Thursday, 10 January 2008

Sydney Festival and Pink Martini

Sydney Festival runs throughout January, on stages and parks and streets around Sydney's centre. It's an eclectic mix of cultural events; theatre, music, dance, performance art, loosely collected under the Sydney Festival banner. It's also practically sold out, or at least it was on the afternoon of its second day, last Sunday. All of the shows I was interested in were sold out then. It might be entirely sold out now, for all I know.
The organisers did give fair warning that tickets would sell out quickly, but I didn't expect it to be quite so fast. You can queue up at a booth for a limited number of tickets sold on the day of each performance, but the booth is only open during work hours so I'm just simply out of luck.

However, I didn't write this blog post to complain about not getting tickets. Fortunately for me, there was a massive public "Festival First Night" on Saturday night, where a large number of the artists taking part in Sydney Festival gave free performances at open-air venues across the city centre. It was a fantastic night, wandering from stage to stage taking in the diversity of entertainment.
Martin Place, a pedestrian mall, and the alleys around it was turned into an open-air dance party, with DJs and bands playing throughout the evening.
Hyde Park had a stage and dancefloor set up around it's main fountain, and played host to a succession of Swing-themed events - first a massive dance class, followed by live music and dancing. Various restaurants had set up kitchen tents in an area set aside for dining.
Macquarie St was closed to traffic and had live Latin-American and Celtic music, followed by three couples being married in weird and wacky ways (I didn't bother staying for the ceremonies though, seemed too much like reality TV to me).
The Domain, an expansive park and the communal cultural heart of Sydney, had a massive stage. I stayed here for a great concert by Paul Kelly, but skipped out on Brian Wilson, the lead singer and songwriter of The Beachboys. I was more interested in heading back to Hyde Park for its finale...

A couple of weeks back I read an interview with a band - more of an ensemble - called Pink Martini (wiki) that sounded really interesting, drawing upon and blending diverse genres, and I thought to myself that I should try to find some of their music. So, when I learned that they were performing on Saturday night, I made certain of seeing them.
I was not in the least disappointed, in fact I was quite amazed. Pink Martini effortlessly glided through many styles of world music, a lot of Latin-American and Spanish Salsa, but with good amounts of continental Europe (especially French ) and even Japanese and Middle-Eastern songs interleaved with contemporary jazz.
Pink Martini had a lot of already established fans there. I was amongst a group of them that knew every song from its opening bars, and were almost as impressive as the lead singer for knowing every word in every language! To top it off, the Festival fireworks went off during the final song, exploding in beautifully restrained gold over St Mary's Cathedral.
You might have gathered that I'm now a firm Pink Martini fan. I've managed to find two of their studio albums, but I'll have to order in the third. As great as the studio albums are, however, I'm afraid I've been quite spoiled by hearing the band live first, and the recordings only make me wistfully recall that fantastic concert.


Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous!! I LOVE Pink Martini!! I only have one of their albums but I keep meaning to buy the others :P Tanya

Nick said...

I thought you might like Pink Martini but I didn't know if you'd already heard them. :)
I just got Hang On Little Tomato the other day (I had Sympathique and Eugene). Sympathique and Eugene are my favourites though - I'm particularly fond of Dosvedanya Mio Bombino!