starman, cygnus

Fringe 2013 bis: more stand up, there's a surprise

Celia Pacquola is a pro, which sounds like lukewarm praise for a stand-up show but really isn't considering the constant background level of laughter she maintained throughout.

Sullivan and Bok, by contrast, were as patchy as they come but when their stuff worked, it was as good as anything I'd ever seen. I'm totally stealing Bok's line about retail being the coalface of the human condition. Sullivan actually carried off her comic-sociopath shtick, and is the only decent physical comedian I've seen this Fringe (admittedly, I haven't been looking). Bit too meta for their own good, though.

Aggressively Helpful, a triple act, were at least as patchy, but also involved a woman with a banjo singing about anal bleaching, an I, Robot-Fight Club mashup of sorts, and the only worthwhile interpretation of a Hilltop Hoods recording ever performed. They could have done with more snarky back and forth - the two "judges"/one "performer" stage setup was a lovely trick they didn't take enough advantage of... Also, the cupcakes on the poster are not false advertising.

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starman, cygnus

Fringe 2013: Huh, is that all I use this journal for?

Lily Slade Shaved Her Legs For This; pity that was apparently it as far as her preparations went. (I was going to give her credit for persistence in the face of a stony-silent audience, but then she put us out of her misery 20 minutes early.)

Nikki Britton, on the other hand, demonstrates the injustice of the world in an entirely different way: she’s not famous, and Corinne Grant is. Very good material, either avoiding the clichés inherent in a show whose basic theme is “follow your dreams” or playing it so hard and well you don’t care, stunning gifts for delivering it, and she deserves to be playing the big tent in the Garden rather than a small room at the Tuxedo Cat (then again, audience sweat levels are about the same . . . )

Nellie White’s One Handed Show at least had effort, and thought, and material to match the quality of the title, and the best choice of intro music for any stand-up show I’d ever seen. The trouble was Nellie seemed like she got into comedy because there were no job openings lecturing at uni. She clearly loved her subject, and kept going off on lengthy, informative, but joke-deprived tangents. Her impeccably deadpan style didn’t help. Seriously, if they ever make an Aussie version of Daria, we’ve got our lead.
starman, cygnus

Last minute Fringe notes

Gillian Cosgriff: Decent voice, worked the crowd well, serious gift for narrative songwriting. Her sound guy wants a slap in the face, though, I didn't even know you could get distortion one octave down from middle C. (Or maybe it's the equipment he had to work with's fault; still.)

Alan Anderson: I was going to say he was good but not great, then I looked at my watch as I walked out of the show. Half an hour late. It had started on time. It was only supposed to last an hour. My half-formed plans for the rest of the night were pretty much out the window. And I didn't give a damn, 'cause he and everyone else in the room had had that good a time. Points off for stock "wrong side of the tracks" jokes about Elizabeth and Salisbury, bonus points back on for making a "drink responsibly" joke about our esteemed former state Treasurer.

Sameena Zehra (of "Tea With Terrorists" fame, though I saw her elsewhere): Please, please, please come back. That was brilliant. I've never seen anyone so utterly at home on stage.
starman, cygnus

I'm too old for this shit, or notes from a Big Day Out

Eleven years later give or take a week, I go to the same rock festival, walk through the same gates, to the same stage, at the same time of day, to see the same band, wearing a T-shirt I bought at the gig eleven years ago. Not that rock music's stagnating or anything. And I'm not complaining, since Frenzal Rhomb's two greatest contributions to world culture were written after I saw them last.

Well, maybe I am complaining. If I'd known Best Coast were on before Frenzal, and if I'd known who Best Coast were, I'd've rocked up earlier. Bloody nice background music for the queue to the bag checks, as it was.

I do believe, with Gold Bloom, that the world has hit Peak Hipster: an obscure band not even iTunes or YouTube have heard of, four women on the side stage in front of maybe two dozen passers-by in the audience, blowing everyone's fucking minds. It's like someone gave Sleater-Kinney guitar lessons, in the same way someone taught Bradman to hit a cricket ball. It's like someone taught Zepp to harmonise. It's like God looked down on His creation, saw that it was not all good, and said, "lo, fuck the starving billions, I'ma make the perfect rock group". (Turns out that God, though He has exquisite taste in music, is kind of a dick.)

Okay, who let Kimbra onto an outdoor stage? The stuff that makes Triple J listeners dance is supposed to be kept locked up safely in the Boiler Room. Wait, she made Triple J listeners dance. You want to talk about rare talents . . .

The 'Gurge: still bloody funny. Still the nearest thing there is to an Aussie rap group worth listening to (the latter point follows from the former). And 'Polyester Girl' still sucks live.

Dangerous! (the exclamation mark is part of the name) made up in enthusiasm for what they lacked somewhat in skill. That's not a creative put-down of youthful naïvety—they actually did. They put on a really entertaining show with some fairly weak songs and it worked because they shouted and jumped around like they were working a crowd a hundred times the size.

The Living End were The Living End: rock solid, and if you didn't know the words just listen to what the guy next to you's roaring.

The Jezabels are held together by the singer and the drummer—not one beat or high note on the record they couldn't replicate live, which is saying a lot; besides those rare talents, they integrate keyboards into the act with dignity, and generally play as tight as the proverbial drum. Of course, however much stage presence the singer has, neither her nor the guitarist can do audience banter to save their lives. No-one's perfect. Oh, and word had apparently got around: the "obnoxious drunk in the moshpit" count matched You Am I's record and easily exceeded the Living End's.

Headline acts were Soundgarden (on the same stage as eighteen years ago, thank you very much) and Noel Gallagher. So, yeah, rock music? Stagnant as. Pity Adelaide Airport's runway apparently isn't wide enough to take a plane loaded with Kanye West's ego, that might've been worth sticking around for.

In summary: Jezabels good, Frenzal enjoyably retro, Kasabian good to sit down and scull an overpriced bottle of water to, and someone needs to give Gold Bloom a blank cheque and a studio deal yesterday.
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starman, cygnus

The Fringe! The Fringe!

I had something much longer and more pretentious written about Firestorm, but my phone ate it. In summary: the audience were there to see Beethoven's sixth symphony adapted for two pianos, one of those pieces which cannot be bad if scored and played without active malice or laziness. (Seriously. It may take an orchestra to give a thunderstorm nuance, but two pianos at least hint at what you're missing, and the piece itself is strong enough it'd still be worth listening to if scored for gumleaf, contralto and jet engine.) The performers were there to do the titular 'Firestorm', written by one of the pianists for two pianos, two clarinets, and wistful dreams of a full orchestra. I'm not sure how to write about classical, and judging by the notes in the programme, neither did the composer. And I'm not sure what the mark of success for modern classical music is; not putting the audience in mind of either elevator music or Looney Tunes is probably a good start (the first two movements failed these two tests in order), but there was an inspiration and innovation in the third which drew my attention in and held it there for the rest of the night. I rather hope they get their orchestra.

Bec Hill mixes straightforward narrative standup with genuinely inspired use of primary-school arts-and-craft-class props and Sam Simmons-esque replying-to-your-own-voiceover gags. Which works rather better than Simmons' surrealism on its own, for my money. If you don't feel some nostalgia for your youth, you have no soul. Well, either that or you got hauled up to the stage to take part in the school camp songs. Complete with hand gestures.

Diane Spencer was nearly as obscene as Abigoliah the other week. She also had the best narrative I've seen from a comedian since Hannah Gadsby last year, and the cleverest one I've ever seen, if let down a little in the translation (apparently, we don't have nasty enough anti-redhead slurs in Australia). And the best actual stand-up I've seen, in the sense of the best use of gestures, posture, and the mike to support her delivery. The fact that she was using those skills most memorably to illustrate the link between horror movies and fellatio is . . . well, one of those inexplicably brilliant things life occasionally throws at you. The fact that most of it was more subtle was, well. . . it takes a very gifted comic to give a dick joke nuance. She managed it.
starman, cygnus

. . . and some more Fringe stand-up.

Simon Pampena, “maths comedian”, should be prevented from repeating this performance at any cost, as he risks undoing all the good work Adam Spencer did for mathematicskind over the years. It’s not that he’s the worst comedian I’ve ever seen—that honour goes to European Man—but a show on one of my favourite topics (probability) should not leave me thinking that comedy should really be left to the Arts students. Making me wait ten minutes for a decent laugh is understandable; spending half of them singing the song from Flashdance, complete with relevant moves, merely serves as a reminder that playing the fool is no substitute for being funny.

With the bar set that low, Abigoliah Schamaun (yes, it’s her real name, and yes, her opening joke was about it) didn’t need to do much to lift my mood. In any case, her mix of self-deprecation, yoga stories, and a steadily rising tide of obscenity was brilliant. There’s a fine art to shocking an audience while making them laugh harder, which she pulled off beautifully.
starman, cygnus

More Fringe stand-up

. . . while I'm still a little bit emboozled, because God knows I won't remember much of this in the morning.

First of all, from last week before man-flu the plague a mild cold took me out of commission for the weekend, An Evening with Style and Panache. This is the kind of sketch show which is difficult to stuff up completely, if only because a bad sketch will end quickly. The obligatory "improv" with random words from the audience did not go so well, but the Shakespearean football hooligans worked brilliantly, the gentlemen's club sketch was appropriately vicious, and Mr Style's accent stopped grating surprisingly quickly.

Next, this past evening . . . going to an event advertised as a "comedy pub crawl" was perhaps not the smartest move for my liver, but after having to set foot on a university campus during O'Week it seemed unthinkable not to go on at least one.

Alan Anderson was a terrific emcee and a hoot even when he wasn't talking about booze, an accomplished heckler-dealer-wither (I'm sure I'll come up with a better word for that in the morning), though I don't know about an entire show about whiskey. Also, once he had a few in him and the audience on side, he started approaching Frankie Boyle levels of offensiveness, which may not seem quite so hilarious in the cold, hung-over light of day.

I had previously seen Janey Godley at a Rhino Room late show performing similar material, which pointed out a problem that wouldn't have otherwise been obvious: your enjoyment of the show will not depend on how well you can understand her (fairly thick Glasgow) accent, but rather on how well the rest of the audience can. When the audience gets into it, she's brilliant. When they don't . . . well, she kicks arse at dealing with hecklers, at least.

Marcel Lucont had better material last year than what he saw fit to bestow on us tonight, but the faux-franglais was still authentic-sounding, the timing perfect, and the attitude appropriately arrogant. If you're interested in the gigs at the link, check the posters at the Tuxedo Cat to see who his “guests” will be; I'm not sure how well he'll deal with having to improvise so much.

Ben Darsow, IIRC the only local to be seen, was best described as mediocre. One punchline in two was good. If he pesters you for audience participation, do try and give him something to riff off of because if not the gig's up shit creek.

Markus Birdman had the best facial hair of the evening and some opening gags about booze that would probably have been funnier if we hadn't been hearing stuff in a similar vein all night. Then he moved onto stuff that wasn't quite racist but, well, by the time he had half the audience goose-stepping around the pub I decided that then would be a good time to excuse myself and order a Polish vodka.
starman, cygnus


So, last night I caught Jen Brister, another comedian of the “embarrassing stories of family and sex” school, which isn't a problem as long as the jokes are good and the delivery works. Which it did, in an endearing I-haven't-done-this-material-before-so-bear-with-me kind of way. The crack about Qantas deserved to lose, everything else was a hoot that will only improve with time, sleep, and polish. And, frankly, nobody's got better real-life setup material: being invited as an actual lesbian to a focus-group screening of a lesbian porno of the kind aimed squarely at men may be the best source of anecdotal piss-taking ever.

Tonight . . . nothing, if this rain doesn't let up. Or I might drop by the Reading Room for suggestions.