Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The wash-up at the end of the day...

So, the carnival is over. To have played 22 dates in 28 days, in five states/territories, I think, is no small achievement.
High points include the Cowell, Woomera, Oodnadatta, Leigh Creek, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne shows.We met great people every single place we played. Making new friends is always good. The local publicity in most places was encouraging. The Thai meal in Cobar came not a moment too soon. Maintaining/augmenting our genuine friendship throughout the tour was expected, but still reaffirming. The fact that the time flew by indicates we enjoyed a great life experience. The hospitality offered by strangers was nothing short of magnificent. To have mates drive 100 miles to see us, especially when some can't be arsed travelling three miles, was also strangely encouraging. Gary, the loon from the Rakeba, was an unexpected treasure. Ollie, our mate in Coober Pedy and Melbourne also proved to be a top-notch geezer. Pale Ale is now national.

Town & Country singlets, Gordo's werewolf dance, Japanese sci-fi DVDs, bacon-filled "vegetarian" pasta, a deer with a death wish, sleeping in a storage container, visiting Mount Gambier and not seeing the Blue Lake, guitar-case sticker quests, Chinese French bread sellers, playing naked on the balcony to the whole town at sunset ... it will all be in the book. (I made that last one up)

Lesser moments include enduring the mad Melbourne traffic, both in and out of that place. Entertaining six people at the Grace Emily, in my home town, wasn't the greatest feeling. We had even less in Broken Hill. The Melbourne accommodation made our evening more difficult than it should have been. We were too long away from home, but I guess that was down to me.

All up, the pros outweigh the cons, so let's do it again!  Perhaps after a lie down and a cup of tea.

The last leg.

After two great nights in Sydney and Canberra respectively, we were in high spirits as we headed towards the Victorian border.
The drive in to Melbourne put paid to any enduring joy - it wasn't much fun at all. The last hour and a half was especially nerve-wracking. I honestly don't know how people can commute like that each day without their hair turning white and their blood pressure going through the roof.
We got to our hotel about an hour before we were due at the venue; just long enough to see that they'd given us a double bed. They said they'd fix it while we were out but they didn't. We had to move our stuff into another room at 11.30 PM.
The Melbourne show, at The Drunken Poet, was quite a lot of fun and helped restore the good vibes of the previous two nights. I've wanted to play there for ages (following in Andy White's footsteps, again) so it was great to be able to finally tick that one off. There were a few there to see us, including a new friend of ours named Ollie, whom we'd met in Coober Pedy. He'd arrived back in Melbourne and bought a few mates out for a listen and a drink. Good man.
Mount Gambier was a pretty easygoing evening; I think the punters enjoyed us but it was a typical Friday night front bar crowd. Footy, racing, bar snacks and, erm, a live band in the corner...
Port Elliot was a similar affair. A few came in, close to 11.00, when we were three songs from finishing and asked us to play more.
"Where were you at 8.00?"
"Having dinner and stuff."
"Bad luck then; we're done. Goodnight"
Far too late in the tour to be overly generous. I was tired.
I woke up on Sunday after too little sleep and too much whisky. Despite these maladies I was still in a good mood; we were headed home. Breakfast at the Port Elliot Bakery and a coffee in Strathalbyn helped enormously. We arrived back in town around Noon and enjoyed a couple of hours of normality before heading to the Whitmore for the final gig. What fun we had! I managed to record most of it so there's another artifact for the archive.
Job done!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Flight of the KenChords...

Only four shows left. It's hard to believe that the bulk of the tour is now behind us; part of the vast canon of memories that will support us forevermore.
We are about to depart Canberra, after enjoying its favours, playing a decent show, and accepting the hospitality of our new friend Nigel and his partner, Beth. A (yours) truly wonderful visit.
Our shows keep finding a way of working, despite us playing to a different sort of crowd each night. You couldn't really have two more different audiences than those we entertained in Oodnadatta and Canberra. Both were brilliant.
Our gigs in Port Augusta, Leigh Creek, Broken Hill, Dubbo and Sydney have all provided much in the way of memorable moments.
After nearly four weeks of being somewhere else, I am almost ready to come home. Having said that, I want the next few days to continue to deliver the rocking and rolling highlights that have thus far comprised this crazy life on the road.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Northern Exposure

We've reached the half-way point of the tour and we've been as far north as we are going. Tonight's show, in Oodnadatta, will be number 12. Every gig has been different; every day has been an adventure. As we have headed further and further north, the distances have lengthened but, so far, the travelling has been OK. My heart sinks a little whenever I see a dead animal but I guess that's just how it is. The immense skies and plains are an incredible sight. We have plenty of music onboard, and dodgy roadhouse food offers new and exciting health risks every time an overpriced culinary delight is selected.
The gigs have gone pretty well. Some audiences have been more engaged than others but we've played to decent numbers in just about all towns. Woomera was the standout. It was a great night in the pub; we all had a rollicking time. Every aspect of our stay in Woomera: the gig, the venue, the manager, the staff, the accommodation and the punters summed up why we are doing this. Roxby Downs, Coober Pedy and Alice Springs also had their high points.
Having a day off and getting to see Uluru was a bonus!
The inside of the van looks and smells like a teenager's bedroom; we'll empty it out today as we are hiring a 4WD for the off-road trip. It will be a clean machine as we head back to Port Augusta tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A breath of fresh Eyre

The second half of the first week of the Shining Light tour found us getting used to the daily routine. Wake up, eat, pack up, drive, unpack, set up, play, sleep. More or less...
We played at the Streaky Bay Hotel on Friday night and did our best to fall into line with the dominant imbibing culture, talking Rory Gallagher with the locals and letting the girls join in with some occasional backing vocals. We met some good, fun people. We drew the line at playing "House of the Rising Sun" though. Everyone thinks they can sing it, yet so few can...
On Saturday we played at the Pier Hotel at Port Lincoln, doing our darnedest to win over an initially indifferent audience. It all went off, eventually, and we probably put on our best show so far. Again, there were a few in the audience that wanted to chat between sets, and buy us the odd beer. No need, really; ours were free.
Whyalla on Sunday afternoon was something different; obviously no-one knew (or perhaps cared) we were coming. We did our very best to entertain ten or so people for three hours. Oh well, a paid rehearsal is better than the unpaid version... We did get to catch up with ex-Urban Guerilla John Martin and 5YYY stalwart Neil Burns so it was quite a convivial session. It was bloody cold in the beer garden once the sun disappeared. Despite the paucity of punters, it was a hard day's night - I ended up nodding off while I was lying on the bed watching a documentary about the NSA.
On Monday we braved the foggy conditions and drove 100 metres to the cafe for a toasted sandwich and a coffee before hitting the highway. We also bought $1.10 Whyalla stickers from the newsagents. I reckon they'd been sitting there since they were priced up and put in the display tray sometime in the 1990s. We got back to Adelaide a little before 2.00 PM; time to unpack, repack, and catch up on things. And do a radio show that night. Songcatcher was fun - listen to it here.
After a day off, the Grace Emily in Adelaide was our Wednesday night venue. We did OK, enjoying the wide open spaces. We met a decent guy named Patrick, a Dutch fellow who enjoyed the show. He will be in Alice on Sunday; same day as us. Hope to see you again, Patrick!
Onwards to Woomera!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Off and running...

The Yours Truly Roadshow has taken to the blacktop, armed with guitars, great hopes and good intentions. The first gig at Port Pirie was a decent workout, and our Wednesday night at Cowell proved a most enjoyable way of spending an evening. Ceduna was even more rewarding. So far we've had a ball: crazy French dudes, crowd-sourced beers, impromptu after-hours acoustic performances, encores, decent digs, and some calculated risk-taking with our song selection.
So far, so good.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Lloyd Cole is a merry old soul...

I went along to see Lloyd Cole last week. He was a guest of the University of SA, in conversation with Professor Anthony Elliott, as they explored the topic "On Music: From singles to Spotify". A full-house, featuring many familiar faces, welcomed him to the stage. I was expecting something a little dry, perhaps an academic exploration of the income-generating options available to modern music makers. I got something else entirely.
The 75-minute session was actually a rather delightful journey through Lloyd Cole's musical life, which only rarely dipped into matters of economics. Cole came across as affable, and comfortable in his 53-year-old skin. The tales he told of his relative triumphs and tragedies were relayed with good humour and a sense of complete openness. In short, he seems like a decent chap.
The highlight of the evening, I suspect for most in attendance, was witnessing Cole play four songs from his considerable back-catalogue. His classic 1984 song, "Rattlesnakes" came first, and was welcomed by all. "Undressed" from 1990's Lloyd Cole album, came next, followed by "Music in a Foreign Language" from 2003. The evening was rounded out with a performance of 1986's "(Are You) Ready to be Heartbroken". Each song was warmly executed and rapturously received.
Seeing as he had come all the way to Adelaide, I wondered why he didn't book a gig. On the strength of the turn-out for the conversation, I reckon the Grace Emily would have been packed...
He is coming back to Adelaide at the end of his national tour, but it appears that he's going to spend his time playing golf. His call, I guess.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Finger on the Poltz

When Steve Poltz is in town, it makes sense to do whatever it takes in order for you to get to see him. Poltz is a one-off; a one-man melting pot of myriad musical styles and sentiments. Mainly, he's hilarious and irreverent but he is also considered, aware, congruent, hard-working and real.
I was aware of Steve Poltz for some time before I managed to see him. There were a couple of tours where his show dates didn't match my availability. I had a DVD, Live at The Basement, which served as a fairly good introduction to his live show. I also had a few of his records. I've been to a few Poltz gigs in recent years and I have never failed to be impressed.
Steve Poltz and me at the old Jade Monkey
Last month he played at new incarnation of The Jade Monkey in the city, and I'm confident that his three-hour show impressed all in attendance, new fans and old. His straight-up love songs meshed perfectly with his crazy slices of life eg "Folk Singer", a brand new song. Even the stuff he made up on the spot was consumate. Song after song, from the sublime to the ridiculous, he just kept on going. "Dick's Automotive", "You Were Meant For Me", "Sugar Boogers", "Kicking Distance" et al. Such amazing energy and love for his craft. Part-professional village idiot, part-supremely well-organised showman.
It was just after midnight when we braved the chilly night air; full of the joys of Poltz. I hope he comes back soon.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 and all that...

You know that old saying? The one about time passing more quickly as you get older? I'm starting to think it might be true. 2013 has whizzed by, and my year away from full-time work has been an enjoyable and somewhat successful adventure.

The target I set for myself last January was to become a better musician, songwriter and performer. On reflection, I think I did a reasonable, if not spectacular, job.
As far as live appearances go, I played 101 shows. Not as busy as some recent years, but not a bad effort considering the amount of travel I did in the first half of the year. As well as playing in pubs and other venues across the Adelaide metropolitan area, I performed in Blinman and Melrose in the state's north, and also in Tarlee which is quite a way out of town. I played two very satisfying shows in England; one at the Queen's Head in Belper - the same venue that hosted Andy White and David Rovics in 2013 - and the other at the Holly Bush in Makeney, featured in Tony Robinson's Channel 4 documentary Walking Through History only a few weeks later. In keeping with my "Never Say No to a Show" resolution, last year's venues included markets, a racecourse, restaurants, a football club, the Overland train, a garden centre, a bowling club, a country fair and, most bizzarely, atop the new South Road Superway.
My favourite show for the year was probably the Yours Truly gig at the Grace Emily just before Christmas; it was such a good vibe, but there were plenty of other groovy nights.
I can now knock out over a hundred songs without needing to refer to chord charts or lyrics - one of the goals I set myself at the start of the year.
In terms of songwriting, I've made slow but steady progress. There is still, however, much to do. I guess the most noteworthy songwriting moment was being named a joint winner in SCALA's Festival of Original Music Live section with my song "Is There Something Wrong With Me?" .
In my modest home studio I recorded the theme for a musical friend's podcast. I had very little in terms of source material so it was a real challenge for me to turn what was essentially a solo guitar and vocal performance into something that featured bass, banjo, percussion, backing vocals, crowds, drinking sound effects and, erm, goats. I think it scrubbed up rather well. I also recorded a version of "Love Me Tender" for a friend to play at his daughter's wedding. He sang to my guitar guide track, and then left me to it. It took a few days, but he was genuinely moved when he heard the finished product. I hope the wedding was a nice day for all concerned.
I lent my musical services to the Save The Brickworks movement, and also played at a benefit for the Cancer Council. I raised money for the Hutt Street Centre and for CanTeen through my playing and singing.
The latest SCALA CD featured a David Robinson song, "Wish I Was You"; it was my only new release of the year and I am hoping to get more done in 2014. Finally getting around to releasing A Drop in the Ocean and Very Together digitally was pleasing.

So, all up, I think 2013 was time well spent. Peace and love, everybody.