The inaugural Cake Bake & Sweets Show was like stepping into a sugary wonderland and world of pure imagination. The three day event was held at Sydney Olympic Park and drew together celebrity chefs, bakers, cake artists and stall holders and was the largest gathering of its kind in the Southern hemisphere.

The event was full to bursting with no less than 54 different exhibitors offering up samples and goods for sale. This covered everything from specialist cake decoration pieces and cake art through to raw ingredients like sugar, nuts and chocolate. There were also lots of finished desserts up for sale including fluffy macarons, large round cake pops in every style imaginable plus gingerbread, cookies and other sweet treats.


To the left of the entrance visitors could first walk past the dessert table showcase where a number of different exhibitors had put together elaborate table settings full of decadent morning and afternoon teas (these looked like something out of a movie or a childhood classic like Alice In Wonderland or Charlie & The Chocolate Factory). From there the punters could then complete the wedding cake walk where some standard white meringues were offered up alongside more eccentric tiered varieties, which helped prove that variety is the spice of life.


At the back of the hall the entrants in the Australian Cake Decorating Championships proved a real revelation in how creative and imaginative some people can be. The level of detail and effort that went into producing some of these magnificent pieces was nothing short of astounding. It also meant that the cakes entered resembled actual works of art more so than your standard idea of “dessert”.


The day was full of free talks and presentations with four different theatres and three classrooms (one was a paid one which cost $20 per session and you could take away what you had made). The chefs and cooks presenting on the day included the likes of Duff Goldman, Eric Lanlard, Dan Lepard and Adriano Zumbo who spoke about everything from tempering chocolate to the humble meat pie, from baking 101s to sugar decorations and air-brushing.

There were also some relative newcomers to the cooking game in the form of two current My Kitchen Rules’ contestants, Carly & Tresne. They were upbeat and fun as they served up dad jokes along with their ricotta and spinach calzone. They were in good company as the show’s 2012 finalists, Nic & Rocco, were also in attendance and their stall had a very prominent, “sold out” sign on it.


The Cake Bake & Sweets Show was a fun-filled and busy day for those who like to make their desserts and eat them too. The Expo had featured highly informative classes, knowledgeable exhibitors and a rainbow array of sweet treats that were simply to die for. Those fortunate enough to visit their inaugural show were spoiled for choice and were free to indulge themselves like kids in a candy store.

Originally published on 24 March 2014 at the following website:

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Yo La Tengo practically qualify as a musical institution, with the band having survived 30 years in the music business and almost 20 years with this current lineup. The New Jersey noise-pop trio made their Sydney Opera House debut on Thursday, playing a long concert that was broken down into two sets. The quiet and loud show bewitched people and left them joyful after witnessing some layered, indie prog sounds that were like being hit in the face with a full rainbow of colour.

The songs were predominantly drawn from their most recent album, Fade, but they did delve into their back catalogue, going as far back as the Painful release. The quiet part saw the band in acoustic mode and opening with the melodic pop song ‘Ohm’. This was filled with acoustic guitars by Ira Kaplan and James McNew, which somehow managed to sound both discordant and cohesive at the same time. The start to ‘Satellite’ was drawn out for full effect as Georgia Hubley took lead vocals for a psychedelic party where it sounded like Tame Impala were invited.

The first part of the evening was filled with some sublime tunes by these multi-instrumentalists. ‘Saturday’ had some darker overtones and the mood definitely shifted during this one. ‘Nothing To Hide’, meanwhile, was like a knowing and wistful lullaby (or something you could finish a concert with, because then the audience could go home and contemplate it).

The three joked about their choice of costumes with Kaplan saying he was wearing his “finest ripped jeans” while McNew had bought a brand new shirt. There wasn’t much banter this evening and this little segue of silliness didn’t detract from the emotional hurt and whisper of this first lot of songs. They endured the acoustic treatment very well, as the lyrics are clever and witty enough to hold their own in a quieter space.

For the loud section the group got back to the basics of being a rock band and doing what they’ve done many times before. It was here that the songs took on another life, as more and more textures, layers and flourishes were combined to reveal an intricate and often epic wall of sound. ‘Moby Octopad’ was soaring and joyful, while ‘Little Eyes’ was enjoyed by the more casual fans in attendance.

Dinosaur Jr. was a band that sprung to mind during ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ with its rocking sound and distorted guitars sounding just like one of J Mascis’ creations. The band would perform ‘Ohm’ a second time but this was nothing like the first rendition, with the tight group playing a protracted version that swung around like a grandiose mess of sound and static. In short, it was glorious.

Yo La Tengo had entertained the Sydney Opera House crowd with around two hours of choices from their melody-filled discography. Although there were a couple of songs that shared a similar sound, for the most part the music was detailed, varied and busy, sometimes emotional and at other times toe-tapping but always enjoyable. The band’s name is actually Spanish for “I have it” and in reality, this mature trio know that they are just that. The final concert from their Australian tour showed that these musicians still have an undeniable “it” or endearing curiosity factor to offer fans.

Originally published on 17 March 2014 at the following website:

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If Elbow were carpenters they’d be considered master craftsmen, especially on album number six. The Mercury prize winners have created an epic, consistent, and beautifully-crafted timepiece that has as much mystery and emotional treasure as a stunning glory box.

The record is driven by Guy Garvey’s thoughtful and emotional lyrics, which have previously moved audiences. Now that he is approaching 40 they are also as mature and clever as ever.

The births, break-ups, and new romances that happened to the members of Elbow while making this album set the tone. In fact, the LP is nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster; some moments are joy-filled while others are tinged with loss.

‘This Blue World’ is similar to Foals’ ‘Spanish Sahara’ in that it is a broody ballad full of ambience. In this, Garvey makes a romantic gesture but he doesn’t get carried away with Hollywood theatrics, instead keeping things simple and singing wistfully.

These melancholic vocals are prevalent across the album as the singer croons and pleads, sometime rather softly, but in each instance commanding the listener to sit up and listen to what is being said.

There is a pop symphony in ‘Charge’, while ‘Fly Boy Blue’ sounds like something closer to a movie soundtrack. ‘Honey Sun’ sees some of Radiohead’s darker, Kid A-inspired beats coupled with sunnier moments and lyrics that take us to the ends of the earth.

The mood shifts to a more upbeat and spirited set of harmonising not unlike Fleet Foxes on the title track, while the closer sums up the attitudes of some English politicians towards refugees.

The Take Off And Landing Of Everything is not an immediate album nor one filled with makeshift singles. Instead, it is strongly centred on grandiose honesty, gentle storytelling, and a reflective sense of extensiveness. The result is evocative pop and prog that is rich and rewarded by multiple spins.


Originally published on 15 March 2014 at the following website:

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The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration sees a cast of thousands pay tribute to Bob Dylan’s brilliant career. Recorded live in 1992 to a sold-out audience at Madison Square Garden, this double album displays a ramshackle group at its freewheeling best.

Despite the show going for over four hours, this remastered and repackaged set is still incomplete, as omissions include: a Woody Guthrie cover, Sinead O’Connor’s a capella performance of Bob Marley’s ‘War’, and Dylan’s very own ‘Lay Lady Lay’, among others.

The cast reads like a veritable ‘who’s who’ of 1992, with the then young stars like Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready playing alongside musical legends Stevie Wonder, Lou Reed, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Harrison, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, and Dylan himself.

Each guest brings along something unique, and it’s clear that this is a jubilant meeting of those who had worked with or been influenced by the famous singer-songwriter.

Neil Young’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ sounds like Jimi Hendrix’s famed cover thanks to its wall of fuzzy guitars. Ditto, The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn plays a jangly ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, which sounds like his band’s version of the song.

The re-imagined ‘Just Like A Woman’ is excellent and boasts some fast Spanish guitar stylings from the late Richie Havens while Tracy Chapman does a close retelling of the classic, ‘The Times Are A Changin’.

The performances here are like the original songs in that they’re very versatile and expressive. Some cuts are great (see contributions by Reed, Clapton, Harrison, and Vedder) while others by Wonder and Cash seem to miss the mark, with the latter’s chirpy rendition failing to capture the pain of the original number.

‘Bobfest’ (as it was dubbed by Young) was a brilliant concert and chapter in music, and this set is ultimately a rousing crescendo to the enduring influence and legacy of one enigmatic artist.


Originally published on 13 March 2014 at the following website:

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