Monday, April 09, 2007

Oot and Aboot

…in which jfox ventures forth outside to festivals of food and wine, the fina cultural weekend and the best of the v fest.

:: food and wine festival
the wind is beginning to bite and snap, its chilly fingers reaching in and icily poking in between layers of clothes. We headed out to enjoy the last of the twilight warmth before the cold truly settles in. Melbourne shrugged off the remains of summer with some free festivals for the last weekend of March, held in and around the hubs of Federation Square and Birrarung Marr.

Food and Wine Festival, Riverside Terrace and Federation Square

I don’t recall the Food and Wine Festival ever being this accessible. The Yarra River terrace was transformed with free-entry celebrations of Flour - think gozlemes, cakes, pides, breads, pastries and er….icecream; followed by Wicked Sunday featuring all things coffee, chocolate, more coffee and er…icecream. Three sites at Fed Square provided the opportunity to see chefs from fancy-pants restaurants such as Fenix, Maribyrnong Boathouse, Jacques Reymond, the Grand and chef-of-the moment, George Calombaris from the Press Club cooking up for appreciative foodies. Some chefs had more flair than others, we definitely want to visit the Boathouse based on the chef’s cheeky humour and portly belly!

As a devotee to food-porn, it was a fascinating insight into how dishes are created. One striking aspect was how a dish could be transformed from a basic foundation of ingredients simply by manipulating contrasting tastes and presenting with creative elegance. It really makes you appreciate the art of balance within a dish and reminded me how rough and ready my own concoctions are. The chefs really encouraged the audiences to think about how flavours and textures are put together and to try some techniques at home. And not surprisingly, they were equally passionate about fresh, quality produce.

:: fina festival weekend

Following on from the rip roaring success of the Commonwealth Games Cultural festival last year, this years big sporting event, the FINA World Championships, was also accompanied by a free arts program to complement the splishing and a splashing at Rod Laver (what drought? what water shortage? let’s build a pool on a tennis court! this is another rant in itself).

I love that the curation of this festival was a bit left of centre, the acts we saw were wide ranging and packed a lot of spunk. Yayoi Kusama’s bright red mushrooms on the dried, yellowing grass of Birrarung Marr were an amazing sight. There were random life-savers, sea creatures (?) and sharks(?) literally running around striking random poses or creating random mischief. Adding to the carnivalesque atmosphere, the obligatory circus act with a twist: Queensland trio Circa performed 46 different acts in 45 minutes.
The most interesting act we saw was the European group, Ulik and Le Snob, an amazing gliding orchestra of brass and percussion. The trumpet, trombone and tuba were particularly striking - all bent up and wound up and down in odd ways. With flames on their metal hats/spires and floating around in matching black funnel costumes - the sight and sound was ominous and compelling.

Ulik and Le Snob
The most fun were Strange Fruit as the under 9’s B synchronised swimming team from Wangaratta. Wearing bright pink leotards and noseclips, this team presented their synchronised routine from bendy poles four metres in the air. They managed to be both graceful and playful and the humour of their show was infectious. They were a crazy sight sitting on the hill overlooking the Yarra River. It was a shame that the swimming championships themselves didn’t capture crowds as much as the acts on the river, perhaps this Festival Weekend will be able to stand alone without being tethered to a big sporting event next year!

Strange Fruit :: Synchro Swing, Birrarung Marr

:: best of the v festival

April 4th 2007, Sidney Myer Music Bowl

all work = no play = dull gal, it’s true! but I haven’t been locked that closely to the desk of late.

Courtesy of a certain Mr Branson and his V Festival, the reformed Pixies toured Australia for the first time. Very excitement! And although I was originally miffed at missing out on Gnarls Barkley and The Rapture due to us Southerner’s getting a split V Festival, the line up also featuring Jarvis Cocker, French band Phoenix and New York Dolls was something of a music nerdo’s dream – something for each of the last four decades.

We grabbed some goodies from the stupormarket, found a nice patch of lawn and settled in.

The NY Dolls have been variously credited with being spearheads for the punk and glam movements during the early 70s, way before The Ramones in the US and Sex Pistols in the UK. They opened with Personality Crisis and blistered through their set. Although their music sounded of their time, there was something about these old dudes rocking it out in front of young fans a third of their age. It really was fantastic to see!

Next up, Phoenix. OK. Hands up. Does anyone know of any French bands? I don’t mean ya electro/beatsy stuff - I’m talking guitars, drums, shoegazing or kick out the jam type bands. Anyway after a while, we stopped wracking our brains to enjoy the 80s dance/ hard beats of Phoenix. Other than the Merci beaucoups in between, you’d never know they were French as the singer adopted the international language of rock screaming. All in all, I reckon they’d be a great band to see in a smaller venue but perhaps not so challenging to listen to over and over. One thing was clear, they had their lighting cues down pat with their rhythmic tracks, it really added to their presence. And of course, we must thank Phoenix for leaking the news of the V Festival on their myspace calendar!

Jarvis Cocker was as big a drawcard for me as the Pixies. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Pulp (sadly, no Pulp songs in the set) so seeing the man himself seemed the next best thing. Drawing mostly from his latest album, Jarvis strutted, conducted/danced angularly and karate chopped his way across the stage. He was a fantastic showman, not so much chatting as thinking out loud to the audience in between songs such as Fat Children, Heavy Weather, Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time, I Will Kill Again and ending with C***s Still Rule The World (and hilarious commentary about the apparent ridiculousness of the taboo of c*** over words such as “frisbee. They’re just words”). It was somewhat disappointing not to hear any Pulp tracks, though I would say his solo work stands up well next to Pulp. Hopefully the charismatic Jarvis and the band will return soon.

And so to the Pixies. The V Festival had an area cordoned off with a long queue into this bar area: we wondered why you’d pay 100 bucks to drink in a small corner of the venue. As the time drew nearer, the bar area emptied out and filled up the Music Bowl showing that most people were there for the Pixies. They opened with Bone Machine (Freddy’s favourite) and their set included Wave of Mutilation, Here Comes Your Man (my favourite), Caribou, Planet of Sound, Where Is My Mind? and closed with Gigantic. They came back and played Debaser in the encore (their alias for a secret show at the Northcote Social Club). As you can imagine, it was an incredible playlist with their songs remaining fresh and diverse – melodic and cutesy to screeching and RAAAAWWWWK. Although there was some small banter from Kim Deal, there wasn’t a lot of chatting to the audience; it really was about the music. We were quite far away so we could barely make out Frank Black’s ever increasing chins, but it truly was exciting to hear these amazing songs played live. We all left with big grins on our faces and humming along to songs from the setlist (pics to be posted later...maybe?)

Enough festing/festering for the moment – back to the books!


Geoffrey Kong 江貴為 said...

Good to see that there's finally a free part to the Food and Wine Festival. $20 per head for entry (e.g. in 2005) is actually quite expensive, especially for family groups!

jp said...

i miss melbourne already! ;)

jfox said...

jp - you only say that cos you've been living in adelaide
"it's ok"

and a much less texty post next time i think!