culture, music, and identity politics musings from a 20-something Australian-Asian living in Washington D.C.

Silverchair at the 9:30 club: July 24, 2007 July 29, 2007

Filed under: Australians,Concert reviews,Music — itslateagain @ 12:09 am

This past Tuesday, one of Australia’s greatest bands, Silverchair, played a sold-out 9:30 club on the first leg of their American tour. They are promoting Young Modern, their fifth studio release and first album since 2002’s Diorama, which won the band six ARIA Awards (the Australian Grammies).

They opened with a trio of new songs from Young Modern, an album which continues lead singer Daniel Johns’ continuing foray into pop, this time building upon the ornate, occasionally over-blown pomp of Diorama towards classic rock and even the campy and carnival. As if to illustrate the point, Johns took to the stage in pirate form, wearing a bandanna and eye patch (apparently to nurse a bruised eye), later re-appearing in a bowler hat. As natural as this musical evolution might be, it is an unfortunate and hopefully short-lived misstep. Though Johns is a gifted, imaginative musician, it seems he is still in the process of settling into his own niche within the current field.



Aussies crush South Africa to cruise into next round March 26, 2007

Filed under: Australians,Cricket — itslateagain @ 3:14 am

I am yet to see the highlights of today’s decisive victory against South Africa, but from at least the bulletin it looks like Australia has comprehensively proven it remains the world’s best cricket team. And as I guessed, Sri Lanka looks to be the pick of the other nations by some distance, following it’s punishing victory over India earlier this week.

Clarke getting into the runs

And, despite my doubts, it was Shane Watson who made the decisive play of the match, running out de Villiers to break the opening pair when the Aussies were desperate for a wicket. My favorite left-arm googly bowler Brad Hogg was the leading wicket taker, and both Tait and Bracken took two a piece.

It’s nice to see Michael Clarke get into the runs with 92, alongside Ponting and Hayden’s big scores. Hayden is truly one of the most powerful strikers of the modern game. I recall back during his run-machine days playing for the Queensland Bulls how opponents knew him to be “un-bowlable.” Though that may not be exactly the case, particularly on the international circuit, he remains a difficult player to dismiss, and his strength often wearies opponents into the dirt.

But Clarke, who is much closer to Ponts in that he is defined much more by elegant strokeplay and touch than raw power, was due for some runs, and the team will be that much tougher to beat with all of its top line-up now in good touch. Symonds and Hussey are yet to have had a chance to make a big score, however, which might cause some problems in the unlikely case that an attack manages to run through our top order cheaply.

The most likely way that a side like Sri Lanka will beat us will be to win the toss and bat first. Our attack didn’t seem to trouble the South Africans until wickets began to tumble and the run rate required began to factor into their play; this bodes poorly against other strong batting line-ups. If they manage to post a 300 to 350+ total, and defend well, it will make for a tough chase. If any team’s up to the challenge though, it’s our batting line-up, which has shown tremendous class and depth, not to mention a fierce late-middle order in the likes of Watson and Hogg, who can smash and smash true in the death.

Here’s to a close finals series!


Cricket Madness is Upon Us March 14, 2007

Filed under: Australians,Cricket,Sports — itslateagain @ 4:44 am

As Australia gears up to defend its Cricket World Cup crown, I’ve become increasingly compulsive about debating what line-up we should send into the tournament. I’m interested to see who is fielded in our first warm-up against Scotland, which will begin in a few hours.

Following our slightly dramatic collapse in the Challenge tri-series, with a trot of losses to decent, but far from formidable English and Kiwi teams, and the loss of our spearhead paceman, Brett Lee, to a ligament tear, I started to wonder what else could go wrong. Hayden had a hurt toe, Ponting had something minor, Gilchrist had a son’s birth to attend, Symonds is still nursing a shoulder tear…the Baggy Green were beginning to look like they’d stumbled off the set of Peter Weir’s Gallipoli than the all-conquering destructive tornado of a cricket team a la our ’99 and ’03 sides. Going into the tournament, however, all but Lee look set for action, and most all the pundits I’ve come across have picked Australia as favorites.

My main concern is our attack. We’ve got plenty of skillful batsmen, the class of which I think other teams only come in a distant second on, with or without a healthy Symonds. As good as Shane Watson looked during the England warm-up, and as much as I prefer the variety of a right-hand/left-hand opening pair, I still think Hayden belongs at the top of the order alongside Gilchrist. He’s in fine form, and at the end of the day, he’s the better batsman capable of batting through 50, which is what we want to field. I was also far than impressed by Watson’s medium-fast bowling during the Challenge series. He looked rather pedestrian, and I envision him being launched all over Caribbean grounds throughout this tournament.

At 1-for, I’m expecting another stellar performance from our captain, Ricky Ponting, who’s also taken a fine turn as an AIDS advocate for UNICEF, an official tournament sponsor. Though Michael Clarke (our No. 4) seemed to lose his wicket more cheaply than almost any other specialist bat in the previous series, he’s a class act, who’s elegance at the crease reminds me a little of Damien Martyn, the most poetic of recently retired Western Australian batsmen. His left arm finger spin may certainly come in handy too.

Number five is a little less certain: Brad Hodge has been batting well recently, but should quite certainly lose the spot to Symonds for the South Africa match. Hodge does not bowl, and Symonds personality, power in the crunch, versatility with the ball and ability in the field (hopefully not tempered by his most recent injury) will make him one of the integral factors in whether Australia holds off this Cup’s stiff competition.

Hussey, another Westerner, who I was so chuffed to see make it into the national side after a lengthy wait, and even more pleased to see win a Bevan-like role at No. 6 in the one day team, will also be critical to our chances. I suspect he’ll have to nurse the strike and carry our tail quite often on big chases, which looks much weaker than past line-ups.

It’s at the seventh spot that things get interesting, and this is where I imagine you’ll see the most variety, as the coaching staff tweak and adjust according to pitch conditions and player fitness levels. This time around, we’ve no quality second all-rounder along the lines of a Darren Lehman, though Watson may just turn out to succeed in that role. If we want a full pace line-up, we should play Watson here, where his batting will by a handy bonus in the death. If he doesn’t perform however, either with bat or ball, I’d have Hogg come in here, with four quickies rounding out a rather long tail. The strength of our top six permits it.

There’s no question, in my mind, that Australia should play Hogg, despite the Caribbean pitches being far from spin havens. He has experience from the 2003 Cup, he’s bowled well without luck in Australia, and he adds much needed variety to a somewhat ordinary-looking attack. It would be most dangerous to rely only on part-timers Symonds and Clarke to take care of spin duties. Hogg’s wrong ‘un is hard to pick, and he should cause trouble–or at the very least, limit the run-rate during middle overs–for most teams, outside of the big three from South Asia.

Our shaky pace attack, more than anything, could mean the difference between Australia winning three straight or turning over the cup. Beyond McGrath, who is certainly beyond his best years but whose experience is vital, they’re all very green. I don’t think Mitchell Johnson deserves a spot: he’s been the most expensive, is far too wayward, and has trouble altering his line when charged by opponent batsmen. Much better for the left-arm spot is Bracken, who has been consistent, if not overly intimidating, and was the pick of the Commonwealth series. I think his reverse swing could be critical late in the game.

After his breakthrough performance in the Ashes, Stuart Clark was certainly snubbed over the pacy, though unreliable Shaun Tait. Look for these two to be alternated quite often. As expensive as he’ll surely be, Tait is the only true fast bowler we have now minus Lee, and if he can take wickets within the first and last ten overs of the game, he should be worth the runs. Shane Warne has advocated for Clark to open with McGrath, and as accurate as the two marksmen would be (not to mention rather boring), it’ll make for more exciting cricket to have Tait tearing down with the new ball. Wouldn’t Australia rather have opponents at 2 or 3 for 60 than 0 for 40 after 10? I suppose it depends on the pitches, as well as how big the scores are.

I am also expecting to see Hogg left out of some matches for a fast-medium McGrath/Tait/Clark/Bracken/Watson trot-a-rama. Though McGrath would disagree, he does make for a suitably zip-tight first change, and having he and Clark fill out the middle overs while Tait and Bracken take the new ball might just be our most strategic mode of attack.

As for the competition, I can’t say I’ve paid too much attention. I’m looking forward to seeing Sri Lanka, with slinger Malinga at the pedal, and India looks like a most competitive squad, despite their early loss to the Windies. As for the home team, as much as the world might be rooting for them, making the semi-finals will be quite possible; winning the Cup close to fantasy. With that said, though, the 2007 World Cup field really does look quite wide-open: New Zealand has been playing well, South Africa have the talent (if not the history of performing in the Cup) and it would even be rash to completely count out England and Pakistan, though I don’t fancy them making the semis.

My prediction? Australia to beat Sri Lanka in the finals, with South Africa and the Windies the other semi-finalists.

Here’s to a fun, close tournament! Go Aussie!

And so finally, to recap: Here’s Mark’s pick for the Aussie XI:

1. Matthew Hayden
2. Adam Gilchrist
3. Ricky Ponting
4. Michael Clarke
5. Brad Hodge / Andrew Symonds
6. Michael Hussey
7. Shane Watson
8. Brad Hogg
9. Stuart Clark / Shaun Tait
10. Nathan Bracken
11. Glenn McGrath


ITSLATEAGAIN Podcast: Australia Day 2007 Special Edition February 4, 2007

Filed under: Australians,Music,Podcasts,Tribute — itslateagain @ 12:05 am

Hello listeners,

After a lengthy absence, The ITSLATEAGAIN Podcast Series returns with a nationally theme bang in 2007!

Amy and Mark display their true colours

Welcome to the ITSLATEAGAIN: Australia Day 2007 Podcast, where the singalongs are always beer-tinged and the tunes are always hearty. On that fateful day–26 January–I had the pleasure of organizing a local Australian celebration in the DC area for all of the Aussie expats hidden in the woodworks around town, and much merriment ensued.

So banish your preconceived notions of Australian music as nothing but ACDC and Kylie Minogue as you travel across the continent, stopping only to sample the very finest in recent Australian music! The local scene is currently booming, and thanks to a rapidly growing Aussie music blogosphere and good old Triple J internet radio, I’m able to stay abreast of the scene, despite finding myself a good 20 hour plane-ride away in Washington.

Featuring Dapple Cities Fly, the Grates, Midnight Juggernauts, Hilltop Hoods, Gotye, Augie March, Little Birdy, and of course, this being an Aussie-expat podcast and all, a sprinkling of the Crowdies (Crowded House) to finish. Plus, my ever-wonky editing and a find INXS remix score by Streetlab!

If any Australians, Kiwis, or honorary expats are interested in joining our DC Aussies online group, send me an email and I’ll be happy to add you.

And naturally, if you like what you hear, I encourage you to support the artists (or at least visiting their web site).

Note: In the podcast, I said “Addle Brains” is from Augie March’s most recent album, “Moo, You Bloody Choir.” It is not. It is from “Strange Bird,” the album which preceded “Moo.”


The Living End at the Black Cat November 22, 2006

Filed under: Australians,Concerts,Music,Uncategorized — itslateagain @ 9:33 pm

November 21st, 2006.

What is punk rock?

This is a question of serious, impassioned debate within many circles, one of which is Food for Thought, the little café within Washington’s hallowed Black Cat club.

There is very little upon which all sides can agree upon bar the obvious. Clay Aiken is not punk rock. Eating pork rinds in a pick-up truck: clearly not punk rock.

But knitting needles? Totally punk rock.

See where the complication sets in?

When young college graduates who grew up idealizing punk philosophy enter the white collar industries — well-known for providing the necessary antithesis against which the character and appeal of punk was originally carved — they struggle. Not long previously, they’d been telling each other about how they would never sell out, and how they knew they would differ from the generation of ex-hippie CEO-types who, not uncommonly, happened to be their parents.

“A 9-to-5 office monkey? Harumph!,” our friend would exclaim at the vegan co-op, pinning up his Feminist Solidarity flyer as the proto-reggae primal magic of the Slits pumps from the old sound system.

“Maybe in, like, thirty years or something…but even then, it’s hard to imagine.” The other volunteers nod agreeably.

Three months following which we find this same individual within a massive Art-Deco edifice, nodding and articulating at interviews, shaking hands by a water-cooler, copy and pasting company signatures into his Outlook Express account.

So, can one really achieve what is commonly considered impossible, and fuse the hard-fought punk gene of his formative years to this vastly different, barren landscape of inter-cubicle emailing and such other “knowledge economy” realities? Undoubtedly, many have been tried before, and though these suit-and-tie anarchists, these power-breakfasting riot grrrls might possibly exist, they haven’t exactly made themselves very visible.

The Living End has a reputation for thunderous, all-out rock and roll live performances, and last night’s Black Cat gig was clearly no exception. Their first album was seminal in my early Australian high school years, and eight years after its release, it was with a certain combination of nostalgia and national rock duty that I arrived at the show.

Not many people seem to like their latest album, “State of Emergency,” and I have to agree with the general verdict of: “too much pop, not enough punk.” Thankfully, they mixed the unspectacular new tracks with plenty of popular fist-pumpers from their early catalogue, including the funky anti-developer-themed “All Torn Down” and anti-death penalty sing-along that is “Second Solution.”

The End trio are musically seasoned and very tight, and they play a style of punk rarely heard within the current musical landscape. Oft-associated with the Clash –punk’s most musically innovative group — and 80s heroes the Stray Cats, the End are strongest when playing hard and fast rockabilly. 10 years following their breakthrough, this remains the heart of their musical vision. I think rockabilly is so inherently pleasing because it speaks to the core essence of rock and roll; its helter-skelter marriage of country and R&B music was the first real white permutation of what was previously exclusively black musical territory. Infused with the additional charge of punk rock, as the Living End does so successfully, rockabilly is utterly compelling: slap-back rhythms scream youthful excess, political sloganeering demands for scream-a-longs and fist pumping galore.

Last night, Chris’ voice was as full and tuneful as ever, his thunderous riff thrashing as pleasing to the feet as his solo chops were to the head. Towards the end of the set, he played an extended contrapuntal solo jam. I found it a little too messy and directionless, but fun nonetheless, and besides…this is supposed to be punk. As I’d hoped for, Scott hopped up on to his double bass several times, thumping away swiftly at the under-utilized but oh-so-stylin’ instrument. Andy Strachan, formerly of Polyanna (another popular Aussie rock group), seems to have settled in admirably to what must be one of the more coveted positions in Aussie drummer circles.

Scott, clearly not performing at the Black Cat

It was during the extended introduction to crowd favorite and greatest Aussie anthem of the 90s, “Prisoner of Society,” that I could resist no longer, throwing myself into the mosh pit and reveling in the sweaty stench, the heaving pulse of the crowd, the spit of full-throttle singing.

“Cause I’m a brat! / And I know everything and I talk back!,” I yelled, staring into the similarly crazed eyes of some greasy-haired high-schooler, “Cause I’m not listening to aaa-nyyy-thing you SAY!” This, as temporal and small as it seemed, felt right. It was about as close to punk truth and self-righteousness and liberation as I’d gotten since leaving my teens. Borrowed time though it might have been, I couldn’t imagine a single place I’d rather have been during that song than flailing around to the Living End at the Cat.

Afterwards, I felt rejuvenated: it was two delicious, wholesome minutes of a recently android-aping life picked up and thrown into the furious fray.


Remembering the Crocodile Hunter: a dinky-di Aussie ambassador September 5, 2006

Filed under: Australians,Tribute — itslateagain @ 6:38 am

Yesterday evening, I was enjoying the homely accents and semi-obscure, always well-chosen tunes of Australia’s youth radio station—triple j—when I learned of the death of Steve Irwin, the most recognizable Aussie icon of my generation.

When I first arrived in the United States, I became closely familiar with a handful of questions relating to my home country. Each of these offered their own unique insights into the American mind: it’s self-orbiting and nation-centric ignorance, tendency to caricaturize foreign cultures into bite-size, catch-phrase soundbites, and its endearing and overly commodified innocence. Of these questions, some of the most humorous involved animals, and better yet: my presupposed experience with them.

“I heard you can ride kangaroos…Do you ride them to school?,” asked one fresh-faced boy during a physical education period during my two years of American high school.

“Only on Thursdays, when I had to let the crocs have a day off.”

“Wait…you said ‘Crocs?’ As in crocodiles? Whoa man, are you, like, an Asian crocodile Dundee?…Wait, are you, like, a crocodile hunter?”

Steve Irwin is arguably the most well known Australian in modern history. Pop culture being what it is, the others are all mostly actors, musicians, or sport stars. Steve’s story, though, is a little bit different. Growing up the son of a reptile enthusiast, he became a genuinely knowledgeable zoologist whose honeymoon video of he and his American wife, Terri, on a crocodile-catching trip, would become the first of hundreds more upon which a global audience with Animal Planet subscriptions would later accompany him.

With his mud-thick Queensland colloquial accent and continually amplified levels of excitement, Irwin could come off on-screen as rather over-the-top and perhaps disingenuous. This couldn’t be further from the truth. According to many close friends, Irwin the croc hunter was no more larger-than-life and enthusiastic than Irwin the person. And even though I’ve never been a particularly avid viewer of his programs or his oft-parodied shtick, I came to appreciate Irwin for what he was: a true-blue, dinky-di Aussie bloke who wore his heart on his sleeve, shared a genuine love for wildlife and conservation, and in the middle of all his theatrics, gave the world as wholesomely positive and honest an ambassador for his country that Australia has ever seen. I’ll take a crocodile wrestling larrikin in khakis over our current political figures, that’s for absolute sure.

As tragic as it is, I agree with those who noted the fitting nature of Steve’s death. For all the close calls he has had, a stingray barb through the heart is truly freakish. As one might predict, Irwin was in the midst of doing what he loved best. In this case: filming a documentary on dangerous sea creatures. As unusual as such an accident is—some sources say that this is only the second stingray fatality in Australian history—the odds surely go up when one interacts with deadly creatures on a consistent basis, even as experienced and trained as Irwin might have been.

And so we have lost a husband, a father, a children’s hero, a one-of-a-kind entertainer and a committed conservationist, among other things. Australia has lost her most prominent ambassador, and without question one of the most genuinely Australian, be it those familiar calls of “Crikey!” or that thick shock of blonde hair.

The last time I saw Steve was on television in a little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in Borneo Island, East Malaysia, whilst visiting relatives earlier this year. We were relaxing and laughing together, watching Steve animatedly chasing a wild boar, whilst on a break en route towards Mount Kinabalu, a site known for its own endangered fauna. Unable to speak their native tongue, our communication was severely limited. But the physical appeal of Steve’s work crosses linguistic boundaries, and speakers of many tongues will remember him fondly.

You’ll be missed mate. Wherever you are, I’m sure you’ll be surrounded by plenty of friends, amphibious or otherwise.