Last month, I temporarily returned to Australia for a brief and low-key, but wide-reaching tour. I played four shows in four cities: Perth, Brisbane, Hobart and Melbourne before heading back over to Bali to continue the song-writing mission. I’ve written a little something about the shows and posted some photos/video.
Monday July 1, 2013 | Mojo’s – North Freemantle, Western Australia
It was my first live performance in 2013 and my first ever in WA so I eased into it by playing a short 20min set at an open mic night in North Freemantle. It was at a small indie bar called Mojo’s, which features friendly clutter and memorabilia on the walls – a nice change from Perth in general. While very pretty indeed and extremely clean, Perth is also quite sparse and can feel kind of empty while your wallet is drained for overpriced parking and beer (further exacerbated, no doubt, by contrast to the previous 5 months I’d spent in the Balinese economy). It therefore becomes important to find bars like Mojos to remind oneself that Perth is more than just it’s perfectly manicured and expansive exterior. And what a vibe we found there on a cool Monday night; I played early but still to a healthy crowd and they thankfully received me warmly. After an uncharacteristically shaky start with ‘Filling the Hole’ (usually one of my most consistent live staples) I debuted a new song with equal uncertainty. Still, I managed to find my way through it without incident though the performance wasn’t very confident. I was more settled with the new one out of the way though and rounded out my set with more solid versions of Anne, On My Back and The Mountain, the Road and the Night. It was great to be up playing again but the night was still young and had plenty to offer me, now as a member of the audience.
The crowd only grew as the acts cycled through with a surprising level of diversity and talent. From karaoke-style pop covers to a 20-something year old man named George performing stirring, essentially spoken-word, versions of Johnny Cash songs – stretching himself to the limits that his acquired brain injury would allow. Also, there was Robert Hinton who’s incredible clear, high and powerful voice could just as easily soar over 80s glam-metal as it did over his own acoustic-pop songs. We saw a quirky, jazz-guitarist with a deliberately terrible sense of humour and then my favourite, Mattress. This was a three-piece with an acoustic-garage-pop sound combined with fantastic, over-the-top 80s keyboard who played astoundingly simple songs that were as catchy as anything and man, could all three of them sing! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track them down online yet – so, Mattress, if you’re out there I’d like to hear you again! Thanks Perth, it was swell and I’ll be back.
Thursday July 4, 2013 | Sofar Sounds – Fortitude Valley, Queensland
This was a secret gig. Secret in the sense that most of the Audience didn’t know who was playing until they arrived at the venue – which happened to be a private residence. They didn’t even know where it was going to be until a few days prior, having RSVP’d a couple of weeks before that and secured one of the limited audience member places. I was lucky enough to play to this receptive audience in a nice big backyard, on a pleasant winter’s evening in Brisbane.
Sofar Sounds began in London some years ago and while these kind of concerts aren’t a new idea, Sofar has carved out their own format and spawned a community that exists both physically and digitally across the globe. The shows are unique and intimate but also filmed and recorded then streamed live or shared online. It’s a great way for music-lovers to discover new artists and for performers to reach new audiences.
Like most house shows, the audience was excellent – they were all there to enjoy the music. Picnic rugs and second-hand couches were arranged on the grass toward the stage, which was essentially a patch of earth positioned under the back corner of this typical Brisbane weatherboard house on stilts. Some draped sheets and fairy lights and the whole thing had a starry, festive atmosphere. I played a short set again, the new song felt better this time, which is just as well as it was caught on camera (watch the video on youtube)! Sofar was a more challenging live performance as it was completely unplugged but from audience accounts, the sound carried. I also had the pleasure of enjoying Good Oak’s set later on – the double bass, acoustic guitar onslaught and big harmonies of this lively country-folk outfit had everyone tapping their feet.
Saturday July 6, 2013 | The Casbah – Hobart, Tasmania
Finally, back home and back with the band. It was so good to play with the full arrangements again – we had an excellent rehearsal where we played through all the material and a really good, solid sound-check. Something went amiss during our set though as we didn’t seem to be able to get the sound right again or overcome some recurring technical issues but still, we enjoyed ourselves. There were moments when it all came together and the audience, albeit small, were patient and appreciative. I appreciate them coming out on a cold Tasmanian winter night. Thanks to Brad Harbeck (Monte Cassino) for having us play.
Tuesday July 9, 2013 | The Workers Club – Fitzroy, Victoria
The last show for the tour; solo again. The band room at the Workers is great sounding and great looking, especially with 50 plus audience members. I was truly humbled by all my friends who came out to see me on a random Tuesday in July and I can safely say I managed the best performance of the tour that night. I played a long set surrounded by six (yes, six!) foldback speakers and lost myself in the great sound our sound engineer (also called James) had made for me on stage.
The vibe was great and Lyra Will and Timothy John who played before me were excellent. Three solo acts plus DJ Trapdoor Style (Sam J Nicholson) spinning classic pop tunes in-between sets (kicking the night off with Chris Isaak, no less) made for a really nice intimate night of music mid-week. I was finally in the swing of things just as it was time to head back to Bali – those songs aren’t going to write themselves.