Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I can't get no satisfaction

Coffee. The best second best source of vitamins, minerals and all that wonderful goodness that drives the human body.

If you're anything like me, if you make it to midday on any given day without knocking one back then something about the day just isn't right.

One of my habits is that when I take a day off work I generally end up impulse buying something expensive. Like a Sunbeam EM6910 CafĂ© Series® Espresso Machine with a complimentary Conical Burr Grinder.

The Rickspresso Bar

This could possibly have been the best decision I have ever made.

I am now able to make a flat white whenever the heck I want, and generally it's better than what you'd get in most Brisbane coffee shops, with the exception of about half a dozen.

I must admit, my decision was not based on strong research. Walking in to Myer my criteria was simple.

  • must be able to steam the milk during the extraction (twin thermoblocks)
  • must be able to extract 2 shots at once
  • at least 15 bar pressure
  • ball joint steam wand
  • must be as manual as possible - that is, you must grind, tamp and steam all yourself

So I found the coffee machine section and went straight to the most expensive manual machine that had everything I had been looking for. Without any hesitance I took out my rectangular piece of plastic representing my entire measurable worth in this world and made a transaction to exchange some digits for the convenience of making my own coffee at home.

Want longer lasting sex extraction? Call our toll free number now!

Months passed and the machine served me well. But on the Saturday just past it just wasn't happening for me. Every coffee I made was horrifically underextracted. An espresso shot should take between 20 and 30 seconds to pour, and my EM6910 was achieving a dismal 7 seconds.

Unfortunately there is no nasal delivery technique to make the moment last longer.

We kept on trying, different positions (on the grind collar), different beans, applying more/less pressure to the tamp and I was just not satisifed. The extraction would just not last.

So after about 5 or 6 goes I gave up, and hoped that it would fix itself. But then I remembered that my brother has a De'Longhi KG100 grinder which he swears by. I gave this a shot and hey, presto, perfect extraction first time.

Was my grinder a piece of junk after all? I spent some time researching on teh interwebz and all reviews came back positive, although several users were experiencing the same problem. The general consensus was "take it back to Sunbeam for warranty".


It's like the Idiot's Guide to Following Simple Instructions

I took out the instruction manual just to make sure I hadn't missed anything. And there it was. A slip of paper dropped out as if to say "Hey idiot, are you too stubborn to read this manual? No wonder you aren't satisified with your extraction."

When replacing the top burr after cleaning ensure it is positioned Correctly. The top burr must sit flat on the bottom burr before returning the grind adjustment collar to its position on the motor base. For further instructions please refer to the Instruction Booklet.

How stupid can I get? Who would have thought the little white arrow you see when taking the machine apart for cleaning would align with the little white mark on the conical burr that sits on top and grinds your beans?

Obviously not me. And obviously not all those other people who posted on forums and sent their machines back to Sunbeam.

But now at least I can set my grind collar to around 11 (out of 25) and get a perfect extraction, without having to worry that the extraction might finish early. I look forward to getting some decent, freshly roasted beans. Christmas anyone?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My MGMT Experience

  • UPDATE 12 Dec 2008. Disclaimer - The accuracy of this post is not guaranteed, such as the timing songs were released on commercial radio and the order of the set list.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008. The Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane.

MGMT - More than just a fad?

Leading up to the event I had mixed feelings about the gig. I first encountered MGMT when their first studio album Oracular Spectacular was featured on Triple J in May this year. I liked what I heard and I raced out to JB Hi Fi to secure a copy, however much to my surprise the album was not in stock. I downloaded the album and this satisfied my MGMT desires for the time being.

Meanwhile MGMT had been smashing charts with their hit single Kids and as per usual, the hit first featured on Triple J made it's way to commercial radio by the time Triple J had 3 of MGMT's songs in regular rotation. The hype had begun.

In July my friend Emily, who had an impulse to buy some music, asked me "what CDs should I buy?". I replied with "MGMT - Oracular Spectacular and Muscles - Guns, Babes, Lemonade". I then also mentioned that I couldn't find them at JB Hi Fi so she should get me a copy if she finds them. And she did. I had upgraded from a pirated mp3 cd downloaded off Bit Torrent to a 100% legitimate compact disc produced by Columbia Records for approximately 50 cents and distributed for $26, a 5200% markup.

Come August, Em and I discovered that MGMT were planning on announcing "big news for Australian fans", which obviously meant an Australian tour. We made plans to purchase about 8 tickets which we would share amongst our friends. This is where things went horribly wrong. I have not really purchased many tickets in the past few years and thought that logging on to Ticketek 9 minutes after tickets were released would give me the apparent ability to purchase tickets to my heart's content. WRONG. I could not purchase 8 tickets. I could not purchase 4 tickets. Hell, I couldn't even purchase a single ticket. I had let my friends down.

So what was I to do? I liked MGMT, my friends liked MGMT, but did we really like them enough to travel to Sydney or Melbourne to see them? Probably not. But would we enjoy a holiday? Could we make it in to a camping trip which culminates at the end with a spectacular show by the ever-increasing-in-popularity MGMT?


But you know what? Sydney and Melbourne sold out as fast as Brisbane.

The Frontier Touring Company responded to the problem by changing the venue of Sydney and Melbourne shows but Brisbane just doesn't have the same capacity for entertainment as these other cities. Riverstage? Too big. Entertainment Centre? Alicia Keys. What a bitch.

So I got a presale password to get tickets to Melbourne or Sydney. Jumped on at 9am for presale - sorry, sold out. Jumped on at 9am the following day for public release - sorry, sold out.

I had let my friends down again. We were not going to MGMT.

Months passed and the hit Electric Feel had become overplayed by mainstream radio such as Nova and B105. Pricks. Now every teen girl would be screaming "electric fields!!!!" or "electric eel!!". Dammit I am not going to even go in to how much I hate it when this happens. Good band enters the scene. Triple J features the entire album. Months later commercial radio announce the "new" song and all of the sheep jump on the bandwagon.

But did I care? For I knew MGMT are a good band and commercial radio can't ruin that for me!

I found a connection that would allow me to purchase two tickets to the Brisbane show, the price was slightly marked up, but no where near as high as on ebay. Em and I were now going to MGMT. Too bad to all my other friends who wanted to come.

Perhaps this review should begin here. And the above should be entitled The Leadup to MGMT at the Tiv.

Setting the scene

Em and I arrived at the Tiv at 6:45pm, doors open at 7:00pm. There were maybe 30 or 40 people waiting. The Tivoli is a small theatre with the capacity for 1500 guests. There is no seating, only the main floor downstairs and a viewing gallery upstairs. There is a bar on either side of the floor and at the back of the upstairs gallery.

So where do we stand? Basically we have the option to go anywhere at the moment. We could get in the first 2-3 rows down the bottom. We could get the upstairs gallery front left or front right. Or the upstairs gallery in the centre although that is right at the back. So we chose the first 2-3 rows right on the edge of the stupid metal stand that helps hold the front barrier up.

Here begins the wait for MGMT. Two opening acts to come on first. So while Em held my spot I waited in line of 20 people for the slowest ATM in the world. Each transaction took about 1 minute to process. Eventually I got some cash out and paid $9 for a Corona, $9 for a Heineken, $4.50 for a water and $3.50 for a small sausage roll. Bargain! After about half an hour I comfortably returned to the front as the opening act Tame Impala came on.

An impressive opening act

Tame Impala were quite impressive. A five piece band made up of 2 guitarists, a singer, a bassist and a drummer. They looked like they came out of the 90s, which was refreshing. None of this straightened hair cut diagonally across their faces with skinny jeans rubbish that so many bands of the 21st century have. Regular jeans, unassuming t-shirts or polos, scruffy long 90s hair like early silverchair or nirvana. And their music complimented their appearance. Straight out rock and roll, no mucking around. They loved to just get lost in their instrumental jam sessions. They had a decent sound however like a typical opening act the vocals lacked clarity and were quite soft compared to the loud noise of their instruments. They played for half an hour from 7:45 until 8:15. A comfortable short set as I don't like to sit through long opening acts. The floor was not quite packed yet either, so that also added to the level of comfort.

Who let this guy pick up a microphone?

This is where the night went downhill. The floor got packed. At 8:40 Luke Steele from Sleepy Jackson came on to play. He was shit. I would have preferred to pay $30 extra not to see him. He looked like Guy Sebastian but with straightened hair forced back by sitting in a vehicle travelling at 300km per hour and with painted on eye brows. He wore a shirt and tie with multiple large necklaces and wielded an acoustic guitar. An assorted array of instruments supported him on a pre recorded backing track. The backing music did not always seem to corrolate to what he was playing. It even had pre recorded vocals and guitar, which often he sang/played along with slightly out of time. Replace the word "played" with "hacked", as he did not play his guitar, he abused it. If he names his guitar after a woman then I have a message for him: "Violence against women - Australia says NO!". I don't know what his problem was but he had a terrible attitude problem. Half way through his set he had broken several of his strings so his roady came to swap guitars. He didn't hand the roady the old guitar but placed it on the ground and forcefully slid it off the side of the stage. He must have thought he was cool. I haven't yet mentioned his vocals. When he came out he had a backing track on and I thought it was a joke, but that was actually his style. His voice reminded me of Ween, in the same style of the song Push the Little Daises and Make 'em Come Up, but it was harsher and more like a seedy old man. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate Ween for their comical values with such songs as Waving My Dick in the Wind and Your Party, but I had to compare this guy to Push the Little Daisies. The crowd was not happy, everyone looked bored. Luke played his last song and then started trying to pull out all of his guitar strings, but epic fail for him because he could only break the top (located at the bottom of the guitar) 3 strings. I feared for my life as I could foresee his strap failing and his guitar being flung in to the audience impaling my face with the head stock. Eventually he put his guitar down on the foldback speaker trying to make the most unpleasant feedback possible whilst screaming a bit in to his microphone. He tried to do the whole rockstar-trash-the-stage-gig but he was just a real dick head.

So he buggered off leaving me extremely pissed about wasting 40 minutes of my life. The chicks behind me were yelling "Sleepy Jackson sucks" and fighting with the girls a few places to the right of me about it. For the next 25 minutes I was in a terrible mood because of how bad Luke Steele was and more importantly about how annoying the girls behind me were, although they were right. One of them put her hand on Em's head and was trying to make a point that she's too tall. If you're short then either get there earlier or just shut up. She then started touching the back of my neck and intentionally trying to annoy me. I turned around and told her "you're real annoying" and argued with her for a minute before telling her to piss off and ignored her for the rest of the night. Later on she was removed from the crowd because she annoyed everyone. The 40 minutes of Luke Steele plus the additional half hour of waiting for MGMT to come on afterwards completed voided the fantastic experience I had enjoying Tame Impala. MGMT had to void the terrible experience.

The moment we've all been waiting for

After much anticipation MGMT entered the stage at 9:45. The two-piece band who used to play along to an ipod now toured as a five piece band. Andrew on guitar and lead vocals and Ben on miscellaneous synthesised instruments with a stubby holder built in to one of his keyboards. The two gave the same impression as Tame Impala - just a couple of guys who play music - not trying to impress anyone with their new age hair styles or outfits, just jeans and a t-shirt with scruffy hair. But lets not forget the other three members. If they are not considered members then damn they should be. The guitarist played all of the solos and had the most stage presence out of all of the band. He was also given a mic as was the drummer. The bass player was pretty boring but what do you expect?

My memory of the set list is probably not accurate but I'll try my best.

MGMT opened the show with Future Reflections. Just from their first song they confirmed my belief that their album is not a true reflection of their style. Their album is great but as they mentioned in an interview they found it a joke that they were signed by Columbia Records. So it is very much produced. Their live show did not at all reflect that. Much like Tame Impala they just played a straight rock and roll show. They were not afraid to jam and deviate from the actual album.

The next song was 4th Dimensional Transition. On the album I HATE this song. Skip it every time it comes on. But live I did not recognise it at first. The introduction was longer and very different. I did not hate the song at all.

Memory of which songs came next were a bit hazy. I think there was one off their old album when they were called The Management and then Weekend Wars.

Following this they jammed for about 15 minutes much like Tame Impala. Was a very progressive rock style of jamming. They finished and then it got a little bit awkward. They stopped playing and kind of looked around at each other. The singer then got this little smile on his face he seemed very pleased looking like a cross between Frodo Baggins and Donnie Darko and they burst in to Time to Pretend. The crowd went nuts. Thank goodness it was an 18+ show or the teenage girls would have sent me insane. Great song, much better live than on the cd and unfortunate the teen pop sensation prejudice the band has gotten from its exposure from mainstream radio. From this point on I was squashed up against the people in the front row. It was quite uncomfortable but thats what you get when you're in the mosh pit so I just went with the flow.

MGMT rocked out a few more of their less radio friendly tunes such as The Handshake, Pieces of What (which went off) and The Youth (although I think thats making its way to commercial radio).

And there it was again. The awkward silency bit. Electric Feel.

There may have been another song after that before they disappeared for the encore.

They came back with a backing track for Kids. This was different because they could have easily had their entire set with the two of them and backing tracks, but instead they went with the whole band approach. The only reason they had the backing track for Kids is because they all got up and kind of danced around while singing. It promoted a very happy atmosphere. Half way thru kids the drummer started playing, the backup guitarist played keyboard and the miscellaneous synthesised instruments guy played also.

This concluded the night and I would highly recommend MGMT as a great live rock show.

  • UPDATE 12 Dec 2008 I believe the correct order of the set list may have been as follows:
    1. Future Reflections
    2. 4th Dimensional Transition
    3. Pieces of What
    4. Of Moons, Birds & Monsters
    5. Weekend Wars
    6. The Youth
    7. Time to Pretend
    8. Metanoia (upcoming off their new album)
    9. Electric Feel
    10. The Handshake
    11. Kids (encore)