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Words by Kevin Hawkins

The only other time I’ve seen Lehmo speak at a live event was on 23 February, at the Reza Berati #lightthedark vigil. That evening, the breakfast morning radio presenter and refugee rights advocate gave an impassioned and thought-provoking speech, defending people seeking asylum. It was a breath of fresh air to hear an Australian personality uninhibited by the commercial or political pressures of television or radio, and just speaking their mind.

While Lehmo wasn’t particularly funny that evening, his speech that night gave me the impression that he would be one person worth seeing at the upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I didn’t expect him to preach his political values at his audience (only Tom Gleeson can get away with that), but I expected him to bring intelligence – or a sharp wit, at the very least – to his performance.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, but LEHMOOOO!!! (Get Involved) failed to deliver. While his set was amusing, one gets the impression Lehmo didn’t work particularly hard on writing his material. He took aim primarily at the low-hanging fruit*: the Corby family, the Southern Star, his nagging girlfriend, cheap airlines, and bogans. I’d be lying to say I didn’t laugh at anything, but there wasn’t much in Lehmo’s repertoire that I hadn’t heard before. Perhaps the best way to sum it up is that Lehmo’s best material was a running gag about cats, and a joke about MH370*.

Lehmo’s formulaic routine certainly doesn’t compromise the great work he does as an ambassador for Welcome to Australia, Make It Possible, and Live Below the Line – among other initiatives. But those hoping for something more intelligent than your typical stand up routine might be better off waiting around for the next asylum seekers rally.

LEHMOOOO!!! (Get Involved) is on at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the Melbourne Town Hall on 14 April.

Words by Kevin Hawkins

If you voted for either the Coalition or the Greens in the last federal election, chances are that you won’t appreciate all of Tom Gleeson’s comic material. With mic in hand and audience at his feet, Gleeson’s one-hour show Quality is an opportunity for him to speak about his political beliefs (and specifically his hate for Tony Abbott). And there’s nothing the audience can do about it.

Two things save Gleeson from crowd heckling and mid-show walkouts. The first is that his show is part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, a cultural event in arguably Australia’s most progressive left city. The second is that Gleeson is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Even if you’re ideologically opposed to some of his rants, it’s difficult not to appreciate his clever critiques of the government’s demand for a surplus or their lack of action on climate change, not to mention his caricature of Tony Abbott as a bumbling idiot.

While politics is a prominent theme of his set, Gleeson is smart enough not to limit himself to that arena. Gleeson speaks in depth about his experiences as a parent, and is brutally honest about his struggles with alcoholism and his sessions with his counsellor. Gleeson’s confessions may make some audience members a little uncomfortable; laughing at Gleeson’s expense has more than a little bit of schadenfreude to it. But Gleeson’s self-deprecating style and ability to read the audience means the show is more than just a sad AA meeting.

While converting his crowd into Labor supporters probably isn’t Gleeson’s intention, it wouldn’t be surprising if a few audience members leave the show with a few reservations about Tony Abbott, or a few question marks over the Greens. In doing so, Gleeson demonstrates how powerful comedy is as a persuasive tool. While my personal allegiance to Sir Tony was not shaken by Gleeson’s repertoire*, the quick-witted comedian nevertheless convinced me of his natural comedic talent. And for this reason I’d implore you to give him your vote.

*Disclaimer: Don’t worry. I didn’t actually vote for Tony Abbott.

Tom Gleeson’s Quality is on at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the Melbourne Town Hall from April 10-20.

Words by Scout Boxall

Recorded on the edge of the Texan desert, Post Tropical has a quiet wildness to it. Its simple acoustic hooks and harmonies are glazed in hoarfrost. Each key change is warm enough to thaw out a wind-beaten travelling salesman leaning over a hearth. Sometimes, the ever-restrained James Vincent McMorrow will allow the music to swell for a few seconds. It’s like the brave little last rays of the sun seep over the horizon, before sinking into a beautiful grey dusk.

McMorrow – a former airport trolley attendant – has the dry-lipped, breathless voice of a lover. You can barely decipher the lyrics, but that doesn’t really matter. Each track is brutally, beautifully simple – no more than two instruments accompany his voice at any one time. He lulls you to sleep. Then, his signature sky-scraping falsetto pierces the music like a needle through felt. You shudder up in awe. (In live shows, even the most seasoned audiences gasp at the power of his voice.)

Post Tropical is a palate cleanser, best listened to on the tram with closed eyes and cold hands. Even though it runs just under an hour, it’s difficult to swallow the entire album in one sitting. The opening to Post Tropical “Cavalier” combines unresolved piano chords with quiet clapping, reminiscent of fellow Briton James Blake. But the music’s heartbeat remains constant. McMorrow manages to punctuate the monotony with a few tricks. “The Lakes” pulls together fifty mandolins to mimic running water. “Gold” soars into a muted trombone and a swan-necked clarinet. “Repeating” has a crackling snare drum underneath what sounds like children singing on a merry-go-round, swinging in and out of focus. “Outside, Digging” has a distinct gospel feel. Nonetheless, after a while, the hollow drum, haunting vocals and trembling steel guitar makes you restless.

His debut album, Early In The Morning, placed him squarely in the folk-indie-rock camp. It was an innocuous collection of strumming guitars and lilting bridges; nothing special. But McMorrow’s sophomore effort has teeth. If his first album was saccharine, then his second is caramelised and salted. McMorrow sounds half as coy, twice as wistful. Imagine Mumford And Sons, stripped of the incessant ukulele and predictable foot-stamping chorus. Combine this with Justin Vernon’s hermitage and Fleet Foxes’ haunting confessional harmonies. Strain out any Alt-J-esque sweetness. Serve raw and cold. There you have the humble and honest music of James Vincent McMorrow. It’s not ground-breaking or revolutionary, but it’s damn good.

Must listen to: All Points, Gold, Repeating

Record company: Believe/Dew Process

Release date: January 3rd, 2014

Words by Giuliana Cincotta

“Hey, an idea, what happened to the kid from The Shining?” asks Stephen King in the author’s notes to Doctor Sleep, the brave and highly anticipated sequel to the 1977 bestseller.

Kicking off where Danny Torrance – who now opts for the more mature ‘Dan’ – left off: bemused by the horrors of the Overlook Hotel and the evils that lurked within. Fast-forwarding through the protagonist’s childhood to a predictably troubling adult life, Dan, now plagued by inherit alcoholism (thanks Jack!), faces a struggle between sanity and succumbing to the terrors of a burdening childhood nightmare.

King changes the pace by alternating between perspectives, introducing new faces that become increasingly important as the story progresses. Through this, we are introduced to one significant new player, Abra Stone, a bright twelve-year-old girl and incredibly powerful shiner. As she comes in contact with Dan through their mutual bond, the novel parallels its predecessor: Abra comes to bear prominence as the new Danny Torrance, and Dan now fills the position of Abra’s shining coach, or the new Dick Hallorann. 

With this, as with all good King novels, evil always lurks beyond the surface, this time taking form in the ‘True Knot’, a child-killing vampire cult who travel across America in their façade as harmless Winnebago folk, hunting for steam. Much like your typical vampire, steam is like blood to the Knot but with one exception: it must come from those with the shining. Feeding off the screams and drinking the pain of their victims, these empty devils are kept satisfied, thriving for as long as their waning supply endures.

If you can get past the Knot’s comical and sometimes cringe-worthy names – see Barry the Chink, Crow Daddy and Rose the Hat (who coincidentally wears a hat!) – you’ll find a brooding pack of addicts that are far more meticulous than your average rogue group of killers. Despite this, King still delivers his usual dose of blood-curdling similes and gruesome descriptions to keep you reading until you dream of red.

Though there are moments of banality, and the final confrontation beckons a sense of predictability, the novel is ultimately concerned with the more malignant and familiar horror of, not demons and beasts, but addiction. As the Knots viciously scavenge to get their fix, and Dan comes to face regrettable situations of his drunken past, King delves into the harsh reality of abuse and excess.

If you’re expecting The Shining Part II, give Doctor Sleep a miss. But be aware that beyond the over-hype surrounding this sequel lies a story screaming to be read.

Find out more about Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep here.

 

Words by Ashleigh Penhall

Adam Richard’s laugh has become something of a trademark over his ten years on Fox FM’s The Matt and Jo Show. This year, Adam brings his comedic talents to the stage and screen with his stand-up comedy show Gaypocalypse and team captain position on ABC1’s Spicks and Specks.

After its final season in 2011, the music game show Spicks and Specks is ready to re-launch in 2014 with a fresh new cast. As team captain, Adam discussed his hopes for the show; “Adam [Hills] and Myf and Allen were always so generous, even though you were a guest on the show, you felt like you were one of the family. From my position, I just want to pass on that generosity with all our guests.”

Addressing the scepticism over the show’s new cast, Adam understands the way fans feel about replacing cast members. “People don’t like change… my favourite Doctor Who was gone when I was 12 and I was horrified. I cried and I didn’t want to accept the new one. Things change, people move on, things happen.” Remaining optimistic, he maintains that “what happens at the other end of change is sometimes revelatory”. With that said, Richard maintains that although the refreshed  Spicks and Specks will incorporate some new games into the show, it will still keep all of the classics.

While Adam’s music knowledge is suited to the pop genre, Killing Heidi singer-songwriter and opposing team captain Ella Hooper has come to Spicks and Specks with a bit of an advantage. “Ella has a huge and really broad range of music knowledge from the whole history, basically. I could never beat her on facts alone.” Fearing the competition, the actor jokes, “I know a lot about musicals, which is a terrible, terrible stereotype.”

Adam returns to the stand-up comedy stage on 4 March for the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with Gaypocalypse. His show is based on the changing culture of the gay community as it has progressively integrated from a ‘minority’ to become a part of mainstream culture. “I’m positive about it in some respects and I’m negative about it in some respects, I’m excited on one level and I’m terrified on another.” Adam suggests that so much of gay culture is derived from being a minority in society. While being excited for the period of change, Adam also wonders how mainstream culture will alter the established culture.

Adam’s show takes into consideration how being gay for young people is more accepted today than when he was younger. Gaypocalypse is “a bit about how life was like in the old days. All I’ve known is gay bars and having huge groups of gay friends whereas now, the younger guys—they don’t know that many gay people.”

“We had to hide in gay bars; we blocked our windows so that people couldn’t see our disgusting behaviour. Being gay is not seen as disgusting as it once was”.

Inspired by the themes of Gaypocalypse, Adam and I played The Zombie Apocalypse Game. The premise of the game is that it’s the zombie apocalypse and Adam has a shelter which is zombie-proof. He has all of his friends and family in the shelter and has room for one more person. Two celebrities come to the shelter door and Adam must choose which to save and which to leave to the zombies. His choices are below:

Kim Kardashian vs Khloe Kardashian

Sandra Bullock vs George Clooney

Ryan Gosling vs Leonardo Di Caprio

Keira Knightley vs Natalie Portman—“If we get horribly surrounded and we need to dig our way out, we can use Keira’s Knightley’s face.”

Hugh Grant vs Colin Firth

Will Farrell vs Steve Carell

Meryl Streep vs Daniel Day Lewis—“I’d make her perform all of Mamma Mia for me.”

Jack from Titanic vs Jay Gatsby

Pirates of the Caribbean 5 vs How I Met Your Mother season nine—“For Johnny Depp.”

Taylor Swift vs Harry Styles—Both are fed to the zombies.

Spicks and Specks returns to ABC1 screens on Wednesday 5 February at 8.30 pm. Adam will be performing his brand new show Gaypocalypse during the Adelaide Fringe Festival (4 – 8 March) and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (28 March – 2 April).

For tickets visit The Adelaide Fringe Festival and The Melbourne International Comedy Festival websites, or call 1300 621 255 (FringeTix), 1300 660 013 (Ticketmaster) or 132 849 (Ticketek).