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

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for including us on your tour. The Staff and Students of Tingha Public School very much appreciated it. The drumming coming from the classrooms with Joel and Callum was fantastic, not to mention the energetic antics of George. Hope to see you all gain soon.
    Alison xx