Judith Wright Centre: Salõn

Timothy Brown (Queensland Ballet, Expressions Dance Company) promises Judy audiences the exotic, the erotic and the sublime in The Salõn. He curates  seven physical performers — with backgrounds in circus and dance — in collaboration with musos Michelle Xen and the Neon Wild. It’s a showcase of local talent with international appeal; don’t miss out.

ZF: Salõn is an ambitious interdisciplinary work. How did you go about getting the balance just right, both in terms of aesthetic and the diverse cast?
TB: It was like creating a lavish yet unpredictable patchwork of acts, styles and artists genres.

ZF: With your dance background in mind, what were you looking for in your seven performers?
TB: The Salon performers are local independent artists who have proven to be outstanding in their fields while also creating their own unique niches within music, circus and dance.

Anthony Trojman — photo by Dylan Evans Photography, design by Blender

Anthony Trojman for Salōn (photo by Dylan Evans Photography, design by Blender)

ZF: Tell me one or two stunning, surprising or strange things about the character or talents of the performers.
TB: Travis Scott is a dancer come pole dancer come swinging pole dancer. This is very unique as there is only a small hand full of swinging pole artists around the world.
Former Expressions contemporary dance artist Anthony Trojman (pictured) is currently completing his honors in physiotherapy, with his last exam a day before we open!

ZF: How was “living work of art” Marchesa Luisa Casati an inspiration for the show?
TB: Marchesa Luisa Casati has always been an icon for me. Although this work is not a biography of the great Marchesa, the concept of icons, divas, and muses being immortalised through art are themes among others the show has drawn inspiration from.

ZF: How important was the Fresh Ground program to the show’s development? (Salõn was part of our JWC’s Space program introduced this year.)
TB: Fresh Ground is a unique program that I think gives the Judy a very important role in the independent arts sector. Artists need to have access to government facilities and support without too much paper work and admin. Just a studio with a speaker can give an artist a chance to create magic for Brisbane audiences and potentially show the world how good we are and what we have to offer.

ZF: If you were to paint a tableau that represented Salōn, what would it look like?
We have quite a few in the show! Very colourful, very diverse with a mix of glamour, grace, rebellion and cheek!

SALŌN plays at the Judith Wright Centre from 22 to 29 June, 2013.

Anywhere Fest: Mixtape

Anywhere Fest is still all systems go this week. First up, poets Angela Willock and Scott Sneddon join voices for a musical romance. I asked Angela a few quick questions about Mixtape.

Q. Describe your show/s in under 25 words.
A. It’s an off-key and somewhat awkward exploration into two people getting to know each other through music.

Q. Anywhere Festival is about making art everywhere. What makes your venue unique?
It’s the quirky little courtyard of someone’s business in the Valley. You could be forgiven for thinking you were hanging out in a stranger’s backyard.


Q. If your show were a new My Little Pony, what would it look like? What would its superpower be?
A. It would wear cowboy boots and hip hop bling and too much eyeliner. It’s superpower would be to explode your head with its off-key singing to bad pop songs.

Q. What was the most embarrassing mixtape you ever sent/received (in hindsight)?
A. I would have to say I’m usually the bearer of bad mixtapes. I went through a phase where I themed them, like, “Oh, you’re sad — here’s 20 songs about depression to make you feel better…”

Mixtape runs at the Rabbithole Cafe from 16 to 17 May, 2013.

Alchemy and Chemistry

Alchemy has procured some collaborative-arts gold for its May show this Friday: Scrambled Legscircus duo Claire Ogden and Shane SmithTari Hujan, a five-piece band who transmute genres; and that poet who likes graveyards and cats and stuff, Zenobia Frost, occasionally accompanied by charismatic cellist, Wayne Jennings (the Ragtag Band).


Frankie Vandellous hosts this splendid, free monthly event. Come along and support Brisbane arts!

Alchemy: A Little May Magic
5.30pm, Friday, 17 May
Brisbane Square Library

Can’t Be Artsed #5: All The Things

This week, while I should have been attending to The To-Do List, I instead attended a diverse bunch of artsy gigs. It was pretty rad. I should be studying/working/poeting/editing, but I wanted to at least jot down some thoughts before I lose ’em.

Henry Rollins, May 3

I’d never heard of Mr Rollins, nor his career with punk band Black Flag, before friends gifted me a ticket for my birthday. I decided to head in blind and find out what this spoken-word maestro has to offer on the fly.

Continue reading

Can’t Be Artsed: Mini-Reviews #1

Welcome to the first edition of my Can’t Be Artsed mini-reviews of All the Things. Here’s this week’s motley offering: The Dresden Dolls, James and the Giant Peach, and Sherlock Holmes — A Game of Shadows.

Music: The Dresden Dolls (The Tivoli, Jan 5)

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Amanda Palmer live three times in Brisbane, but though I’ve listened to their albums for years I’d never before seen The Dresden Dolls (Palmer with drummer Brian Viglione) do their thing together. Holy fuck, it was an intense and glorious evening.

Tom Dickens’ (The Jane Austen Argument) lovely vocals opened the show. A brief Briefs interlude was delightful, as expected — Davey Gravy shticks his shtick so well, and Captain Kidd’s sparkly cocktopus is a joy to behold (and he’s an incredible hoopist). I was thrilled to see The Bedroom Philosopher again — though he gigs in Brisbane semi-regularly, fate often thwarts my attendance. Acronymphomaniac, with the lyrics, “I eat SNAGs for breakfast,” is especially rad.

Palmer and Viglione’s dynamic is so natural you feel they might wordlessly improvise, like two dancers — both leading, never stepping on toes. It’s enthralling. So is Brian, both as a highly talented percussionist and a man with no shirt on.

With a half-hour encore, I was pretty sore by the end of the gig — and fairly deaf, but I now grok what Dresden Dolls fans have been extolling for years: this duo is a powerhouse.

Let’s start the year positively; five semicolons for The Dresden Dolls. ; ; ; ; ;

Theatre: James and the Giant Peach

Aimed at the 4–8 set, I figured I was still of a reasonable height to see this Harvest Rain adaptation of the Roald Dahl adventure that begins with the protagonist’s parents being gobbled up by a rhinoceros in London and ends in a giant peach in New York. I also took my dad — and we wound up having a fun time, even joining in on the pantomime-style audience interaction.

Josh McIntosh’s costumes are gorgeous (especially Aunt Sponge and Spiker’s frocks) and the homely peach itself is pretty cool. Tim O’Connor (Jesus Christ Superstar) directs this production, and it touched even us oldies. Still, the music was a letdown: tinned orchestration and cheery but forgettable tunes. Variable microphone efficacy didn’t help.

When I spoke to Jack Kelly (playing an earnest young James) for Rave Magazine, he said poor old Earthworm (Belinda Heit) was his favourite character. I have to agree: the blind, legless sadsack has an Eeyore charm. I also liked Dash Kruck’s cockney centipede who goes on to work in a sock factory.

It was quite novel to see a one-hour play at QPAC. I was swept away until the end — and would’ve liked some more, but — alas — it was bedtime for James.

I give it three and a half semicolons.

; ; ; :

James circumnavigates the world in his peach until Jan 21. Call 136 246 or book at http://www.qpac.com.au

Film: Sherlock Holmes II—A Game of Shadows

This pseudo-Sherlock adventure launches guns-a-blazin’ and doesn’t let up until curtains, just over two hours later.

Robert Downey Jr is amusing as a slightly psychic ninja Bernard Black. He doesn’t deduce things so much as know them — we learn this through lots of flashing from Significant Foreshadowing Thing to the next. He demonstrates how clever he is by quoting Schubert. We know Moriaty (Jared Harris) is just as clever because he can quote Schubert back and then make witty comments about trout. More importantly, they can both narrate their own actions whilst boxing. Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes is great because Stephen Fry is great; for part of the film he is naked. Good. Jude Law sports a Village People moustache..

There are some gypsies in the movie. You can tell because they’re dirty and they steal things from their friends and they eat hedgehog. Are the Romani the last bastion of acceptable racism in cinema? Noomi Rapace, very far from her role as Lisbeth in that-film-with-a-lot-of-sexual-assault-in-it, plays a dim gypsy in a cute hat looking for her brother or something.

But it is fun (spot the amusing anachronisms), and there is air conditioning. (Today was hot enough to kill — seriously, my panda cories fried in their tank.)

Two semicolons. ; ;

Please let me know what you think of Can’t Be Artsed or suggest Things (any things at all!) I might like to review. I hope you enjoyed this photo of Robert Downey Jr as a half-naked, half-in-drag Sherlock smoking on the floor in a train during a gunfight.

In This Light

Ah, yes. A live album from Jason Webley is just what we need to start the year well—and In This Light is pretty tasty stuff. Opening with the intimate From the Morning before diving into rousing classic Dance While the Sky Crashes Down, the record captures the quasi-apocalypto-religious experience of attending a Webley gig.

It’s impossible not to turn the volume right up by track three (There’s Not a Step We Can’t Take That Does Not Bring Us Closer), when the strings and audience-chorus kick in. Close your eyes and Webley’s before you, accordion in hand, hat defying gravity, making the stage shake, and you—there, in your office chair, with your unexpected Thursday morning package from Seattle—you are feeling very, very good.

Oh, hullo there. Sorry—music trance.

My favourite song on the album is the title track, which features some delicious violin moments (Timb Harris) and swelling vocals. Catchy tune Saviour—one I’d never heard before—is another track it’s safe to put on repeat. And, as a final comment, it’s great to have the full Drinking Song spiel if only to have a “very simple, very effective, and extremely economical method” of getting sloshed at one’s beck and call.

Mr Webley’s taking the year off, and there are only 1111 copies of In This Light (and I have number 0444)—so  godspeed! Buy the physical album at www.jasonwebley.com or listen for free/purchase mp3s at Jason’s Bandcamp.

11 Questions with Jason Webley

The gentleman with the accordion and the pork pie hat, Mr Jason Webley, is finally touring Australia again (it’s been nearly five years!). While he was zipping around the continent, I snuck into his busy schedule to ask him 11 questions.

ZENOBIA FROST: You last visited Down Under four years ago. In that time, you’ve released a solo album and several collaborations. What’s been your most memorable moment since we last saw you?

Wow. That’s a big question… I’m not sure what the MOST memorable moment has been—a lot has happened in the last four years. I’ve been everywhere in the world and back, played shows in Siberia, in Morocco, Mexico City. Actually, the other afternoon stands out pretty strongly. I happened to be in Christchurch when the big earthquake hit. I was meant to play there that night, it was my first time and I was staying with friends not far from the city center. Luckily I was okay, as were my friends—and I was be able to get out of the city the next day. But it was crazy walking around and seeing the collapsed houses, the streets and bridges all ripped apart, and the clay billowing out of the earth like a million little volcanoes.

ZF: Southern Cross was written in Australia nearly a decade ago. How did the song come to be written?

JW: That song is partly stolen goods. When I first arrived in Australia I stayed for a couple days in Sydney with a Canadian woman I knew who hummed a Leonard Cohen song to me—she said he had written after learning of an affair between his wife and his best friend. I wasn’t very familiar with his work at that time. I had a cassette of some of his songs and loved his work, but I had never heard the tune before.

Later I went on to Adelaide for three weeks to perform as a street performer at the Fringe. It was a rather alienating experience. At the time I had been performing at a lot of festivals all over the US and Canada, but Adelaide didn’t go very well for me. The street scene was a bit more of a drunken mess than I had anticipated and I never really found my audience. It was hard work hitting the Rundle Mall day after day, and I remember at night I’d go and lay down in a park or somewhere and look up at the sky above me, not recognising any of the constellations, and think, “Fuck, what the hell am I doing out here?”

On that trip I became smitten with a girl I met. We had a brief affair that ended swiftly and left me feeling the same way that the foreign constellations and the streets of Adelaide had. The song came out quickly, and while I wrote, I was very aware that it borrowed a bit from whatever I could remember of the melody that the woman in Sydney had hummed to me. I didn’t realise until I heard the song later how horribly I had ripped off Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat. But I decided not to change it. People still give me shit about it sometimes when they hear the song, but I still think it was a lovely way to steal a tune, and I hope that Leonard Cohen wouldn’t mind if he knew. I think he might like the song if he heard it.

ZF: Your compositions range in style from the gloriously and joyously absurd to the heart-breakingly serious (I’m looking at you, With). Is there a particular genre/style you prefer writing and performing?

JW: I don’t like to think in terms of genre generally. Whenever I start writing a song, and it feels a bit like it fits too well into a particular category, I always feel a bit embarrassed somehow. I like songs that feel like they could have been written a hundred years ago. My songs, these days, do seem to get divided into categories of totally ridiculous silly songs and the serious ones… I think when I first started I had a lot more material that somehow lived in between those extremes.

You mention With. That was an interesting one. I wrote that song as some kind of hello, a welcome, but to everyone else it must look like a song about letting go—and I suppose I see it that way too now. That song gets played at funerals.

ZF: You’ve been compared to figures like Tom Waits. This might have been an easy comparison early on in your career, but you’ve long-since developed a sound all your own. If you could coin a title or description for the Jason Webley sound, what would you call it?

JW: I generally try to avoid defining my own music. That is other people’s job… If somebody has to coin a title for the Jason Webley genre, I hope I have nothing to do with it. I guess, on my flyers I lazily put “punk accordion” because I think that helps give people an evocative, simple idea of what to expect. But in a lot of ways that doesn’t make sense, the music isn’t punk and I only play accordion about half of the time. There are all of these labels though—stomp punk, gypsy punk, steam punk, punk cabaret, folk punk, whatever. They don’t really mean anything to me.

ZF: Your lyrics frequently stray into the realm of poetry (especially on albums like Only Just Beginning). Do you consider yourself a poet as well as a musician? What’s your usual song-writing process?

JW: It’s funny, I don’t really consider myself to be a poet or even exactly a musician. I’m a terrible instrumentalist (really, I am, trust me.) And whenever I write, I never would call myself a poet. I guess I call myself a songwriter, which is sort of a marriage of the two and sort of a compromise of the two.

I don’t have a usual songwriting process. Most of my songs, at least the ones that are worth anything, have arrived at my home uninvited, conveyed by their own unique form of transport.

ZF: I particularly enjoy the way your albums (especially Counterpoint and Against the Night) reward repeat listens by revealing layers and patterns in both sound and lyric. Webley albums feel like treasure hunts. The Cost of Living is a very different album, but a particularly cohesive album thematically.

JW: The Cost of Living was a different sort of album for me. I’m not sure if you notice, but there aren’t as many “treasure hunts” you mentioned going on with that one. There are certainly themes and there are a few melodic shapes that return, but I didn’t construct it in the same way as the other albums with all of the internal references between the songs. Another difference is that I also didn’t try so much to resolve whatever darkness comes up within the songs. For that reason, to me it is a much starker album than Against the Night and if it does somehow redeem itself and burn through the dark areas it touches on, it is because of something beyond my planning. I was a bit scared of that album while working on it. For a while I thought it might even have a bit of a curse. One of my best friends died shortly into the recording process and my father got very sick and nearly died right around the day it was released.

ZF: What are the benefits and challenges of working in collaboration as opposed to writing and performing solo?

JW: It is easier to reinvent yourself and try new things when you are bouncing ideas off of someone else. For me something in my inner-editorial board really relaxes and lets me make choices I’d never make on my own songs. Also, when I know I’m working with a new musician, even if they aren’t in the room, my mind starts going all sorts of places it would never go normally. That’s fun. But it can also be hard, and it is easy when working with others to write a lot of stuff that doesn’t actually penetrate very deeply. I believe Ayn Rand (who I don’t normally agree with) was right: nothing too remarkable ever gets done by a committee. If you have a bunch of people working on a song, it is very possible that the end result will work out to be much less than the sum of its parts. Although, maybe that’s wrong—the Beatles sure made amazing songs together and turned out a bunch of crap when they were on their own.

ZF: What kind of repertoire can we expect at your Australian shows? Old stuff? New stuff? Evelyn Evelyn stuff? Will we be treated to some songs we’ve never heard before?

JW: Well, since it has been four years, I do have a bunch of new stuff. Hopefully there will be a happy mix of it all: old songs, new songs, serious songs, silly songs, a few covers, a few old things that I wasn’t playing four years ago, and of course a few familiar songs. Last night I played a two-hour set in Perth, and I’m guessing that there were only about three or four songs that anyone there might have ever heard me perform when I was there last.

ZF: What are you most looking forward to getting up to in Australia? Do you have a favourite touring-Australia story from the past?

JW: I’m looking forward to getting to Hobart and exploring Tasmania a bit, since I’ve never been there before. I’m also playing in a bunch of smaller towns this time around—Canberra, Newcastle, Geraldton and Lismore. I’m very curious how those gigs will go.

As to Australian stories from the past—I’ve got a bunch. About half the songs on my third album, Counterpoint, were born in Australia. I still don’t like to think in terms of “favourites” but the full version of the story of Southern Cross was the one that stuck out from my first trip. An interesting anecdote is that I met Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls on that same trip, back before her band had formed when we were both street performers struggling and suffering in Rundle Mall in Adelaide.

ZF: Why the fascination with vegetables? And the number 11?

JW: The vegetable thing is or mostly was just a playful thing I did back in the beginning of my street performing. I’d wave a big toy carrot in the air to try and get the crowd worked up. You can also learn a lot from vegetables about how to live and die and about generosity. Vegetables are very generous. The number eleven is more complicated. It is an odd number.

ZF: Your website says you’ll be taking a long hiatus from touring after 2011. What’s in the works for 2012 and onwards?

JW: I don’t have any plans. The only thing I know is that I will be taking at least a year off from performing beginning on November 12th of this year. I love what I do though and hope it will continue in some fashion for a long, long time, but a voice that I trust has told me it is time to take a big break and I’m going to do that. I’m not sure how long the break will be or what exactly I will do after the break, but I hope very much that I’ll keep performing in some way and that it won’t take me four years to get back to Australia again.

[This is the full transcript of an interview I conducted for Rave Magazine. Go read that too!]
SILVER SIRCUS supports JASON WEBLEY at The Zoo in Brisbane on Wednesday, March 23 (yay!), but the remainder of his Brisbane touring schedule is as follows:

March 17—Canberra, AUSTRALIA – The Front
March 18—Sydney, AUSTRALIA – Camelot Lounge
March 19—Sydney, AUSTRALIA – Explicit Manor
March 20—Newcastle, AUSTRALIA – Great Northern
March 23—Brisbane, AUSTRALIA – The Zoo
March 24—Lismore, AUSTRALIA – Gollan Hotel