Tuesday, April 15, 2008

the uke club

It's a Monday night
the first 'teen' Monday of the month
I decided to do something a wee bit pithy
I attended my first meeting of the Balmain Ukulele Klub
I'd purchased a uke back around Christmas 07
actually ordered it in June 07
made and delivered by Christmas 07
from Cole Clark Melbourne
I could have purchased a cheapie
yr standard twenty dolla ukie
...and it's the best value twenty d you'd ever spend
(aside from your lucky catch of good 12 dollar vino)
a feasible instrument for that amount of money
yet still
these cheap ukes are a little dinky
and often give ukes a bad name
i paid 500
for my uke
made of victorian solid blackwood
and totally hand crafted
friends of mine doubled over when i told them how much i paid
you paid 500 dollas for a uke???
until they heard me aloha away
at which, yep they got it
...it took me a few days to get the gist of holding a uke
coz u don't use a strap
like on those electric guitars and things
but once i got the hang of it
it was ok
i was playing
i picked it up in friggin' no time
admittedly i aped from a video
of jumpin' flea the uke man from u s of a
and with this happy man's help
all the diminshed and sergeant major 7ths
were flowing from my little ukie
like a little mousey tryin to scratch its way outofa cardboard box

the uke klub in Balmain was at the Gladstone Bowling Club
1st time i'd been there
it felt very warm in that hall, psychically
the room was toned with mellow lived-in vibes
most of all
the energy gently pulsing from its walls
in marshmallow-like tones
was that of music
music sweet music
it was the vibe of much happy and unfettered music making
at least 3 & 1/2 decades worth
of a particular kind...
I heard the psychic essences of folky-jug-blues
the kind that's rootsty and warm and toasty
and makes people feel good
and which the musicians enjoy & comerade themselves like heavenly brothers & sisters
the club stood on its own within the park
overlooking downtown balmain
defying all trends and movements
it could've been 1968 in that hall
or 1976
and I felt sad that the whole world wasn't like this
or at least my world
that hall emanated soul
soles of sandshoe bluegrass bands
those clandestine ghosts of jug folk blues energies ballooned over us all
they permeated through me
it was wondrous

I indulged myself
I got into the spirit
I had 2 light beers
I took photos
I recognised faces, talked to one of them
people came and introduced themselves to me
I name-dropped my bro-in-law - once a part of this gang
Oh How's Alan going!!! Is he moving back up this way???
...that all wun me instant kred
sheets of music were handed around
'tiptoe through the tulips'
and other sweet pieces
I played them with gusto
i only been playing uke for 4 months
and i was playin' better than most people there
i got passion
and i got a gift
to pick up an instrument and just play it
i felt gratitude for that
and just when you think the corners are safe
there's always someone who comes along to stuff up the vibe
someone who externalises from yr own inner annoyance buttons
happens all the time, particularly if it's got to do with music
like in woody allen films
..annie hall & manhattan..
there's always one of those 'Yael' characters
woody's mate
tall boufant hair
cocksure & charming
always the first to offer crap advice
well here he was...
Dennis A
i met dennis in 1999, perhaps a coupla times
he's very charming and friendly at first word exchange
until one realises
DA is an egomaniac
who needs to get in the last word
and he won't buy you your beer
you just bought his instead...
anyway, he likes wings
macca variety
1999 - he wants my opinion on wings as he's beerily trampling on me
Saturday night November 1999 Excelsior Hotel Surry Hills Sydney
quite subtle aggression really
and i said quite diplomatically oh they're alright
the exchange didn't last long
but i got the feeling he swooped on some of my energy
skewered me in a game of one-up-man-ship
and i only realised it...seconds later...as he bopped off to the next chap/chappette
these days i'm not so diplomatic
last night he swanned over my way
admiring my uke
he asked me how much i paid for my sweet ax
and i tell him
and he tells me hes jus bought a cole clark 12string
and that's about it
later i perform...there's an open mic!
and me being mista show-off
puts his name down 'me sir me sir' dog tongue & all
i play orange coloured sky
i stumble a bit coz i never sung with uke in my hand before
brig & i do OCSky so i knew the song
but the vibe was there
the electricity was there
it went well
the room was silent xept for my voice and little ukie
someone took 3 photos with my camera
came out blurry of course
i received a very emphatic applause
felt thankful and expressed that thanks to the audience
a man to my rite calls out to john the convenor
pointing to me and declaring i've got to come back next month
i felt pleased and again, thankful
and think i can do this singing with a uke lark
watch out tiny tim hsk hsk
secretly i think to myself
i'll take my uke to wok and practise in my lunch break evry day
so i can really show'em nextime!!!
all the uni kids will look at me strange
then, they don't know better
wouldn't know tiny tim if he came up 'n snapped their ankles
practice in the library even
the students 'll appreciate that surely
as they're learning lines for their pericles
measure for measure
and othello...
Applause subsiding
I walk through the stage and past dennis a
i don't look his way
and he don't look mine either
cause that's quite the natural thing to do...
i notice later dennis obsequiously pats'n'praises every performer on the shoulder
not me though
like all them 'industry cats'
its all steadfast ignorance
no mind though
I got nothing against mr a
he drinks alot
he has a paunch
but he is a quite good musician
he had nice things to say about my bro-in-law he knew in '73...
and he's got spirit
and for that you gotta give him somethin'
but i won't be drawn into conversations about fucking macca and wings again with him
other to say
that aside from historical interest in a 70s o'rama way
Wings were shit!

...dennis would wonder how i remember all that stuff from 1999
he didn't appear to remember me
but i don't forgot a face you see, once I'm introduced and have had some degree of conservation
i got a memory like a friggin' elephant
Phil Donnison
ie Al Meadows's good friend
was very pleasant to talk to
he told me the uke is a very complex instrument
I agreed totally, I see that
the uke is very much a case of less is more
you have to be that more creative to extract the harmonic tones you can produce more easily on a guitar
moreso on a piano
(Jake Shimabukuro makes this 4-string minituate sound like a harp - miraculous!)
but for that
it's actually much more rewarding
but i got into uke
because it's innocent
because it's happy
because it's fucking irreverent
I love the uke for its sweet musicality
and that it's the last thing on this planet to hurt anyone
we thank the blackwood tree that made this uke
someday i'll give back to the earth
what you've given to me

Dennis A told the audience towards the end of the evening
from da microphone
that his mate from Sunburst Music in Coogee had told him
in all my years in this business, since '72, i never seen a ukulele 'burn''
...or at least I thought he said 'burn'
he actually said 'boom' (as in popularity 'boom')
but until i realised that's what he'd said
i was lost in visions of a uke lighting up like a gentle lamp
a sweetly enlightened grail
a little effigy of searing luminousity and spirit


Anonymous said...

Hey Ross
Yeah, the uke is small but its heart is big, it's light but not to be taken lightly. It is the happy feet little bro of the big axes and the axis of melody and laughter - shit, it plays like laughter.
And you make me LOL with your wonderful evocative blog
Keep it up!
Ukele Lady
(Al says: right on!!)

John Penhallow said...

Hi Ross,

Loved your blog style. Are you going to come back and visit us again soon? It's our 5th Birthday today May 16, 2011.

John Penhallow
Founder of BUK

redgrevillea said...

Thank you both for your comments. John, it's great to hear from you - I wrote a proper piece about the club, also, here at: http://rossmusician.blogspot.com/2008/11/balmain-ukulele-klub.html
You know, I actually keep meaning to come along on Monday nights but I don't seem to get around to it, but I promise I will, it's just that work and other things get in the way. But now you mention it I will make the effort as I really enjoy being there on those handful of occasions I've come along.

I hope you're well and will see you soon! ps, been playing more of the 4-string on steroids in more recent times! :) (bass;)


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