Thursday, May 17, 2012

What you need to know about Australia

Think $129 is a little steep for a breathalyzer? Fear not, pay-per-use breathalyzer machines are available at festivals and outside of bars in Brisbane for just a few coins. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Noosa weekend holiday

We took a mini vacation to Noosa this weekend -- the "hippest beachside destination in Australia" according to Lonely Planet. To get there, we rented a car and drove two hours north to the area. Mike drove and he said that it was like looking in a mirror the whole time. By the end of it, he was really good at navigating roundabouts but driving on the left was still weird. We made sure to take full advantage of the car and made a detour to a ginger factory on the way to Noosa.

We got into Noosa in the afternoon and were able to hit the beach before the sunset. Then we went to a bistro along the river and had some fresh fish. The next day we went hiking in Noosa National Park and saw a family of giant sea turtles and a few different types of lizards. Afterwards, we went to the beach again and had lunch at the Noosa Heads Surf Club -- which was voted Australia's best surf club a couple years ago. (Surf clubs in Australia are volunteer lifeguard programs that patrol the beach.) Then we swam on the main beach and checked out a second beach on the other side of the national park.

The next day we got up early and headed to the next town over, Eumundi, to see their famous Saturday market. While we were expecting more of a farmers market, the entire town center was covered with arts and crafts booths. We were able to get some artisan olives, bagels and a great bratwurst before leaving, though. All in all, not a bad weekend holiday.

"The Round"

Mike playing the uke at The Round.

This past Wednesday, Mike participated in the singer-songwriter event "The Round" in Paddington, near the city center. Unlike most shows that take place in bars, this event was all about listening and learning about the craft of songwriting. The audience remained quiet during the songs and didn't talk until the break. Mike said it was one of the coolest gigs he's ever played ... plus we got a free pizza and beers!

During the Q&A session Mike made America proud by being the only one of the singers who knew who the Muppets were. Come on, Australia! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Aussie Rock

I guess it was only a matter of time before Nissa and I started getting Australian pop songs into our heads. The scene of the crime was the Caxton Street Food and Wine Festival, which sounds like a very formal and refined affair but reminded me a lot of the street fests that go on in Chicago -- warm, sunny and a bit crowded. The food was all right (I had my first ever canned whisky and soda), but it was the bands that were a real treat.

With the help of a couple friends from here who guided us along, we took a trip back in time to re-experience the best of 80's Australian rock. Don Walker, of the famed Aussie band Cold Chisel, was the first act we saw, and was fantastic. He had a great grizzled voice, his band was solid, and he told this one captivating story about a "bad bugger" named Harry. It gave me chills. Walker was clearly a guy with a lot of experience.

Don Walker (photo by Rhianna Patrick)

Next up was 1927, who had a much poppier sound and songs everyone seemed to know the words to. Songs like this one:

The biggest difference between the video and now is that now the lead singer is bald. Oh, the ravages of time. But our friend Rhianna insisted he was as good looking as ever. The lead singer for the next band, Boom Crash Opera, also turned out to be bald. Noticing a trend here? He was a true showman to the end, though, and they really got me with this tune:

The last band we saw that day was called The Jungle Giants. I really dug their energy and upbeat style. They were clearly the youngest band of the four we saw and it was really refreshing to see them after spending most of the afternoon reminiscing about the 80s. This was obviously a band from today. Being as they're from Brisbane, I'm looking forward to checking them out again: