close

Culture

CultureMusic

Alex Lahey: Wes Anderson Tour

18789836_10154489734275718_777168022_o

With the struggle of exams fast approaching, we thought we were done with live music after going to Groovin the Moo at the end of week 10. It was our ‘last hurrah’ for the semester, as I specifically called it.

But on Friday afternoon on the 19th of May, sub-editor Jessica messaged me saying that she had two tickets to Alex Lahey’s gig at the Howler in Brunswick that night and that she couldn’t make it to the show. While Friday night plans not involving studying aren’t exactly at the top of everyone’s priorities (or at least shouldn’t be at this time of semester), we jumped at the opportunity to go. For two Alex Lahey fans, last minute tickets to her sold-out Melbourne show were just too good to pass up.

Alex Lahey is a compelling singer-songwriter from Melbourne and Monash alumni who has recently risen to prominence after the release of her catchy debut EP B-Grade University. Lahey has a knack for storytelling through her often hilarious, sometimes frank but always charismatic songs full of energetic guitar riffs. From having to fund the recording of her EP last year by selling her prized blue 1999 Corolla, Alex Lahey sure has come a long way. Highlights now include being featured on Pitchfork as one of their ‘Best New Tracks’, being played regularly on high rotation at triple j and coming in at 97 on their Hottest 100 to boot, supporting indie darlings Tegan and Sara on their world tour, playing at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and now selling out much of her own Australian Tour. We’re certainly massive fans, so it’s not hard to see how she’s amassed such a vast following with her enviable effortless songwriting style. Her indie-rock tunes are undeniably relatable.

After thoroughly enjoying her set at Groovin the Moo, and again earlier this year at the Old Bar at an intimate gig with Camp Cope, we were pumped to see her for the third time live, which says a bit about how great we think she must be. After doing a quick search of the event to suss out what arrival time was optimal, we found out The Football Club and Alexander Briggs were also playing. We decided on jumping in the car pretty much straight away, to make the beginning of The Football Club’s set. We had both heard their latest release Ivy on triple j before and thought they were worth another listen. We found their old catalogue on Soundcloud and we decided to familiarise ourselves on the way there, as it’s always better seeing a band live if you actually know their material.

The Football Club are a self-described folk-punk band from Footscray, with their sound forming from the composition of their members after originally aspiring to be indie-pop or something similar. Their songs are sad, emotional, and touch on issues of gender, sexuality, love and navigating your way through life a confused young “adult” in the vastly diverse and sometimes downbeat city of Melbourne. The lead singer Ruby is transgender, and her songs give you an intimate glimpse into her life. The familiar Ivy is both heart-wrenching and beautiful. She touches on issues of people failing to recognise her transition –

Yeah it makes me upset, but I try not to let it get to me, I’ve adjusted to the fact you’ll probably never call me Ruby”.

For those with a keen eye, Ruby is wearing an Alex Lahey t-shirt in the Ivy music video and both of their songs feature the word Ivy. Fitting.

Ruby did not fail to put on awe-inspiring show. She was funny and lighthearted. She made sure to tell the audience repeatedly that they were super broke from touring and that we should all buy their merch to give them a hand. She also told us to follow her on Instagram (roobastank_) which of course, we did. This came after having some enlightening dialogue with an Instagram fan who she happened to have many similarities with such as moving from Queensland to get away from their families a little.

Providing us with sobering insight to each of their personal and truly heartfelt lyrics, Ruby drew a fitting parallel with Lahey’s “emo-banger” You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me (YDTYLPLM) to their song Girlcrush, in that they were opposites. Girlcrush describes the situation where one person thinks they are attracted to Ruby and wants to be in a relationship, but Ruby sees through this as a superficial desire and nothing more. YDTYLPLM can be read as someone who perhaps doesn’t realise they are queer or can be attracted to Lahey but actually is. Obviously this proved that The Football Club were destined to be on this tour with their similarly enthralling storytelling.

Another standout track was How to Build a Girl, describing the struggle of being a transgender woman when society doesn’t exactly embrace you. We could see that the quickly growing crowd connected to the subject matter very deeply on a personal level. Ruby poured her heart out and the audience latched onto every last word, appreciating her strength in sharing her experiences. In an area “where even a Google search won’t do you any favours”, we sincerely believe that the Football Club are genuinely going to help others in similar situations.

At one point in the night, we definitely felt the connection to Girlcrush’s line –

We went to some club on Brunswick Street, where we spent one hundred bucks on two drinks each”.

The vibes at the show were welcoming and friendly, a capacity crowd of lovely Melbournites with a shared affinity in being in the age of figuring things out and not being quite sure of themselves.

Alex Lahey described this tour as a somewhat bookend from her EP B-Grade University and her first set of proper shows back after her stint overseas to the ever encroaching album release date which she had only just completed recording. We felt a sense of nostalgia for her known tracks as now she’s moving on from uni, but also anticipation for her new stuff that’s sure to be as affable and as foot-tap inducing as the old.

She opened with Wes Anderson, the song that the tour is named for and one that’s particularly relatable to us. We also like to think Alex Lahey is comparable to Wes Anderson at some level in terms of their creative genius. Her songs often touch on her uni days. In the first verse of Wes Anderson, the lyrics read –

I slept in this morning, because your bed is so much better than mine, you had left for uni, so I changed my phones alarm time”.

You could see the swelling crowd singing along to every word. Lahey certainly wasn’t afraid to showcase some new material though, with Weekend and Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder (she was unfortunately dumped in Perth but still appreciates the city’s beauty). Following the hit L-L-Leave Me Alone which is about a far too clingy ex, Alex trialled some even newer stuff, to which I can’t confirm exactly which tune in my head belongs to which song but that I felt instantly connected and at ease with to all of them. Her specific brand of hazy, relatable music means that I am constantly regretting not filming more of her songs to tide me over until the release.

One of the songs which I feel like I’ve heard before but am also yearning to hear again goes like “I don’t know much more about you but it seems to me that you’re my type … even when you’re out of town, even when you’re up and down, even when I’m on the road, even when you’re on the phone” which I can deduce that it’s probably called I Want You and is about a relationship she wants but maybe isn’t really there.

She then played one of her most well-known songs, Ivy League, with the iconic line “I went to B Grade University and got myself an Arts degree” in the chorus. This has to be her most relatable song, especially for us as Monash students where we’ve likely been told many a time that we’re just wasting our years with little job prospects. Her EP cover features a National Union of Students (NUS) poster, her Monash student ID card, cup noodles, books, beer, and a “Fight the Fees! Rally today!” poster. Contemporary Monash uni student starter-pack really.

Another experience she shared was a time where she played a show with only three audience members. One being her manager, one her friend and the other who did not like her music. A stark comparison to the packed out Howler band-room who were all there because of her. Following this, her new songs Love You Like a Brother and I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself that have clear family influences but also great rhythms had us instantly hooked.

One of her final songs for the night was the aforementioned hit You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me, a song that we think is about love, and maybe being queer, but we can’t be too sure. And after all, the meaning of music changes with different individual interpretations that connect to our own personal experiences.

To the audience’s delight, she managed to include her cover of Torn, that she has just played on triple j’s Like A Version the same day of the gig. Lahey explained how she made some sort of bet with her manager about it as a bit of a laugh. She said that if she was ever invited to play a Like A Version (pretty big deal), that she would play the classic. And she did.

Her and her band gave a passionate cover of the song (which was made famous by Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia), with an incredible guitar solo at the end, filling the audience with nostalgia and making the old classic suddenly relevant again in 2017. While the original is great, Alex’s version felt more emotional and passionate, with heavier guitar and bass, and deeper vocals. She didn’t just give the song justice, she transformed it. We actually prefer it over the original.

Ending possibly her second ever encore – Alex Lahey is very clear on her encore experience and just how privileged she thinks she is that enough of us like her so that she gets one, Let’s Go Out was blasted out. This summed up our amazing night, not spent studying in Clayton, but being immersed in the perhaps one of the cooler aspects of living in Melbourne. I can’t say there’s live music of this calibre every weekend in my hometown of Auckland.

To our surprise, we got to meet her after the show. We took a blurry selfie with her and she confirmed for us that Ivy League is indeed about Monash. Apparently she did an Arts/Music double degree, dropped music, and graduated with an Arts degree that inspired her to write the song. She did say that Monash was cool, but she just happened to have a bit of a shit time and that it wasn’t exactly for her. (Don’t worry Alex, we feel you).

If you’re as talented as Alex, maybe the right move is to pursue your real interests, something that the uni environment doesn’t always encourage. Having the had the adrenaline rush from meeting her, we ended up buying a bunch of her merch, including her CD, to support her.

I think what impressed us the most about the performance is that Alex is always her authentic self. She wears jeans, no makeup, has an air of nonchalance while she genuinely enjoys the music she’s playing for us. She’s just herself, and she’s effortlessly cool just like that.

 

Alex Lahey will be performing at the Metro in Sydney on June 30th and at the Corner in Richmond on July 1st as a part of the all girl line up promoting female achievements for Electric Lady.

She will also be touring in the UK and Europe in November. Further details can be found here.

B Grade University is available here and Alex Lahey merch here.

Music and merch from The Football Club can be found here.

read more
Culture

Conflicted Histories: A Reflection on Brook Andrew’s ‘The Right to Offend is Sacred’

The Right to Offend is Sacred (Linh Nguyen)(5)

 

Artist: Brook Andrew

Curator: Judith Ryan

The Ian Potter Centre,

NGV Australia, Federation Square

Level 3

3 March — 4 June 2017

Free Entry

 

I dedicate this exhibition to those who wish to see clearly the histories and legacies of the often unseen.

To the wealth of hidden memories, treasures, bodies and systems that sty in dark places, away from the light of so-called ‘light-giving’ civilisations.

– Brook Andrew

‘Indigenous art has not yet fully escaped from the ethnographer’s classifying microscope and been allowed to speak to us on its own terms, to exert its power through metaphor as an undiluted expression of a particular culture.

…Visual art is a universal language that is open to all peoples to use and appreciate. The European construct is anthropology, a discipline and a methodology masquerading as a science, which evolved in tandem with social Darwinism as a means of studying and classifying colonised peoples and pigeonholing them into hierarchies.’ 

– Judith Ryan, ‘The Raw and the Cooked: The Aesthetic Principle in Aboriginal Art’

 

SOVEREIGNTY

My first encounter with Brook Andrew’s art was when I saw the recent Sovereignty exhibition at ACCA. His work is striking, visually and physically imposing – audacious, defiant, challenging. In the middle of the gallery space a giant globe hung above my head, striped like the back of a zebra. Every few moments the globe’s colour would change – pink, blue, green, white, purple – like a warm pulse emitting through the room, casting a faint glow in the gallery space.

Sovereignty Exhibition

I found out later that this black and white patterning is a motif that reoccurs in Andrew’s art; it’s inspired from the carvings of Wirandjuri culture. This is one way tradition is refashioned in contemporary expressions.

 

KILL PRIMITIVISM

The Right to Offend is Sacred is a solo-exhibition that surveys Brook Andrew’s art practice over his 25-year long career. Above the entrance to NGV’s exhibition one is confronted with the text, in pink neon:

The ‘primitive’ was, and continues to be, a colonial fantasy. European imperialism was imbued with a dual fascination and terror toward the savage, primitive ‘Other’; the alien, uncivilized races of barbaric lands. Across the globe, the colonised has been subjected to the dehumanizing logic of classification – European methods of collecting, categorising and displaying – as a specimen to be studied.

The first room in Andrew’s exhibition is dark; the walls painted black, the glow from a single line of neon that runs across the room the only source of light. The gallery contains what can only be described as layers of historical artefacts. A glass cabinet sits in the middle of the room; it displays books, newspaper clippings, maps, photographs. ‘THE PRIMITIVE MIND BOUGHT CLOSER TO OUR UNDERSTANDING’ is the title of one such historic work; it sits next to newspaper clippings and photographs of the atomic bomb testing conducted in remote communities in Australia during the 1950s’.

 

REASSEMBLING THE ARCHIVE; REASSEMBLING HISTORY  

A central theme in Brook Andrew’s practice is the interrogation of historical archives, of challenging and subverting the hegemonic lens of western anthropology. Andrew views this exhibition at NGV Australia as a large scale ‘museum intervention,’ an opportunity to excavate and explore ‘hidden or alternative narratives.’ Through the reappropriation of historical and ethnographic artefacts, Andrew engages with questions of representation in institutions and spaces such as the museum gallery, unseating the conventional ways in which Indigenous culture has been presented. He deconstructs and scrutinizes dominant Western narratives, placing Australia at the centre of a global inquiry into the structure and legacy of colonialism.

‘It’s an assembly of the archive…I wanted to bind complex histories together. It’s an assembly of histories.’

Brook Andrew

Andrew deploys, layers, and destabilizes the archive through his subversive montaging of images, histories, and methodologies. His art defies simplistic categorization, often interweaving different materials, processes, and images into one work. Andrew pushes the boundary of his medium, juxtaposing photography and video with text and collage, painting and print, sculpture and installation. This dynamic intermingling of different mediums often results in art that is unexpected and disobedient.

 

(RETURNING) THE COLONIAL GAZE

A series of ethnographic portraits sit on easels lined up in the middle of the second gallery; the faces of First Nations Peoples from around the world stare out at you, the visitor.

The figures in the portraits are returning the gaze; they seem to be looking at you, looking at them. One is made hyper-aware of this act of looking – of being implicated within the colonial gaze itself. In this way, Andrew is inviting us to reconsider our own structures of understanding, our own practices of observation and interpretation. The exhibition forces us to examine our own position in relation to colonial history.  

PASTS/PRESENTS/FUTURES

In his art practice, Brook Andrew examines how the legacy of historical trauma is manifested in the present, reframing historical narratives and interrogating our collective cultural inheritance.

Andrew invites us to consider alternative ways of inhabiting and interpreting the world; of viewing the past, the present, the future. He merges and layers archives, images, and references in a non-linear fashion, weaving and suggesting alternative narratives than the dominant one we receive. The teleological ordering of knowledge, of history, and of peoples into distinct categorizations is a European colonial construct; Andrew challenges and subverts this mode of presenting the past. The Right To Offend Is Sacred demands engagement; it’s an exhibition that needs to be felt, experienced, and seen, in all it’s multisensory glory.

 

read more
Culture

Review: Free Fire

c64b2e3b07616fe6c580b1f8b24bf0ed

It’s been twenty five years since Reservoir dogs burst onto the indie film scene, using a secluded
warehouse as the key setting and witty dialogue to create suspense, humour and memorable
violence. Most notably, it launched first-time director Quentin Tarantino to super stardom. Over two
decades on, it stands as one of the greatest crime films of the twentieth century and a clear
influence on Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire.

Free Fire is brave enough to attempt something I’m sure many audacious directors have wanted to
achieve, yet for reasons of pacing, character and narrative were never able to crack: a feature
length gunfight.

Perhaps it was the monumental success of Mad Max Fury Road, a film which is effectively a two
hour long car chase yet was a critical and commercial hit, that made room for this kind of film. And
while Free Fire is nowhere near as innovative as either of the two films mentioned above, it is still
an entertaining watch.

The film centres around a gun deal gone wrong, with two sides pushed to either side of a
warehouse and alliances quickly being tested. What is important about a film concerned with this
sort of highly staged action is that a clear sense of space and location is established. Wheatley
mostly fails on this point. Constantly I found myself struggling to tell where a character was and
who was near them, instead most shots feel like hero shots created specifically for promotional
material: Armie Hammer aims and fires a gun directly at the camera, Brie Larson runs across the
space with gunfire coming at her from all fronts, Sharlto Copley ducks behind a pillar, with the
camera looking up at him. They make for impressive visuals but you find yourself struggling to
comprehend where characters are placed and who is shooting at who. Wheatley never slows the
pace down to take advantage of long shots to map out the location, something the film desperately
needs.

Interestingly it is when the gunfire briefly stops that the film is at its most interesting, ceasefires and
deals are made, alliances are formed and mysteries are investigated, Wheatley’s dialogue is
jagged and witty and is delivered by some of the most charismatic actors in the business, packing
more of a punch than the many wasted bullets.

The film’s high point is the use of cause and effect. The film moves like a Rube Goldberg machine,
every little bit of dialogue, action, or piece of information shared sparingly, adds up to a rapidly
moving sequence of events, a characters black eye leads to small snippet of dialogue leads to a
confrontation between two individuals that leads to gunfire. Wheatley masterfully uses plants, red
herrings, Mcguffins and plot twists to keep viewers invested. It’s a shame that one of the main
mysteries of the film solves itself early, with very little payoff, instead making time for gunplay.

Performances for the most part are strong. Sharlto Copley steals every second he’s seen or even
heard from behind a piece of debris. Copley’s gunrunner Vernon is described as someone
misdiagnosed as a child genius and has never let it go. His performance is hilarious, perfectly
capturing the stupidity and cowardice of Vernon with a fast talking charm and exceptional delivery,
leaving the audience laughing at every line that comes out of his mouth. Armie Hammer’s Ord and
Cillian Murphy’s Chris are the brains of the respective crews opposing one another, Murphy
performs with realism and authentic empathy, while Hammer is cool headed, carrying an American
swagger and apathy that contrasts Chris’s humanity. Character actors like Noah Taylor and
Michael Smiley are serviceable to the film’s pulpy frenetic feel and are a fun addition.

The real disappointment of the film is Brie Larson as Justine. The academy award winner is
arguably the biggest draw for audiences, yet she feels as though she just walked off the set of
Kong:Skull Island. She plays the same archetype, a confident feminist in the machismo 1970s, it’s
not a bad performance, but it feels lazy and uninspired, especially for an actor of her capabilities,
though some of the blame is to be put on Wheatley’s script as she is initially established as able to
hold her ground with the tough guys yet she quickly becomes a damsel in distress when the guns
start firing. One sequence, where Taylor chases her through a hallway, plays out more like a
stereotypical Slasher film than a stylish crime comedy and is rather jarring.

Ultimately, Free Fire never reaches the heights of the influences of Tarantino, Brian DePalma and
executive producer Martin Scorsese it wears on its sleeve, but it does carry its own distinct style
and quality, acting as an immensely fun and well structured, if forgettable, comedy.
Free Fire may not land a Bullseye, but it does manage to hit the target.

3/5

Free Fire is playing at selected cinemas. 

read more