Tag Archives: rock

A Bit More of Sydney Pt.2

Continued from Part 1

Vivid Sydney

IMG_20170527_202727The Vivid event takes over Sydney for a couple weeks each year, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the area at the time, it’s highly recommended. There’s lots of spots that join in, from huge projections on the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge through to a walk through of artistic visions through the botanic gardens. Some of it is better than others that for sure, the stuff in Circular Quay is very impressive, while some of the smaller exhibits are more suited to kids and families. IMG_20170526_200526Be aware that opening weekend is absolutely packed out and it’s very easy to lose your friends. One highlight is the water and light show in Darling Harbour. They project animations and scenes up on a wall of water sprayed up from the harbour accompanied by orchestral music building to an impressive crescendo.

Blue Mountains, Three Sisters and Wentworth Falls

IMG_20170529_150733While the Blue Mountains are certainly a touristy spot, they’re still worth a mention. Without a car, getting up here is a little limited, with only bus tours or the public train to choose from. The tours are fine, and with good guides most of them allow you to see the highlights including scenic world with it’s funicular railway, while the train will drop you off in Katoomba, close enough to the Three Sisters to walk, but not see much more.

With your own car you can head out and see a little more, and avoid the worst of the tourist crowds. The Three Sisters viewing point is huge, with multiple levels which means there are some quieter spots for those typical photos. It’s a reasonable walk down to cliff edge though, and with viewpoints along the way it’s easy to find a good spot away from the masses. There’s a lot of hikes in this area, and a few days up in the hills would be a good way to see a lot more. You can even walk across the bridgeway to the base of the first sister, although the visuals are somewhat reduced when you get close, as you can’t see the other sisters.

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Wentworth Falls is a short drive back towards Sydney and is well worth the stop. The right amount of infrastructure to point you in the right direction but not so much that it ruins the environment. The view points over-looking the falls are pretty impressive, but as the fall cascades down near the cliff edge theres a good spot to explore and find some interesting vistas. Just be cautious at dusk, again we found ourselves finding our way home in the dark.

Royal National Park, Bundeena, Wedding Cake Rock and Wattamolla Beach

IMG_20170531_122603This was probably my favourite location on the visit. We started our exploration of the RNP near the main road, a little lake spot which also has the info centre and a little cafe. We strolled about the lake and despite the road running through the middle found it charming and quiet, a huge departure from the Sydney traffic we’d come from. It was a good warm up for the rest of the day.

IMG_20170531_145849We stopped in Bundeena for lunch, wonderful fish and chips from a cute cafe in the town, still miles from the tourists and it really felt like the little local place it looked like. Just around the corner is the walk around to the cliffs, and along to Wedding Cake Rock. The walk along is well maintained, and plenty interesting by itself, a few dips down where brooks reached the ocean and plenty of overhanging rocks to get the adrenalin pumping. Wedding Cake rock is now protected by a large fence, enough to put off some, but it seemed as though most tourists were hopping over to get their snaps on the rock itself. We were told that they have plans to make a visitor centre for it, both to prevent accidents, but also to stop it from cracking and a falling into the sea. The rock itself is made of a beautiful white limestone, a relatively weak rock and the fence is there to stop erosion or an accident if the rock does break away. A visitor centre would probably ruin the area somewhat though and potentially reduce the amount of the visitors to the site. Perhaps with more information at the location fewer people would be willing to hop the fence. It’s an impressive rock, and certainly quite unusual but not in need of too much infrastructure.

The last stop of the day, and of the trip was the pinnacle. The simply gorgeous Wattamolla beach and headland. The beach itself is tiny, it’s more like a small cliff right into a meander of the river. About 5 metres high it’s perfect to dive from and catch some sun. While there’s the typical Aussie safety rail around the cliff it’s easy to hop over. There’s a few rocks below and a tiny beach/slipway to climb back up. The spot would be ideal with a group of friends, some food and a summer afternoon. If you follow the path around you’ll find yourself at the end of the headland, a rocky outcrop pointing out into the wild Pacific ocean. amazing views and almost total isolation, it was blissful to clamber around in such a location, and so close to Sydney city as well. If I lived anywhere nearby, I’d certainly make that spot one of my regular haunts.

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So, all the way across the planet to spend not even two weeks, but so much seen in such a short time, and so much more than most ever see in 5 times the time. Comparing to the first trip to Sydney it was a real eye-opener, there’s so much beauty surrounding the city that is missed by 90% of the tourists there. Even some locals don’t know about these spots, so please go explore!

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Download Festival

I’ve been to plenty of music festivals in my time; Weekenders like Reading, Hevy, Beautiful Days, Buddha Fields and even the tiny Plymouth Festival, plus a load of one-dayers such as Hit the Deck and Slam Dunk, but this was the first time I experienced the biggest specifically Rock and Metal fest in the UK.

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Going with a couple of mates, we drove in each day, staying at an AirBnB nearby rather than paying the same amount for the pleasure of sleeping in a field. While it takes away from the fun festival vibe a bit, as gentlemen of our age it was a lot more comfortable.

IMG_20170610_125558We arrived to join the long queues to get our wristbands on the first day, sadly missing the first band we were hoping to catch. However once in it felt much like the usual festival affair, a fair stages scattered over a couple acres of land, littered with food stands between and the usual mix of hippy or gothic clothing stalls. We were there for the music though, and were quickly watching the bands hit the stages. There was a reasonable distance between each area, but with the RAW wrestling tent in between at least we had something to giggle at as we walked past.

IMG_20170610_190541For me, the smaller Avalanche stage was the best, with a nice variety of heavier metalcore, post-hardcore, pop-punk and new wave emo bands to keep me happy. The main stage obviously hosted the bigger of the bands, with an interesting mix throughout the day, mostly hard rock and straight up metal. The second stage seemed to be more strictly metal bands of various descriptions. It’s always entertaining to find a brutally heavy metal band that are chatty and friendly between songs, the Swedish seem to be pretty good at this, with both In Flames and legendary Opeth cheerfully bantered with the crowd.

IMG_20170610_222439As far as best bands of the weekend a few really stood out. Steel Panther certainly put on the best show visually, with close to a hundred girls on stage to party with them, while their chat between songs was on point. Probably not for everyone, with the crude nature of the jokes, but to raise a laugh from an audience of that size is impressive. Moose Blood put on a great show, as did Basement, a couple of English bands who have revamped the emo/pop-punk/rock scene with a fresh attitude and new approach, a departure from the auto-tune and backing tracks of many scene bands recently. The King Blues put on a good show with a new bunch of musicians, but it was the legendary big bands that really made the biggest impact. Prophets of Rage, System of a Down, Biffy Clyro, A Day To Remember, all smashing their sets on the main stage.

IMG_20170611_181018There were plenty more that were seen, but that missed the mark as far as my tastes went, but what was most interesting was the people there. I’ve always stayed clear of the metal genre, finding it a little trite and contrived to really enjoy, but metalheads, especially those past their teenage years are genuinely very sweet people, there were no fights or issues with anyone, and it was very nice to see everyone there just getting along and enjoying the music. Despite the line-up featuring some pretty un-metal bands, there was no rivalry or animosity between any of the festival goers and the atmosphere was very positive, which I think was helped massively by the pleasant weather.

The line-up each year has always been borderline for my tastes, a few good bands, but not usually enough to make me want to pay the full price to go. However with the Busabout season looming it was the only festival I was likely to get to go to, and I’m glad we decided to go. Overall, not as mind-blowing as some of the other fests (RIP Hevy) but still highly enjoyable overall.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Festival Season Pt.2 Music Festivals in Spain – BBK and Benicassim

It’s a bit lazy of me to roll both these in together, but for every difference, there’s a similarity. While BBK is in the town of Bilbao in the north of Spain, and Benicassim (or FIB as it’s known officially and by locals) is in Benicassim on the south coast both run with a similar attitude of easy going enjoyment of music, a relaxed atmosphere and late nights.

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img_20160707_222802619I’m not talking late nights like British or Australian festivals where the headliner will wrap up around midnight or 1am, after which the noise curfew kicks in and it all goes quiet, I’m talking headliners starting after 2am, and the music going through until 6. It actually makes for an interestingly diverse event, with more of the bands playing before midnight and the DJs on afterwards, so while the headliners are the peak, it doesn’t drop off instantly leaving several thousand pumped up (and drunk) festival goers with nowhere to go. Instead those that have reached their limit can head to bed, while those who are just getting started have plenty of time to blow off their steam.

img_20160708_213713054_hdrBBK, up in the hills above Bilbao focuses more on the indie rock for it’s main headliners, and this year hosted some great acts including, Foals, The Pixies, Editors, Aussie favourites Tame Impala, New Order and plenty more. Quite a small arena with two main stages which alternated acts meant it was easy to catch all the big names, while a third ‘band’ stage had a few more obscure acts and the forest hosted trance DJs late into the wee hours. The setting is very cool, the top of the hill, overlooking the city, with rocky outcrops and patches of woodlandOver the course of three days I saw a good few bands, highlights certainly were Foals, and the newly popular punk band Slaves, impressive performances from The Pixies, Hot Chip and Arcade Fire as well.

img_20160716_244919273Bilbao town has one major attraction, the Guggenheim museum. A spectacle from inside and out, it is a masterpiece of modern architecture, covered in shiny titanium tiles it gleams in the sun. The collection of artwork inside is very impressive as well, having been made available to view for the public by Peggy Guggenheim, the heiress that had received the vast collection, so much artwork there are several Guggenheim museums around the world. That’s not all there is though, a fascinating old building has been converted to contain three, free standing modern buildings on pillars, but that’s not all, there’s a swimming pool on the roof, with a glass bottom. So while you’re wandering through the main hall you may notice some odd shaded shadows drifting by. The old city offers some lovely walks, and probably the best food in the city, with pintxos on offer in every other building. There’s a great park there as well, on the side of the hill, a good climb, although I wouldn’t recommend it at the peak of the midday heat. The city has just enough to keep you interested during the day, if you’re not too busy sleeping off the previous nights fun.

img_20160714_200223343Benicassim, a lot warmer, and in tents rather than the comfort of a hostel, meant this felt more like the kind of festival I was used to. The hard dusty ground made me very grateful for Busabouts air mattresses, if only there was a way to install A/C in a tent. The festival was a full 4 days and I had arrived a couple days early to set up and prepare, so I knew the area reasonably well. The old town provided us with excellent tapas restaurants, while a waterpark and the beach nearby meant there was plenty to do during the day. The arena was about twice the size of BBK, but it was nice to see some of the same food trucks there, Spain certainly does good festival food, with a range of options, including asian, mexican and argentinian cuisine, there was even an Aussie place, for all those odd things that Australians never actually eat.

img_20160716_124643118_hdrThe layout of stages meant there was no noise pollution and it was never more than a few minutes to where you needed to be. Some big names performed, the biggest was of course Muse on the Saturday night. For them the crowd was huge, with the arena completely sold out, and plenty people around the outskirts, outside the fence listening in as well. There were plenty more though, Kendrick Lamar, Biffy Clyro, Massive Attack to name a few. It was some of the smaller acts that really impressed me though, the surf/punk/rock FIDLAR really appealed to me giving me the kick I love about music, Rat Boy from the UK were highly entertaining, with a very drunk frontman rap/rambling his way through lively indie rock tunes, but it was Reykjavikurdaetur who put on the most memorable set.img_20160717_201025974With completely incomprehensible songs (my Icelandic is lacking), supposedly about heartbreak, love and feminist freedom the 15 member strong, all female rap troupe ruled the stage with quirky hip-hop tunes and a healthy sprinkling of nudity.

Both festivals were amazing experiences, similar, but different as I said before. If you’re a fan of music and want to experience something truly cultural, you wouldn’t be far wrong from heading to these festivals, especially when Busabout makes it so easy for you.

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Delphi and Meteora

With the time off I get in Athens, it gives me a lot of chances to see more of Greece, so I decided to do an actual tour. I wanted to see some of the real history of the country, so Delphi and Meteora were a must do. Epic scenery and some great stories as well

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I booked through a website called GetYourGuide.com which was pretty good, their price was about 30EUR less than if I’d booked direct, and the company I went with was called Key Tours. It’s a two day tour, and the price included a stay in Kalambaka at the base of the Meteora cliffs.

img_20160816_093201012I was picked up, transferred, fussed around and faffed about until eventually I was on a coach heading up to Delphi for our first stop. The guide was an impressively knowledgable lady called Anastasia, talking almost constantly all the way out of Athens, and then from Athens the whole way to Delphi. Honestly it was very hard to listen to her talk for such a long time, there was just too much chatter that didn’t interest me, so I fell asleep. The service breaks were depressing tourist traps full of over-priced tat and rubbish food, but we didn’t get much choice.

img_20160815_122408611_hdrOnce we got to Delphi there was a little more fussing, then the group followed our guide on a rather uninspiring tour of a hugely inspiring location. The site itself is incredible, ruins of treasuries, a huge temple, a stadium and so much more, all built around the Oracle, on the side of a mountain. The views in all directions were wonderful, the valley spreading below us and the mountain peaks above, while the ruins showed how the ancient holy location functioned. The story goes that Zeus released two crows who would meet at the centre of the world, then hurled a rock down in that location to mark it for mankind. There is a fissure in the rock there, where sulphuric gasses rise from the depths of the planet, and they found that breathing this gas caused strong hallucinations. They would use a virgin, who sit atop the fissure, breathing the air and explaining what she saw (or just mumbling nonsense) and priests would translate this into advise and prophesy for the leaders of the various city-states. The most well known of the prophecies is the story of Croesus who was told that he would destroy an army if he went to war. He went to war, and his own army was destroyed.

img_20160815_123438774It was a holy location, so nobody lived there, meaning there are no remains of homes, just the main temple of Apollo and various treasuries, or gold supplies for the city-states. The location at Delphi meant it was close to the coast and accessible relatively easily by all. The formed a council of elders, and it was at this location they could make decisions for the entire nation. The Oracle features in several movies, including 300, which depict it as a truly mystical place – It’s unlikely to have been quite to fantastical, but the Ancient Greeks certainly believed in the power of Oracle.

img_20160815_162113848We missed the museum, which contained many of the statues and more delicate artefacts in order to get going towards Meteora. We did get a brief stop at the monument to the Spartans who died Thermopylae. A mighty spartan warrior stands atop a wall, with a carved depiction of the battle of the 300 against the immense Persian army. Since the water level has lowered the narrow passage shown in the movie is now much much wider, and would be impossible to defend with so few men.

img_20160816_085842672We switched out guide when we left Delphi, and I had been hoping that our new guy would make the journey a little better, with shorter talks about the most important sights, however he also decided to expel every nugget of information he could about the regions we travelled through, including a wonderful 20 minutes on a special cheese, 40 minutes of the plains of mid-greece and plenty more that I was more than happy to sleep through. I expect I missed a lot of the interesting and relevant information, but trying to concentrate was just impossible. We arrived at Kalambaka tired and drowse, but a reasonable feed and a stroll around cleared my head before bed.

img_20160816_090721228An early start meant we were on the cliffs before most of the tourists, and actually had a chance to view some of the very impressive sights of Meteora. The place is famous not only for the high cliffs rising out of the plains below, but also the monasteries and nunneries built upon them. Built by religious hermits who had been residing in the caves, the cliffs gave the monks the solitude to worship and act according to Gods will. Nowadays there are roads up there, and tourist crawling all over the churches and holy areas, so I imagine the solitude is less effective, but the idea of constructing entire buildings on rock outcrops and effectively inaccessible cliffs, back in the 11th Century is just unimaginable.

img_20160816_114643010_hdrWe visited two of the main complexes, and viewed one from the outside (it’s closed on Tuesdays) and each had it’s own charm, and was an impressive structure when you consider the challenge of building on the pure rocks. The views were possibly the most spectacular, although our guide insisted on teaching us about every mural in each chapel, which took up most of the time inside. I decided to skip out of tour to enjoy the location without being surrounded by other tourists, and there’s something about musty church air that makes me feel pretty bad (I must be a sinner).

img_20160816_094120506The trip home was long an uneventful, I tried to sleep as much as I could, I had certainly had enough of the guide. At least the ride was smooth and there was minimal faffing around.

I’d absolutely recommend the sites, they’re excellent, and good value for entry, but if you can find a way to see them without doing a tour do so. Greek guides have to go to school to qualify, and the school teaches them to talk as much as they can, for as long as they can, and it’s exhausting to listen to. I’m surprised they can still talk at all.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Hevy Festival

Yesterday I came home, tired with my ears ringing, head still filled with the songs of bands I’d heard that weekend.

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IMG_20150815_191946Hevy festival in Port Lympne, Kent is a predominantly hardcore and metal festival, with a few exceptions. But it’s not the bands that make this festival such a wonderful event, but the community. It’s so small, with only three stages stretched out in a small field, it takes only a few minutes to cross the entire festival site, so you can see all the bands with no issue, but also you’re likely to see the same people an awful lot, which includes old friends and stalwarts of the music scene. It’s amazing to still visit such a place and see people you’ve known for years still loving the bands and loving the music.

IMG_20150814_122257The whole thing is on the grounds of an animal park, and not far from the nearest town, so a cheeky run into town for some breakfast, or a wander around the wildlife park (included in the price) is just an added bonus, and a hot meal is always welcome mid-fest. The weather held out much better than expected so the usual wellies weren’t necessary, although it’s always nice to see people trying to dance with them on. Hopping from band to band with friends is an excellent way to spend a weekend in the sun.

IMG_20150814_211124If you like heavy, alternative music I can’t think of an event I’d recommend more. And if you’re visiting the UK and want to experience a real alternative community, this is a side of British culture you won’t see anywhere else. The furthest from the loutish football lads you can imagine especially as the average age rises.

I’ll be back next year, until then…

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Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Music Festivals around the world

Music is something that in international, but every country has their own take on it. Whether it be the music they make, the influences they work from or the way it’s played. Music festivals are one of the best places to experience this, as you’ll see a huge range of musical styles, both international and local, as well as seeing how the locals like to enjoy it.

Probably the strangest festival experience was a large festival near Pai, in north Thailand. The music was a good mix, there were ska/reggae cover bands, which are pretty common along with the strong rasta influence in the region, there were a couple Thai rock bands, who played a slightly dated sounding emo-rock, with occaisional top40 covers. There was a DJ stage, which was a nice mix of dubstep and comericial house, which unsurprisingly was where most of the white people were. Finally on the main stage the most popular and certainly the biggest pull were ‘bands’ (essentially DJs and some vocalists) that just covered modern Top40 songs. So the biggest names were those that didn’t play their own songs. But even more strangely than that; nobody pushed to the front, nobody pushed at all. In fact, the whole audience area was littered with tables, which worked hand in hand with the drinks being sold. Multi-packs of mixers, and whole bottles of liquor along with a bucket of ice. Perfect for sharing with friends around the little table you had in the middle of the crowd during the headline set. It’s something I’m sure some of the more mature festivals in the UK could take on with great success, but a very odd compared to the usual crush if you’re within 500 meters of the stage.

Another odd one for a UK festival veteran was Soundwave festival in Sydney. Single day festivals have often got a different vibe (I blame people having phone battery), but the Aussies don’t use the festival vibe as an excuse to be social. Instead I found most people stuck in their groups and the day lacked the community spirit you get at the longer events. The music while mostly American bands, was contemporary, even if a few of the bands would’ve had much bigger, or smaller, crowds in Europe. A case of each band getting a different reception as they spread around the world is never more evident than in Australia, where the styles are a little late, but from the local bands, you can hear the influences a few years behind the UK. The fickle music scene trends also really affect the popularity of a band, so while they can reach great success in one region, they could bomb in another.

UK festivals will probably always be my favourite though, the combination of naff weather, no phones and general drunkenness means you can be friends with anyone, at anytime. No matter who you’re watching, chances are you’re there for the same reasons, (because you love them, or you want to throw something at them) and that’s enough to make you friends. The rain makes them a little less fun, and rain is almost guaranteed at some point, just hope for a touch of drizzle over the epic floods that have been seen in past years. The tents, and the inability to find them along with the new campfire friends you make during the search are often some of the best times to be had at festivals. Something which is completely lacking from single day festivals.

So, in conclusion, the best festivals are multi-day with original bands, and a good mix of styles (without any mad clashes). Just like the ones we have in the UK.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel