Well, we’re in Adelaide Airport on our way back home after 5 days/4 nights in Adelaide. This was our second trip to Adelaide for the Big Day Out music festival – although unlike last year (when we drove), we decided to fly this time around. We stayed in an apartment in the city, only about a block from the Adelaide Central Markets – which suited us perfectly as we strolled down to the markets the first three days we were here to buy top-notch ingredients to cook up back in the apartment that night. We still love the markets here so much – the markets in Canberra are good (and the Italian Deli at the Fyshwick markets is still, on the whole, better than Lucia’s, but I digress…) but the Adelaide Central Markets are just so much better. The food is better quality and cheaper. In Adelaide we paid less for wonderful quality fully organic produce what we paid for normal vegetables in Canberra. It’s really just no competition. However, it was difficult to find really good coffee in Adelaide, so hey – it’s not all perfect. The day leading up to the Big Day Out was a bit stressful when I realised I’d left our tickets at home, but our next door neighbour fetched them and Express Posted them to us, for which we will be eternally in hers and Australia Post’s debt. The Big Day Out was awesome. We had such a great time, and Tegan even managed not to throw up too much (although the same can’t be said for the rest of the trip). We arrived to see Josh Pyke, who was good, but not spectacular. He has a good sound though and singing along with ‘Middle of the Hill’ was a lot of fun. After Josh Pyke we watched the Hilltop Hoods from a distance; they were a lot of fun. From there it was on to The Nightwatchman, who is Tom Morello – the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.
The Nightwatchman was the surprise hit for us this year at the Big Day Out. The Nightwatchman is Tom Morello, the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, doing a solo folk-style act. Equal parts Bob Dylan (think solo act with just classical guitar and harmonica) and Billy Bragg (politically activist songs – I kept waiting for a cover of ‘All you Fascists are Bound to Lose’). The set was awesome – probably the top act of the day for us, on the whole. Highlights were the opening song, ‘One Man Revolution’, a cover of ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ with the verses changed to be about George W Bush et al, and a finale where he brought Billy Bragg and Anti-Flag on stage and covered ‘Beds are Burning’ (in Tom Morello’s words, an alternative anthem).
After working our way toward the front during The Arcade Fire (who were ok) and Silverchair (surprisingly enjoyable) the next main act we saw was Björk. In a word – amazing. And fun. Sorry, in two words. (Ok, enough Monty Python jokes already). Neither of us are huge Björk fans, but we loved it. Björk is an amazing performer and she put on a wonderful show. I think her set was the most *fun* I’ve had at a concert for a long time. She really mixed it up between her more trance-like songs and ones that really rocked, such as ‘Army of Me’ and ‘I Miss You’. I can’t remember the last time I basically danced during a concert (and that while carrying a whopping big SLR and lens and being only about 10 rows from the front). We even went out today and bought her album Post, which contains the songs we enjoyed the most in her set. We’re going to listen to it on the plane tonight. The brass band she had with her were also very interesting – dressed and acting somewhere between the Polyphonic Spree and a Cirque du Soleil production. I was particularly impressed at the way they kept dancing whenever they weren’t playing.
After Björk we worked our way over to be in the front row, though off to the side of the stage, for Rage Against the Machine – who were the band we were most keen to see.
They were loud. Very loud.
This was the loudest gig I’ve ever heard – and that’s saying something. It turned out that we were standing directly in front of a massive speaker stack. The first kicks of the bass drum nearly made us fall over. I was still recovering my hearing two days later. The mix was so loud that the lead singer’s vice sounded high pitched and it was somewhat difficult to make out some of the lyrics. But, it was awesome.
They kicked off the set with ‘Testify’ before going into ‘Bulls on Parade’. We loved every moment of it.
During ‘Bulls on Parade’ Tom Morello moved to the front and stood on top of a foldback speaker for the guitar solo. It was amazing to watch – he’s such a great guitarist and it was really impressive to see the way he moved his left hand all over the fret board while working the killswitch with his right hand in that solo. It’s a fun song to play in Guitar Hero 3 (during The Nightwatchman’s set he quipped about being digitised in that game) and it was even more amazing seeing it in real life.
Of course, they finished their set with ‘Killing in the Name’ and of course the crowd went absolutely crazy for that. About what you’d expect really – but still great to be there and be a part of it.
The last days of the trip were spent meandering around Adelaide. We also went to Glenelg for a swim at its very average beach, had a very good iced chocolate at a new-ish chocolate shop called Bracegirdles House of Fine Chocolate (thanks again to Beccci for the tip), drank good tea at the T-Bar, had lunch and read books in the Botanic Gardens today, and discovered a very funky wine bar called La Boheme (most people there were dressed up in retro fashions). Nothing else interesting to say about that stuff, really.
Here’s a hint. If you’re flying to a different city (e.g. Adelaide) to see a concert for which you have non-replaceable tickets (e.g. to the Big Day Out) – don’t leave them in your briefcase in Canberra.However, if you do leave them in your briefcase, I recommend realising at least a day before the concert and having lovely next door neighbours with a key to your place who will go and find them and express post them to you.
They’re so much fun! In Tegan’s words, they’re a foodie’s heaven. The fruit and vegetables there were so good and quite cheap. For example, some of the best looking vine-ripened tomatoes we’ve ever seen were only $4.99 a kilo, and really good-looking bananas were only $1.99 a kilo – a very unusual sight of late. The fish shop was quite good and reasonably priced, there’s a shop that sells nothing but mushrooms, there was a very good cheese shop, good coffee, excellent delicatessens, a good camera shop (in a food market?! very odd, but fun, nonetheless), a little Russian food shop – well, I could go on…
We went there twice on Saturday – once in the morning and then came back about 45 minutes before they closed. The end of day rush was quite an experience: all the sellers trying to offload their remaining produce so we snapped up some real bargains. The markets always had quite a bustle about them, but at closing time there was such frenetic energy – it was great! We still want to go back and rent a house in Adelaide for a couple of weeks and just go to the markets every couple of days for fresh produce and cook for ourselves (and whichever friends we can convince to come with us).
2. The Barossa Valley
Not so much in Adelaide itself, but it’s just out of town. We bought some great olive oils from Truro, which is just at the edge of the Barossa – but of course, the main thing is the wine. We went to three vineyards there:
3. The Big Day Out
Of course, this is why we went to Adelaide this time (we couldn’t make it to an East Coast show this year). What was good about going in Adelaide, compared to Sydney, was that the lesser number of people meant that it was easier to get close to the front.
Muse, Little Birdy and the Violent Femmes were particular highlights – we had such a good time there and took a few photos we’re quite proud of.
4. the greedy goose
We wanted to have one nice dinner out and this place was only a few blocks from our hotel. We didn’t realise when we went in that it was the winning restaurant of My Restaurant Rules season 2, but don’t hold that against it. The staff were friendly, the food was delicious, the service was excellent. We were very glad that we skipped the tasting menu (degustation) because the main dish of pan-fried duck breast with duck confit, which wasn’t on the tasting menu, was our pick of the night. The dessert was also quite unusual – it involved a whole tomato, poached with cardamon and sugar, served chilled with vanilla bean ice-cream. The maître d’ was also very nice and gave us each a complimentary glass of the fortified wine they had matched to this dish on the tasting menu; and since we only ordered one dessert to share, it was even more unusual to be given a glass of wine each. I’m not normally a fan of desserts, but this one was very, very tasty.
5. Dublin pale ale
This was a house beer at the Dublin Hotel in Glenelg. Neither Tegan nor I are typically fans of this style of beer, but it was quite good and very refreshing on such a hot day. The menu at the hotel also looked very good – but we left that for next time.
And then there’s things I’m indifferent about, such as Glenelg beach: really, why do people rave about it? It’s boring and not a particularly nice beach – kind of like Brighton le Sands in Botany Bay in Sydney. I guess people in Adelaide like it because it’s all they’ve got.
All in all on the trip, we did about 26 hours of driving, just short of 2500km with an average fuel consumption of about 9.5L per 100km.
Another Christmas and New Year period has come and gone and now we’re back at work and eagerly anticipating and hanging out for another holiday (although with a new blog design implemented, in keeping with the ‘New Year’).
Christmas is always a bit of an odd time of the year. I have long held the view that Christmas is over-commercialised and not even a particularly significant Christian celebration – although my view on that one changed a bit this year. In the past I was of the opinion that Jesus’ death and resurrection were the focus of the early Christians, as demonstrated throughout the New Testament, and that a celebration of Jesus’ birth never really gets much of a mention. Never mind the evidence that Jesus’ wasn’t actually born on 25 December and that Christmas seems to have been put on that date as a continuation of earlier pagan festivals. I always appreciated the family aspect of Christmas – spending wonderful time with extended family more than at any other time of the year – but thought it was all a bit overdone. This year, I still think it’s overdone, but have a renewed appreciation of the wonder and significance of the incarnation – what an amazing thing it is that the God of everything would willingly choose to enter into our world, take on human flesh and frailty and experience in the body the life of a human, before finally giving it up in a painful, undeserved death – and all that because he loved us. Amazing.
Tegan and I hosted family Christmas for the first time ever in our new house. My immediate family came down to stay on the weekend before Christmas and we had our traditional Christmas Eve gathering with just the five of us. On Christmas Day we went to church, were Tegan was always leading the singing, and then we hosted the feast for the extended family on my Mum’s side. We had such a great day! It was one of the best Christmas gatherings I can remember – the food was great, everyone got along really, really well, we didn’t overdo the presents too much (instituting a “secret santa” style gift giving arrangement), and it was just a good relaxing day: food, drink, cricket in the park – all good.
Two days later we also hosted a Christmas gathering for Tegan’s family in Canberra, so we had ten at lunch that day (a little easier than the thirteen on Christmas day). This was also a good day in all the same kind of ways. The rest of the week was pretty quiet after that (well, the bit of the week that was left) although we also had a quiet but fun gathering of friends for a BBQ and games (including backyard croquet) on New Years Eve. And then it was back to work on 2 January.
So far, this year has involved:
We’re also taking three weeks leave after Australia Day, most of which will be doing nothing kind of time, except that we’re going to Adelaide for a few days to go to the Big Day Out.
On Sunday morning we went to the local Anglican church near our holiday house. It was a delightful little place. At first we thought we had doubled the size of the service we attended, although more people arrived later and it turned out to be a bustling little country church. The people were uber-friendly and sang with real gusto – more than in any other church I’ve been to for some time.
Now, before I go on I need to put one thing on the record: I’m not an Anglican. I’ve been to Anglican church services not much more than about half a dozen times in my life, of which only about three used the Prayer Book explicitly. The third of these times was yesterday morning. This reminded me of what I both love and hate about services that use the prayer book and have the congregation follow along in it. 
What I love is that the service is largely conducted as a prayer to God – almost everything that is said is expressed as a prayer. And it’s so theologically excellent – even though the ‘sermon’ we sat through was so bad and really just used the passsage as a jumping off point into what the priest wanted to say, the congregation afffirmed many biblical truths during the course of the service.  Sitting in on a prayer book service always makes me realise that we could do better in the way we conduct services in less traditional protestant churches – we could do much better at affirming biblical truths in even the normal things we say during the service. And prayers in particular were very good – even the prayer offered by a member of the congregation was theologically excellent, was full of praise to God and affirmation of who he is, and covered so much ground as well – I was quite challenged to improve my praying at church after listening to it.
On the other hand, the service as a whole was utterly inaccessible. Even Tegan, who grew up in an Anglican church and who followed along in the prayer book better than I, couldn’t quite understand some of what was going on in the communion – the difference betweeen kneeling and standing, and whether you ate the wafer and then drank from the common cup, or whether you dipped your wafer in the wine and then ate that.
And following along with the prayer book is, I assume, meant to be easy – but it is absolutely not. There was nothing in there that told you which parts to sing, which lines to repeat while you’re singing, it’s hard to know which parts to skip and when to turn the page when the priest could choose from several options in the text of the book, and then there are lines here and there which the priest and congregation say which aren’t in the book – all very confusing. Having been to a couple of these things before, I could follow along reasonably well – not perfectly though – but one of our friends who had never been to a prayer book service before found it extremely difficult to follow along.
Now, we were all Christians who were there – and if we found it that hard, I really wonder how an outsider who is checking out Christianity and the church for the first time must find it. I imagine that it must feel as though you have entered some kind of sect – it’s that different than anything else I’ve observed in modern society. One of the congregation members said to me that it was good seeing so many young people (there were six of us there) in church, and mentioned that they had troble attracting young people to church. Now that I think about it, I’m not surprised.
The sign at the front of the church said “Visitor’s Welcome”. While the people were certainly welcoming and warm and friendly, perhaps the sign should have read, “Visitors Welcome – But if you’re not Anglican, don’t expect to understand anything about the service.
1: The church we were at was quite High Anglican, so I guess that’s a factor as well.
2: Of course, this raises the question of how you know that they’re biblical truths if the preaching plays, in my opinion, fairly fast and loose with the Bible itself. I guess you would hope that people are reading the Bible for themselves and can evaluate whhat they’re reading against that. And I trust that the authors of the prayer book considered the Bible very carefully and wrote only things that the Bible affirmed to be true.