The Break have a pedigree like champion racehorses of music. Midnight Oil's Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie and Martin Rostey. Brian Ritchie from the Violent Femmes and Hunters and Collectors' trumpet section, Jack Howard.
And like great racehorses, these guys have not become tired geldings trotting-out the same shit every time. They have taken risks with under-represented instruments and unusual sounds.
The band's new offering, Space Farm (Sony), is not so much a surf-album as a collection of instrumental compositions with interesting arrangements that push and depart from their previous record.
However-- fans of the mighty Rob Hirst will be excited to hear his powerful drumming arm has not softened on this.
Space Farm is a progression from the more reverb-surf sounds on the band's 2010 debut Church of the Open Sky (Bombora), which nods to the Oils' seminal 1980 surf-instrumental Wedding Cake Island.
This time, we are taken on a psycho-spiritual sound-track that begins on the Asiatic steppes and winds-up on a windswept beach.
Tibetan throat-singers introduce us to the title track--a heart-thumping rock-driven composition that would be fitting to introduce a cricket broadcast.
The record then winds around dusty spaghetti-surf featuring a melodic overlay of trumpet that is arguably more essential to the band's sound than the guitar.
Brian Ritchie uses deep his voice as an instrument by providing bassy vocal grunts and humming melodies across most tracks.
His love of oriental wind-instruments is showcased in Tumbling for Eons Through Turbid Atoms—sounds that expand and enhance and beautifully challenge the ear.
Magestic Kelp and Sky I Use You Like a Mirror arouse imagery of early morning yoga on Byron Bay beach, with a small swell, a thermos of chai and first-light hitting Mount Warning.
We are taken for a gallop with the opportunity to shake our wobbly-bits on the very trad-surf Time for Flying. The Break then takes us to an outer-space desert plain in Things Are Loud Here, with what sounds like an under-current of sitar.
Brian finishes up with a Jim Morrison-esque, spoken-word, acid-experience. “We reel below. Sculling UDL cans, with one shoe lost.”
Humour is provided in the form of retro-kitsch-cheese in Ten Guitars, sung by the so terribly un-cool he is totally cool Englebert Humperdinck.
But--at first it's a bit of fun with inane lyrics and departs from the core of the record. It becomes annoying after the third listen and is a skip-through track.
The Break classify themselves as space-surf, but have provided us with much more. Producer, Jim Moginie, who was the creative end of the Oils, has been let out of the corral to roam wild amongst the space-cactus.
In a rare and exclusive interview, media-shy ex-Midnight Oil guitarist Jim Moginie, chats with the AMN's Michelle Slater to share some very special stories.
Jim now plays in The Break, an instrumental-surf band featuring ex-Oils drummer Rob Hirst, and guitarist Martin Rotsey. The band also includes former Violent Femmes bassist Brian Ritchie and ex Hunters and Collectors' Jack Howard on trumpet.
Jim tells us about the band's search for another lead-singer after Peter Garrett entered politics, and how The Break formed in the band's aftermath. He tells us about the creative writing process and the joys of playing instrumental music. Jim even tells us his reflection of Peter the politician and answers the thorny question about the conflicts of Oils lyrics with Labor policy.
The Break recently played with Rodriguez on his national tour, as his support and backing-band. They have just released their second album Space Farm (Sony) and are about to play some dates around the country.
AMN: Considering the powerful messages in Oils lyrics; was it a tactical move to write lyric-less music in The Break?
Jim: We grappled after the band split up with the idea of getting another singer and maybe doing more lyric-driven music and music that was more normal kind of stuff—pop music in a way. We tried working with a few different singers. It was great, but part of it was that we didn't find anyone that kind of either really wanted to do it, or we really liked having them there.
We also missed Peter and the great things that he'd do. So anyone who came in would have to stand-up to that scrutiny. At the end of the day, the main thing was having us play music together. We met Brian, we loved his playing. He's living here [in Tasmania] now. That was the core of the band once Bones [ex-Oils bassist] moved to Nashville. We looked around us and we looked at what we had and realised we had a lot of fun playing surf music.
It was at a benefit gig for a friend Wayne Goodwin, who had leukaemia. Myself, Rob and Martin got together to play surf music 'coz that's what Wayne and the rest of us did for a school benefit gig for one of our daughters. When we did that, we thought:“This is easy”. We did this other benefit gig for Wayne and we went: “This is easy and it sounded great!” All the crowd were gong nuts. We looked at each other and we thought: “Why do we need a singer?” It's probably more trouble than it's worth and because we didn't have anyone anyway, we thought we could do it. If anyone needs to sing anything, then we can sing. We don't need anyone prancing around up the front being the front-man.
I think it was slightly tactical. But it was also practical and it was the easiest thing we could do, it was like falling off a log. We all played in instrumental bands before and we played surf music in the early days of Midnight Oil, so it wasn't a big jump. Once we got into the idea of making instrumental music, we dove right into it. It was so interesting to write, record and perform and work out ways to perform it. We realised we were experiencing a whole new reality which was always good as artists and musicians that were looking for a challenge.
AMN: So tell us, who were the singers you tried out?
Jim: I'm not gonna tell ya!
All sorts of well-known people, not so well-known people. People we liked, people we thought we'd give them a go. Friends. Some was very casual, come and sing for us. It was never a case of being too organised. Singers would either look at us with suspicion, thinking, “well, these are a bunch of old guys, why would I wanna hang with them?” To young people who were in awe of the Oils and had dreams of being in Midnight Oil one day and suddenly they were in a room with us. We weren't looking at it like that at all. We were looking for people we could make music with and enjoy being with. We weren't lucky enough to find one really.
AMN: The musicians in The Break have played music for many decades, and the new record is a departure from the last. How do you guys keep sounding so fresh and creative?
Jim: It's an interesting question for anyone who is older in the business. There is always the implications that when you were young you're doing your best stuff. But we don't think we ever took it that seriously. Maybe people from the outside think it's serious like, “this is serious business with a new record coming out. Watch out!” When you're inside a bubble, you go, “what have you got?” We go, “let's play in the key of e. This sounds good in this bit. Why don't we change the key of this? Let's put trumpet on it, or let's rip it apart again, it's not working.”
There was nothing precious in the way we looked at music anyway. We just tried to take it apart and do the best thing we could do with it. I think that spark of inspiration is what any artist has to nurture. I think the business can surely beat it out of you, no question of that. The business can make you think that no matter how hard you work, you're a failure. The business can do that to you. We aren't like that. We look at it from another angle and another pair of shoes.
The inspiration—I call it Irishness, or The Muse, or something you have to nurture and you can't take it too seriously. You have to have fun with it and constantly come up with ideas that fit the times. With the instrumental band, I haven't written lyrics for years now, I haven't needed to. It doesn't mean I can't. There's something very fresh about The Break. The idea of writing instrumental music is very fresh to us, we find it exciting. I think that if we had to come up with a whole album of politically driven songs now, it would not be the same.
AMN: How does The Break re-invent the genre of surf music?
Jim: The genre of surf music is amazing! Like The Atlantics. Martin Cilia and Peter Hood and all those guys who've been in The Atlantics for years, we really look up to them. They've been great forefathers. In 1961 they did Bombora.
Then people like The Mermen in America and I think we were taking our thing from instrumental music generally whether it's Sun-Ra or Mogwai or other instrumental bands, or even jazz influences in some ways on this record.
I thinks it's because we've got surf guitars in our hands. Me and Martin still play Fender Jazzmasters and we throw reverb and tremolo in the mix. It's gonna sound really surfy. It does have that vibe in it. But the source is more maverick than that. Under all we're more mystics with it, we try to have fun with it. There's one track Tumbling For Eons Through Turbid Atoms, where Brian plays the zuma, or Turkish clarinet. It's not really surf music. It has a surf music sensibility to it, but means that it's fun and melodic. That's the great thing about surf music. It's instrumental, it's simple melodies and chords, riffs and bass-lines. I think its because we're messing with it and playing other instruments.
I can play a bit of keyboard and Brian can play the shakuhachi and other wind-instruments. We have ways of making it interesting for ourselves and pushing the genre a bit. We're being very respectful of the genre and love all those great surf bands who started it all. People like Henry Marvin, an incredible guitar player. The Shadows, that was very melodic pop music in a way. I think we're trying to stretch it a bit. Perhaps change people's thinking of what surf music can be.
AMN: Is there a surf-revival?
Jim: I don't really know. There's a lot of bands like The Volcaniks and other surf bands around that are coming up. If you're in a surf music band you take a step sideways. You're never going to be pop music, you're never going to be storming the charts necessarily with surf music. It's the kind of music people like to get out and listen to live and it's something they can play.
You don't have to be a good player to play surf music. I think Wipe Out was the first thing I learnt on the guitar and I taught myself. It's a simple thing to play for all the 15 year old guitarists out there who don't have a lead singer. I highly recommend going out there and learning a few surf tunes.
It's primal music too. It goes right back to the original spirit of rock n roll. It's like people like Link Wray, it's kind of gut-bucket, simple rock music. Like Bo Diddley, but instead of having a vocal singer, there's a guitar melody over the top.
As far as a revival goes, I know on the west coast of America it's huge and there's lots of gigs over there. Over here, I'm not that aware of it. Don Mariani and the Majestic Kelp are a great band from WA, they've done some great things. Day of the Dead from WA, they're another great surf band. There's a few of us around, I don't think we'll be storming the charts tomorrow—you never know.
AMN: Jack Howard occasionally joins you guys on stage. Is he now a permanent band member?
Jim: Yeah. Jack Howard played on seven or eight of the tracks when we were recording, and it sounded so good. He was just weaving around what we had already done. He seemed to make it sound more melodic. He only came up for one day and did that recording and went back that night. It was a big day for him. By doing that, he insinuated himself into the band. We couldn't hear the songs any other way.
Good on ya Jack for getting into the band! It's a good way to do it! He's a very important part of it now and adds a lot of drama about it when we play live. It means that myself and Martin can play less and make it sound better.
The Oils toured with the Hunters [and Collectors] in the early 90s, we did the Blue Sky Mining tour through America and Europe and they were our support band. We used to hang out with the Hunters and they are our mates. We always loved the horns section and everything about them actually. The horns section would sometimes get up and play with us anyway back in the day. Jack's like a mate and he fits right into it all. We're enjoying having him in it now.
AMN: Brian Ritchie is American, so will The Break be touring there?
Jim: We haven't really been talking about it yet. Partly because we are a surf band, we're not well known over there yet. We're trying to figure out ways of getting over there in terms of getting the record released. Now, when you release a record, it's world-wide when Sony put it out. It's out there now, so I suppose now's a good a chance as any to have a go. Maybe we should all just jump on a plane with a cheap flight over there, borrow a couple of guitars and amps and get up and play with a few bands over there, because I think it's a good scene.
It's always hard to get out of the country sometimes to find ways of doing it. You go over there and spend 100,000 dollars touring, then come back with nothing. Even though we come from big bands, we might have a bit of an advantage there, but it feels like a new start. Se we have to look at it from other ways possibly.
I'd love to go and play in the States, it would be great fun. And in other places like Europe as well, it would be fun. Maybe people haven't forgotten, maybe they still remember us. It's good to have a loyal fan-base. The simple fact of touring, it's very expensive.
I have a feeling we will get over there. There's certainly a desire to do something. It could happen. I think I now see The Break as a Five-Year-Plan, or more. There's so much more we could do with it now. It's interesting. We haven't been thinking of international travel, but it will happen. If not with this album, the with the next one.
AMN: Oooh! So there will be another Break album!
Jim: We're kind of lucky, because I have a studio up here in Sydney. We can go in there and write and create stuff relatively pain-free. With the Oils' Blue Sky Mine, we spent six months doing demos before we even made the album. We don't have any of that problem here. The demos became the masters. Maybe we're getting better at doing it. Part of it is the sound and energy of it. We can capture it in a fairly raw state, like trying to trap a lion.
Some of the problems we used to have here with some of the songs were that the demos were really good we couldn't improve on them. So that when we did the album, it may not turn out as well, not necessarily turn out as well as the demos. With anything, your initial instinct is usually the right one, and with music that's very true. So we've got a good way to do it here with the studio here without even any strangers around.
AMN: The Break are such a powerful band, did you have to change your approach as musicians when playing with Rodriguez?
Jim: Rodriguez' songs have been in our brains for the last 40 years, because we knew him from back in the day. We shared the stage with him and connected when the Oils travelled to Detroit. We had a bit of a relationship with him anyway, but we played in a more symphonic way. We had to top all those beautiful licks on his records and listen to them and try to get the grooves going.
He's quite an interesting guy to play with as he's a feel musician, not a chops musician. It's all about watching his right hand and watching what he's going to do next. It's more like a beatnik approach and he's not so much a seasoned rock star. He's quite the opposite. He's quite shambolic and charming in that way. We just had to listen and turn down and tune into his his songs and amazing music.
AMN: Did you fear overpowering him on stage, and taking the attention from him?
Jim: I think it was being sympathetic to Rodriguez really and changing our approach. I think a lot of bands we've seen playing with him on You Tube overpower him in terms of volume and blast him off stage.
With The Break, we've been working with three different singers now. Rodriguez, we're working with Engelbert [Humperdinck] now and also with Dan Sultan. All of those people, we've had a different way of approaching working with them. The fact that we don't have a lead-singer doesn't stop us from working with singers. We're enjoying being footloose and fancy free with different singers. That's been an unexpected pleasure of all this stuff.
AMN: You released your debut record, Church of the Open Sky through the indie label, Bombora. Why did you sign over to Sony?
Jim: We had the opportunity to do it and we thought why not. We've got a good relationship with them as far as the Oils are concerned. They are both good labels in their own way. I think we enjoyed working with those guys from Sony. These days, it's not such a big deal to change labels. We liked Bombora, they were always great for the band. This time we thought we'd go with something different and see what it would be like.
For us, it isn't so much that we think we will be an incredibly successful band, as I don't think that instrumental music by its very definition is commercial. The fact that we're going with a commercial label doesn't mean we're going to sell more records. I think it's more we have an on-going relationship with the guys and we like them. They're not all big-bad corporate guys with fangs instead of teeth. They're quite nice people doing a good job, so let's keep our fingers crossed.
AMN: Peter Garrett recently joined The Break to sing for the Rock for Doc benefit gig in Sydney. Did Caucus put any special conditions on him being a rock-star for the night?
Jim: I think he can do what he can. He's one of the busiest people I've ever met. He's so busy, I don't even know how he can brush his teeth. They've even got it all mapped-out for him, every minute of every day. I would suspect Caucus would like him to go and perform because it's good for him and it's good for the Party to see him out there. I think it's up to him to to see how much energy he's got to go and do all these things.
We had a ball with that. It was the quickest four minutes for my life and it was good to get out there and do something for Doc [Neeson] as well. It was great seeing Pete. We love Pete like a brother. All the trials and tribulations you go through with the media and being a politician, Pete's had a particularly hard time, but he's come out of it. I just think that anyone who does what he does is incredibly brave and trying to serve the people. That's what he's trying to do. It's a difficult balance for him. I think he's getting it right now.
AMN: Was it a bit tricky when the Oils reformed a couple years back, as many lyrics contradict ALP policy?
Jim: Well, we played US Forces. I think there's a difference between those two things and his individual beliefs and this is where he has got into trouble with people in that : “You used to say this and now you say that.”
Well, he's only saying that because he's a politician and he's an a party and if he wasn't in a party, then he could say whatever he liked, but he can't now, so he has to be bound by that. I understand that. He can be perplexing at times but I understand that it's his role to be good party member and working with other people in the party with outcomes. And not just popular outcomes he has to deal with.
The Peter Garrett I know is a lovely guy and has a great belief in the country and he is trying to do the right thing. I think anyone in any party has to come under the thumb of the rule of the party. For anyone to think otherwise is incredibly naive. I love Peter and I think he's such a good person to have in there than some other dickhead—like someone who is a career politician. He isn't. He's someone who really cares about the country and he's trying to make a difference.
AMN: Angry Anderson was just officially pre-selected by The Nationals to contest the seat of Throsby this year.
Jim: Oh Gawd! What is it with lead singers and politicians?
AMN: I'm asking you!
Jim: I don't know! I think it's a really interesting discussion. The microphone and all that goes with it is what a lead singer is. All the time they have to connect to an audience, even if they're fronting a band of other people, they have a special connexion with the audience that maybe normal band members don't have. Maybe they're a different breed—lead singers to think they have the ability to communicate.
I knew he had been dabbling with the idea of going into politics and now he's done it. Well, good on him. I don't think you have to be lining up behind any [left, or right wing] banner if you're a singer. It's normally associated with people in the arts who are usually more left-wing. But I think Angry comes from a different cloth and just wants to do things his way.
It would be interesting seeing them in parliament, seeing them on opposite sides! Peter on one side, Angry on the other. It would be quite bizarre. I look forward to it!
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I hate to say it, but it was not the powerful songstress Mia Dyson, but her drummer who stole the show at the Caravan Club last weekend.
There aren't many gigs where one's focus is slowly moved away from the front-person to the percussion section tucked away up the back. But drummer, Danny McKenna was on absolute fire—he played like a giant behemoth. He threw more balls behind the already powerful vocalist's performance.
In fact, there were more than a few times where the audience shouted out appreciative comments. Not for the singer—but for the drummer!
Mia's keyboardist was ok too. She was the esteemed Liz Stringer, currently the Golden Child of the acoustic roots music scene. Liz has her own solo career and also plays in the Livingstone Daisies, so the gig rolled-out with a line-up of roots royalty.
Not that Mia Dyson wasn't good, she was bloody fantastic! One punter summed her up perfectly- Mia Dyson's voice is just so yummy.
From the very first song, she took authority over the mic by opening the show with a wow that never petered-out. She sang with such control, projection and precision.
She played songs across her enviable back-catalogue which included a number called Jesse, off her current The Moment record. What is so special about this song is that it's about a mum who was forced to give up her baby in a forced adoption. Mia performed it live in Parliament House last month, when the Prime Minister apologised for past wrongs.
She sat down and played slide guitar to a song she wrote while living in Daylesford, in central Victoria. She said it was the first song she wrote that she liked. It's also noteworthy that plays hand-made electric guitars from her luthier dad, Jim Dyson. She was appreciative of the very receptive audience, who sat silent while she sang quiet solo.
Ad the end of the gig, she summoned the rest of the band for a group hug and to take a bow before the audience. You don't see this very much these days at gigs. It cemented just how tight the outfit was.
Aussie blues artist, Mia Dyson, performed at one of the most important days in Australian politics—the Prime Minister's formal apology to forced adoptions.
In March, people who had been forcibly put into state care as children, gathered in the hall of Parliament House in Canberra to hear the Government apologise for past wrongs.
The horrific story of some of these people moved Mia Dyson so much, that she wrote a song about it—Jesse-- the single off her current record, The Moment.
“A few years ago, a woman came up to me at a show and asked If I wanted to write about her story. I had never heard about this before. It became a song called Jesse, on the new album. Some of the people who were pushing for the apology asked if I would come and sing the song.”
She described the emotional day in Canberra.
“It was incredibly highly-charged. The Prime Minister delivered a wonderful heartfelt speech to acknowledge past-actions and apologise for it. There was a real sense of relief. People wanted to hear this for a long time. I was thankful to be a part of it.”
However, some people became hostile at Liberal opposition leader, Tony Abbott's faux-pas. Some audience members stood up and turned their backs on him while he spoke.
“He said some things that were inappropriate. He called women birth-mothers. They just want to be called mothers.”
During this time, Mia was preparing for her performance. She said that afterward, people gave her their personal feed-back about her song.
“There was a barbecue with attendees and many women were telling me that their story was in the song and they they were moved by it.”
Mia said that she has a history of story-telling in her songwriting.
“I've told the stories of some of the refugees who had drowned on the SIEV-X. That was a song called Christmas Island from the album, Parking Lot.”
Mia is currently touring her new record with a stellar band line-up, including Liz Stringer.
“She has her own incredible career. I've been able to nab her for my own band from time-to-time. She is so creative and sensitive. I've got Danny McKenna on drums (Jeff Lang) who is a wonderful musician and Tim Keegan on bass.”
She recently spent three years in the US, where she recorded the album, and experienced some mixed-fortunes.
“I had some management that wanted me to change my name and go on reality TV. I decided not to stay with that bunch. It was an incredible adventure. I'd dreamt of living in America since I was a kid, it was a dream come true. But it was tough. I didn't know anyone. It was a financial disaster. I split from my long-term partner. I got out from all that and recorded my new album in California.”
Mia grew up in the Victorian surf-mecca, Torquay. Her dad was a guitar-maker who encouraged her to start playing the piano.
After high-school, Mia moved to Melbourne where she could concentrate on music.
“Torquay is a surfing town and I didn't feel a part of that. It was a real boy's town back then. It's a beautiful place, but back then I didn't feel part of it. I had music, so I spent a lot of time on that.”
The singer-songwriter tells us about her routine for song-writing.
“I set time every day to do it. It's the first thing I do everyday, an hour or two hours each morning. If I didn't have discipline, I wouldn't write songs.”
Mia is about to head back to the US where she will tour and begin work on some new material.
WEBSITE - http://miadyson.com/
TWITTER - https://twitter.com/miadysonmusic
FACEBOOK - http://www.facebook.com/miadyson
BLOG - http://miadyson.com/blog/
MUSIC - http://miadyson.com/music/
SHOWS - http://miadyson.com/shows/
VIDEO - http://miadyson.com/video/
He is smooth, he has charisma, he knows how to charm the socks off the audience and he can sport a good safari suit. Mikelangelo is one of Melbourne's more stylish characters.
Mikelangelo and his four-piece outfit-- The Tin Star-- featuring the beautiful Saint Clare, brought images of the sand and the sea to Collingwood, with a 1950's style beach party on a hot summer night.
His gigs meld mid-twentieth-century kitsch with a splash of art deco. They make the sure the audience is lured into an aesthetic journey while the front-man uses seduction to keep them engaged.
The Yah-Yah's gig was a prelude to the band's 3am gig at the Speigel Tent for White Night-- an all night arts event centring around the Melbourne CBD, and was taking place on that same night.
As a result, the gig did not pull a capacity audience, as north-side venues were competing with the phenomenal event down the road.
However, Mikelangelo pulled no stops to ensure we enjoyed a full attack from the Action-man himself.
The band punched out reverb and surf, with rolling drums and booty shaking power, exemplifying their own description of surf-western. It's hard to keep your arse still while the whammy bar is being pulled and pushed!
The front-man leapt out to the audience to twist and shimmy, and frantically ran up to the audience's women to engage them in a brief boogie.
Special guest, Saint Clare, decorated the set with her stunning outfits featuring glitter and parasole. She slinked and belly-danced to complement her vocals, while adding a raw femininity against Mikelangelo's macho bravado.
She threw out a beach-ball to add colour to the room and add to audience interaction. There was a projection of footage made to represent old-school Super-8 film, which featured her slinking on the beach, showing-off such a bourgeois life-style.
The band's signature tune—Action! Is My Middle Name, allowed Mikelangelo to beef it up. He got out his comb to ostentatiously swipe back his brill-cremed coiffure and adopt affected manly poses.
And it must be said, what a significant night it was for Oz music! This was one of the featured gigs for SLAM day—commemorating a rally in 2010, which saw nearly 20,000 members of the music community march on Victorian Parliament to protest tight licensing laws.
Elizabeth Cook cuts a strikingly beautiful figure on stage with her fine bone structure and made-up eyes, but the Nashville-based singer also has a dead-pan dry wit when she opens her mouth.
Cook was fresh off the back of the Tamworth Country Music Festival, with her three piece country-gospel outfit including Tim Carroll on guitar. The now US based Bones Hillman, (ex-Midnight Oil), looked vastly different parked quietly behind an upright bass-- nowhere near the frenzy of playing with the Oils. He brought an Australian connection to the show as well as the opportunity for Cook to learn some local parlance on her first trip Downunder.
“When Bones said to me, 'lets go in here for a squizz,' I thought he meant to do a piss. I didn't know it meant to take a look,” she said later on in the gig.
The Northcote Social Club attracted a warm but modest crowd for Cook's first Australian tour. Some in the audience had just returned from the northern pilgrimage to Tamworth.
The band kicked off with a couple of alt-country numbers, which included Balls. You gotta have balls to be a woman. This advice set the tone for the night.
In El-Camino, she told us about the types of people who drive that kind of car. “Over here you call them utes,” she said. I told him your car is creepy man. And not in a gangsta kinda way. But in a perv kinda way.
The band crossed and changed from acoustic singer-songwriter to more up-beat traditional twang, as was heard in the toe-tappin Yes to Booty. At other times there was a hint of rock n roll here and there and as well as a bracket of gospel.
The singer's thick drawn-out southern accent was almost surreal to the Melbourne audience when she told us stories surrounding her up-bringing in central Florida.
“Daddy got out of jail for runnin' moonshine with the Mafia and moved next-door to my mother. They each had five kids to a previous marriage. That leaves plenty of material for me.”
Heroin Addict Sister offered us quiet harmonies, contributed by Hillman, who was famous for his light backing vocals in the Oils.
She explained her unorthodox childhood going along with her parents to bars “not as nice as this,” where they performed hillbilly music.
Then we heard the sounds of the ol' time gospel hour, with songs off her latest Gospel Plow EP, which was the highlight of the gig.
She described These Men of God, as “surfer-grass-gospel.” The songs were a change from countrified guitar to more vocal-based compositions, which offered a nod to the southern gospel traditions.
Tim Carroll briefly took over front-duties and changed the set again with some more electric sounding stuff, his songs short and sharp, his vocals sounding a bit Arlo Guthrie-like.
They finished up with a Gram Parson's cover, Hot Burrito, and a tune Carroll penned for Casey Chambers.
John Butler blasted absolute joy into a capacity filled amphitheatre stage at the Woodford Folk Festival last night. He performed with love and sincerity in front of about 25,000 people- securing him as one of Australia's most consistently great live acts.
In fact, over the years, this bloke's live gigs keep getting better. Last night, the show was on fire.
John announced that at one time in his career his ultimate goal was to play at Woodford. "If I could just play at Woodford, I'd die," he said.
He opened the show with a couple of his trademark fast-paces blues-rock-roots stuff. Michael Barker came out to join drummer Nicky Bomba on percussion. They belted out some coga in a duo in Gonna Be A Long Time. There was a lot of bopping going on from those bouncing around the vast mosh pit, as well as from the thousands of others seated on the ridge nodding along.
We found out the magnitude of the crowd when he asked different sections to cheer. The noise coulda scared the birds out of the sky. He had the audience eating out of his hands.
In such a large open-air venue, the sound was as crisp as an iceberg lettuce leaf.
He explained about the Kimberly. "The Premier of my state, Western Australia, Colin Barnett, wants to build the worlds biggest gas plant there." The crowd booed. "This is your country," he continued and broke into Treat Yo Mama.
He began this anthemic protest song with a quiet slide solo, before exploding into the opening riff. The lead break had some Jeff Lang inspired riffs thrown in. Byron Luiters simultaneously played a didge and an up-right bass.
Mama Kin came out in a white floral frock to join him for a traditional number.
His innovation was on show in a white-hot an instrumental that featured hammer-ons and percussive banging on his acoustic 12 string. The audience joined in da-da daing along with the familiar riff in Zebra.
He ended with Funky Tonight after dedicating the song to everyone's arse "so that they get up and shake it," he said.
John Butler has sealed himself as one of the country's truly great axemen. His consistent performances and diverse playing styles, combined with passion and conviction make him one of the Australia's most important touring musos. Playing at Woodford for him was like coming home.
A girl pushes her way through the line for the shuttle bus. "Please let me get on first, my tent isn't covered!" The rain is so severe it soaks through everything and the aftermath leaves a destruction of tents and bedding through the camp ground.
A sub-tropical thunderstorm opened up and pelted down over 60,000 odd punters at the opening ceremony at this years Woodford Folk Festival.
Nestled in the lush valleys of the D'Aguilar Range in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, Woodford is noted for its magnificent location amongst fragrant dripping rainforest, butterflies and jaw-dropping vistas.
The local Jinibura people were an integral part of the opening ceremony, which included a dusk lantern parade and a traditional smoking ceremony.
The fickle wet-season shower passed over quickly to reveal a full moon steaming over a humid Queensland night.
While gumboots are traditionally the footwear of choice at this gig, luckily muddy conditions were held at bay on day one of the festival.
Not so much strictly a folk festival, there is such a sheer diversity on the program that one can spend hours simply wandering around acts that vary from traditional folk and world, right through to hip-hop, circus and burlesque.
Strong female singer-songwriters dominated my morning program which included Sydney outfit, The Stiff Gins, who sang strong harmonies in the Concert Stage. Penelope Swales played a rare solo show to a packed room in the Duck Bar.
Angus Stone attracted a few thousand to his night show on the hilltop amphitheatre stage, where screaming Gen Ys shouted their adulation to the shy and scruffy performer. Charismatic front-man Henry Wagons wooed his audience with take-the-piss wit.
Gold Dust Cabaret, in the Palace big top, featured circus skills that included Betty Braun, the World's Strongest Woman, who single handedly lifted two fully grown blokes. Die Rotten Punkte kept the comedic- cabaret going with their Pixies style East Germanic punk.
Malcolm Turnbull, Shadow Communications spokesperson, gave a speech and q and a session at the Concert Stage. He addressed issues about the need for more intelligent debate in parliament and for journalists to hold politicians to account.
The beauty of these festivals is that one can spend hours back at camp hanging out with neighbours, borrowing forgotten camping gear and get into long intense discussions over a morning plunger coffee.
The Forum Theatre, Melbourne. 8/12/12
In 1982, Goanna sang about the little-known topic of indigenous land rights. The anthemic Solid Rock achieved commercial success and the band performed it on Countdown. This year marks 30 years of Solid Rock, and the song's message is as vital today as it was the day it was released.
The Other Side of the Rock was a commemorative concert organised by Goanna front-man Shane Howard, involving the country's most important indigenous song-writers. The event was originally performed at Uluru earlier this year, with the Mutitjulu community.
There were no less than 10 mic stands set up the front of stage at the Forum last night, the gig would be epic- and it was.
Traditional Warundjeri elder, Joan Murphy opened up the show. She carried a branch of gum leaves and asked us to take a leaf to accept that we are on Warundjeri land. The aromatic smell of eucalypt filled the room when the leaves were put over a smoking machine.
The gently spoken Shane Howard humbly entered the stage and put a leaf in his Akubra hat. He began singing Shadow of Your Love, solo straight up. Beautifully shot footage of the Uluru concert was shown in the backdrop, and was a key focal point of the concert.
The band featured Amy Saunders, Emma Donovan and Myra Howard on backing vocals. I discovered all too soon that the show was designed to be appreciated from afar, instead of from my position in the nosebleed section. The band was huge, I couldn't decide where to look.
They played a moving interpretation of Solid Rock- or Puli Kunpungka in Pitjantjatjara. The three women added a deep quality to the song. Razors Edge provided the opportunity for an audience sing-a-long, and Ross Hanaford came out to punch out the chops. Shane invited Bob Brown to join them to introduce Franklin: “But he's off saving the Kimberly,” Howard said.
Then the special guests appeared. Neil Murray played a bopping Long Grass Band. Amy took over lead vocals for My Island Home, illustrating how beautifully suited the song is for a female voice.
She told us how spun out she was singing with Shane's daughter, Myra. “I didn't see that coming while watching Countdown.”
Tonchi McKintosh sang Too Much Wrong with Shane's delicately blended harmonies. Bart Willoughby looked the rockstar with leather pants and bikie boots. He took the mic to sing For Young and Old with his trademark fluctuating vocals, the sound was big. He had been playing the tea chest and djembe in the band.
Archie Roach, so eloquent and considered said: “To have a real relationship with the land, you don't have to be Aboriginal, you just have to want to,” before he sang Child Was Born. Emma Donovan showcased her powerful soul vocals in Jagun. The Pigram Brothers played with humour and charm and Mark Atkins performed a stirring didge solo- complete with beat boxing.
Twenty one people came out to sing the finale- the rockin' version of Solid Rock. Damien Howard, Shane's brother, sneaked out to join them.
The show was an emotional experience. It reminded us that music has the power to begin the reconciliation process.