Velvet Road on MySpace

(The above sketch is mine, although ironically it's Gav and Pete who are the practicing sketchers and artists of the band. Top is Pete Thompson, left is Gav Fitzgerald, right is Ross B. Gav came and scribbled some hair on the sides of his head - I wish he hadn't done that, it's tainted my sketch!)

I've made up a new MySpace page for a band I used to play with, and still do, though in acoustic format. Velvet Road formed in 1999 through Songwriting Society members who shared a common love of blues rock. Well, I didn't love blues rock. But I was, and remain, a huge Cold Chisel fan, and I dredged up to those early gigs carrying my portable piano like a caveman drags the club. Gav Fitzgerald liked my stuff and I liked his, so we did the logical thing and had a jam. I found him a little awkward, and a little too keen to talk about himself a lot, but other than that he was strangely endearing and I liked him a lot, and musically we hit it off very well. We soon found Pete Day on bass, a mate of Gav's, and we scooted along as a 3-piece for a couple of months. Serendipity struck big time thereafter when Gav was introduced to Pete Thompson by a mutual friend at the Excelsior in Surry Hills. Gav was down to see one of his favourite bands and the drummer of the band introduced Gav to Pete. Pete Thompson remains one of mine and Gav's best friends.

Gav brought Hana Fiserova into the band because he liked her, and we spent 1999 drinking beer and having jams and having ourselves a fine old time with it. I met loads of new people that year. I was exploring blues/rock piano for the first time ever and loved it. We were doing small gigs, leading up to the Darling Harbour outdoor concert, in 1999. By 2000 we were playing proper pubs. In March Hana left to move back to the Czech Republic. In September Pete Day left us to go back home to Christchurch, New Zealand. We replaced Pete with Mark Wallace who kind of upset the chemistry of the band. He was technically a good player but his touch was cold. He could have been a much better player but he was a lazy arse; either that or he was too busy with his day job, being an electrician. By the tail-end of 2002 we booted him out. At that point, bereft of a bass player, I put up my hand, dusted my old fender-p, and took up the four-string duties, and it hadn't been for the first time either. We spent much of 2003 and 2004 rehearsing and gigging, with a lot of the rehearsals conducted at Peter's (then) place at lovely Coledale, so that rehearsal was a bit of a weekend holiday rather than rigmarole.

In 1999 we recorded an EP and by 2003 a full-length CD, Saturday Morning, was issued. Saturday Morning had taken us about 2-3 years to record so that by the time of its release we sounded nothing like that album. The album represents our sound around 2000, ie, far more folk-rock with lots of piano in the mix. Gavin was, and remains, the prolific songwriter. He is totally passionate about songwriting, and has always been, as long as I've known him.

By 2005 I was starting an Eva Cassidy-style duo with a singer and began to wind down the band, seeing as it wasn't going very far anyway. We were getting tired of organising gigs for little result. In February 2006 I pulled the plug on the band and wasn't to return to it for almost 2 years.

Gav went out and did a lot of solo gigs which served to enhance his acoustic guitar style and his singing. I was gigging a lot with Brigette and doing my own gigs. Yet, late in 2007, Gav asked us if we'd like to do the Darling Harbour gig in November. I complied, we did it, and it was marvelous!! The fun returned and with that a renewed interest in the band. We did a couple of shows at the Cat'n'Fiddle in Balmain at around the same time.

To this day we still play but primarily in acoustic format. I much prefer it that way. It's difficult to be in a working band on an independent basis, having to worry about bringing people to gigs, carrying heavy amps and worrying how your sound is on-stage. The way we do it now is that Pete carries his djembe to gigs, Gav his acoustic guitar, and I just carry my bass and DI box or a small amp. We find that it's just as powerful and focussed as the full-band set-up, but with minimal drawbacks.

I would still like to play in bands and am keen to join something as a bass player. I don't wish to join a rock band. I'm looking for a jazz-folk combo, something that has light drums or percussion, and is gigging regularly or semi-regularly. And every so often, I'll play with Velvet Road. We are still a viable act. What keeps us together is the chemistry, the organic nature of our act. Being in a band is problematic, it can be like a relationship. There are as many moods, fights and arguments as there are good times. But keeping the band light as an acoustic act seems to even out the negative aspects of playing in a band. There's nothing like carrying and transporting heavy gear to bring out the worst in people!

One legacy of Velvet Road is this: in 1999 we were the first "Velvet" band. Since then there have, literally, a dozen Velvet bands!! There's Velvet Revolver (as we all know), and more local variations such as Velvet Revolution, Velvet Sound, Velvet Set and so many others I can't remember now. But we were the first!!

Gav's songwriting is very good yet the strength of the band is in its live act, the songs seem to come through more powerfully live than recorded. People tend to like us because we're quirky, we evoke good "pub" times and a self-effacing sense of humour, we're good players, we're human, and we rock. Simple. ;) The three of us, all with different personalities, blend very well. We're all sensitive men in our own particular way, and the songs are expressions of that albeit in a more bumptious, bluesy, country-folk-pop-rock way.

So, in lieu of the fun times and the beers and the blues and the rock and the songs and the camaraderie, I've set up the site!

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