Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Nepal Earthquake Benefit

The devastating earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015 was a tragedy of monumental proportions. Thousands died. Many seemingly-unaffected people from outside of the region wanted to help, and wondered how they could do so. The prevailing wisdom was that while the gesture of providing labour, goods etc was appreciated, what was really needed was money. As much as possible.
What better way for musicians to raise money is there than to play a benefit show?
Adelaide musician Ray Smith wanted to help. Within days of the quake, he had crystallised his vision of bringing local musicians together for a special night at the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel. He organised a slew of like-minded music makers, found tech and support crew prepared to help out, spoke to The Gov and, voila! The gig was on!
It was, truly, a wonderfully heart-warming night. More than a dozen acts took to the stage, presenting short-ish sets over a five-hour period. All kinds of people, playing all kinds of music.
Everyone present - musicians, crew, audience and staff - entered into the spirit of the occasion. It was one of the the most good-natured and  peaceful nights I have experienced in all my years of playing live music and going to gigs.
The evening raised around $5000 to help Nepalese relief efforts, donated via a few charities. Everyone involved provided their services for free, which meant that every cent raised through the door, in raffles etc was donated to the cause.
Sometimes it takes a terrible thing to help me see the good in people.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The last eight months (part two)

More adventures...
I road-tested my Billy Bragg showcase, Workers Playtime, at a show at The Gaslight, which was another first. Me, a tribute act, whatever next? I'd been vaguely thinking about doing something like this for a few years, but I was a long way from convinced that this was a direction in which I wanted to head. I love playing Billy Bragg songs, but as a complete set? I decided to throw caution to the wind and have some fun. So I did it. The concert turned out to be quite enjoyable and it went down well will the modest crowd. I'll probably do it again. Very occasionally.
I played 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone?', accompanying Mary Webb and Emma Woolcock, on Three D Radio, as part of the worldwide Armistice Pals project. The project marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War and brought many voices together to make recordings of Pete Seeger's classic anti-war song, reflecting the fact that the suffering caused by war doesn't play favourites.
Yours Truly did a three-show mini tour just before Christmas, including a decent night (back) at the Hotel Elliot and another Whitmore show.
On a hot summer's night in February I appeared at A Night on the Green at Sacred Heart College. I was part of a three-act bill which also included Ronnie Taheny and Ben Ford-Davies. It was a happy crowd and a very enjoyable night, all for a good cause.
I've played a couple of shows for Bicycle SA. I appeared on an outside stage at the Dirty Weekend mountain bike festival in late-April, and then at Tanunda in front of 200+ mountain bikers and crew as part of the 2015 Outback Odyssey.
The suburban gigs continue: Nook Nosh, Railway Hotel, Hotel Metro, Gaslight Tavern, Cafe Luna Rosso, The Austral and others all help to fill my working week. Most Sundays I enjoy a couple of hours' workout at the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market, fine-tuning songs while I entertain the patrons.
Throw in Record Store Day and the Laura Folk Fair, and it is pretty clear that I haven't been loafing around.


The last eight months (part one)

Since Yours Truly wrapped up the Shining Light Tour, I've settled into a fairly busy and regular performing routine.
I appeared at Mr V Music on the Labour Day weekend, as part of the Semaphore Music Festival. It was pleasing to appear in the artists listing, once again, even if it was in a very, very small font. The show went pretty well, standing amongst the bags of fertilizer in the driveway of Semaphore Garden & Pets. I probably wasn't the biggest sack of sh*t on stage that afternoon... It was great to be back at Semaphore, catching up with musical friends.
My annual appearance at the Tarlee Community Markets on Labour Day started out pretty well, but freak winds threatened to blow me, the market and the town away in the afternoon, leading to an earlier finish than planned.
In late-October I was lucky enough to be part of the inaugural Melrose Music Muster, a three-day festival in the mid-north of South Australia. I wanted to make the trip worthwhile, so I worked pretty hard to ensure I'd be playing a number of shows. As it turned out, the rescheduled Rolling Stones' Adelaide concert fell on the Saturday night, so it meant I could only be in Melrose on Friday night/Saturday morning, or Sunday afternoon/evening. I plumped for Sunday and we drove up that morning. I'd organised to play five shows in five different venues that afternoon and evening, pretty much back-to-back. One each in both of the pubs, one at the Melrose Museum, one in the Art Gallery, and one out the front of Over The Edge, the mountain bike shop. I went from the North Star Hotel at the top of the main street, down to the pub at the bottom, playing the three other venues along Main North Road in between. After my pretty solid gigging effort, it was time to sit out on the front verandah of the Mount Remarkable Hotel, kicking back with my fellow performers over a few beers, and watching an amazing storm light up the night sky.
I broke my guitar in November. It happened when the case toppled over and landed flat on its face. I had no idea there had been any damage until I arrived at the Railway Hotel to play a show and opened my case. I nearly fell over when I saw that I'd snapped the head clean off. My first rational thoughts were about how I would get through the gig; luckily my friend and all 'round good-guy Vic was nearby and lent me his old Maton. I soldiered on and the night was pretty groovy, even if I was a little distracted now and again. Thankfully, my Taylor was repaired by Steve Salvi and is still going strong.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Record Store Day 2015

I've always loved vinyl. Apart from a brief period in the 1990s, I've always bought vinyl. I still do. I'm not so interested in buying modern vinyl, it seems little more than an artistic affectation. I just trawl through shelves and boxes looking for decent LPs from back when 12 inches of black plastic was the only way to go. So I was delighted when I was invited to play three songs to celebrate Record Store Day 2015 at Mr V Music at Semaphore.
We were asked to play songs from the first record we ever bought, or something close to it. My first album was The Essential Beatles, which was pretty lucky for me in terms of song selection. My second-ever album was Touch Me by Gary Glitter, which may not have proved so listener friendly. I was going to play three Beatles songs but that seemed a little too safe, especially after hearing Ben Searcy play crazy versions of 'Jailbreak' and 'YMCA' as part of his set. I decided to broaden my selections. I ended up playing 'Hold Me Close', the seventies' David Essex hit which I've been trotting out from time to time recently, 'What Have You Done?' (one of my latest songs) and 'Norwegian Wood' - I can just about approximate the sitar riff. Great fun.
I managed to avoid the rain that blew in and out through the day, caught up with a few friends and acquaintances, got a Mr V sticker for my guitar case, and earmarked an LP - 1974's Five-a-Side by Ace (it now sits in my collection). Happy Record Store Day!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

All the fun of the Laura Folk Fair!

I passed through the Laura Folk Fair on my mountain bike while taking part on the Outback Odyssey in 2007. I was riding off-road from Adelaide to Blinman - one of the five times I have made that journey. I made a mental note to pursue the opportunity to play there at some stage.
Late in 2014, as I sat in Laura having a morning coffee on the way back from playing five shows up at the Melrose Music Muster, I remembered my pledge...
I applied, and was accepted, for the 2015 Folk Fair. Initially, I was planning to play two shows, one per day, over the weekend. As it turned out, I was offered five shows and I was happy to play them all.
We arrived mid-morning on a beautiful blue-sky autumnal Saturday, as the delightful small town's big weekend was coming to life. We were being put up by the secretary of the whole thing, so we went and met her (and her dog) and dropped off our gear. She and her husband lived very close to the action so we carried my musical equipment to the stage area.
There were no dramas setting up and starting my 45-minute first set, sometime around lunchtime. I played mainly originals to an audience that weren't sure what to expect; some were seated, some were just passing by. My songs seemed to go down well. The second set, later in the afternoon, was much the same. I had a chat with a couple of the other acts, a traditional folk outfit and a couple of singers, and it was clear that we all were aiming for the same thing - an easygoing and rewarding weekend.
That evening I wandered around the curious, otherworldly environment of the funfair, went to the North Laura Hotel for our tea, watched a bush dance, and enjoyed the fireworks display.
On Sunday, another glorious day, we joined locals and store holders at the community breakfast. Fried egg sandwiches and cups of tea, in the pale sunshine of the early morning. I played three times throughout the course of the day, once on the Street Stage and twice on the Lawn Stage. My first two sets were predominantly originals, the last set less so. I selected a few gems from my grab-bag of covers.
We left Laura after my last set, and it was strangely sad to go. The place, and the experience, had left its mark. We'd had a great time, but we wanted to be back home in Adelaide by nightfall. We said our goodbyes, and hit the road.
All up, we had a fabulous time. The locals and organisers couldn't have been more friendly and helpful, the other artists were pretty easy to get along with, and the crowd seemed to dig what I was doing. Despite the fact that sometimes I was sandwiched between backing-track/karaoke-type ensembles, my acoustic folk-rock (or whatever the racket I make is correctly defined as) was well received.

It was my first time at the fair, but I suspect that it won't be the last.