. To prevent this, the boat companiess stopped hiring out boats that morning. So a new tradition was established: jumping off the bridge into the extremely shallow water. There have been years with up to 50 morons ending up with broken bones. The bridge was open this year, but unfortunately security and barricades ensured that no-one ended up going over the edge.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How do you celebrate a royal wedding?

I've been in favour of Australia becoming a republic for years and I feel that the royal family is irrelevant in Australia. Having said this, I have no actual hatred towards the royal family and I like watching what happens to cities when they are celebrating big events. Sydney changed its character considerably during the 2000 Olympics. People were nicer, friendlier and calmer. The city slowed down to watch what's going on. London was similar on the day of the Royal Wedding. The whole city stopped for a day.

So I began with a wander around Buckingham Palace, St James' Park and Westminster. I watched a couple of marching bands go past, got repeatedly stuck by road blockades and tube station closures, and eventually made it to Tyson's flat in Southwark before the whole show got on the road. I was very kindly invited to a bbq and throughly enjoyed an afternoon of good food, good conversation, and plenty of Pimms.

Though I am cycling around Oxford, I'm still a nervous rider and the prospect of cycling through London was a little terrifying. And yet when we hit early evening and it was suggested we go for a ride, I went along. I was lent a much nicer road bike than an amateur deserves and off we went to Waterloo Bridge.

Critical Mass is a cycling organisation that meets in most major cities once a month. The group embarks on a demonstration ride that takes over the streets, stops traffic, and generally pisses other road users off. I'm not sure that I'm ok with what they do. I understand that it sends an important message that cyclists are road users too and need to be treated with respect by drivers, and that a little bit of patience is a good thing, but I'm not sure that a monthly ride breaking all major road rules is the way to do it. Especially when there's clearly some people taking part who are there to antagonise the drivers and potentially get into a fight.

Having said that, cycling through London's major streets, surrounded by 300 other cyclists is a pretty good feeling. It's an extemely fun way to see the city. When else am I going to be able to safely ride down Oxford Street and Park Lane?

I would do it again in a heartbeat, but won't be taking a page out of Tyson's book and jumping in when cab drivers decide to try and pound the shit out of the kids blocking their car.

Staying upright on an unfamilar bike was enough for me to worry about, so I didn't take my camera with me.
Photos are thanks to Tyson Sadlo

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Though Blackwell's is now a large chain with book stores all over the U.K, its Oxford store was its original outlet. When it opened on Broad Street in 1879, the store was 12 square feet. It now consists of 4 levels and is much more than a standard bookshop. There's a coffee shop, a 2nd hand bookshop and it holds plenty of events like live theatre and book signings. The below ground floor, The Norrington Room, is an academic's wet dream. Part of me wants to spend a day there trying to pick up phd students. It contains 5km of shelving and at one point was entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest single room selling books.
Blackwell's is also a publishing company and began the careers of many important authors. They published J.R.R. Tolkien's first poem in 1915.

The Norrington Room