Cry, Baby, Cry

For those who don’t really care:

Eh, just listen to the album.

Extended Mix:

After missing out on her first set of shows, with Brisbane getting a four song free show in Queen Street Mall on a hellishly warm weekday, Melanie Martinez finally decided to stop in for a night on Tuesday (16th August). Excited for the show after ordering pre-sale tickets months ago we made our way to The Tivoli, not entirely sure what to expect from an artist with little more than an album to play for us.

Martinez has become somewhat infamous for some of her actions in the public eye – coming from a decent run on The Voice some years ago and now being a daddy-kink inspiring, photo-hating alternative pop artist with a penchant for literal splitting of hairs. It was always going to be interesting to see if her actions at a proper show, which of course she’ll make a handy dollar from, would at all correlate with what the media has told us thus far. To some extent they did.

We thought we would be okay arriving just before doors at 7pm. Turns out more children and their mothers were interested in standing in a line spanning the street length and around the next corner than they were going to Disneyland on a family vacation. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. We waited for the best part of an hour, got in and went straight to the back of the merch line. Yeah, $45 for a tour shirt might not be the best deal – but it’s better than $30 for her album you can get at JB for a tenner or a $20 poster that we got 3 of for free earlier in the year.

Strike one for Mel.

The music started eventually, after a good dozen false alarms with tweenage girls squealing every time the house music changed we finally got a bit of live music. It was the opening act, Japanese Wallpaper. They were pretty good, a nice brand of chilled out, ambient electronic pop that would have been perfect listening while doing absolutely nothing at home. Plus they’re from Melbourne, so that’s a bit of a plus.

Back to waiting, another half hour of squeals, chants for Melanie (despite the set times being more or less a surefire thing – sorry kids but you aren’t gonna change that) and a general feeling of disgust at being in the same room as so many foetuses. 20160816_212530.jpgEventually, the one we waited for finally emerged on stage. And I mean finally, there was a good 5 minutes of pointless light flashing before she emerged from the crib she probably (definitely) had backstage.

Quickly before I continue, the set design was cute and interesting – however it didn’t add anything more than something to gawk at when the curtain was first raised.

Her set was decent enough, she played through the entirety of her album in that order (due to it’s narrative structure (It’s called Cry Baby for those who want to know)) and that was it before we scurried out in order to avoid the crowds. She might have played an encore, I don’t know.

What got to me however, was I’m not even sure if there was any live music played. It was her and two ‘bandmates’ equiped with a couple of cymbals and two sample pads – it was a symphony of loops and samples, backing tracks and a lack of effort, to be frank I’m not even sure how often a live instrument was played. There were a couple of times the man on the left of stage broke out a coupe of bars of electric guitar, and sometimes it looked like he was playing keyboard (however that was conveniently blocked by some of the stage props, so I’m not sure if he even played it). It was slick and perfect – and that’s what was wrong. I don’t want to go to a live show and hear a perfect reproduction of the studio version, give it some difference. A bit of energy, a mistake due to over-excitement now and again, something to make it worth actually going to a show. There was none of that, absolutely none – and I left relatively lukewarm.

Melanie herself was okay. She only spoke a couple of words to her fans all night and spend half of the songs with her back turned or casually chatting with her band members. Didn’t seem to care an awful lot that she was playing a sold out show. Granted she has admitted to a touch of stage fright – and she has been interrupted abruptly by the audience when trying to speak to them – makes it a bit fairer. Still doesn’t excuse not facing us.

Strike two Mel.

What irritated me the most wasn’t any of that, despite my response; it was the fact that there was no separation of the crowd, the problem of the all ages gig. Melanie’s songs aren’t of a lighthearted nature – they sing of rape, sex, murder and disfunction. Drug references and blatant innuendos are coupled with cursing and hatred. I don’t care how old you are if you like the music, but bloody hell at least give those who understand the musical content something to hold onto.

If there was an all ages area and an 18+ area it would have been a better show. Full Stop. Those who wanted to be oblivious, bop along and dance terribly out of time to a song about being raped in a carpark and not know that it’s a morbid song draped in fancy embroidered lolita dresses could do that. Those who understood it, wanted to have a drink instead of paying half of your arm for a red bull and be with likeminded people who revelled in the macabre could. But no, everyone had to intermingle and listen to a song about a child being raped while surrounded by 6 year old and their mothers. Again, not exaggerating.

My partner with whom I went summed it up perfectly when they said:

“I’m glad I went to see her live. Was it worth it? Maybe. Was it worth $80? No. Would I see her again? Probably not.”

I agree, and really it wouldn’t have been any different from watching a muted video of Melanie on YouTube with the CD playing in the background. Sorry Mel, strike three. You’re out.

-AJLienert

Cry, Baby, Cry

99 Virgins and Pussy in Heaven

If you ask me, or value my opinion at all, I’ll tell you that live theatre is going through one of the strongest resurgences of any art form. Yes, I can hear you telling me that vinyl has been *insert adverb here* successful since the hipsters emerged from their niche coffee holes, or that hard copies of books are wanted more and more by the day (because you can’t turn the pages of a tablet), but to me, that’s not as strong a resurgence.

What makes me believe (in my fairly limited yet highly opinionated manner) that live theatre is trying its hardest to be recognised as a legitimate and plentiful art form is purely down to the fact that it’s had to shake itself up. Books keep being books, even though we have kindle. Music keeps being music whether it’s digital or on vinyl. Theatre, however, seemed like it was falling into the trap of Shakespeare revival after Shakespeare butchery after Shakespeare musical. Indie films were taking all the glory of being a bit different and pushing the boundaries, but theatre, ESPECIALLY that of more alternative production houses has taken it one step further, and made it even better (here’s looking at you La Boîte)

You might have read the last thing I posted (yeah, sorry about that. Life gets int he way of things sometimes) and wondered if there was anything else Jake Connor Moss couldn’t make gratuitously real. Well, he did it to theatre as well.

Despite the name, “Is there Pussy in Heaven” is a one-man show that talks about far more than merely sex in the clouds, well, for the most part. Following a very similar trend to much of his published works, it delves into the oft taboo areas of mental health (yes guys, it does in fact exist), drugs, abuse, suicide and sex, and doesn’t hold back. The story loosely follows a main male protagonist dealing with life. No spoilers, theres a beautiful cohesive and ultimately revealing plot to the show.

As a one man show, you’d think it would be hard to define distinct characters, have a setting, a coherent plot, however Moss is just that good that nothing seemed out of place. First an foremost, the acting chops he showed were immense. He tackled various subtle and emotional characters and came out looking like Gary Oldman in each instance. He played obscenely exaggerated caricatures and made them fit without being cliched or over the top. Having written these characters and the related script himself, you’d expect him to know what he was doing, and he didn’t disappoint. The simplicity of both the costuming and the set design worked just as well to compliment the material. A hat, a few chairs, a pair of glasses and a desk was all he needed to set a scene that (bar a few references to Brisbane locales) could be inserted into virtually any western setting. Couple that with the lighting – all impressively manually worked – to prompt a scene change or change in P.O.V so succinct even Tarantino would have been impressed with the fluidity of the acting and the script, and you have a formula for solo success.

But really, the characters, the setting, the costumes and the lights were nothing compared to the pure, unadulterated piece of realism genius that was the script. I repeat a lot of what I mentioned in his Sooky Cunts book review,  that having an unapologetic and raw outlook to some usually untouchable ideas is just what we need. However the witty comedy, the make-you-cry monologues, the dirty jokes and the overarching story and plot twist were just so, so good that really, I can’t think of what more to say. The balance of comedy and drama was precise, giving you a hint of comic relief right when you needed it but not overshadowing the messages of what help really means. The anecdotes provides allow the audience to connect with a hard to grasp concept even if they can’t relate it to personal experience, and that’s something that doesn’t happen all too often. The way Moss embodies the words that he’s saying, whoever is saying them, whatever the situation, draws it back to the reality of the speech. The script has so coherently showed us that anyone can have issues. Anyone can be on the brink. Anyone can put on a mask. So don’t assume.

Yes, he’s done it again. Jake’s woo-d me with realism and freedom of expression just as I endeavour to freely express myself, no matter what. Not only that, but from both a critical and emotional opinion, works like this could very well change the dynamic and medium of modern theatre. I sincerely hope it does.

– AJ Lienert

99 Virgins and Pussy in Heaven