Daniel Lee Kendall has won me over again with his new single “Emptiness,” the second lifted from his debut album Daniel Lee Kendall is Dead. For such dark subject matter it sounds remarkably cheerful. It’s just the thing for a chilled out Sunday if you ask me.

Daniel is currently travelling around the country on his The Funeral Tour, so if you love what you hear you can see him do it in the flesh at the following shows.

29 November 2014 – Loo Loo’s Warehouse, Kincumber
5 December 2014 – Brighton Up Bar, Sydney
21 February 2015 – Mountain Sounds, Kariong

Image used with permission from Create/Control

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If you’re seeing Nahko & Medicine for the People on their upcoming shows, I recommend arriving early. I’ve just been listening to the support act Trevor Hall’s latest album Chapter of the Forest, and he’s outstanding.

I’ve had a lot of turmoil going on around me of late. Sisters feeling out of sorts, parents overseas so I’m the one hearing it from both sides, persistent illness, all general ickiness. So listening to something like this album which is so spiritual, so grounded, so organic, is just what I needed. I only wish I didn’t already have plans when they’re all in Newcastle, or I’d be there with bells on. I’ll just have to be content with listening to Trevor’s wonderful songs, but honestly if you get a chance, these shows are going to be killer.

22 November 2014 – Tanks Art Centre, Cairns
23 November 2014 – Mullum Music Festival, Mullumbimby (Nahko solo)
25 November 2014 – The HiFi, Sydney
26 November 2014 – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
29 November 2014 – Queenscliff Music Festival, Queenscliff
02 December 2014 – The Governor, Hindmarsh
04 December 2014 – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River
06 December 2014 – Fly By Night, Fremantle

Image used with permission from Heapsaflash

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Pepa Knight, the co-frontman of Jinja Safari, is stepping out solo with the forthcoming album Hypnotized Vol. I. The album doesn’t drop until November 28, but you can get a taste of it with the original and totally gorgeous new single “Coyote Choir.”

I love the way this song comes together. It’s a little Hari Krishna, a little hanging out on the beaches of Byron, a little Summer of Love. Neon Gold called it “highly original tipi-pop,” which sounds as good a label as any. Or maybe we just forget about categorising it and enjoy it for what it is.

And if you are enjoying it, make sure you get along to the remaining shows Pepa’s performing along the East Coast this month.

27 November 2014 – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle
28 November 2014 – Baker St, Gosford
29 November 2014 – Milk Factory, Brisbane (FREE)

Image used with permission from Rare Finds

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Kim Churchill will be spreading good vibes across Australia this summer as he sets out on his Single Spark tour. The shows will celebrate the recent release of the feel-good song “Single Spark,” the opening track from his latest album Silence/Win.

Kim’s been having an amazing ride for someone who grew up in coastal Merimbula. At just 24 years old he’s already played Glastonbury, the Montreal Jazz Festival, and the intimate Telluride Blues and Brews festival in the US. He’s also opened for the lines of Billy Bragg and Michael Franti, and been the headliner on tours across the United Kingdom, Europe, and Canada.

After all that it’s a thrill to have him back on home soil sharing his music with us all. You can catch him play at the following venues in the coming months.

15 January 2015 – The Corner, Melbourne
16 January 2015 – The Abbey, Canberra
17 January 2015 – Karova Lounge, Ballarat
21 January 2015 – Birdhouse Bar, Wagga Wagga
22 January 2015 – Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul
23 January 2015 – The Cambridge, Newcastle
24 January 2015 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
29 January 2015 – The Beach Hotel, Byron Bay (FREE)
30 January 2015 – The Zoo, Brisbane
31 January 2015 – Solbar, Maroochydore
1 February 2015 – Festival of King Island, Currie
5 February 2015 – Jive, Adelaide
6 February 2015 – Amplifier Bar, Perth
7 February 2015 – City of Stirling Summerset Arts Festival at Stirling Civic Gardens, Scarborough

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I thought I was going to resist the lure of Tori Amos tickets this time. I’d been spending too much on big-ticket concerts, the inevitable Christmas splurge was looming, and the last few of her albums hadn’t struck me the way that her earlier material had. But then a by-request show at the intimate City Recital Hall was announced and all of my calm, rational decision making flew out the window. When I was rewarded with front row seats in the closest box to the stage, it felt like confirmation that I’d made the right call. I wish I had some photos to show you just how close I was to the incomparable Tori, but considering that I listened to the “no cameras” warning on the back of the ticket you’ll just have to take my word for it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before Tori we were treated to the musical stylings of Melbourne singer-songwriter Matt Walters. Now you might remember me gushing about Matt’s music way back in 2009 and 2010. He sort of fell off my radar in recent years, but I was so excited to see him doing his thing in the flesh, all stripped back with just an acoustic guitar and his incredible voice. He effortlessly moved from husky masculine tones to a soaring falsetto, and sang lyrics that I really connected with. I was in raptures, and actually kind of disappointed when he announced his last song. His set must have been six or seven songs long but it felt far too short for me, even though it meant we were that bit closer to Tori.

There’s such a wonderful energy about Tori Amos. I’ve seen her live a few times now and I’m always struck by her presence. Always a woman of few words, preferring to let her music speak, there was a little more banter between her and the crowd than I’ve seen at recent shows. Perhaps it was the intimacy of the venue, which holds only around 1200 people, that helped the walls come down.

The good people of Sydney didn’t disappoint when it came to helping Tori create the perfect set list. I was thrilled to hear “Putting the Damage On,” one of the five songs I submitted through her website, and “Northern Lad” and “Cooling,” the two songs I thought probably should have made my top five after I hit send, on the set list. Hearing those songs that have such a special place in my heart performed in person brought tears to my eyes. She also made me remember how much I loved tracks like “The Power of Orange Knickers” and “Sleeps with Butterflies,” even though I haven’t listened to The Beekeeper in ages.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Tori having as much fun on stage as she did last night. Cheeky songs like her cover of Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl,” “She’s Your Cocaine,” “Raspberry Swirl,” and that breakthrough single “Cornflake Girl” were all delivered with such joy and pure abandonment. She fed off the beautiful people in the crowd who gave her so much love all night. I sometimes found myself watching them, dancing in their seats, rapturous, punching their fists in the air. I sort of wish I was down there with them, even though I had such a great bird’s eye view.

When you’re asked to submit a list of songs you want to hear, it’s hard to walk away without wishing you heard a little more of them. But having said that, I think this was the most well-rounded, exciting, and satisfying Tori Amos show I’ve been to. Too often I’ve felt like I’ve heard more of the new album than I wanted to, at the expense of that rich back catalogue. Last night, not one song from Unrepentant Geraldines made the cut. It was a concert not for promotion, but for connecting with and giving back to the people who’ve been there from the beginning. I feel so privileged to have been a part of it.

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After captivating the nation on the original season of Australian Idol, Paulini kind of fell off my radar. I seem to remember a single a few years back, but she definitely hasn’t had the kind of career that I anticipated. Hopefully she’ll remind all of us why we fell in love with her when she releases her new album Come Alive next February.

If the lead single “Air It All Out” is any indication, this is just what Paulini needs to get back under our skin. It’s life affirming and full of wisdom and feminine strength. And of course it shows off her incredible vocal chops.

Are you happy to see Paulini back in the spotlight?

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The Entertainment Centre and Allphones Arena might get the lion’s share of the big-name acts, but there are plenty of better places to see bands in Sydney. Read on to discover five of the best.

1. Sydney Opera House

Image via Flickr by cogdogblog

There’s a reason why international artists revere the Sydney Opera House. Its Concert Hall was purpose-built to offer some of the best acoustics around. Of course it hosts symphonies and operas, but in recent years it’s also played host to an eclectic mix of big-name acts like Tori Amos, Ben Folds, Michael Buble, and Jason Mraz. Seeing a show there always feels extra special.

2. State Theatre

Image via Flickr by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

I get chills whenever I hear that one of my favourite musicians is performing at the State Theatre. This beautiful heritage-listed building feels a lot like the Civic in my old stomping ground of Newcastle, with its dramatic staircases and eclectic mix of Gothic, Italian, and Art Deco design features. The sound is always exquisite, and it’s so intimate that there really are no bad seats. David Byrne, Human Nature, Cyndi Lauper, and Dave Matthews Band are some of the amazing artists I’ve seen here over the years.

3. Enmore Theatre

Image via Flickr by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

The Enmore’s another intimate venue that has a real charm. It’s a long way from the beauty of the State; there are no frills about it at all. But you’ve got to have respect for a venue that’s still going strong 106 years after it opened its doors. That makes it the longest-running, currently operational live music venue in the state. The Rolling Stones, Counting Crows, Coldplay, and John Mayer are just a handful of the artists who’ve played in this hallowed hall.

4. The Annandale Hotel

Image via Flickr by Newtown Graffiti

Of course it can’t all be about posh venues with plush seating though. If you want to see a band before they break you need to brave the sticky floors of Sydney’s pubs and clubs. Some of my fondest early music memories centred around the Annandale. I remember catching artists like Howie Day and Thirsty Merc here for next to nothing back in the day. I haven’t been for years, but a quick look at its website shows me the Annandale’s still showcasing the best up and comers.

5. The Standard Bowl

I was so impressed with The Standard when I visited a few years ago, even if I did feel far too old for its hipster crowd. If, like me, you’re too old to stand around all night waiting for the bands to appear, arrive early and sneak up to the top level where you can enjoy a few bevvies while you survey the action below. I loved the bird’s eye view I got upstairs, but there’s also plenty of space on the lower level for punters wanting to get a little closer to the action. And it just got even cooler this year with the addition of a bowling alley!

Where do you like to see live music in Sydney? Add your views to the discussion below!

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Conor Oberst is another of those incredible American musicians I only discovered because I learned he was touring and figured I better do a little research. I’d heard of the band Bright Eyes without ever hearing any of their stuff, and I certainly didn’t know his name, but wow. We live in a time that is just rich with phenomenally talented singer-songwriters. Of course our own musicians are writing some superb material, but if you want to expand your horizons I definitely recommend checking this guy out.

As a little taster, check out this performance from Letterman a couple of month back. How good is that song? It manages to balance light and shade so beautifully. It had me tapping my toes and punching my fists in the air by the end. I’m so impressed.

If you are so, make sure you check out Conor when he visits Australia next year to support the relatively recent release of his solo album Upside Down Mountain. He’s also bringing along fellow Americans The Felice Brothers to sweeten the deal.

25 February 2015 – The Triffid, Brisbane
26 February 2015 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
28 February 2015 – Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne
4 March 2015 – Metro Theatre, Sydney
5 March 2015 – Anitas, Thirroul
6 March 2015 – Taronga Zoo, Sydney
8 March 2015 – Golden Plains Festival, Meredith

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For decades Newcastle’s seemed like Sydney’s poor cousin, a city overshadowed by the big smoke a couple of hours down the Pacific Highway. However, in recent years I’ve seen my hometown and the nearby Hunter region experience a real renaissance thanks to festivals which as impressive as any you’d find in the New South Wales capital. Events like these make Newcastle and the Hunter much more than Sydney’s lesser relative.

Fat as Butter

Fat as Butter is one of Newcastle’s leading music festivals, with an eclectic line-up of retro acts and up-and-comers taking over the Newcastle Foreshore around September or October since 2007. Where else would you see acts like Wheatus, Naughty by Nature, and Eiffel 65 sharing a stage with our own Living End, Calling All Cars, and The Jezebels? Sadly the 2014 event didn’t go ahead after organisers failed to secure a worthy line-up, but they promise they’ll “definitely be back in 2015 with a smashing show.”

Jazz in the Vines

Image via Sounds of Oz

Jazz in the Vines is one of my favorite festivals for its chilled-out atmosphere and consistently stellar line-up. I hated missing this year’s event; my parents travelled abroad and I didn’t think it’d be the same without sipping Semillon with mum while we sang along to artists like Joe Camilleri, Leo Sayer, and Tom Burlinson. Add in some of the Hunter’s best food and I’ll definitely be grabbing early bird tickets next year.

Newcastle Jazz Festival

It doesn’t have the wine, but it’s still worth checking out the Newcastle Jazz Festival, held at the Newcastle Jockey Club on the last full weekend of August. The line-up’s always eclectic with traditional jazz artists and big bands performing alongside modern masters who fuse jazz with funk and soul, like Psycho Zydeco, Fish Fry, and the Funky Do Das. This premier festival, which has run for 27 years, is considered one of the best in its genre in the nation.

Wollombi Music Festival

Image via Sounds of Oz

When I took my sister to Wollombi a few years ago, she fell instantly in love. As a single mum, she loved that there was a music festival where we could enjoy awesome new blues and roots acts while her young daughter played happily in the Kidsfest zone. I was out the moment she mentioned camping the next year, but she’s been attending ever since. I might be too much of a princess to embrace the overnight accommodation, but I could definitely appreciate the quality line-up, which this year featured King Tide, The Peep Tempel, and Holly Who, as well as the family-friendly atmosphere.

The Newcastle Weekender Festival

This year saw the launch of a new kid on the block, The Newcastle Weekender Festival run in conjunction with the This is Not Art event. A massive crowdfunding campaign saw up-and-coming and experimental acts like Horse Macgyver, Philippa Omega, Hedonist, and King playing intimate shows across four days at the Terrace Bar and the Croatian Club. Its commitment to celebrating the talents of left-of-centre acts make it one to watch.

Have I missed any Novacastrians? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the music festivals that make Newcastle and the Hunter great.

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In the ’90s N’Fa Jones made a splash on the Australian music scene fronting 1200 Techniques, a unique act that effortlessly blended hip hop and soul. Their breakthrough smash single “Karma” saw the band earn a place on the top 40 charts and a swag of ARIAs. A second album, Consistency Theory, followed in 2004. However, in 2005 the band parted ways. Now in 2014, this pioneering act looks set to do it all again. I caught up with N’Fa to chat about this exciting new chapter for 1200 Techniques.

It’s been 10 years since you last took the Aussie music scene by storm. Why did you decide it was time for a comeback?
What’s interesting is that we don’t really see it as a comeback. Just unfinished business. We never intended it to be a 10 year break. It’s cray how time flies really. We’ve wanted to write more music, and it’s good to be doing so.

You’re about to release a brand new EP, Time Has Come. What can you tell me about it?
It’s got plenty of chug-a-lug to it, and a lot if musical experimentation, which is a major part of the 1200 Techniques sound and ethic. Everythng has a connected pulse to it, but every song is an individual sound and feel.

How did it feel making music together again after so much time had passed?
It felt good. Making music should always feel good, hopefully. We’ve all developed in our own ways over the years, and to see what we could from now has been an awesome thing. The music we are making is more musical than sample based, and I think this is due to our own musical maturation over the years.

Before that you’re playing a show to support the 25th anniversary of Rubber Records. How important has the label been to your career?
Rubber Records gave us our first shot at anything and believed in us. They’ve always been there for us and are working with us once again to make this EP a reality. So, I’d say they are very important, and we are excited to be part of their journey and 25th anniversary,

What can music lovers expect from the show?
Energy, noise, sweat, and good times! We will be bringing the funk, and the stomp like we always did. We will rock old classics along with our new material. It’s been dope jamming and finding our way around the older and new material. Looking forward to it.

You’re one of the latest bands to turn to crowdfunding to support your music. What made you decide to do that?
We though it would be cool to give our audience a chance to get involved early, and grab some vintage stock as well as other cool options. It just made sense to us to get the vibe out there in a person to person way as a lead up, rather than just dropping the EP in stores Jan 23.

Have you been surprised by the support of the fans so many years after your last release?
Of course. We’ve been surprised over the years with peeps coming up and telling us how they loved our music and miss us. A big part of doing this EP is for those supporters who encouraged us to write more music together.

Australian hip hop has really exploded since last time you released your music. What’s your opinion of the current scene?
It’s good to see people up on it, doing well and surviving. Music is a hard game, and the scene has had to develop and change in order to grow. I remember playing venues where hip hop had never been allowed in the doors, and we were like the test dummies for the sound. A lot of hip hop venues today were strictly no hip hop back then, and we had to work hard to change that. So yeah the scene, and industry has changed in many ways.

Which of the current Australian hip hop crop are really impressing you?
Ah, now your trying to get us in trouble with who we do, and don’t mention … ha ha. Look, we are happy to be making music, being a part of the music, having been a part of the early steps. To see peeps survivng off hip hop, and to see some cats pushing the boundaries in so many way, is dope to us. We defo prefer boundary pushing music to safe music.

After this EP drops, what’s next for 1200 Techniques?
I guess we’ll see. Hopefully a few awesome tours though 2015, and maybe an LP. Step by step!

1200 Techniques’ Time has Come EP hits stores on January 23. They’ll launch the title track at Howler on December 17.

Image used with permission from Paris is Patient

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