Concert Review: DMA’S

Corner Hotel, Melbourne, June 11, 2016

I’ve wanted to see Sydney band DMA’S ever since I first heard ‘Delete’ back in 2014. I nearly saw them at St Kilda Festival last year but decided to go home and have a nap instead (that sentence makes me sound 70 but in my defence I was bloody tired from Laneway Festival the day before). 

While I enjoyed those forty winks it turned out to be a mistake because it’s only 18 months later that I’m finally seeing DMA’S as they tour their debut album, Hills End.

If you haven’t heard the album, all I need to say to describe it is that I was listening to it at my parent’s house the other day when mum asked me “is that Oasis?”. Granted, mum is a Keith Urban enthusiast, but her comparison is spot-on.

They’ve also been compared to the Stone Roses and noise-rock groups like Sonic Youth, but whatever they sound like, it’s obviously working for them, because they’ve managed to sell out the Melbourne’s Corner Hotel three nights running.

By the time I arrived at the Corner Hotel, I had already missed the support acts (Ray Borner and Green Buzzard) in some lame attempt to conserve energy for an early flight to the Gold Coast the next morning.

(Side-note: I’m noticing a new trend in my life of choosing naps over doing stuff. Is this what being in your thirties is like?)

Therefore, my night begins with DMA’S taking the stage – the usual three-piece having expanded to six for their live shows and crowding out the tiny Corner Hotel stage.

They start with ‘Timeless’, which also happens to be the opening track from Hills End. The album dominates the set list, and judging by the singing going on around me, I’m not the only one who has had it on heavy rotation in recent months.

Singles ‘Too Soon’, ‘Lay Down’ and of course ‘Delete’ are all met with a raucous reception, and at times even evoke a spot of crowd surfing. Also lapped up are fan-favourites  ‘Laced’ and ‘Feels Like 37’ from their earlier EP.

There isn’t a lot of talking between songs (“cheers” is about it), but there is relentless energy and a Manchester ‘wall of sound’ balanced out by by Tommy O’Dell’s sweet vocals.

Their swirling guitars and anthemic pop rock is delicious, but I have to say this – what’s going on with the clothes?!

The Kappa jackets and cigarettes tucked into lad caps make them look like a bunch of youths about to rob your nan in the shadows of an East London council estate.

It’s an oddity more than anything – they can wear what they like and it doesn’t take anything away from their shows – but it’s an interesting curousity and makes me think how strange it would be if an English band played a show in Australia wearing blue singlets, stubbies and thongs.

The set finishes with an extended instrumental outro tacked onto ‘Play it Out’. Finishing with one of their more widely known songs might have been more obvious, but like the rest of the set this works perfectly. It’s vaguely reminiscent of how the Stone Roses always finish with ‘I am the Resurrection’.

I left the Corner Hotel with both a smile on my face and disappointment on my mind – disappointment that I would be on holidays and not able to come back and see them play the next two nights as well.

Continuing the Britpop theme, let me finish this review by saying this to you, DMA’S: Cheers lads.


Too Soon
Feels Like 37
Straight Dimensions
In the Moment
Lay Down
So We Know
Your Low
The Switch
Play it Out

Concert Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, March 29, 2016

Walking towards Margaret Court Arena on my way to see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds on Tuesday night, I was SHOCKED to see so many young kids and families making their way in.

Who knew that the ex-Oasis man had such a big following amongst school kids?! Here I was thinking kids are all into Beiber and One Direction when in actual fact they’re in the schoolyard swapping bootlegs from Cardiff 1996 and debating who was the better drummer out of Alan White and Zak Starkey.

Then I realised they weren’t going to see Noel Gallagher at all; they were all walking next door to Hisense Arena for Planetshakers Awakening 2016, an Evangelical Christian movement’s conference for followers to “seek, worship and encounter God”.


Quite apt actually, because seeking, worshipping and encountering were exactly what the rest of us were planning as well – not for God though, but for the ‘God-like Genius’ who once claimed that God is an Oasis fan (I’m not religious myself but it’s pretty obvious to me that if he was real God would dig Heathen Chemistry).

Noel is 48 years old now, and the days of Oasis playing to packed football stadiums with bottles of piss being flung through the air are long gone. Instead, Noel takes to the stage at a very civilised 8:30 and without a word launches into ‘Everybody’s on the Run’, delighting a crowd adorned with Man City shirts, Pretty Green parkas and Adidas trainers.

It’s a testament to Noel’s solo career that his High Flying Birds songs are so well received. But while Chasing Yesterday is a bolder and better album than NGHFB, the songs from the latter are more anthemic and translate better live; especially ‘If I Had a Gun’ and the before-mentioned ‘Everybody’s On the Run’.

Out of the Chasing Yesterday songs, ‘Lock All the Doors’ and ‘The Riverman’ perfectly bookend his career. LATD was written in 1992 and sounds like it’s just been cracked open from a Definitely Maybe-era time capsule. ‘The Riverman’ on the other hand is a spaced-out jazzy number with a saxophone solo on it. Perfect antidote to the Oasis-haters who claim that everything Noel writes sounds the same.

Of course there are plenty of Oasis songs too – ten in fact, including ‘Wondewall’ (done in the style of Ryan Adams), ‘Champagne Supernova’ and a rousing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ that evokes a mass-singalong straight from the football terraces.

More interesting for the hardcore Oasis fans are the selection of B-Sides and album cuts rarely played in Australia before, including ‘Digsy’s Dinner’, ‘Sad Song’ and ‘D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman’.  

This is my sixth time seeing Noel (twice with Oasis, once solo with Gem Archer, and now three times with NGHFB) and he sounds as good as the first time I saw him over a decade ago.

There’s some A-grade Gallagher banter thrown in, too. He’s particularly baffled – as I think we all are -by a self-proclaimed “magician” in the audience who somehow manage to bring a BUBBLE MACHINE into the gig. How the hell did he get that past security?.

“You’re a magician? Why don’t you make the fucking bubbles disappear then?”, he says. “Did you pay to get in? Or did you magic yourself through the fucking door. If you bought a ticket you’re a shit magician.”

It’s hard to find fault with your favourite artist, but if I had to be critical I’d say the setlist was too safe. Noel is infamous for sticking to playing the same set of songs, and I think the time has come to finally retire ‘Half the World Away’ and ‘Talk Tonight’ – he’s played both the last 4 times I’ve seen him and it would be nice to hear something from say Be Here Now or Standing on the Shoulder of Giants for a change.

That minor criticism aside, Noel Gallagher at Margaret Court Arena again answered the question about when will Oasis reform. The answer: it doesn’t matter. This is just as good.


Everybody’s On the Run
Lock All the Doors
In the Heat of the Moment
Talk Tonight
The Death of You and Me
Champagne Supernova
The Dying of the Light
Sad Song
D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman
You Know We Can’t Go Back
Half the World Away
If I had a Gun
The Mexican
Listen Up
Digsy’s Dinner
The Masterplan
AKA.. What a Life!
Don’t Look Back in Anger

Photo Project: Days of Thunder (Calder Park Thunderdome)

February 28, 1988. Melbourne’s $54 million Calder Park Thunderdome hosts the first ever NASCAR race outside of America. Over 45,000 fans pack into the stands to watch Neil Bonnett pilot his Pontiac to victory. NASCAR has arrived in Australia.

Easter Monday, 2016. The stock cars are long gone. They’ve been gone from the Thunderdome for 15 years. Declining interest and dwindling entries killed them off.

If you close your eyes you can imagine what the symphony of 32 NASCAR engines must have sounded like around this place. But today, the only sound is my camera shutter and the hum of the overhead transmission lines.

The best and worst of living in Melbourne

When Tess and I moved from Brisbane down to to Melbourne at the end of 2014, there were a couple of potential outcomes.

We could have gone full-Melburnian (NEVER go full Melburnian) and ended up with sleeve tattoos and ‘ironic’ shit clothes, riding fixies everywhere and surviving solely off organic gluten-free paleo vegan acai bowls.

Sunset over St Kilda. Decent.

Or we could have hated Melbourne, and fled for the sanctuary of Queensland where we could live out our days hooked up to an intravenous supply of Bundaberg Rum and ending all of our sentences with “ayyy”.

Luckily neither of those things happened. Nearly 18 months after moving, we are still here, enjoying Melbourne life – but not without a healthy dose of cynicism.

So here it is, the 5 best and worst things about living in Melbourne…


Food and Drink

Look, I’m not exactly a foodie. I know, I know, that must come as a huuuuge surprise to any of you who have seen me destroy a plate of potato skins at Sizzler.

But even a food philistine like me can’t help but be impressed by Melbourne’s food and drink scene – especially the breakfasts.

The Kettle Black, South Melbourne

Ohhh the breakfasts (well, brunch really; no one bothers with breakfast before 11). There are just so many amazing places that we hardly go to the same place twice. But if I had to pick a favourite, it’d choose The Kettle Black in South Melbourne.

Word of warning: if you’re a simpleton from Queensland like me, bring a dictionary if you go for breakfast anywhere. Otherwise, good luck trying to work out what the hell things like freekah, chevre or medjool are.

Other than breakfast, I recommend the coffee at Brother Baba Budan, the donuts at Short Stop, the drinks at Murmur, and dinner at Chin Chin (all in the city). If you’re after an ice-cream, check out Will’s Batch in Elsternwick, while for an Indian takeaway, you can’t beat Babu Ji in St Kilda.

The Sporting Capital of Australia

Other than Melbourne, where else in the world can you go to a Grand Prix and tennis grand slam in the same city?

Nowhere else, that’s where.

Nothing beats sitting in the stands at the ‘G or soaking up the fiery atmosphere of a Melbourne derby.

The Melbourne A-League Derby

People here keep asking me have I gotten into AFL yet? No, not really, I’m still an NRL (and A-League) man. I have got into AFL a bit more, I suppose. It’s hard not to when it makes up the first 18 pages of the weekend sport section… it’s inescapable!

Daylight Savings

Dear anti-Daylight Savings people of Queensland, let me confirm to you that daylight savings does NOT:

  • Fade the curtains
  • Confuse animals
  • Make the day hotter

It does however, let you finish work, come home, and still go for a walk or have a BBQ while it’s still light outside.

Always something to do

There is always something on. Always. You will never, ever run out of things to do in Melbourne.

Probably the best things we’ve seen would be the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (it’s still on if you want to go), and the David Bowie is exhibition at ACMI last year.

Oh yeah, and this:

Yes it’s a Dachshund race – hover dog on the left went on to win

Take U To Da Movies

If the impossible does happen and you do run out of things to do here, here’s my tip: go and see a movie at one of Melbourne’s amazing arthouse and independent cinemas.

I recommend the Lido in Hawthorn or the Art Deco Sun Theater in Yarraville (where Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson turned up out of the blue to promote The Hateful Eight).

The Great Ocean Road

There are some beautiful day trips you can do from Melbourne, but nothing beats the Great Ocean Road and the 12 apostles. There is nothing I can say that will do it just, so I’ll just leave this here:

Standing at the limit of an endless ocean Stranded like a runaway, lost at sea
Standing at the limit of an endless ocean
Stranded like a runaway, lost at sea

The Worst

The Drivers

Driving in Melbourne, holy shit. Horrendous. Even the shortest trip ends up like the last lap of the Bathurst 1000.

I learned to drive in Queensland but I think a Victorian driving tests must look like this:

Demonstrated ability to occupy two lanes at once – check
Competency in tailgating – check
Blocks all other motorists from merging – check
Beeps at car in front 0.001 seconds after light turns green – check

Driving to the shops be like
Driving to the shops be like

It’s just insane on the roads here. I’ve been in more car crashes (two, neither of them my fault) and seen more road rage in 18 months than in the entire previous decade of driving in Brisbane.

Terrible weather

The winters are rubbish, but it’s summer that’s kills me. Or more specifically, the lack of (summer = more than 2 hot days in a row).

It was 18 degrees the other day. In January. I was in London a few weeks ago and it was 11 degrees there. Literally only 7 bloody degrees difference between Melbourne summer and London winter. WHAT!?

Locals always say “oh it’s not that bad!” or “yeah but it makes you appreciate the good weather more!”. Yeah righto mate Melbourne’s weather is better than the weather in South Sudan or outer Mongolia. As for the second point, yes I do appreciate good weather more now, but it’s a moot point when I’m wearing a jumper 340 days of the year.

It’s too busy

Me, getting on the train every single morning:


Something weird I’ve noticed here is this bizarre air of Melbourne superiority that some people have, the main theme being MELBOURNE IS THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD ALL THE OTHER CITIES ARE COMPLETELY TERRIBLE PS. SYDNEY IS WORSE THAN BAGHDAD.

I once unwisely told a colleague that I reckon Brisbane is just as good as Melbourne and he looked at me like I’d just proposed constructing a space-ship out of ants before shouting “YEAH BUT MELBOURNE IS THE WORLD’S MOST LIVABLE CITY” over and over again.


Living next door to an ice fiend in some kind of real life version of the Australian film The King is Dead was AWFUL. Not really Melbourne’s fault (although I’ve become adept at identifying junkies since moving here), but awful all the same.

We knew something was up as soon as “Jimmy” moved in next door. When we first met him we also met his “cleaner”, a rough as guts looking woman aged between 25 and 90. The very first thing she said to us was “Jimmy’s alright you know, I’ll vouch for him”. Err OK.

Inexplicable. It sat there for 3 hours.

She was right. He was “alright”. But more alright as in “he won’t murder you”, and not the more comforting “he isn’t a drug dealer who will invite junkies around at 3am on a Tuesday who will bash on your windows”.

The 24/7 parade of drug clientele was bad enough, but nothing compared to the bags of used condoms and dead fish he’d leave sitting on the landing. Sometimes there would also be a raw chicken sitting on his doorstep.

Luckily, after 831 emails and phone calls to the police, body corporate and real estate agency, Jimmy eventually got evicted, leaving behind an enormous pile of MDF furniture and used syringes on the footpath.

Melbourne Airport

Seriously Melbourne, get a new airport. Yours is terrible. No wonder it got named the worst major airport in Australia.

Mourn for Paris. Remember Beirut.

The outpouring of grief for the people of Paris has been heart warming. Over the last few days, famous landmarks and social media profile pictures alike have been emblazoned with the tricolour to show solidarity with the people of Paris and defiance in the face of terrorism.

I changed my own Facebook profile picture to an old holiday snap of the French flag flying underneath the Arc de Triomphe. I know that changing my profile picture does not actually do anything, but it is a simple little gesture that thousands of people have done to show that we too are upset and repulsed by what has happened.

I didn’t think about my profile picture again until someone pointed out that if we are going to display the French flag everywhere, then we should have coloured our landmarks and social media pages in red, green and white after 44 people were killed last Friday when ISIS bombs tore through a crowded Beirut street.

imageThat particular terrorist attack – one of literally hundreds so far this year – largely escaped the attention of the western media. I certainly can’t remember hearing about it, and if I did I am guilty of ignoring it.

Here in Australia, there were no noticeable tributes to those who died in Lebanon. No endless ocean of Lebanese flags on social media; no Cedar trees projected onto the side of the Sydney Opera House. Nothing.

I tried to rationalise why we are so quick to express (genuine) grief and shock over terrorist events in the western world while largely ignoring those that occur in the Middle East.

The obvious reason is that terrorism in other western cities like Paris is far more relatable to us then terrorism in Syria or Lebanon or Afghanistan. Paris is a city that many of have visited – even if we haven’t, we’re familiar with champagne, croissants and the Eiffel Tower.

An explosion at a France vs Germany football game, gunmen at an Eagles of Death Metal concert, and suicide bombers at a McDonald’s restaurant hit home more than a deadly attack in a city we have never been to, in a country that we don’t know much about.

I thought about it a bit more and did a bit more digging, delving into Lebanese and French culture and influence in Australia.

One thing that stood out to me is this: there are twice as many people of Lebanese ancestry in Australia as there are French. Over 203,000 Lebanese Australians; 110,000 French Australians (2011 Australian Census).

And yet despite this, we as a country basically ignored the Beirut bombings. An event that killed 44 people in a country that 203,000 Australians descended from, and yet we as a nation barely acknowledged it. If I was Lebanese, I would be disheartened by that.

The list of recent terrorist attacks is frighteningly long. A few weeks ago, 224 people were killed after Russian commercial jetliner was (most likely) blown up by Islamic State terrorists in Egypt. In October, 102 people were killed by suicide bombers at a peace rally in the Turkish capital city, Ankara. In each tragic instance, barely a media ripple in the west.

It all reminds me of the economist Adam Smith’s 18th century musings on this issue. He wrote in 1759, that were a man in Europe to lose his little finger, he would “not sleep” that night, such would be the impact on him; but were that same man to learn of the Chinese Empire being swallowed up by an Earthquake, he would express deep sorrow but sleep easy and “snore with the most profound security”.

Today, to us in the west, Paris is the little finger, the Arab world the Chinese earthquake.

We should, and will continue, to mourn what has happened in France over the weekend. It is deeply upsetting. When these things happen in places that we have been to or can relate to, they are infinitely more shocking. That’s why the Lindt Cafe siege, a relatively minor event in the grand and horrible scheme of things, had such an effect on us.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

But at the same time, we must keep a few things in the  back of our minds – not least that the overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism attacks are Muslim. Well over half, possibly as many as 97% if you believe the US Department of State.

By remembering that the Muslim world is even more endangered than ‘western civilisation’ is by these evil ISIS butchers, we can make this about the moderates vs the radicals and not the west vs Islam. That is the only way we can win.

I flew on the world’s worst airline

For the fourth year running, Skytrax, the airline ratings website, has awarded North Korea’s Air Koryo the ignominious label of world’s worst airline. The hermit kingdom’s national carrier was the only airline to receive a one star rating, with Skytrax citing the airline’s questionable safety record and fleet of ageing Soviet aircraft.

Not that anyone in North Korea would know about the ‘world’s worst’ title. The Orwellian North Korean media would never acknowledge such a blatant western swipe at their glorious airline! They prefer to concentrate on celerabrating questionable North Korean triumphs – like the alleged invention by North Korean scientists of a vaccine that can prevent AIDS and Ebola. Seems completely legit.

But anyhow, after learning this week that Air Koryo had successfully defended the airline rankings wooden spoon, it brought back memories of my own flight with them a few years back.

It was November 2012. Barack Obama had just been re-elected and Kim Jong-un had been leader of North Korea for less than a year when I boarded Air Koryo Flight JS152 from Beijing to Pyongyang as part of a group tour. The tour company organised the flights and visas for me, and all I had to do was turn up at Beijing airport with my passport.

Inside the cabin of the Russian-built Tupolev
Inside the cabin of the Russian-built Tupolev

The check in was unbelievably lethargic – easily the slowest I have ever seen. Life in the Chinse capital moves at breakneck speed, but snail’s pace is the only speed at the Air Koryo check in counter. Each passenger was laboriously checked in, as the counter staff stared intently at their screens in between tapping away at their keyboards and disappearing for five or ten minutes at a time.

The tardiness gave me lots of time to observe the legions of North Korean passengers (easy to pinpoint with red Dear Leader pins over their hearts) as they checked in what seemed like the contents of every department store in Beijing. Cartons of cigarettes, crates of booze, flat screen televisions, even a 27” screen Apple iMac.

Johnny Walker and the Marlboro Man might seem like strange bedfellows with Kim Jong-un, but remember that any North Korean travelling abroad is not a typical North Korean. No, they are amongst the most elite, and the North Korean elite have a history of this sort of thing. At one time Kim Jong-il was the world’s largest buyer of Hennessy Paradis cognac.

After checking in, I boarded the Tupolev Tu-204 and sat down as the cabin crew around me worked to wedge in bag after bag of duty free into every available square centimetre of space.

Passengers flying from Beijing to Pyongyang used to have to put their lives in the hands of fifty year old Soviet Illuyshins, but the Tu-204 is a relatively modern aircraft (there are two of them in the Air Koryo fleet) which on the inside does not look hugely different to any similar Boeing or Airbus.

The big difference came from the in-flight entertainment options. The overhead LCD screens displayed Korean language movies (all celebrating the glorious leader of course), while an English language edition of the Pyongyang Times had to make do for reading material. The copy I flicked through included such thrilling articles as “Wide-ranging research on vegetable production” and “Welfare and sporting facilities bring smile to Pyongyang People”. Gripping stuff.

Lunch on Air Koryo JS152 - not great, but not as awful as you might think
Lunch on Air Koryo JS152 – not great, but not as awful as you might think

Like all flights should be, the time in the air was uneventful. It was a perfect day for flying, and the flight was smooth, punctuated only by the serving of lunch, which consisted of fairly typical airline food: some chicken, a few slices of ham, some fruit and a little piece of sponge cake. It wasn’t great, but I would criticize it for being bland or processed tasting before I would call it bad or inedible.

With lunch out of the way, I relaxed back in my seat and looked out the window down towards the grey and brown palette of the barren North Korean landscape. As we touched down with an almighty thud onto the pot-holed Pyongyang runway I saw soldiers stationed around the perimeter of the airport.

I filed out of the plane with the North Koreans and my fellow tourists, walked down the air stairs and stepped out onto the apron, where the crisp winter Pyongyang air contrasted with the thick Beijing smog that I had left behind just a couple of hours earlier.

Last month Kim Jong-un opened a slick new terminal building, but in 2012 they were still making use of a temporary terminal with bare concrete floors and no running water. Clearing customs and immigration was much quicker than checking in had been (the only delay coming when the customs official took an interest in my iPad), and the rest of the group and I met the tour bus to begin our tour.

So, is Air Koryo the world’s worst airline?

Well look, my experience was skewed by two things. The novelty of flying into North Korea, and the fact the Beijing-Pyongyang route is serviced by a relatively modern Tupolev and not some decades old Cold War era-relic.

Got there in one piece... that's all that matters, right?
Got there in one piece… that’s all that matters, right?

Take that out of the equation, and yes, Air Koryo is an ordinary airline. The service is basic, the cabin crew are polite but aloof, the food is edible and not much more, and the facilities at each end are poor. Put it this way, if Air Koryo flew Sydney-Melbourne I would still brave Tigerair and the hell of Tullamarine’s Terminal 4 every single time.

But having said all that, there was nothing that screamed ‘world’s worst’ about it all. I never felt unsafe (although that might be a false sense of security?) and I have flown on older and wearier looking planes than the Tu-204.

There was nothing about it that was overwhelmingly bad. And for all the criticisms of Air Koryo’s safety record, no one has died on one of their planes in over twenty years, something which cannot be said for a lot of other airlines (interestingly, the Airline Ratings review website has awards Air Koryo a safety rating of 5.5 out of 7 – which puts them ahead of a lot of African and East Asian airlines).

So no, I don’t think that Air Koryo is the worst airline in the world. Might be worth giving the Supreme Leader some credit, eh Skytrax?

You can read about my visit to North Korea here.