Friday, July 25, 2014

Song of the Week #308

A week and a day since we played a gig. Much of life seems so mundane in comparison! Fear not though, we're making some noise on August 2nd. You can see all the details at the band's Facebook page: If you're in Canberra come along and see us (it's free).

July has been my easy month for the year on the bike. Back when I was training for triathlon our coach insisted on 4-6 weeks off in the middle of the year. It's good for your mind and body and I still ease off at least these days. This month with being sick and then on tour it was easy to have time away from cycling. To give you an idea of how easy I've taken it I usually ride about 40 hours in a month. For July do far I've ridden for 6. It feels weird. There's still a few days left though!

I spent some time in the record shop over the weekend. The kids were elsewhere and DJ Al-ee-sunshine was in Hawaii so I had time on my hands. The new album from Australian Blues guitarist and singer Mia Dyson is fantastic. It's a bit more varied than her previous outings but the guitars sound fantastic and the songs are strong. I'm also listening to a Wilco album from 1996 called "Being There". Wilco is a band I've always found a bit challenging in that they are good but just not quite engaging me. This album is different. The songs, the instrumentation and the groove just feels right.

Mia Dyson - When We're Older -

Wilco - Monday -

The album (or albums) I didn't buy were the latest Led Zeppelin re-issues. I spent a lot of money on a 4 CD remasters set in 1990. I'm sure that the latest ones are interesting but how many times should I pay for the same thing? As DJ Guz pointed out, the recording engineers in the 60s and 70s knew what they were doing. If bands really wanted to provide something cool then multitrack versions that you could mix yourself would be fun.

Led Zeppelin - Bron-y-aur Stomp -

Of course the quality of the equipment that you listen on is important to consider. Tinny earbuds and an MP3 are almost the antithesis of full range sound. They have their place and I use them a lot but a decent stereo amplifier and speakers are essential if you're going to lay down money for vinyl or CD remasters. Or at least a lossless player and decent headphones.

I read years ago that Van Halen previewed one of their albums with rock journalists whilst driving and therefore on a car stereo. That's funny.

Van Halen - And The Cradle Will Rock -

During the work I headed out to see a performance of The Beatles "White Album" at the Canberra Theatre. It was pretty good. There's a full review from me here.

Zoe is 18 tomorrow. Time flies. She was an angry baby but beautiful to go along with it! She's not angry any more but she's still gorgeous.

Stevie Wonder - You Are The Sunshine Of My Life -

Alice Cooper - I'm Eighteen -

Sheesh, when I turned 18 I'd been in the Army for 3 months! I think Zoe has the better deal.

I'm going to finish with a song that I jammed on with Alex from Tingha. We were waiting around for the rest of the band to come back and we played a few songs once we worked out the chords on the fly. Later on a couple of local kids got a laugh as I was singing it to myself whilst walking down the road! 

Joe Cocker - Unchain My Heart -

Thanks for reading!

DJ Rob

"ran out of town and now she's come back
got Van Halen wailin' on the stereo eight track" - Georgia Satellites, Red Light.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

White Album Concert 22/7/2014

Last night I headed out to see a performance of The Beatles "White Album" at the Canberra Theatre. The show has been on all around Australia and got pretty good reviews.

Hand on heart I can tell you that I am not a Beatles tragic. I don't know all the words to every song on that double LP or even the song order. I am, however, a fan of live music and the idea of an album tribute show sits well with me.

Musically, the members of the band were top notch. Led by guitar legend Rex Goh (Air Supply, Eurogliders and about a million session credits), they were faithful to the Beatles originals. Their sound team weren't though at times burying many of the minor instruments in favour of the guitars. And why it took until "Bungalow Bill" to get a decent snare drum sound we'll never know.

The vocals were handled by four Australian rock singers. Tim Rogers (You Am I), Chris Cheney (The Living End), Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon) and Josh Pyke. I've seen You Am I play live a few times and they've always been sloppy and annoying. Their albums though are excellent. As a result I was really, really blown away with how good Tim Rogers was. As the self confessed least able singer, he made up for any perceived shortcomings with his energy and attitude. In short, he rocked. Chris Cheney played his beautiful Gretsch guitars as well as putting in a memorable vocal performance. He was certainly annoyed that his guitar was almost silent in "Back in the USSR". So was I. Josh Pyke was great. I find a lot of his solo stuff a bit quiet for my liking but his performances were excellent - especially "Blackbird" which he did solo. Phil Jamieson...hmmm...look, he can sing and the songs he did suited him but I'm not sure what was with all the poncing about on stage. It was weird and distracting.

My favourite Beatles song, "Glass Onion", was done really well. Other highlights were a really earthy version of "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" and a top rendition of "Rocky Raccoon". I think the show stealer might just've been Cheney doing a rip-roaring version of "Happy Birthday".

All in all it was a fun night. The first half of the show was a little reserved but Tim Rogers amped things up and the others warmed up. The mix got too loud in the second half for my liking. There's a fine line between a great loud band and volume that begins to hurt and it was crossed on a few occasions. Backup singers should stay in the background; that was another small distraction.

There's footage of bits and pieces but here's an official one:

But now I'm off to listen to the original.

DJ Rob

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Song of the Week #307

First things first; last week's songs now have links too. Check them out here

Well the tour is over, we're back home and it's almost time to get back to reality. This week I'll write a fair bit about the tour, the places we've been and the friends we made.

Our accommodation for the majority of our time away was at Green Valley Farm outside of Tingha. All of our hosts there, and all of their families couldn't have been friendlier. It was one of the parts of the trip that restored my faith in humanity - people with big hearts and open arms. A big shout out to Monique, Brad and Jarrad for helping us out in so many ways.

Queen - Friends Will Be Friends -

So, on Saturday evening we played a fundraiser for the Tingha Tigers Minor League (that's junior rugby league) at the Sport and Rec club in town. It was our first show on tour with the full stage setup which was loud and sounded spectacular! Loads of people came including kids, parents and grandparents. Not to mention our friends from Canberra Sam, Michelle, Jo and Mark - now that's a long way to go to see a gig (and to save the band from scurvy)! It was a great night with a couple of loud and energetic sets as well as loads of kids chatting to us, playing our gear and generally having a good time. One young girl stole the show post-gig with her rendition of a song from "Frozen" accompanied by Matt. She sang so well that we were blown away when her Mum let us know that she wears special hearing aids. My young mate Ryan rocked out on the wah pedal more than once as did loads of other kids.

Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Child (Slight Return) -

For the whole show each band member had groups of kids sitting around our monitor speakers watching, clapping, smiling and singing.

Local resident Alex Munro came along to the show to play didgeridoo and to sing with us. He was so good that he ended up joining the band and played the rest of the tour! The look on the faces of the audience when his didj came through the sound system was classic. We even took a request. It was the first time I've played this classic in many, many years!

Slim Dusty - Duncan -

I really wasn't sure that we could top that show. It had such a community feel and as well we were starting to hit our straps as a band. In the end every show was fantastic and all so different.

On Sunday morning we hopped the school fence and Alex got us to walk through some smoke in a Welcome to Country ceremony. It was a major privilege and honour.

Warumpi Band - Blackfella Whitefella -

Sunday afternoon saw us playing outside at Green Valley Farm on a stage once graced by Slim Dusty. The band was in the shade, I froze, but the audience were bathed in perfect sunshine. Our mix was great and two sets flew by with George jumping off the stage (about 2m high) and dancing with the crowd and table surfing. At this show Alex played and sang one of his own songs which just blew us all away. You can stick all your talent shows where the sun doesn't shine - when Alex opened his mouth to sing I was gobsmacked - a pure voice and a great song. Someone needs to record that and get it on the this space...

We took a much needed rest on Monday. We were a bit concerned about how George's voice would hold up as well.

Tuesday saw us off to visit Bundarra and the "Crossing the Divide" programme run by Matt Pye and his team. You can check it out on the web here. It's a great setup designed to give locals a chance to learn some skills to get them a job. The day we were there they had students ranging in age from 16 to 39. We rolled out the whole sound system and played a loud and very energetic set for them. The boys and the staff seemed to enjoy themselves. The next day a few of them called out to me, smiling and waving in Tingha from their bus so it must've been OK I think!

John Lennon - Working Class Hero -

Wednesday was our big day. We headed to Tingha Public School at about 9am to setup for a show that evening and to run some workshops for the students. Joel and Matt were in their element in the classroom doing amazing things with all the students over three separate sessions. Then the kids got introduced to the band, all the gear and we played a song for them. I had to laugh when Joel asked who knew Alex and half the class yelled out, "he's my Uncle!" It was a priceless moment and such a good reflection on the community links I felt in Tingha. The teachers and staff at TPS looked after us like we were their own and the day went off without a hitch.

The Ramones - Rock 'n' Roll High School -

When school ended the band headed into town to get fed and watered prior to the show at 5pm. George and I were hanging at the Red Rose Cafe and then at the park just chatting to some kids and taking pictures. The kids were so funny and so awesome. Most were already dressed up for the show and just wanted to play with us and talk. Two little girls insisted I sang a song to them as we crossed the road and another showed me how high he could go on the swings! Later on H snapped a photo of me and my posse heading back up to school for the gig. It's the picture of the tour for me. That's me on the far left, Callum on the right and some of the kids.

I guess I didn't know what to expect from the Tingha kids. I knew a little about the town from George but until you get there you don't really get it. These kids really tugged at my heart strings. They were bright eyed, with big smiles and as friendly as you can get. But as Matt from Crossing the Divide pointed out, they are hardened by life pretty quickly. I can't change the world, or even the outlook for these kids, but they changed me and some of my thoughts and preconceptions. A bit after the above photo the kids had disappeared down another street and I had about a 10 minute walk through town on my own back up to the gig. I'm not so tough you know and thinking about these kids compared to mine as well as some of my students made me pretty emotional. But then I walked past someone's front yard and they gave me a big smile, wave and a hello and I was a bit happier! 

Bruce Springsteen - My Hometown -

The school gig was great. It was one set and all energy. Alex played his song again and kids, teachers and parents danced and sang along. I'm sure it made it a long day for the teachers and school staff and I'm really appreciative that they helped us make the show happen. Nathan Blacklock (a former rugby league player for St George and Tingha boy) was there too. And now Joel knows who he is. Hopefully he wasn't too worried about being told to get off the drum kit! Seriously though, Nathan does a lot for the school too which is awesome. Sport is a huge part of their community. At the end of the show Alex presented Chris with his didjeridoo - truly amazing and so generous.

So that was it. On Thursday we packed up the van, said our goodbyes and headed to Coonabarabran. We had a gig there in the evening which turned out to be a cracker. It was colder than a cold thing on my side of the stage though and my hands wouldn't cooperate for the first few songs. But we had a good sized and appreciative crowd in and we rocked our way through two sets with all of the band playing out of their skins. And then it was over. We packed all the gear up and then headed back to our hotel room to celebrate a grand touring experience. Whilst our friends Sam and Michelle had left us after Tingha, Jo and Mark were still with us and Sam rejoined after collecting Kim from Canberra! It was a great evening with a lot of laughs, H's memorable slideshow and Brownie making us all laugh so much that we hurt.

Canned Heat - On The Road Again -

The rest of the tour that I haven't really mentioned involves heaps of hours on the road, some dodgy meal decisions, a flat battery, kicking the footy, me coming from behind to almost win Trivial Pursuit and George's love of "The X Factor". But for most of that you had to be there. 

The tour was George's baby and I know I speak for the whole band when I say that we're so glad he included us. There were moments of course when some of us weren't so happy but they were minor compared to the overall feel. Callum had his 17th birthday on the trip and I reckon he might remember it forever! He did well to put up with a bunch of old blokes for over a week.

L-R: Matt (keys/guitar/vox), Joel (drums/vox), Alex (didjeridoo/vox), George (lead vox), Tim (sound/keys/he sang once), Chris (bass, harmonica, vox), Callum (trumpet/keys/vox), Rob (guitar/vox/bum notes).

For me the trip was important in a number of ways. Firstly it was an opportunity to get a small window into the life of a touring musician. It's hard work and there's a lot of waiting around. But it's amazing how tight the band gets in no time at all. The challenges are mundane things like washing your clothes (if you're a certain bass player that's putting then on the floor of the shower whilst you wash), getting a good meal (thank you Inverell Thai) and sharing close quarters with 6 other blokes!

John Fogerty - Travelling Band (live) -

Secondly it was a chance for me to grow musically. I worked hard on the tunes, my guitar gear and blending with the band. It's good to play with such accomplished and understanding musicians as I did as it certainly lifts your game.

But most importantly I think is that I got to travel somewhere new, meet people and learn about their way of life which is so different to mine. What struck me about Tingha was that there wasn't the feeling of tension or helplessness that I had expected. In general the people of all ages and backgrounds were overwhelmingly positive and friendly. I won't pretend that life in that area is all beer and skittles but compared to where I grew up there was a feeling of hope rather than anger, frustration and desperation.

I'm sure to have missed something out. Maybe the 6 legged cow, the youngest member of the band almost losing his eyebrows lighting a fire, Tim's heaven sent coffee grinding, George's honey addiction, Brownie's Dad jokes or Matt and Joel facebooking each other from their bunk beds but you get the general idea. We had a kung fu trip, we rocked and we made tons of friends. 

Now I need another nap.

DJ Rob

"And I'm heading out to the highway
I got nothing to lose at all
I'm gonna do it my way
Take a chance before I fall
A chance before I fall!" - Judas Priest - Heading Out To The Highway

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Song of the Week #306

Hi there everyone. Welcome to this week's episode which is coming to you from Tingha in Northern New South Wales. Yep, we're here on tour. Internet coverage is patchy so I hope I manage to get this out to you before we're on the way home!

The tour started on Thursday morning with a long, cold, wet and grey drive from Canberra through to Coonabarabran. The highlights of that day included morning tea at Boorowa, lunch at Molong, kicking the footy at Coona and me snoring on the bus. Truthfully though our quick walk and then three songs at sunset up high in the Warrumbungles was the special part of the day. Three people even heard us playing. Later that evening we ran through some songs in the motel for our hosts as well. Small, intimate moments that mean a lot.

Friday saw us motoring from Coonabarabran through to Tingha with a stop at Inverell to play our first proper gig at the "Out The Back Cafe". En route we marvelled at the price of diesel, kicked the footy at Narrabri and visited Sawn Rock which looks like someone has taken a massive pile of ochre artist's pastels and stuck them together into a mountain.

Just before getting into Inverell we had a stop at Myall Creek. It's a sad place with a red dirt walk in the shape of a rainbow serpent and a monument to 28 Aboriginal women and children who were massacred there in the late 1800's. But it's also a place of hope. We sat quietly at the memorial and played a song to pay our respects. There's a lot of things that need to be done for reconciliation to take place in Australia and everyone has a part to play. That was our part for that day. It's a state of mind.

The show in Inverell was a lot of fun. Whilst there's nothing more boring than the space between sound check and the actual show it was great to meet some of the locals and find out a bit about the area. You can see some photos and the setlist on the band's Facebook page at You don't need a Facebook account to look at it. The stats for the Facebook page are pretty good...over 600 people have looked at some of our posts and photos. Let us know if you do too!

And it's cold out here. Really cold. On a personal note I really feel the cold these days after I lost all that weight a while back. But this morning the sun is out clearing the frost and there's not a cloud in the sky. The cold is more fresh and invigorating now that it was with the van heater not working and me surrounded by the band gear!

This evening we're playing at the Tingha Sport and Rec to raise some money for the local folks. It'll be great to unload the whole PA system and the drums and really get into some rock and roll.

It's a bit hard to link to many tunes for you with no internet so I'll give you some suggestions that you'll need to look on YouTube. If I get back into town with the laptop you'll see the links too.

This week there will be no Oz Rock and no Midnight Oil. I've had enough of listening to that for quite a while I think! 

Playing the music live is tons of fun but I understand why touring bands devour so much different music!

Tim, our sound, keyboards and coffee guru is a bit of an electronic music fan. He explained how he got into it by tinkering with keyboards and synthesizers (like reprogramming and rebuilding them). Good electronic music is really cool, but there is so much monotonous and soul-less stuff to wade through to get there. It's worth a look though. Bands like New Order, Massive Attack, Pet Shop Boys, Underworld, Daft Punk and Kraftwerk should be on your list to try out. And if you like stuff with a slightly harder lyrical edge then KMFDM, who DJ SAB turned me onto, are highly recommended. Tim likes the poppier stuff which is well layered and includes space rather than a constant wall of sound.

Pet Shop Boys - The Way Through The Woods -

George is driving the van. Aside from running through CDs of the tunes we're playing to rehearse the lyrics he's been treating us to some prog. Sometimes I find the odd time signatures, strange melodies and lyrical posturing annoying. But when you're in the mood bands like Dream Theater can be a real sonic tonic. John Petrucci from that band is a real guitarist's guitarist. He has a smooth tone and never overplays.

Dream Theater - Hollow Years -

There are some songs we've discovered that cover bands just can't get right for some reason. I know that I was in a band once that abandoned Cold Chisel's "Shipping Steel" because we just couldn't make it click. DJ Chief said he's had the same issue with this next song...

Kris Delmhorst - Drive -

Yeah, that's a Cars song but Kris does a great job. She put out a whole album of Cars covers as a tribute to a band she loves and it's sublime.

That'll do for this week. As I said we're at the Tingha Sport and Rec tonight at 7pm then at Green Valley Farm on Sunday at 2pm. During the week we'll be spending a day at Tingha Primary with the staff and kids there as well as playing a show for them before the tour continues. We're at the Warrumbungle Mountain Motel on Thursday from 7pm. Rock on brothers and sisters!

DJ Rob

"...a shower and a rub down and a quiet sense of pride..." - Redgum, Just Another Moment On Your Own

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Song of the Week #305

Well, that was a huge week. School holidays started, I spent 2 1/2 days at work, we exchanged on our new house, I got a new job and I was sicker than I have been in years. I'm still very fuzzy around the edges so if there are bits of this week's episode that make less sense than normal then please give me some latitude. I have no idea what I had but imagine the worst case of sea sickness combined with a 12 hour migraine and a 48 hour killer flu and you've got a rough idea. Yuk.

Being that unwell I didn't do much except lie around in bed and wonder if I was going to die. I did try to listen to the radio but that made me feel worse. At one stage I did manage to listen to a couple of podcasts but that's about it.

One thing I listened to that was really pretty interesting was a few songs and a talk delivered by Sting. It's about him suffering writer's block but also about him growing up in a town dominated by shipyards (Wallsend). The whole thing goes for 28 minutes and it's a really good listen if you're interested in the process of writing music or just a few good songs.

Sting - How I started writing songs again -

The cool thing about Facebook is that I get to link up with music lovers all over the world. This week via DJ DollyrotTom I reconnected with DJ BudE and discovered a whole swag of excellent tunes that he has been posting for his followers. Check out this song that he linked to recently. I really got a huge shock when the singer opened his mouth, what a great and unexpected voice! I think I had the same reaction the first time I heard (saw) Alabama Shakes.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones - Everybody Knows (River Song) -

On Monday evening, I sat down to watch RockWiz. It's seriously one of the most fun shows ever on TV. This week was a look backstage at the Byron Bay Bluesfest hosted by Henry Wagons. I know that DJ SAB has been trying to get me listening to Michael Franti and Spearhead for ages. Well Michael was on the show and was pretty cool. I better put him on my listening list for the next few weeks.

Michael Franti - Say Hey (I Love You) -

I'm trying hard to be excited about Le Tour de France starting tonight but I'm failing. I enjoyed watching the Tour of California and the Giro d'Italia as well as some of the shorter races but there's something about the Tour that just isn't inspiring me this year. Maybe it's elite sports overload. We've got Wimbledon, the World Cup and now Le Tour all on at once. Not to mention that the AFL is getting more and more interesting as the season progresses. I'm doubting that we'll get cycling coverage when we're on tour from next week anyway so I won't have to worry too much until the last week of the race.

This next band are one I listen to rarely. They are very much a group I have to be in the mood for. After last week's look at Rival Sons I went back and tuned into their latest live album recorded here in Australia. It was the right moment. If you want a look at a really effective use of an open tuning, slide guitar and a great rock voice then this is for you...

The Tea Party - Sun Going Down (live and acoustic) -

In a brief excursion in the car yesterday I listened to Morrissey. Not for a ny particular readon, he just rolled around on the random playlist. This really is a great song.

Morrissey - Come Back To Camden -

That'll do for this week. I need a Lucozade and a lie down!

DJ Rob

"TV is the reason why less than 10 per cent
Of our nation reads books daily
Why most people think Central America means Kansas
Socialism means UnAmerican
And Apartheid is a new headache remedy" - The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (1992)