Monday, 22 February 2010

More fireworks and even more food

January 26 is an important day in the Australian calender. It marks Australia Day - a celebration of all things Aussie on the anniversary of the First Fleet arriving on Sydney's shores way back in 1788. It is a controversial day in some respects, as indigenous Australians see it as a marking of the day they lost their aboriginal culture. Having said this, most Australians use it as a day to embrace the Australian way of life and embark on traditional activities such as barbies, fireworks and live music.
I had to work during the day (despite it being a public holiday - what's that all about??) so Dan came and met me at the gelato shop and we headed straight into the city. The first stop was The Rocks, just to the left of Circular Quay. The place was heaving with families, all lapping up the sunshine and enjoying the entertainment which was spread over four or five different stages in the area.

As well as plenty of market stalls, there was also quite a bit of random street entertainment. Dan took a particular shine to a large display of red trumpets that were dotted about on the main street through The Rocks!
After treating ourselves to a yummy cake from one of the best bakeries in Sydney we wandered over to Darling Harbour, as we'd heard that was the place to be for nightfall. And they weren't wrong! Again, the whole area was absolutely packed. People were sat all around the edge of the harbour, watching the live music on a stage that was floating on the water! well, I don't know that it was actually floating, but it looked pretty impressive none the less.
We managed to secure a spot to the left of the stage, just in time to hear the speech from the newly appointed Premier for NSW Kristina Keneally. We were then treated to a number of performances from a string of Australian 'celebrities'. I use that word in the loosest possible way, as I had heard of none of them and I'm pretty sure most of the people around me hadn't either! I had, however, vaguely heard of the star of the show - Australian idol winner Stan Walker - and the teenage girls next to me definitely had, judging by the high-pitched wailing in my ear!
The highlight for me, however, was when a fleet of sailing boats started circling the harbour in time with music from Swan Lake. They literally did look just like swans as they glided around, luminated with blue lights.
In keeping with tradition, the night went off with a bang at 9pm when the firework spectacle started. With the reflection of the water they really did look very dramatic. Part of me even thought they might have been better than NYE (am I allowed to say that?)
Although Dan and I have been working hard, we have managed the odd day trip here and there. A couple of weeks ago, on a gloriously sunny day, we decided to check out Bronte Beach. We'd heard so many good things about it, so thought it only right that we pay a visit. We caught the bus to Coogee and decided to do the coastal walk to Bronte, passing through Clovelly on the way.
In Clovelly we were both suffering from the heat a bit, so we tucked in to ice creams to give us some energy for the second part of the walk. After the infamous picture of me eating an Oreo Kit Kat Dan made me take a picture of him munching his Tim Tam Cornetto....!!
After an hour or so we finally reached Bronte. It was smaller than I imagined, but very cute. Dan headed straight for the little seawater pool to cool off while I lounged on the beach reading a mag. I have to say, that's one thing I really miss about England - proper girlie mags!! The Aussie equivalents just aren't the same, plus I have no idea who half the celebs are in the pictures.... where's Cosmo when you need it?!
For Valentine's Day we booked a meal at Chedi Thai, a restaurant in Newtown that had been recommended to us by Dan's boss. I took the pic below mainly to show their speciality (sorry Dan) - the pineapple rice, served in an actual pineapple.
All the food was incredible and, if you ever find yourself in Newtown, I thoroughly recommend you check it out. Yum Yum! (we're not always eating, honest!)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Size Matters

Jo and I have always wanted to go to a music festival in another country, so getting tickets for Big Day Out was quite exciting. There were a load of good acts playing this year including Calvin Harris, Lily Allen, Groove Armada and Muse to name just a few. We managed to download a map and times a week before, giving us a chance to plan our day. The gates opened at 11am so we got up at 8am to get there just after. We had to catch a train from Redfern (two stops from us) to Olympic Park where the festival was being held. It was obvious which train we needed to catch as there were lots of people dressed in whacky/crazy clothing on one of the platforms. I could never have imagined what the next 20 minutes would entail on what felt like the longest journey ever! The train arriving at Redfern had already been through Central so we knew it would be quite busy - understatement! The train pulled in and we both could see it was pretty packed. Not wanting to wait for the next one we joined the crowd and muscled our way onto the train. It was really squashed inside and we both felt like sardines! With the bad singing, sweaty bodies and warm environment it felt like the rugby trips I remember from school! Finally the singing stopped and we were there. We stepped off the train and followed the 55,000 festival-goers to the entrance. The weather was gorgeous and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We were greeted at the entrance by a giant inflatable mouth that had 'Boy' written on it. It was meant to symbolise - 'Enter a boy and come out a man...!'

Once inside we thought it would be a good idea to explore before any bands started playing. There were seven stages spread over the whole site. The Orange and Blue Stages were the main two and had the biggest acts playing on them. They were right next to each other so once a band finished on one stage another band would start on the next, ideal. This was a clever idea because (as any music festival geek would say) at the likes of Glastonbury, once you see an act on one stage you have to wait an hour for the next. Plus the stages aren't anywhere near each other....! 
Anyway, after doing a loop of the venue we thought we would grab a quick drink. As you can guess, food and drink at festivals isn't cheap. A bottle of Coke is about $5, which is too expensive. Luckily Jo had a spare bottle of water on her so we thought we should find a water refill station and 'quickly' fill it up. Each water fountain on the day had a queue longer than any other line. With the temperature creeping up to a whopping 42°C (!) it seemed that everyone wanted water. As you can guess the water fountain was our friend for most of the day, as we were dehydrating quicker than we could drink! Finally it was time to head to the Green Stage where The Temper Trap were playing.
We both really enjoyed The Temper Trap. Halfway through I had to get out to grab a drink, as it got very squashed and started to get hotter. After they finished we headed over to the Orange Stage to catch the end of Kasabian. The stage was in the middle of a massive arena surrounded by seating and shade which was very hard to come by on the day. The next acts I wanted to see were all playing in the Boiler Room. Jo wanted to see Dizzee Rascal at 5pm so she came with me until he started. The Boiler Room, ironically, was the coolest place on the day! The stage was inside but once you entered you could feel the air conditioning straight away. We were greeted by two massive screens and a ferris wheel inside. The band I wanted to see didn't start for an hour so we just chilled out/cooled off for a while.
While Jo was away watching Dizzee and Lily I was 'having it large' in the Boiler Room with The Midnight Juggernauts and Girl Talk! Jo came back to watch Calvin Harris with me who we thought was one of the highlights from the day. He blasted out his top tunes and the crowd went wild for him. After the Scottish DJ finished I stayed and Jo went off to see Ladyhawke, who she said she enjoyed. Later we met up for Muse who were headlining on the Blue Stage. Once they finished we headed back to the Boliler Room to see the last act of the night, Groove Armada. I really enjoyed them as they belted out such classics as Superstylin' and At the River. The train on the way home was practically empty compared to the way in. Once home we both reminisced about what a great day we had...! 
A few days before Big Day Out arrived I was reading the local music magazine - Brag. Every Monday Brag comes out and you can normally find one in any café doorway in Newtown. I always make a habit of reading it as it keeps us up-to-date with what is happening with music. What grabbed me this particular week was a poster advertising a 'MySpace Secret Show' in Sydney with Florence and the Machine. If you don't know already a MySpace Secret Show is an exclusive gig by a band/artist held in different cities all over the world. The latest one was being held in Sydney, ideal! The advert said to put your mobile number in on their website and they would send you a text telling you where it was being held. The night before the gig (Saturday) Jo received a text telling us it was taking place at Paddington Uniting Church - yes a church!!! We both had work the next day but as things like this don't always come up we managed to get our shifts covered. We did a bit of homework that night and came up with the conclusion that we had to get there early as it was 'first come first served'. The following day we arrived at the church, seven hours before the doors opened wondering if it was the right place...?!
After doing loops of the church to see if anyone had camped out or there was a queue we couldn't see, we thought it would be wise to sit in a nearby café and wait. An hour later a few people who looked like they were there for the same reason appeared. Not wanting to miss our place in line (losers!) we hovered outside and waited. Shortly after it came apparent that we were in the right place, as a car sporting the MySpace logo pulled up outside the church. We were spotted by the security guard who came over to speak to us. He asked if we were there to see Florence and to make sure we didn't lose our place in line as they were only letting in 95 members of the public - intimate or what! This surprised us as we found out the night before that the venue holds 250 people. The guy said that there were friends and media making up the other numbers. After wiping the grins off our faces we sat on the wall near the entrance. More and more people started appearing and forming a queue. It wasn't long until the 95 mark was hit but this didn't stop anyone from staying and waiting...!
There were a group of girls who came early and sat with us at the front. They were all really friendly and made the wait more bearable. The girls held our spot so we could grab some lunch. Just after lunch the security guard came back to tell us that we couldn't leave or we would lose our spot. The organisers came around just after to give everyone their wristbands which basically was your ticket inside. The queue was getting longer and more people were getting turned away. Posters were being handed out to anyone who couldn't get in as a consolation.  The following few hours consisted of games, photos and an interview for the website!
Finally after seven hours of waiting the doors opened and we were in. Jo and I were still laughing about the interview in which we spoke to the organisers about the gig. I only said a few words but Jo did most of the talking. With answers like "We've eaten loads" (!) it made me wonder if they would use us in the final product...! As you can guess the church was tiny inside making it even more 'intimate'. Along with the group of girls we both stood right at the front touching the stage. We couldn't get over how small it was and how we could literally touch the mic! Moments later Florence walked on to everyone screaming like crazy. She sang nine songs from her album Lungs including 'You've Got The Love', 'Rabbit Heart' and 'Drumming Song' (without the drums!). 
The time inside went so quickly but it was amazing and worth the wait. On our way out we got our free poster which we were lucky enough to get signed. Along with that and a picture next to her it turned out to be a very memorable day...! If I haven't bored you enough with all the excitement please feel free to check out the link where there are more photos of the day alongside the infamous video. See if you can spot us...