Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Alan Meadows 40th anniversary in Oz party

My brother-in-law, Alan Meadows, flew in from Hobart last week with my sister Elida to host his '40th year in Australia' party! Alan, 61, came to Australia from London England in September 1968, and save for two trips back home in the intervening years he has comfortably made Australia his home. At 21 years of age and having landed himself in Bondi, Alan was an aspiring musician. With a great love of jug and blues he mastered mandolin & harmonica and has worked as a pro and semi-pro musician for most of his adult life here.

The party was held at the Balmain Rowers Club, right at the edge of the shore overlooking the waters from Balmain Cove, on Sunday 21 September. I provided the p/a and did the sound duties.
Alan jamming with Greg's blues band. He still plays a mean mandolin. Balmain, Sydney. Windy streets, Victorian terraces, charming cobblestone & weatherboard cottages of all shapes and sizes, located on a peninsula on Sydney's inner-west overlooking the harbour on its eastern side, the north-shore and Birkenhead point on northern side and Pyrmont & Darling Harbour on the southern side. By the late 1960s the suburb had begun to divest itself of its rough, working-class reputation so that by the 1980s Balmain was quickly attracting new money and yuppie gentrification, replete with new restaurants, the refurbishment of many pubs and conversion of old factories into spivvy residential dwellings, a process that continues to this day. In those glorious years between, during the heyday of the 1970s, Balmain was a vibrant and creative hub for artists, writers and musicians. Balmain village thrived on a burgeoning blues scene and pub blues, folk & rock was to be found everywhere. It was in Balmain/Rozelle that Alan lived throughout the 70s and 80s. His best band was the Hokum Ensemble who produced an EP in 1979 that is a bone-fide classic!! I'm urging Alan to digitise the thing quickly quickly! The band were doing well and if it wasn't for one loosely-minded member stuffing things up for them (always the way!) they would have gone places. There is one song on that EP called 'Doreen in the Nude', sung by Alan and written by Al Ward (also in the band) that I believe to be one of the greatest Australian songs ever written. Al Ward actually performed the song on his acoustic guitar on the day of the party and I was fortunate enough to film it, to be posted soon. Al, the writer, performed a sonorous laid-back acoustic-guitar version of his jug-blues gem whereas Alan's 1979 EP-take was a masterpiece of comic theatricality. I can't wait to get my ears on a copy of this music again!!Alan's son Charlie, a professional jazz guitarist, vamps with the boys. Cooking up some jazz vibe and warm, musical atmosphere.

Alan Meadows, Charlie Meadows, and my sister Elida.
Alan & Elida (right) with some boys from the current blues band. My nephew Rafael and his dad, my theatrical big bro.
On the deck of the Rowers Club.

Mick Conway playing a saw and Phil Donnison playing the ukulele. I'm a bit of a fan of the ukie myself.

Alan is presented with a gift from, um, Dame Edna Everage?? Alan vamping on harp with the blues band.
Brigette sings Orange Colored Sky with me on acoustic guitar.
A lovely portrait of Alan Meadows and Charlie Meadows. Two brilliant men.
Alan, I imagine that coming to Australia and particularly Balmain was one of the highlights of your life. You have met many great people (including my sis! ;), and have made some sterling musical connections, and music of tremendous heart & flavour. Good on you Al!!
Too bad we had to cut the party off by 6pm. This soiree should have continued into the wee hours!! Oh well, next time! When you move back to the mainland Alan & Elida we'll do this again...every f***ing day!!!!

This is the life...!
Until next time, r.

Monday, 15 September 2008

EGJW 2 BMF live @ Kellys on King, Newtown

Ah, my first foray into youTube! I'd just registered onto this ubiquitous website this evening, through my work computer (after hours, of course!;), and posted my own video filmed last night on my fujifilm camera at a gig at Kellys on King Street in Newtown. Thanks Gav for filming a song for me!

That's Pete Thompson on djembe, a gentle giant, fine drummer, Master Chiropractor. The song? 'Every Girl Just Wants To Be My Friend' written back in 2002. It was written very quickly, coming to me utterly spontaneously during a bout of classical piano practice. Is it autobiographical?? Fundamentally, No!! ;) Some of the sentiments however, particularly in the middle eight of the song, continue to hold some resonance for me.

It's not the most perfect performance of the song but the energy and spirit was good, and we got the crowd rollicking and buzzing with it. The guitar could have been eq'd better. ..ah what the heck...it's merely a corny country song anyway!!

The guitar is my Maton EM325C featuring all-Australian woods: Queensland Walnut (laminate) back & sides, Queensland Maple neck, & solid Bunya Pine top.

Enjoy!! ..And here are my lyrics!..

Every Girl Just Wants to be My Friend

© ross b 2006

I gotta life that flows against the stream
it's like a salmon that’s flailing around the seam
but I was made for lovin'
but I’ve become some comic figure
every Girl Just Wants to be My Friend

I gotta load, of good intention yeah
I got my vices but that’s anybody’s fare
so I prepare for the showdown
but all I got is an itchy trigger
every Girl Just Wants to be My Friend

I’ve yearned for times we passed on by
This ripe old world had yet been fried
Our innocence is all we had
And still this baby cries

I’m pretty good at conversation, yeah
and the photos are judged as good catch fare
but when it comes to the lowdown
I become some scary monster
every Girl Just Wants to be My Friend

Friday, 12 September 2008

Painkiller gig @ Oxford Art Factory

Wednesday night, 10 September, I went along to the Painkiller gig at the Oxford Art Factory situated at the Hyde Park end of Oxford Street, Darlinghurst.

I almost didn’t go. I was heavy-hearted and burdened with a friend’s unhappiness. The anticipation of witnessing and involving my senses in Steve Kilbey’s new line-up and music washed over me. I felt cotton-wooled, numbed and nonchalant about leaving the door. Conversely I knew perfectly well I couldn’t miss this. So, after a (small) glass of red, I hopped into my car and drove the 15 minute drive to Oxford Street.

I parked at Oxford Street Paddington and walked briskly towards the Darlinghurst end of things. It was a crisp, fresh evening with a dry icy breeze that served to awaken and straighten my senses. Activity around Taylor Square and Darlinghurst seemed relatively subdued, even for a Wednesday night. Perhaps because it was such a crisp night, or there was some sports game featured on the tele, that people avoided what is usually a 24-hour bustle. It was the kind of night that made you feel a sense of joy about hopping into bed early. I walked fast to my destination and was pleased to find tickets were still available.

I got there with little time to spare prior to the main act coming on. The OAF is underground, a large cavernous room with a fine stage and moshpit and elevated section toward the back of the room. I bought myself a beer, a mid-strength Coopers Light Ale, and guzzled it pleasingly as I observed the throng in eager anticipation of their hero, and the music that was about to be divined & delivered for the first time on a universal stage. I felt very alone, but not lonely. I really wasn’t in the mood to be talking to people anyway, but that’s probably because I wasn’t talking to people. I wondered who the bloggers were. Apparently two Go-Betweens showed up. I didn’t recognise them; they are a band I’ve officially gotten into since…last Saturday.

By the time the band came on I bought myself another of those delectable malty mid-strengths and wormed my way toward the centre of the pit although I didn’t quite make it. I was conscious of not wanting to stand in anyone’s way even though I’m of about average height. Tim Powles, Steve Kilbey, two guitarists including one from the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and a sound programmer/keyboardist herded the stage to our rapture and delight. Kilbey’s countenance differed to what I’d encountered on the numerous times I’ve seen him take the stage. He seemed serious, resolute, dead-keen to dive into some unknown and unexplored territory with this new line-up of musicians to perform an album recorded yet not performed up until now. A man on a mission, in other words.

I was struck with Kilbey’s incessant bass-riffs. The bass, the fender custom 60's jazz bass, sounded tremendous. Warm, rich, creamy, deep. I felt Kilbey was in the deliberate process of channelling as much power and mojo from his bass than ever before. The man and his instrument were one. He had the freedom. His aura shimmered. The familiarity of expectation that comes with a famous tried-and-true line-up was cast aside so that essentially, this gig was almost a Kilbey solo gig, the star being the man and his bass. The surrounding musicians unleashed much sonic glory and magnificence, yet the core of this sonic tour-de-force was primarily focussed on the singer and his bass guitar.

I tend to listen to bass more than other instruments, always have, so perhaps I’m biased.

There was one song that struck a familiar chord with me, ’Wolfe’ which I’ve seen Kilbey perform solo at a couple of shows this year. And along with the remainder of the gig, it was magnificent. The music was primal, seismic, almost volcanic in its underlying intensity and sonic visionariness. Kilbey seemed set to explore uncharted territory in rock on a visceral level, to uncover majesties that travel deep beneath the earth’s crust, revealing themselves sonically in shades and sparks of multi-dimensional colour, feeling, and fury. He wanted to go higher than Everest, transcend the speed of light, and with his band, he actually did. They achieved something mighty special that night. Kilbey is an astonishingly magnificent man, I always see him as a deep well of unbounded creative intelligence. On this night I feel that he dived further into this well as the earth rumbled around us all.

People around me had their cameras out, taking photos, sizing up the band members, shooting mini-videos. For one fleeting moment I wondered if I’d best brought my camera but dismissed the notion immediately, refocussing my total awareness again on this sonic journey into hitherto uncharted psycho-musical territory.

My heart remains heavy for a good friend’s predicament. I am sending much love into the universe. Painkiller is what we need, or what most of us need. Musically I felt the earth move under my feet. Is the earth about to move under our feet? Time will tell. Until then there is the album to listen to, Painkiller.

Paul Hewson shooting star

i'm in the sunshine A mate of mine produces a monthly songwriter newsletter which goes out to a hundred or so mainly Sydney-based...