Belgians, live music and getting old

Much like polishing floorboards and painting a house, it’s important to go backpacking…if only to ensure that you know to never do it again. In 1998 my then girlfriend (now wife) and I backpacked across Europe for 6 months, and from this experience I took away three things; Dogs in Portugal bite, I am not cut out to be a telemarketer, and Belgian band dEUS are pretty awesome.
14 years later I went and saw dEUS perform at the Corner Hotel…and they were indeed pretty awesome.

In 1999 dEUS released an album titled ‘The Ideal Crash‘…and I thought it was pretty much perfection. It has great lyrics, it was brilliantly produced…and it was sufficiently obscure to garner indie cred (the most precious of all cred). In fact if over the course of 1999 – 2000 you managed to spend time with me and not hear The Ideal Crash, Rebirth of Cool Phive or Endtroducing, then I clearly didn’t think all that much of you. At the same time I was also very much into local band Something for Kate, and when I scored a radio interview with their lead singer (Paul Dempsey) and got him to bring in a few tracks and he played a dEUS track…I reached the musical equivalent of Tantric sex.

But with the onset of a mortgage and then kids, I think it’s fair to say that my musical purchasing and gig going went into steep decline. I can remember being in the middle of the moshpit at a Rage Against the Machine gig at the Palace and seeing a whole lot of older guys standing on the outside of the mosh just watching the show. At the time I thought ‘Those guys don’t really appreciate this music…if they did they’d be in here like me, getting seven shades of shit pummeled out of them by some sweaty stranger!’ But then just a couple of years later I was that older guy, watching a group of kids smashing into each other in the mosh pit and thinking ‘How can those kids be appreciating the music if they’re doing that all show?!’ Then a couple of years later I was that guy driving along Punt Rd seeing a poster for a show and saying ‘Oh, the Decemberists toured last month. Shit!’

So when I heard that dEUS were touring Australia for the first time ever, I had to go. I called the usual suspects, and my brother was keen to come too…my brother-in-law was going to wait until every single band from Rebirth of Cool Phive was going to appear on the same night. So tickets were purchased and suddenly I was back to that excitement of going to a gig. Because I love live music. I love that strange alchemy that happens when a band and an audience suddenly connect and make something amazing happen. Sometimes it just builds over the course of a gig to a point where no-one wants to go home (thank you Morphine at the Prince of Wales), sometimes there is a moment when everything just clicks (thank you Portishead at Festival Hall), sometimes the band can feel it just isn’t happening and take a 10 minute break on stage to try and work out what’s going wrong…then came back and blow the audiences mind (thank you Dandy Warhols at the Forum), sometimes it’s a flamenco dancer under a single spotlight dancing up a storm while the drummer joins in and then the entire band just explodes to life (thank you The Cat Empire at the Forum)…and sometimes it’s just Gil Scott-Heron at The Lounge.
These moments are seared into my brain. I can still picture and recreate all of them, and I think that’s because the link we share with music is just so primal, and so the feeling of experiencing this link with a group of people ticks so many psychological boxes that your brain just says ‘right, we’re not likely to need long division anymore…so I’m replacing that knowledge with a memory of this experience.’

I won’t say that the dEUS gig entered my pantheon of gig mythology…but they were freaking awesome. It was just so great to see a band that have been playing together for so long, and know exactly how to put on a show. It was inspiring to see how an amazing live band interprets a brilliant studio album. It was surreal to spend so much of the night standing next to Michael Gudinski. It was depressing to be getting so old that security don’t even bother asking for ID. It was serendipitous to see Paul Dempsey at the gig, and for dEUS to play live the song he brought in for my radio show (‘Instant Street’). But most of all, it was just great to be back out and seeing a live band again.

So let’s all revel in the fact that Melbourne is such a great live music city, let’s get out and see a couple of gigs, let’s reminisce about those great gigs that we have seen, and most of all, let’s never admit that the first live concert we ever went to was Bon Jovi at the Tennis Centre.
If you’ve had an amazing live music experience…or if you’d like to finally admit that you’ve seen Bon Jovi live…I’d love to hear about it.

Why I love Instagram

As most of you probably know, Facebook recently purchased Instagram for $US 1 billion (which is about $AUS 2 billion if Adobe or Apple are charging…but that rant is for another time). This was disappointing on a few levels:
Firstly I don’t really like Facebook,
Secondly I had hoped that Google would purchase it for Google+,
…and Thirdly because I had offered to buy the company for $85, and that was now looking like it wasn’t going to be enough.

But none of this has been enough to diminish my love of this app. So I’m No Expert But…here’s why I love Instagram.

1. It can make remarkably average photos look sensational.
Allow me to present exhibit A:


2. It’s very easy to use
Just download the app onto your phone, then either take a photo with the app, take a photo with the phone’s camera or choose a photo from your library.
Open this photo in the app and start adding filters, blurs and borders.
Once you’re happy with how it looks you can then add it to your Instagram account, share it on Twitter or Facebook… and the photo is saved in your library if you want to email or text it.

3. Filters and blurs
There are about 18 filters available, giving you everything from pronounced black and blues, through to washed out reds and black and white. I personally like ‘X-pro II’, ‘Lo-fi’ and ‘hefe’. But it really depends on the photo you’re using.
The are only two blurs, but they are awesome. There is a circular blur that you can manipulate the size of, and that can used to cheat a depth of field. And there is a straight line blur which can create a pretty cool tilt-shift look.
One feature I’ve been using a lot is the ‘lux’ tool (the little sun like icon in the bottom left of your screen). It basically adds contrast and saturation to the image (the before and after shot above is a really good example of what it does).

4. But it’s not real photography
I can remember my guitar teacher telling me how he had played guitar for a couple of years and then bought his first wah-wah pedal…and suddenly everything he played sounded awesome. But he got so carried away with playing with the pedal that his actual  skills deteriorated.
This app can definitely have the same impact on your photography, an average photo can be made look pretty damn good. So you can get a tad sloppy.
But by the same token, I’ve learnt a lot about shooting with the filters in mind and have found that I’ve been getting better results out of Lightroom because I know what I’m looking to do.

5. It ain’t perfect…but it’s free
I discovered Instagram because I was annoyed by the shortcomings of Hipstamatic (limited preset looks, missed shots because the app was ‘cleaning the lens’, inability to apply effects to existing photos etc)…so initially it ticked a lot of boxes. However it would be great if the photos could be saved at a higher res (you can do this by using the camera in the app…but I don’t like that camera as much). I would really like to enlarge and print some of the photos I’ve taken…but the file size is so small that it look pixelated on anything larger than a phone.
I’d also like to have another black and white filter…the one that’s there already is pretty washed out and it would be nice to have one that had more shadows and contrast.
But seeing as I paid $0 for it…I’m not going to complain.

So if you haven’t already got it, then I recommend downloading and having some fun. If you’re using some alternative apps I’d love to hear what you’re using and why…and if you want to follow me on Instagram my use name is @sumo_21

I’ll leave you with some photos I took on a recent trip to Geelong and Warrnambool.