Quaint ramblings and occasional reflections of a journeying Aussie musician...

20 December 2007

Hometown

...'You can stay here forever if you like. What, did you think I was gonna start charging you rent?'...
I was being too polite again, just thought I'd ask me old pa if I could stay another month on top of the two and a half already planned. Dunno why I asked really, just wanted to make sure is all.
But what a thought! Stay here forever, in this beautiful little country town with my mum and dad in our gorgeous townhouse, wander down every day to the Arts Centre and get a flat white before a couple hours on the grand piano there...surrounded in my room by the books of my childhood...wake up to the sound of rain on the tin roof...not go back to the UK, not even Melbourne, just stay here and practice and read books for the rest of my life. What a wonderful thought!...

15 November 2007

Barthelona!

NFA Day 56

...so she has pale skin a-freckled, and a big mop of black curly hair, and shimmering, dragon-green eyes like creamy jade...and last Sunday she took me to this great place on Southbank, near Waterloo station, behind the restaurant Las Iguanas, right across from Royal Festival Hall....for any Londoners I thoroughly recommend it....it's like French patisserie meets Italian antipasto and all kinds of nutty breads and full desert....scrumptious stuff...
What an afternoon that was...I remember now! I used to do this with someone on a regular basis, a good while ago, in a land far away, before a money-driven bachelor working life took over, motivated by the Edge of London, fuelled on baked beans and meals at gigs. But not last Sunday...a nice walk, and loverly conversation, over a gorgeous meal on a lazy Sunday afternoon where the commanding hands of the clock hung loose and limp. A welcome change from tour buses and half an hour to grab a £3.80 sandwhich at a random services on the M something somewhere among the green fields....
So it was this same place on the waterfront that I took my old and fine feathered friend D-Funk on Wednesday night. He's got an inkling that I'm not gonna be around here for a while, and so on Facebook instigation we met at the great southern rail juncture of the city and headed for the river. We've known each other for ten years, and tonight would be no exception...two bottles of red later, we wind up at Gordon's Wine Bar on the other side of the river for what? some more! and then another pub just up the road for some BEER! If she hadn't scooped us off the pavement and whisked us away, I don't know what would have happened....
...which of course made the next morning far more entertaining as her and I coached it up to Stansted for an early morning Ryanscare flight to Spain's great coastal city. Nooooo, don't make me walk any more from the bus station to the apartment check in, and then another fifteen minutes? I can barely stand, in fact I can barely stand being alive right now....first tip to anyone thinking about coming here...those regular city blocks on the map are far bigger in real life, especially with a lashing hangover...

13 November 2007

A Meal


...I cooked a meal! A massive one, for all the people I was staying with and a straggler. Two things: One, after living no fixed address for fifty-four days on the trot now, it's such a treat to cook a meal, and two, it was for a whole bunch of new friends! Sure, it was a super-easy university-dorm-level Mexican thing, but it was massive and it filled five bellies and we all sat around on the couch afterwards and watched TV - what a treat!, for me at least.
At this transient time in my life where I don't know if I'm coming or going, what hemisphere I'm going to be living in for the near future, hanging out with a certain someone where it's felt the best it has for a long time, and also having been recently extracted from my main source of employment/big bunch of travelling mates with the show, it was just plain great to sit in someone's house and eat a happy-making meal, that I cooked, that was enjoyed by all.

London Tourist

NFA Day 54

...and so I find myself back in London, currently gigless.....well, aside from a three-dayer with another show in Germany in December. It was all politics, my friends, which resulted in the two weeks notice given....yep, was well looking forward to six months of steady work next year, but after five months and with merely three weeks to go before the winter break, not even memorising the pad and playing it better than the guy who wrote it, nor my impeccable professionalism and conduct, could keep me in the keys 1 chair of 'Dancing In The Streets'. And so last Saturday it was farewell to my newfound friends, the company I felt I'd only just gelled with, the people I was looking forward to working with for a while yet, for another itinerant return to London for a while.
The last couple of visits I've felt like a real tourist, compelled to take photographs of stuff I come across - a church with a dragon windvane, or a pedestal with a golden eagle on it on the other side of the river.
About a fortnight ago the show was in Dartford, about a forty-five minute train ride away, and on a particular commute around dusk, the train trundled over Charing Cross bridge, the sun was at just about the right level and there it was, the semi-fabled Waterloo Sunset, where the pallid grey gloom of the buildings that face the river were suddenly awash with pink. In three years, London had never appeared so beautiful.
But like most things in this town, blink and you miss it...that late summer sweetness has given way to the cold and gloom, when this place becomes real depressing, and I'm enjoying being a visitor once again, especially in recent times keeping company with a certain pale-skinned, freckled girl with a mop of black curly hair and shimmering green eyes. We're off somewhere totally new this Thursday, somewhere I've always wanted to go, and if you're lucky, noble reader, I may even write here about it!...

01 November 2007

Dancing In The Streets - Southport

NFA Day 42

We’d been here about three weeks ago with Thriller, at the same venue, but hadn’t gotten past the seaside. I get the impression that Southport was built in the Victorian era, what with the grandeur of our hotel, The Prince Of Wales, and the massive boulevard that I assume is the ‘high road’. After a couple of drinks at the smallest pub in the UK, not far from the theatre, and then one more at the Wetherspoons across the intersection, Matt and Andy and I stumbled into the foyer to find a free PC to check email. But no, it was not to be, as cookies are disabled. What the hell is a cookie?
‘It’s our paranoid IT guy,’ says the concierge. ‘Someone tried to look up the lotto the other day and was denied.’
After three glasses of red I suddenly replied, ‘The words ‘Fawlty Towers’ spring to mind.’
‘That’s right, and you’re only staying here the night!’

20 October 2007

Coventry

...so it's been a nutty two months, as you can imagine...after Berlin I had some time off before Thriller 'went out' again for six weeks, mainly UK but just got back from 12 days in Denmark and a one off in Gothenborg in Sweden - more on that later. So after a rip-roaring time it's straight to a week in the Midlands....I was warned about this place.....
So, on this, my last day here, highlights of this week have included:
* - Lots of concrete, due to heavy bombing in WWII and subsequent redevelopment of the city into white boxes...
* - More than eight hours of rain on Wednesday
* - The Lady Godiva statue - depicted with a cunningly placed piece of cloth, and riding side saddle (so naked through the streets on horseback was fine obviously but still a lady)...

* - Coventry cathedral, which is amazing - walked in to the theatre from our B and B the other morning and had a look - the ruin of a 14th century masterpiece is adjoined perpendicular by the new 50s era cathedral...WWII history isn't ingrained into the streets of London as much as it is in Berlin, and so here was a tangible, walk-through reminder of those dark times....

* - Tonights performance which was signed, something a little different, watching all those famous Motown lyrics in hand gestures....
So it's a 4pm matinee and then our last show tomorrow night before a day off and then a week in Dartford, Essex - wow, can't wait for that one! Living the dream I guess....due to my current status of no fixed address, I'm currently planning a succession of couches across London to stay on across the week before a fortnight of one-nighters on the road in places like Stoke-On-Trent and Swindon....more from this terribly exciting life soon enough...

15 August 2007

Escape from Berlin

On my last day in this incredible central European capital, I took advice from yesterday’s guide and ascended the Reichstag. For free entry it’s one of the best views of the centre of town – the dome was shut that morning but normally one can walk right to the top.

The city is known for it’s museums – the World Heritage-listed island full of them in the middle of town was my next stop, but waiting in the queue for the Pergamon, the one full of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, I realised that after Ludwig’s magnificent palaces and indeed most of Munich and Berlin, I’d seen enough imagery of antiquity for a while, and hopped the U-Bahn south to my plan B, the Jewish Museum.

Quite a recent addition to the city’s historical collection, it’s harsh, angular, metallic exterior houses a building of sloping walkways and empty concrete shafts spanning from basement to ceiling. An enduring motif here is emptiness, not only a reflection of Jewish history in this country, but also a stylistic feature of architect Daniel Liebeskind, in that the features of the building are left open to interpretation.
After a bilingual history of the Jews in Germany and various periods ranging between social acceptance and indiscriminate slaughter, the circuit ended with the Garden of Exile, similar to the memorial at the Tiergarten but set at a steeper slope, the vertical concrete blocks much closer together, more constrictive, unsettling.

Upon leaving, that larger question for me remained, of why such a learned, cultured people have been subject to endless persecution across the globe since ancient times. Some light was shed on various myths surrounding the Jews; for example, under the Holy Roman Empire, one of the only occupations through the Middle Ages allowed to Jews was money lending, creating a certain historical reputation. But that larger question still remained, for me, unanswered.

Before the late flight, I went back to Bergmanstrasse for my last meal. After a couple of miserable days, summer opened the skies back up again, inviting a quick scout around the neighbouring streets, some perfectly preserved in the style I’d seen in the north in Prenzlauer.

I learnt only later that in the West Berlin days, Kreuzberg was the hang of visiting rockers and artisans, an area worth checking on my next visit.

14 August 2007

Secret Berlin Tour

Oh how wonderful it is to be in a country where the weather changes naturally, gradually. Yesterday’s raininess was followed this morning by what? Oh my god, it’s a sunny day! And set to stay for most of the day. I was all fired up to hit the museums but two and a half years of vitamin D withdrawals commanded me from the sub-atomic level to stay outside as long as possible.
I found a secret Berlin walking tour (that is, of old secret stories in Berlin) and hooked up on that near Zoo station, the old hub of West Berlin, which basically looked like it hadn’t changed since the mid 60s. Our guide took us back and forth across town, including the Wall Memorial; a storeys-high platform looks down upon a recreated part of the original ‘death strip’, the space between the two walls. Just along is the newly built Church Of Reconciliaiton, a traditional looking church stuck in the death strip until 1985 when levelled by the GDR, replaced after 1990 with a small concrete and wood chapel.

In total contrast, the guide then took us to Karl Marx Allee, previously known as Stalin Allee, a good couple of kilometres of yellow and white tiled model apartment blocks in Stalinist style, still immaculately preserved, built in the early 50s to show the rest of the world the marvellous accommodation available for the workers of the GDR.

Not far further on the S Bahn was the Stasi headquarters, a bleak collection of office buildings, where the tour ended.
In all the stories told to us by the guide of ordinary people and officials bucking the various systems, a recurring theme was the ‘threshold’ – where was that space, that moment in time, what was that particular motivation, where citizens stopped being compliant and started resisting?
I guess this tied in with my own interest in the tour, in the society of Nazi Germany but also of the GDR. How did these people (indeed, how does any people anywhere) go around their business, in a relatively functioning society, with the daily knowledge that a massive secret police system, the Stasi, as well as a system of civilian informants (almost triple in number to the Stasi) was keeping an eye on their every move? How could you trust your neighbour, your family, indeed, anybody?
On this, my last night on the continent for a while, I took advice from the tour guide and walked about fifteen minutes south of my hostel to Bergmanstrasse, a gorgeous old suburban street lined with huge trees, full of cafes and restaurants.
In my role as travelling musician, I felt a little remiss at not having made more effort to check out the local scene, seek out some live music, but I was on holiday and I decided to do ordinary person things instead (like watching ‘The Simpsons’ movie at Potsdamer Platz last night – it was okay, but I liked ‘Transformers’ better)…

13 August 2007

A Work In Progress

I tripped back up to Prenzlauer for some breakfast, a little less successful this time. My two favourite cafes didn’t open until midday so I had to settle for one round the corner. Most of the museums are closed here in Berlin on Mondays, and since the weather opened up in the morning I decided to take a stroll through the Tiergarten, the huge tract of parkland west of the Brandenburg Gate.
Part of the way from Prenzlauer to Zoo stations was on the S-Bahn, the German equivalent of London’s ‘overland’ but is practically the same as the underground. Travelling east to west, across the river, the museum island and buildings north of Unter Den Linden, it’s another good aerial viewpoint of the city, a moving platform from which to observe a work in progress.
I came up to the Victoria statue atop the pedestal at Groser Stern and was impressed at the fact that it was bigger than I expected, probably due to the fact that it was bigger than the one I saw in Munich about a month ago. This Berlin one must be at least ten metres high, and one can walk right up the pedestal to its base. Taking a couple of grey landscape pics, wanting to beat the ensuing rush back down a tiny spiral staircase, I legged it over to the nearby café for a Schofferhoffer, a Wiener Schnitzel and a read of my current book, Hemingways ‘A Moveable Feast’, no mean feat itself sitting in front of six lanes of traffic with more than the occasional rain droplet leaking through the tree above.

12 August 2007

In Seventeen Years

I went back up to Prenzlauer for some afternoon breakfast, deciding on a corner café round the quieter end of Helmholtzplatz, devouring a tasty panini and trying not to stare at the model-looking friend of the waitresses who was sitting at the end of the bar. Still rubbish weather but it didn’t stop me taking the four o’clock free walking tour from Brandenburg Gate, including the Holocaust Memorial, Hitler’s bunker site, Checkpoint Charlie, the site of the 1933 bookburning and finishing up at the Museum on the island.
I’ve only been here two days, and walking amongst the streets I’m starting to find that the whole place looks, as our tour guide put it, like it’s still all under construction. Barely seventeen years after the wall came down, a random, broken-up feel pervades – turn a corner past some baroque magnificence and you’re at an old GDR apartment block, or an empty patch of land, or a really hip café. It’s all jumbled up, and as a result still open for change and development, which is of course a thrilling prospect. I’m trying to imagine what it’s all going to be like in another seventeen years.

11 August 2007

Prenzlauer Berg

You live in a four star hotel for three weeks with loads of friends and everything’s taken care of. You stay one day in a hastily booked hostel and it all comes apart. After a disastrous morning of practicality gone wrong, I finally get out into a decidedly miserable afternoon. From Alexanderplatz, tramming it to the northern reaches of Prenzlauer Berg, my roaming in search of some cool café was cut short by something I realised I hadn’t seen in years – a continued session of rain, strong and hard for a long time. As far as I can tell, there’s no drought in this country.
Stumbling across the Kulturebreweri, site of my gig here with Sophie Solomon in May 05, I picked up a nice little booklet which told me in English all about the neighbourhood, and so my afternoon was taken with revolving between the two squares of the area. The first I came across, Kolliwitzplatz, was billed as the more affluent, with an incredible market down one side. Wending my way through picture perfect period apartment buildings, I found the other, Helmholtzplatz, billed as the less affluent, to be more to my liking. This particular area, once on the borders of the city (a nearby park held Berlin’s first water tower), had a varied history as housing to the wave of immigration from the countryside during the Industrial Revolution. Narrowly escaping total demolition during the GDR, the area was now the hippest café scene in town, populated largely by the young and their families. Pulling up in one particular darkened cushioned place, my hunt for the best coffee remained unfulfilled.

10 August 2007

Escape To Berlin

On a last minute decision the night before, I decided to opt out of the return flight to Ol’ Blighty, and after clearing it with everyone concerned, I took a five hour train ride to Berlin to hang for a cuppla daze. The countryside became less picturesque and with progressively less sleep and more drinking over the past few days, I slept most of the way – after a bit of transport confusion, after check in to the hostel that I’d booked that morning, I was released on the town about 9pm.
Absolutely starving, I found that once I started walking and checking things out, the hunger subsided – wanderlust….wunderbar! From Hallesches Tor, the old southern gate of the city, a walk up Stresemanstrasse took me past the Holocaust Memorial to Potsdamer Platz. Previously a no mans wasteland during the Cold War, the spectacular new buildings on its borders were no more than seventeen years old, giving the place an exciting, forward-looking feel.
Wandering on past Brandenburg Gate and down Unter Den Linden, my hunt for a feed took me to Hackesher Market – gorgeous array of open air eating. After the meal, still exhausted from a week’s partying, I found the travel bug got the better of me and still kept walking – on a particularly touristy street, I got sucked down some sideways archway and into an array of hidden away bars, the alternative vibe, looking run down and retro but where drinks are all still the same price.
On trusted advice I made my way west up Oranienburger Strasse to an abandoned looking apartment building – once inside Tacheles, marvelling at the graffiti interior, I ascended the six storey staircase and wandered into various studios of artists who lived and worked in the building. Behind the building was a huge beer garden of sorts with numerous stalls, and a huge empty lot behind that surrounded by three massive walls, one entirely painted over with street art, one with a particular mural, one still an empty canvas.
Back up the street, past a couple of incredibly opulent looking Thai restaurants (umbrellas, open fires, couches), I managed to find a salsa bar right next to a shish bar. Open air dining and drinking is huge here; I managed to find a bench seat more or less between the two places, mixing salsa tunes floating through nearby from the dance room out the back with the various odours of flavoured tobacco and a couple of mellow mojitos to end an awesome eve.

08 August 2007

Koneigsplatz

The post gig drink hunt on this particular eve took us into Marienplatz, the old town, to a couple of traditional stein-swilling taverns, and then a bout of intrepidity into something JM I think has pioneered – night tourism. Screw daylight man, just walk around and check it all out when there’s no-one around. Making our way past the Residence museum, traditional home of the Bavarian kings and electors at the end of the long avenue that runs north out of town, it wasn’t far to Koneigsplatz, and JM started reaming facts about it faster than I could keep up. Those Roman buildings on the first night we had seen had once bordered a square, forming part of the complex that was the original home of the Nazi party. I knew that Munich and Bavaria was where it had all started, but I had no idea that their base of operations was barely three blocks from our hotel.

06 August 2007

Chiemsee

As the S-Bahn train hurtled through the picturesque countryside I thought to myself, we’re going to a palace on an island in the middle of a lake. A palace, for starters, amazing enough. But on an island? In a lake? Is this real?
Prien am Chiemsee was about a fifteen minute walk from the ferry. We alight from the train and Dave our crazy Scottish baritone sax player preceeded to have some sort of attack, aping about taking photos of everything and licking a nearby pole. Too much sunshine for him I guess.
It’s a ten minute ferry and then about a ten minute walk from the terminal to the palace on the other side of the island. We come out of the forest to immaculately manicured gardens leading up to no less than three fountains, one centre and two behind to either side, ancient Roman imagery in abundance.
Another smaller Versailles, this one featured a more direct influence, complete with Hall of Mirrors but slightly longer than the original. The whole place felt quite bizarre in a fashion – incomplete in various parts, the project bankrupted the Bavarian coffers, all for the fanciful notions of the last Bavarian king. It remains in immaculate condition because it was only ever lived in by one of them, Ludwig II, who ended up going mad, was transported to another palace for his own safety, and was discovered dead days later in a nearby lake.
Our ticket took us back on to the ferry and to a neighbouring island where real, alive people lived, and a quick circumnavigation was followed by a hearty Bavarian meal – pork knuckle, bratwurst, potatoes, and a stein of weiss (wheat) beer or helles (lager). Some incredible views of the German Alps were to be had from the ferry back, and on our return to the mainland, a quick radio control boat ride took us out on the water for the sunset, digital cameras ablaze with the magnificence of it all, so very pretty.
After two weeks of partying every night, the resulting increasing alcohol intake and decreasing lack of sleep was resulting in recurring bouts of déjà vu, nearly one a day. The one catch with staying in a four-star hotel was that we shared rooms, I with Damo, a single bed each, who became more and more agitated each day with my apparent snoring. By contrast, when asleep he just lay there, this guy twice my size, silent and motionless. So I wake up one morning in a disoriented haze and who’s the first thing I see? OH MY GOD! No no it’s all right, I remember now, who I am and what I’m doing here….phew…

05 August 2007

Unterfahrt Again

On entering the club I could tell it was a far different vibe from last week, more a free-for-all, which worked fine for us as we invaded the stage en masse. The assistant musical director within me suddenly sprang forth, and I’m sending orders to rhythm section while talking over heads with horn players and such. I think we managed about three songs which was fairly generous I thought, then the post-match banter. I somehow ended up talking to just about everyone. Then there was some drunken vain hunt for a beach party, yeah, like there’s gonna be a beach party on the Isa river at 5am…

04 August 2007

Nymphenburg

Former summer residence of the Bavarian kings, previously on the fringes of the city, Nymphenburg palace was a short tram ride away from Hauptbahnhof. Like a smaller version of Versailles which I had visited with my parents a year ago, suitably opulent, but this time with a Bavarian bent. Entrance hall in white, akin to some of the churches we had seen, there were two memorables from this particular trip. One was the furniture – incredible tables and dressers made of exotic woods, inlaid pearl and other such materials. The other one by far was the room of thirty-seven beauties, paintings commissioned by Ludwig I. Adorning the four walls of one particular high-ceilinged room, a few of them had stories, the most outstanding of which would have been that of Lola Montez, the Irish dancing girl pretending to be Spanish, who must have made an enormous move for the time to the court of Ludwig I who proceeded to bestow numerous royal honours upon her, resulting in the disgust of the people and his subsequent abdication.
Damo, JM and I took a stroll in the gardens, again like Versailles although on a much smaller, more manageable scale, passing various villas in groves and one of those rotunda thingys one would expect Pan to dance through playing pipes and such. The boys left me after a time and I preceded to the northern side, running past a monastery type building. Muncheners definitely used this public resource: joggers on a circuit, elderly couples on their favourite benches dotted throughout forest and field. I caught the tram back in a happy summer daze, no London edge here, more like some warm Australian autumn afternoon.
One thing I definitely wanted to find while I was here that wouldn’t have been on any tourist map was the factory where they built all the incredibly beautiful women littered amongst this city’s streets. I thought I had found it one morning at the bagel place (free wireless) just up from the hotel, just in front of an archway that obviously led to the courtyard of an apartment block. I swear, every ten minutes some gorgeous young thing in a big skirt would bicycle out like a production line.
But no, the place I was looking for was ‘P1’, only the most exclusive nightclub in town, situated under a museum on Printzregenstrasse. Ray, one of the singers, had somehow sweet-talked the door guy and so we skipped this massive queue into one of the nicest clubs I’ve ever seen. And the girls check you out too, as you pass them. Clubbing’s not usually my thing, but it had been a while and I was hanging with the cast for the first time and before I know it we’re all dancing our asses off.
We’re standing on the dancefloor eyeing off the scenery and before I know it I’m getting randomly massaged from one of the hottest blondes in the room in this black miniskirt. Wondering if she was trying to solicit some sort of business from me (or maybe just a free drink) I wandered off a little, but then a couple of minutes later when I gestured her to come dance, she turned slowly in disgust with her back to me. Ha! Like she had any idea what she was missing….

03 August 2007

Bye Victoria

I farewelled her on the train this morning. Such a chilled out girl. She laughed at all my dumb jokes (‘You finally found her!’ says Dave). Touring can be allowed to be quite lonely sometimes, and for a sweetener to come along like that was just something else....

01 August 2007

Olympic Village

Fending off the boys’ questions about my little rendezvous last night, a squad of us tripped out to the Olympic Village. While Dave and Andy peeled off to the BMW factory, Damo, JM and I wandered off into the the site of the 1972 games. An immaculately designed layout housed buildings still looking quite contemporary, forty years later. The various arenas surrounded a small lake, overlooked by a large hill, and so we hiked up the hill for some cool photos, as well as the telecommunications tower, back across the expressway, which gave the most amazing view of the city and surrounding Bavaria. BMW plant, Olympic village, expressway, urban planning to perfection.
I met her after the show again. Her name is Victoria and she lives near the palace so she must be a princess. And of course (in what appears to be a recurring theme in the love life of your correspondent) she’s leaving town on Friday for three weeks, back to her native Siberia. But it’s all right, it lends a sweetness to the amazing time I’m already having, and as much as I love sharing a room with my mate the Ginger Ninja, it’s nice to be out of the hotel and away from the bar and not drinking for a couple of nights…

31 July 2007

Victoria

I met her after the show and was hoping she’d have the scoop on some wikkid bar in town but she had no idea. I had to take her to the only place I knew, back up near the old Roman buildings near the hotel – it was a great place and she didn’t mind me paying for the cab or the drinks, but no alcohol for her? Okay, more for me then I’m feeling as though I’m needing it. But it’s all right cos the bar’s closing and suddenly her hands are at the edge of the table and we take a little walk down to the platz but it’s way too cold and there are homeless people amongst the columns so I just kiss her, there and then, in the open, on some street somewhere….

30 July 2007

Andechs

Ollie, bassplayer, our local guide, took us out on the S-Bahn today on our first full day off, toward the south-east and the Munich lakes district. ‘There are five,’ he told us, ‘the smallest lake is number one, the largest is number five…there is my local lake and some people walk around it clockwise and some anti-clockwise…you can only walk one way though, if you walk that way you just don’t walk the other way’…….mmm, sounds serious!
At the first lake we came across, Horace our tenor player surprised us all by stripping off, running past us on the jetty and diving straight in for a long swim. He said he was gonna do it, and did so straightaway. It wasn’t exactly the warmest of days either. One thing I do love about the Brits is their stoic attitude to the elements, making the absolute best of their time outdoors, whether it be by the ‘seaside’ (that is, where the land meets the sea, not necessarily the beach, which is most often the case) or out in the open fields, or indeed at any place at any time of year on that weather-tortured isle.
Herrschinge was the end of the line, yet another cute moneyed-up village, where it was an hour’s walk uphill through the forest (‘Stand By Me’ vibe) to a monastery at the top. A magnificent church with all the Baroque trappings, and via the tourist store, a beer garden with the local ale brewed by the monks (holy water perhaps?) accompanied by the best of Bavarian cuisine – pork knuckle, sauerkraut, potato salad, and the biggest steins imaginable. Back over the fence the magnificent views of a countryside so picture perfect I wondered if I hopped over the fence and walked ten metres that I might be touching it as a painting, a la end of ‘The Truman Show’.
And of course we’re late for one of the hourly trains back home, so there’s nothing for it but a short stroll down to one of the local gardens by a lake for some more steins and ample digital photography of an immaculate sunset...

29 July 2007

Unterfahrt

Brian our trumpeter had spent some time in Munich over the past few years on various gigs and tonight it was time to check the local scene. On the south side of the river Isa, a short walk from Max Weber Platz takes one to Einsteinstrasse, a complex of buildings, and a long walk down a white tunnel leads one to Unterfahrt, one of Munich’s two clubs. It’s a jam session and there’s always a current of nerves on these things, especially in a new town, but after going to these things for years, it didn’t take long to realise that it was a pretty friendly one, and we were surrounded with fellow cast and band, all very supportive.
Tenor and Trumpet and I stormed the stage for a bout of ‘I Love You’, then a singer gets up for a number which we manage to make it through. It’s after the jam is over and between chatting with the local players the singer approaches me, and she’s friendly and there’s that look and uh maybe I should get her number and she’s going now and was my handshake a bit off-putting or something but it doesn’t matter and maybe the coming week was about to get a little more entertaining…

25 July 2007

'Oh Look, It's One Of Those Things'....

After an all day dress rehersal for the local press and opening night, the next day it was time to venture out and see a bit of this remarkable place, seeking whatever daytime adventures I could find. My first was a request from old mate J-Sax, to find a ‘wave’ artificially created on some canal somewhere that people surfed. I ended up finding something resembling, but as with any good adventure, I came across a whole bunch of other stuff in the process.
‘Oh look, it’s one of those things,’ was the phrase of the day. A tram ride took me to the Haus der Kunst, one of the many museums and galleries dotted through town. Walking south east along some major boulevard I hit the river, and across the bridge was a huge pedestal, atop of which stood (or floated) a gigantic gold-leaf angel. The river was lined with beautiful parkland and massive trees and I headed south-west, upstream, to the next major crossing of the river, where I found a massive palace, former residence of Bavarian kings. All these monuments and statutes to whoever, all that ancient Roman classic imagery, obviously very important to the people that built them, but who's original meaning is probably lost to tourists and Muncheners alike who are just content with preserving the beauty around them.
It quickly became apparent, as the following days ran into each other, of how gorgeous the place is. All the trappings of continental urban life in a chilled-out, rural setting. All those things that Londoners give up on, just to get by, are here in abundance – people are nice!…stuff works!…the weather changes gradually…people take pride in their environment…it’s easy to get around etc etc…

23 July 2007

Munchen

In total contrast from the Thriller tour, our four star hotel on Dachauerstrasse was conveniently situated less than a ten minute walk from the Deutsches Theater on Schwanthallestrasse, with Hauptbahnhof, the main train station, sitting between the two. It also appeared that we were smack band in the middle of the red light district, allegedly in a run-down part of town although it still looked nicer than certain parts of central London. General milling in the foyer turned into a quick migration to one of the major beer gardens in town, a couple of blocks away.
And so it began! The drinking festival that I knew would envelop most of our lives for the next three weeks, and what a gorgeous setting. Anyone knows what a beer garden is, but these people invented them, and they know how to do them. There must have been at least five hundred people at the Augustiner, all peacefully nestled together on long tables, sheltered under a canopy of dark pine-looking trees. As I looked around in amazement, we were all in agreenace that something like this just wouldn’t work in the UK; it’d be too edgy, people would starts fights or something….
A slab of pork and several steins later the tour was getting off to a fine start. It was a mix of familiar faces from Thriller; Damo, the swarthy red-headead guitarist (left-handed) from Mudgee, my original connection to this whole adventure; JM, our illustrious musical director from Manly; and Ollie, a Munich native, bass player, tall and thin, bespectacled, quietly eccentric in a way difficult to describe. His local knowledge would prove quite useful in our later forays into the countryside.
The night was steaming along in time-honoured fashion when all of a sudden, seemingly from nowhere, a strong breeze struck the tops of the trees, the lamps started swaying, and people started leaving, much to the amusement of our table of tourists. Clouds were brewing in the not too distance and we thought we were in for a downpour, but it passed without event. We later learnt that there was a word for it, a sudden type of localised storm that just appears, obviously related to the alps nearby.
Our later adventures took us back past the hotel and to the north about three blocks to this beautiful little cocktail bar off the main road on what I think was Nymphenburgstrasse, a major road running from a palace in the west to what appeared at the end of the street to be some massive Babylonian-looking temple. Behind the two massive square towers was a huge square bordered on northern and southern sides by massive Roman porticoes and steps, tonight holding hundreds of people there for late night open-air cinema.
Back to the cocktail bar and it was happy hour 11pm-1am. The Cuban theme with low lighting, black leather chairs and glass front open to the street was a gorgeous place to while away the small hours as sip half-price mojitos, as it started to bucket down on the street outside. Ahh, the continental vibe; it’s good to be back!

16 July 2007

The Call

It was like any other phone call for a gig. I’d done work for these people before, and I knew it was on the way, but I wasn’t going to lift a finger until I got the offer from the main guy. It was only after I got off the brief call that I realised how different this circumstance actually was. This wasn’t a one-off in the burbs somewhere, or a fill in Soho café gig. I’d just said yes basically to the next six months, possibly a year of work, From a two minute phone call.
The call came on the Monday, which was supposed to be first rehearsal day, and so it followed that across the next two intensive days, we only just covered the material. The show is basically a Motown review, about forty songs all-up, of maybe three or four minutes each, largely at similar tempos, with a variety of solo, three part, four part and all cast appearances vocally. In short, a truckload to learn in two days for a six month world tour, starting three weeks in Munich the following Monday.
But that wasn’t such a concern this time around, as it was quite a different situation from the work I’d done for them previously. The Thriller tour in May was a new show put through a month of one-nighters across the UK. It took a lot of extra hours from an already well-prepared, hard-working band to get it together – there were times when we were writing and arranging charts on the bus on the way to the next gig! In contrast, this show just finished a three year run in the West End, and half the band had been doing it for most of that time, meaning that us guys that made up the newer half were dealing with a more established situation.
So what did I do, between the Thursday after rehersing and the Monday fly-out? Got trolleyed every night with my house mates of course!, as well as playing about five or six gigs in the meantime. And so it was on the following Monday that we all left from dHeathrow, maybe a little under-prepared? for the opening run.

15 July 2007

What A Month!...

Was it only four or five weeks ago that we all parted ways from the flat in Mornington Crescent, the guys that I lived with for a year and a half? What a great place – with one of those happy sounding names that makes you glad to live there, it’s basically south Camden Town, which gets a pretty bad rep from most of the rest of London thanks to all the supposed ‘crazies’ frequenting the high street, but once you get back a block or two from the high road, it’s inner city living, about half an hour tube to anywhere in town.
I loved my time there and the guys were great, although the same old drift apart happened with Mr P. After a couple of rows and him basically not talking to me for about four months, I finally knocked on his door to confront him about it and get it all out and try and sort it out, not just leave it to sit there and stew, and he brought up all the relevant events but just all misconstrued, viewing in them in a totally different way to how I saw them, and I knew that it would be futile to try and reconcile them. And then he basically tells me that I’m not his friend anymore. And tells me again! Wow, I didn’t know we hadn’t left primary school….
And so, with a weary sigh, I watched as another ‘friend’ of mine, after yet another living situation disagreement, drifts off into the ether. We went to New York for a week together; I thought that might count for something. But no, I’vebeen through it all enough now, it’s just variations on a theme, so boring and nerve-racking at the same time, but that’s just the way it seems to be I guess.
Thankfully, the ensuing house hunt was circumvented as I already had a place lined up in Whitechapel, in the East End, in a rather extraordinary circumstance. Son Veneno are an absolutely rocking Latin Hip-Hop Funk band from the Emerald City of our great southern homeland, who have all moved over, as a band, to make it big in the Ol Dart and maybe even the world.
The main idea here is a sense of community – a lot of the gigs that these guys do are community festivals, as well as it being a band that lives communally, sharing rooms, food and money. It’s close quarters living in a dodgy looking three-bedroom ex-council flat in the the heart of the East End, paying cash gigs in pubs and clubs, a difficult existence at the best of times, but one totally worth every effort, and don’t they love it!
What an awesome muso house – there’s always an album on, always someone to play or hang or drink with, always adventures afoot. Living there not as a band member works out reasonably well for me; as much as everyone’s in each other’s pockets, they all tend to do things together as a band, and so if they’re all on a gig then I get the place to myself, which works out just fine.
It’s a bit of a first for me, living with musicians, and it’s also a welcome return to the circumstance of having musical instruments actively and regularly played in the living area, a truly soul-enriching experience for anyone who’s been lucky enough to grow up with it, something definitely missed through the years of sharehousing. With acoustic music being now so removed from people’s daily lives, living with these guys is a privilege..
Alas, they’re back off home in September, and for the two or three weeks that I was around in the flat, I was just getting into the Son Veneno groove, whether it was laughing about Oz lingo over a 7AM beer with the great Loochador, piano player/composer, one of the most extraordinarly positive people I’ve ever come across, or talking career with Will, the fast-talking English recruit percussionist, or running off to the local Moroccan bar to smoke a shish with Marty, trumpet player/studio guy, and Cesar, the bassplayer, one of two brothers in the band. With grinning, cherubic face, his even temper and quietly spoken manner seem to preside over the never-ending carnival of activity.
But sadly my time as an East Ender with the Band from Oz will be somewhat limited in the coming weeks, as I am currently writing from a bagel bar in Munich, at the beginning of the second week of a six-month world tour with a West End musical theatre production by the name of ‘Dancing In The Streets’….

14 July 2007

Triple Play

...had another triple play yesterday, that is, three gigs in one day. It happened for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and again today as part of a glorious summer, of feeling wanted as a freelancer...
First cab off the rank was a 10am-3pm audition piano session at a church hall (underground) in Covent Garden for the next Thriller tour, due to set off in September. They're looking for new male leads, so some of them were on recall from a session the other day that I did. They also had to see, Daleele and Shaheen, the two younger kids that we toured, with which was a bit of a laugh.
"So, do you know any Michael Jackson songs?" joked JM, the MD, as Daleele came in.
"Yeah."
"Which ones?"
"All of em?"
When he said it, there was a look in this unassuming twelve-year-old's eye which I had seen many a time before, like looking at the horizon from the beach. It reminded me of a particular afternoon on the bus when a Temptations DVD came out and he knew every word. Here was someone who was about to make music his whole life, if it wasn't already, someone who had an inkling of it's true powers and the inspiration it held, for himself as well as others. That far off look in his eyes was one of the true believer.
Dashing off early to the next engagement in Dagenham East, I only just made it in time for a set with Omar Puente, Cuban violinist, a gig I got through Dorance, a friend of mine, today on bass. For all the musicians I've ever known, Latino and otherwise, Dorance's cool and collected manner and expert musical direction distinguishes him amongst so many lunatics. Someone who's chilled out, just wants to get the job done and do it well - why are there not more like him out there?
It's a bit of a thing now, here in England, playing Cuban music with really good Cuban musicians. I don't get to do Latin gigs half as much as I used to, so on my rare outings, it's my sincere hope that I'm doing the material justice for these guys. In all honesty they're probably more focused on their own thing, just as long as I'm holding my end together....there was Temo on congas, easily distinguished with dreads and skin so black as to have a bluish tinge - his English isn't great but you don't need it to get the vibe that he's a bit of a dude! We played one set to the locals who were more or less into it. Scamming a lift back to the tube with a friendly event guy in a van, he said that if they didn't like it they usually would have walked away - promising I suppose. He also told me about the BNP demonstration in the morning - Dagenham happens to be situated in a borough where a quarter of the councillors are BNP members. A reflection of the people's wishes, one can only gather...
I ended up tubing it straight to my next one in Waterloo, a late three sets at Cubana, the hippest Latin bar in town. Getting there with about three hours to spare, I took a stroll down to Southbank and decided to treat myself to a sit down meal, in a restaurant, an occurrence that is becoming less uncomfortable as I get older...
From uninspiring wine and pasta that I could have done better myself, my attention turned to a bit of people gazing, ideal from my position outside at the front of the restaurant. A young couple arrive, present themselves to the staff. The girl is voluptuous to his slender frame, she is perhaps a little older than him. They're all over each other, it seems like early in the piece, like they'd just gotten together, when all that body language between two people is just immaculate, and conversation is magically effortless.
She idly casts a hand down his shirt and into the small of his back and I think yeah, I remember that. I remember what that was like, from now years ago, when you're so into someone, like the rest of the world doesn't exist, or if it does then it exists just for you two, to present you with a park to frolic in, a movie to see....it's not the dry touch of someone you're trying to make like you, someone you're trying to force into some sort of relationship. It just happens, of its own accord, and there's nothing you want to do to stop it.
But do I miss it? If I did miss it that much then wouldn't I seriously do something about it?
Miguel and the bass player were late by an hour and a half. It was yet another scattered latin jammy bunch of songs, the usuals, massacred with called missed endings and rubbish sound. I've done this, I've done this scene so much before, years of it in Melbourne, but I'm such a gig slut. It can be a hard habit to break, staying home on the ones you shouldn't venture out do to any more. But the bar is cool and I meet new people, so it's not so bad. And the girls are so fine, to look at from afar anyway....

27 June 2007

An Extraordinary Night

(P.S. Bit o housekeeping has gone on - see right for new photos in Flickr, my 'Facebook' profile, and plenty more writing in the works...it's all about meeeee!)

Some people back in Oz have asked me on occasion whether I see any famous people around town, and for the last two and a bit years my answer has been mostly no. For some reason they just seem to elude me, maybe I don't hang out in the right parts of town or something, or with the right people.....
That is, until last Monday night....

It's a rainy blustery Saturday afternoon and I'm hanging out at this park gig funnily enough on the lawns of Alexandra Palace, the phone lights up and it's Paul, my occasional employer from Monday nights at the Black Gardenia. I stumble into an unfinished shed at the side....
"She mentioned 'Good Morning Heartache' the other day, so have a look at that one"
"Okay, no worries. Is she really gonna come down and do it?"
"I think so, yes."
"All right, I'll have a look at it. See you then."

Monday night, bout 10

"She wants to have a chat about it, figure out the key and stuff. Go have a chat with her."
"All right."
So I leave Paul for a second and sit down next to her and her husband Ian, her producer.
"I don't know keys and stuff."
"That's all right, sing me a bit."
So I get the first phrase out of her and it's all good. My chart's in C minor, but I know now I'll be going to E minor, a major third up, another uncommon transposition. Semitone fine, fourth down no worries, even a minor third. But a major third? I fetch the chart and take it back to Paul's table and do the maths in my head.

Paul and I get back up for the second set and wend our way through show tune fairy land for a couple of numbers and then he brings her on, unannounced. She brings a stool. I noodle through the first eight as an intro, my head buried the chart, just hoping I get all the voices and tensions right....
She starts off mellow but really takes it somewhere, fills up the whole room and I follow, maybe a bit too hotel, not bluesy enough, but it works, more or less...a mass of applause for perhaps an unknowing audience?
Paul waits to the end of the set to announce who she is....
"And please give a big hand for our special guest tonight, Lisa Stansfield!"
And the audience is knowing! And I can put it on my CV!....

Housemate X has joined the fray, and while Paul goes to get some smokes, we wend our way down to the Groucho Club where Lisa and Ian have signed us in. Next thing I know I'm sitting next to her, just 'hanging out' with this world famous soul diva and Ian's keeping the red wine flowing. Paul eventually joins us...X and I don't say much, we don't have to, it all seems to be unfolding in front of us....
There's a break and Paul leans over, "See that guy at the bar? My brother in law used to work for him when he was Tommy Scott and the Senators!"
I didn't really register this comment until Paul said it again, and then Lisa goes over to the bar and it's none other than Tom Jones, and then Jools Holland!* All just standing at the bar at closing time like it's no-one's business. Wild!
The night comes to a close and Paul says, "I've got a present for you." He pulls out Lisa's album 'Real Love' and a pen, to which she happily signs - he knew for sure that Lisa was coming to sit in tonight and so he goes out of his way to buy a copy of her album for me - what a nice guy! What a night!

*For non-Brit readers, Jools Holland is a celebrity music TV show host, A-list without a doubt

24 May 2007

On Tour

...so here's the next instalment - no dates, can't remember em, don't matter anyway!....


MJ TOUR GIG 6 – Bournemouth

After the gig we cab it to the hotel which turns out to be a typical English seaside affair; carbon copy of Fawlty Towers, complete with Portuguese ‘Manuel’ who stayed on at the hotel bar well into the morning. The band were there first, watched everyone come in, and when everyone peeled off to sleep at an un-civil hour we were the last in classic muso form….

MJ TOUR GIG 7 – Plymouth

It’s a four hour drive and in what’s becoming a regular habit, the bus pulls up at the roadside services about half an hour from the venue and takes a forty-five minute break….huh!? We’re pulling in to town and the bus driver says, “There’s the hotel,” as we pass it on the way to the venue….and then when we get out of the bus at the venue we’re expected to go find it ourselves, a foreign suitcase-dragging tribe wandering an unknown town like we’ve just been dropped off some passing spaceship. On finding the hotel at 2pm we’re told there’s no check in until 3. The nearest food, a Chinese restaurant, serves lunch until 2….
Aaaarrrrgghhhh!
On checking in there somehow isn’t a room for your correspondent, as we’re known simply by the name ‘Musician’ followed by a letter which we only realised later on represented the instrument we played (I was somehow Musician K for Keyboard).
Post-show nightlife was a chav-tastic nightmare – a port town I suppose, what does one expect, but then – we pulled up in some horrible bar and all the human flotsam and jetsam on the street was enough to drive me back to the hotel room after not too long… Strong bouts of déjà vu are constant, nearly every day, and this morning I woke up and forgot where I was for a good couple of minutes. There were bagpipes off in the distance and I wondered whether I’d woken up in Glasgow already?…

MJ TOUR 11 – Southend

You know, I’ve completely forgotten the gig, but more importantly, our digs that night was a hacienda looking place at the foot of a runway of some local airport. I got back to my room and Matt rings me and says you know there’s a nightclub rand ere with half price drinks and a truckload of American air hostesses who today have all just pass their exams! Woohoo says the other single guy in the band, but of course the fantasy didn’t quite materialise.
I guess I was expecting the full stereotype; busty uniform, blue shirts, cascading blond locks – we found two Irish lasses fresh out of high school who couldn’t even remember the safety demonstration (‘Two exits at the front’ etc)…..remind me not to fly on your airline…

MJ TOUR 12 – Gateshead

I’d been looking forward to this one for a while, simply for the venue. Don’t know if anyone’s seen photos of The Sage but I have for a while – a silvery slug-shaped building by the river designed apparently on the visual of sound waves and divided into three, the middle section of which was the concert hall. The bus pulled up and it was gorgeous – venue to the right, Newcastle’s iconic through-truss arch bridge to the left and across the river, the city in between. Hmm, curved bridge over water and world-class music venue looking similar and very close to each other – sound familiar anyone?
Tonight’s Travelodge was out in the sticks but everyone was so keen to get into it that we all dropped our bags and cabbed back in. Matt and Mike had done Newcastle before and so recommended us the ‘Jazz Café’, your typical run-down room with local band, late night hang, wouldn’t normally go there unless you were already well plastered but it was that or doof doof nightclub, which we ended up at afterwards anyway.
After much prodding which I shouldn’t need I got to talking with the gorgeous blonde dancer (as opposed to the gorgeous Asian looking one, or the gorgeous Irish one)….and it was all right, I was way too drunk to be nervous but also way too drunk to think of anything interesting to say, and then she’s gone….
We all found the casino but after the usual entry interrogation but no bar, so it’s back to the hotel as the morning glow awoke behind us to the east at around 3.30 – bloody hell, how far north are we? And what day is it again?


MJ TOUR GIG 13 – Liverpool

We’re pulling into town and our eternally grumpy bus-driver is at the wheel ON THE PHONE taking directions, and then as we lug into the venue he pulls away with the boot still open.
But aside from the daily transport palava, there was something quite special about standing there on Hope Street. I wondered how many places in the world one could stand facing a world-class music venue and be equidistant from two cathedrals, one built in the last century, one before. After soundcheck Ollie took us a nice pasta bar round the corner, a little closer to the older cathedral. Less than a block down the road was the arts school John Lennon attended and the building over that was the music school that Paul McCartney attended (or maybe it was the other way around?). The street we ate on was immaculate, sometimes used for TV shows – for an industry town looking grim on the way in, it was a gorgeous area to spend a few hours in.
The venue was beautiful, bit of a Frank Lloyd Wright slash castle influence out front, great hall and the audience were wild, on their feet half way through the first set no less. Damo had secured us some wheat beers after the show which was a bit of a first, to hook into something straight after we come off stage as opposed to waiting around for the bus and then propping up some nondescript hotel bar somewhere, which is what ended up happening anyway….

MJ TOUR GIG 14 – Glasgow

The drives are getting longer, the drinking’s getting heavier and the sleep is getting shorter, but today’s foray was into the welcome unknown. Once we crossed the border, it became quickly obvious how sparse the population must be up in the far north. One’s gaze stretches with the rolling green of the bare stony hills…
You only have to pull up at a venue and see it from the outside to know it’s gonna be a good one, and the Royal Concert Hall didn’t fail to impress. The soundchecks are becoming noticeably shorter and so we managed to foray into the town a little – the architecture is markedly different here. Our tireless MD, after dealing with the multitude through the afternoon, still found the energy to get down to the Clyde river and see a little more than us spaced out bandies did.
It would be an 8AM start for an eight hour drive to Leicester in the morn but that didn’t stop anyone in the post-show expedition – after a couple of bottles of red in Mike’s room, he took us to a nice piano bar to meet a friend of his, and then it was on into the night where we ran into four real young girls on their way to the late night feed where you had to pay before being served. We were all gone – Mike had suddenly acquired a Scottish accent and I was desperately failing to copy him – all of a sudden they disappeared and we stumbled back…

MJ TOUR 15 – Leicester

Two hours sleep later and it’s the longest bus trip of the tour, from the middle of Scotland to the East Midlands (Melbourne to Canberra I guess), and the bus is starting to look quite lived in. Our first stopover must have been the most picturesque I’ve ever seen, the intense green of the hills and the brown glass lake below us.
Leicester didn’t seem much – on what has been the quickest soundcheck the whole tour, we had two hours to kill in one of the least interesting places yet. This East Midlands city however has a large Indian population, and once again Matt knew someone local who knew the best curry house on the high road. And so an idea rumoured amongst the band for a time finally came to fruition and we all got to have a nice sit down meal as a band, all tired and spaced out as hell but thoroughly enjoying the experience.
And so another semi-conscious motorway trip, down the M1 past midnight traffic and road closures and big lights on arcs in one’s peripheral vision and off back home to who knows where, for a day in the sun and washing clothes and tidying rooms before back into it for another week….

17 May 2007

Snapshot - Black Gardenia

Monday, 3pm, a couple of weeks ago...

The black cab pulls up on Dean Street and it’s a white sky afternoon as I drag my gear to the doorstep marked 93. This evening’s engagement isn’t until about nine-ish or whenever the place starts to fill, but on employer’s request I’ve come in a little early today to run some tunes at the club beforehand.
A good knock raises no-one’s attention indoors and the Big Issue guy on the corner says, "You just missed them. A whole lot of ‘em headed off about ten minutes ago.”
Great, so I’m standing there with all my gear on the footpath in gigging gear, pinstripe and hat, all dressed up, seemingly nowhere to go…
Another character emerges from the melee to knock on the same door – ginger hair, earring on the left, shiny purple suit, another one of the characters in this little village. We’re obviously after the same people and I feel compelled to say something…
“Are you after Ronnie?”
“Yeah, you seen him?”
“I think they’re out for a bit. I can call him if you like?”
“No, it’s fine,” says the serious guy in the purple suit, “I’ll come back,” and paces off into the ether.
Perhaps I should ring someone for myself I thought…. And suddenly, before another moment has time to pass, totally out of nowhere this guy appears directly in front of me, no, somehow below me, crouching on the pavement…decked out in fedora, black glasses and grey trenchcoat, my own sartorial selection has somehow caught his eye.
“Excuse me,” he says in some sort of eastern European accent, “are you a jezzmen?”
(That’s why I still love those words, like ‘jazz’ and ‘groove’ and ‘swing’, because people from all over the world pronounce them differently, which maybe says something for the diversity of the music that they describe)
The freelancer emerges from within. “Well, for tonight I suppose I am, yes.”
“Can I take your photograph?”
“Er, yeah, sure….”
….and then swings out one of those old square cameras with the big circular bulb up and off to the side and FLASH, it’s done and he moves to leave…
“Hang on, can I get a copy?”
“Here’s my card.”
…and disappears! As quick as he emerged….

16 May 2007

MJ TOUR, GIG 9 15/5

Band is really starting to come together. Nottingham is orright, a lot nicer than the grimness of Plymouth…there’s a little tram and the restaurants are a bit vibe-ier. Hotel is once again a good walk away, and on check in, my designation, as dictated on the fax from the production company, had moved on from the other day as ‘Musician K’ to ‘Keys 1234567789’. Are our real names too hard to understand? ‘I am not an animal! I am a human being!’….
Same after show carnage at the nearby pub, joined by everyone this time. The presenter of the show is Jeffrey Daniels – ‘A Night To Remember’ was one of his hit singles as he used to be in a band called Shalimar that I don’t think anyone remembers funnily enough. Part of his nightly act is a little reminder of what he did where he sings and dances a little bit from it. So sure enough, we’re all sitting around in the pub with this little music show on in the background and up comes the film clip for it and we all flock to the TV for a laugh….

04 May 2007

Off The Wall

....so it's 10 to 1 on Saturday morning and I've just finished four days of non-stop rehearsal for a Michael Jackson tribute show set to tour the UK for a month starting Sunday (yeah, that's right, tomorrow night....). It's been twelve and sometimes fourteen hour days, today with no break for your correspondent, but well worth every hour - top fellow musicians, excellent musical director and great material, starting from Jackson 5 right up until all the syrupy ballad stuff (cos lets face it, when's the last big MJ hit you heard recently? Bout ten years ago maybe?).....
But let me tell ya it hasn't quite had that pop produced slickness and smoothness to it - all week we've had charts flying in from various parts of the world in various different keys and with parts missing - tonight was the 'dress rehearsal' that didn't even clear the second act and we sightread one of the songs, there and then. Across today's fourteen hours it seemed that every possible combination of random elements that could go awry did so and promptly, but true to form our band of otherwise freelancers marched on with aplomb. A recurring phrase amongst the guys was that we don't open till Sunday....
....the old muso joke of dodgy innuendo on the song titles is rife ('I Want You Back' becomes 'I Want A Smack', 'I Want Some Crack' et al- any entries in the comments are most welcome)....but not too loud, cos the show has been put together half by the production company I'm working for and half by a squad of MJ ultra-die-hard fans who have taken their local tribute show of twelve years running* to the the stage for the first time. If all goes well over the next month then talk has arisen of it touring Europe and maybe even settling into the West End somewhere? Who knows....
....loads of Aussies in the fray, including the two male leads, the guitarist who got me the gig and our unflappable MD who's worked on a ton of name shows we all know (anyone who wants comps for Dancing in The Streets when the tour wraps up, give us a shout) and kept such a cool head under enormous pressure and disorganisation.....
.....a mention of Jeff Harvey came up in the conversation (for those that don't know, bandleader on a famous Oz TV show), and as we were playing, that's exactly what it felt like, a TV show band with all the lights and stars out front....oh well, good reading, good experience.....a good honest job that's paying well** and that other stuff might come from, maybe.....
.....killer grooves, real nice guys in the band, ridiculously hot dancing girls.....it's all right for now I guess....

* apparently held every year on 'MJ Day'; anyone know when that is exactly?!
** The Old Zen Master turns to the window looking out to the backyard and sighs with relief, for a time at least!....

16 April 2007

Hidden London: The Black Gardenia

....on the homeward journey from faraway teaching, Instead of alighting at the usual Kings Cross I decided to take the Vic line one stop further to Euston and walk back up. My new little acquisition, the iPod, had me in a total vibe with the Kurt Rosenwinkel album Heartcore, and as I floated up the gentle slope and back into the purple dusk of the Crescent, I really felt like I was heading All The Way to Rajistan....
....a little later, standing in the curry section of the local Sainsburys, deciding how lazy I really was going to be on an evening at home, listening to albums, writing some tunes, the mobile rings and it's Zimon, owner of the Black Gardeina, a little place I've been playing at recently. It's 8pm, and I should have picked what was about to happen...
"Mike, it's Zimon."
"Orright mate."
"Orright....er, listen, Mike are you gigging tonight?"
A chuckle - I couldn't help it...
"No, what's up?"
"How would you like to do a gig with Jake, with Jake's band?"
"Yeah sure! What is it?"
"Well, it's weirdo soundtrack blues he'll explain it when you get here. Listen, just forget everything you've ever learnt about music and, well, take it from there really."
"Sure, no worries. What time?"
"Well, when you get here I guess..."
"Er, sure....see you later then."
"Cheers Mike, see you later on."
Wikkid! I get to try out my new organ module. The Nord Electro is really changing my life....after two years of doing hotel gigs on real pianos, I'm getting less enamoured with the idea of playing a piano sound on a keyboard. I'd rather play a really good electromechanical instrument synthesis, which is where this little magical red box comes in. Plug it into the MIDI slot on your keyboard and you're away, virtual organ synthesis, and it sounded like a gig where you could do whatever the hell you liked!
So I took a bolognese home and inhaled it and then jumped a black cab with all the gear (including tux and hat) and zoomed into town.
The Black Gardenia, at 93 Dean Street Soho, is not your average club. Staff are all in vintage 40s swing rockabilly gear, and there's always some Fats Waller record on in the background. The cab pulls up out front and I greet one of the waitresses on the footpath, tending to some sort of Chinese garden-looking ornament.
Zimon and Ronnie are there at the top of the stairs - Zimon, the owner of the place, is like a tall lanky Chet Baker, smooth talker, tangental...Ronnie's in fine form - pork pie hat, pencil mo, gold chains, black and yellow hawaiian shirt (?), tattooed arms and chest - and some of the nicest guys you've ever met.
I limp in with the gear and meet Jake - gelled quiff, refrigerator size, immaculate yellow zoot suit jacket, keychain made of dice, didn't say much in the lead up. Near to where the band sets up is a mirror wall and a 9mm projector playing "Sweet Sweet Back's Bad Ass Tale" onto an old LP inner taped to the mirror. Here we go!
I'm unravelling the various cords and leads and Jake comes over and says, "I'll just call out the feels, like blues or tango, yeah?" And at once I realised that was the entire sum of musical direction I was to get for the evening. "Yeah sure, no worries!"
Denna, the barmaid, is looking gorgeous as ever I must admit....big black hair, beauty spot, cherry red lipstick and all those curves in all the right places. And I just can't muster up that flirtatious talk that I see the bodgy slick haired older drummer doing later on, with her posing in all the right ways in front of him....
Bass and trumpet arrive a while later, dressed entirely vintage, for the part, nice guys, equally mystified as to what we're to play.....more time passes....'Fever' strikes out from the desk and one of the more gorgeous women floating around earlier starts the strip show for the evening.....it just gets better!
So finally it's time to play and yes it's as random as hell. I suddenly become the musical director - one of those things where as long as bass and organ agree on a chord then it's stay on the groove while Jake vibes over the top.....this is one of those gigs where there are absolutely no musical concerns whatsoever, so it's performance time! And I'm on ripping organ and loving it, churning out all those slides and trills and blues licks that everyone loves and the place is packed and people are dancing....
This is it! These are the gigs I've been craving, after two years of playing stale pianos for fat city boys and their trophy wives talking about their chateau in St Moritz while drinking 15 quid champagne cocktails....it's down and dirty and people are in funny costumes and there are girls gyrating and this is the place I should be, that I want to be....."with those of my kind / Libations, sensations, that stagger the mind..."
Speaking of which, I managed to scam about a bottles worth of house red out of the bar across the course of the evening, but there's no qualms over that - I've done some other last minute work for these people recently and I think they might respect that.
So it comes pay time finally and Jake hands me the notes and they look a little short. I'm pretty sure I got shonked last weekend and so the money nerve is still feeling a little raw and without catching myself I say, "Oh, I thought it was 50, it's always been 50," and Jake is like, "Oh, I'm only getting 30," and shows me his bills....
Ah shit, I missed it! I wasn't actually being shonked here, I had a cash employer who was actually honest and open....damn. And then later on he comes up to me with another tenner! That's how nice these people are....
I spend the rest of the evening propping up the bar with Paul, a partner in crime from recent excursions down there and the talk goes to standards and old films and the musos we love. The place closes and we decide to stagger on to Gerrys, the private club two blocks down the road through which I kinda ended up doing these gigs.
More on Gerrys later....closer to Shaftsbury Avenue, it's an old thespian hangout.....been down there with B, a sax playing friend of mine, and say hello to all the regulars, but it's thinning out there as well....eventually realising how incredibly drunk I was, I take my leave and find the last place open in Chinatown. I think it was that Szechuan Beef with all that hangover preventative chilli that saved me the next day, as I staggered back to Tottenham Court Road and caught the 29, the 'free' bus, up the old main drag and back to the flat, wading through the brown of a braindead dawn....

10 April 2007

Gemini

Wed arvo, bout 6ish....

Home, washing dishes....Housemate P comes home....hello how are you fine...."I think we should take it in turns to pay the rent. Can you take care of it tomorrow?"
Our landlord comes to pick up the one cheque from us every month, meaning one of us has to write a cheque to him and collect three cheques from the other housemates. For our entire time this has been Phil's job but for some reason he doesn't want to do it anymore, and it doesn't seem open to discussion for some inexplicable reason. For our entire time here I have taken care of three (i.e most) of the bills and J does a lot more cleaning than she should.
"Actually P I'd appreciate it if you took care of it."
"Yeah well I think we should take turns."
"Yeah but I take care of three bills..."
"Yeah but you don't have to do it very much."
There it is, at a volume a little louder than mine, very quickly, and a final statement, one that leaves no opening to discussion. And the response from your correspondent? Silence.
Why would I step up to the plate over something so trivial? And of course before I have time to respond, in that second of deliberation, P leaves, and that old feeling of frustration and tiredness arises.
Great, I'm about to have a row with my housemate. This is SO NERVERACKING AND BORING AT THE SAME TIME, a recurring theme in my sharehousing experience, and at the risk of self-righteousness, it's never been me. I've never given any reason for anyone to give me any grief in the sharehousing situation. But then, it's not about me. It's always been someone else - everything's putting along hunky dory and then someone decides to be lazy and self-centred and the rest of us have to put up with it.
And then things started to shift. Row with housemate will turn into awkwardness will turn into eventually moving house. Yeah, moving out of here, as much as I've loved living with these guys, but times will change, and soon, and the knowledge of that.....the weather here is finally turning, finally emerging from the miserable winter and the freakish multipolar nature of the last month and the warmth is settling in, solid, somehow reliable for a time, so I opened the window, let in a little of the Camden breeze, put on a couple of Bjork albums and started tidying my room.
And I mean, tidying...digging out an old box full of rubbish, holding stuff still from my last relationship, the whole catalyst for my coming over here....digging out these old things from the past, sorting, throwing away......I must have spent at least four hours in there and made some progress....

I come back from a gig later on in the night and a cheque is left for me by P and a note....."Sorry (ever the Brit), but I think we should take turns, like I said, next time it'll be my turn."
Well, am I going to sit here and let these people walk all over me like I've always done? You know what I could do? I could take this cheque and knock on his door right now and tear it up in front of his face and call him names, but in the interests of housemate co-operation, like I've always done, I'm going to acquiesce on this occasion. I'm just going to swallow it and do it and take the cheque and be done with it.
But this won't rest. Not this time. I've put up with friends and lovers letting them walk all over me because it's easier, because I'm trying to think of their best interests over my own. And even if it is simply a voicing of opinion over something so trivial, it's an important step.

Thursday night, park up from Charlie Wrights, Hoxton, about 5 am

It was a huge night at the local Thursday hang, at least two birthday parties I was aware of, wall to wall people.....the jam started, it was free, sax bass and drums, no chords, and there was a ring of about thirty people standing solidly around the band checking it out, and apparently someone was in the middle dancing. Damn I love this place!....
So later on a hard core few of us (about 20 I guess) spill up the road to the 24 hour off licence and the local park, and there I am, the sky lightening it's blue, propping up the garbage bin talking to this girl who I've been talking to all night. There's a sense of relaxation and also of desire in her dark eyes....
"So I'm flying to New York tomorrow for three weeks."
"Cool."
"Wanna come?"
A moment of drunken thought....
"Yeah, sure, why not."
I couldn't believe that I said it. An almost total absence of deliberation. Things changing all right.
A smile from her.
A smile from me.
And then, a kiss! A beautiful drunken sweet kiss, right there as I'm leaning next to the garbage bin. How romantic!....

03 April 2007

Job Description

Thought some of you might get a laugh out of this....the twelve year old son of a family friend has an assignment due in a couple of days, a profile of a profession that he may want to pursue in the future, which at the moment happens to be 'musician' (crazy little feller!). I thought it might be entertaining to blog my emailed responses....I was surprised at how long it took me, as I really wanted to get it right for him. I also started wondering what I would have made of this if someone had told me all this stuff when I was twelve. I probably wouldn't have understood it really...


Questions for Michael:

Michael, as part of an assignment for school I have to look at a career that interests me. I have chosen a musician as I like music. Part of the assignment is asking some questions of someone who works in the area.

My Mum suggested that I ask you!

Did you have to go to TAFE or Uni. If so, for how long?

Yes. I studied at Australian National University in Canberra for four years, and completed a Bachelor of Music (Jazz Studies) with 1st class Honours in 2000

What age did you start playing at?

I started playing piano when I was seven years old.

Do you play in a band?

I have played in many bands over the years, but as I am a freelance musician, currently I am not a regular member of any band. At the moment though I am in the process of getting together a couple of small ensembles.

As a professional musician, is this enough to support you? (my mum suggested this one!)

Unfortunately no, although it possibly could in the future sometime (I hope!).

Have you always played the one instrument?

No. Through high school I played the tenor saxophone in a concert band, rock band and jazz ensemble and later studied it as an elective for two years at university.

What do you have to do in your job? What does your job consist of?

Being a freelance musician consists of many different facets, usually depending on what type of performances or ‘gigs’ you want to do and the style of music that you want to play. Types of gigs can vary wildly. They can be regular or one-off, and can range from a blues band in a club in a nearby city to a solo piano gig in a hotel just around the corner.
Meeting lots of people and making contacts among fellow musicians is very important as these people will hopefully hire you for their gigs and you will hire them for yours.
Freelance gigs usually fall into two groups; either you are hired by somebody or you are the bandleader and hire other people to perform with you.
When hired by somebody else to do a gig, you might be called by the bandleader, or you might be filling in for somebody else in an established band, which is usually called ‘depping’. Many different aspects of the gig need to be considered, including things like the style of music to be played, whether there will be a rehearsal, the time and location of the gig, what kind of band is playing the gig, what kind of musical equipment needs to be taken, appropriate dress, whether food and drink will be supplied, and of course the amount to be paid and method of payment, whether it is cash on the night or cheque.

The nature of many of the freelance Jazz gigs that I do is that sometimes the bandleader running the gig may not have a regular band or may require a different combination of musicians than what they’re used to playing with, which is why a long list of musical contacts is very useful. Often, because many freelance Jazz musicians know a generally similar repertoire, bands can be formed specifically for a particular gig, often with no prior rehersal. This can sometimes be a challenging situation, but also very exciting!

If YOU are the bandleader, then of course it is up to you to organize your band, keep a track of all those things involved with the gig and stay in contact with the people you have chosen for your band as well as the venue and the person who is paying you. Being a bandleader requires a lot of organization and phone calls but can often be rewarding.

Did you start playing at a young age? If so, did any of your friends play as well?

I started playing when I was in year 4, late primary school, and have been playing ever since, so yes, I suppose that was an early time to start! From what I can remember, none of my friends played piano at the time.

Do you have any tips for me?

If you stick with the music you love and work hard at playing it well, then you can’t go wrong!…

What is the best thing about playing music for a job?

Working long and hard on something that you love doing and being able to make money from it. Also, experiencing those moments where everything comes together, when you’re playing with a great band (or sometimes just by yourself) and the music sounds amazing, you’re able to make people in the audience feel something emotionally, and most importantly that you’re having fun with it.

What is the worst?

Sometimes as a freelance musician, if you are attempting to make a living solely off performing, then often you have to do gigs that you may not prefer to do, playing styles of music that you may not. But then sometimes that’s all part of the adventure…

Thanks Michael. Hope I can listen to you play one day. Luke PJ Smith

30 March 2007

Nice Little Life...

.....it's a nice life at the mo, this current 'transitional' phase I'm going through....not much to do during the daytimes....get up bout mid-morning, make myself a cawfee, never quite reach the amount of practice I always intended to do before running off to evening teaching in far flung fields and then a suprising gig or two or partying....it's a funny little window which is at times amazing and depressing at constantly bi-polar extremes....one day I'm totally sold on being a musician, next day I wanna give up, and back again and I'm already repeating myself from previous entries.....but then I wonder if that's what it's supposed to be like, those extremes, maybe only by embracing them fully, right now for the first time, can I get some sense of where it's all going.....
....my piano playing is changing rapidly for the better in so many amazing ways....things are just happening, stuff is coming out of its own accord, stuff I never thought I'd be able to do....for the first time ever, after eight years private lessons and a music degree and one two three four five six years out of uni, I feel as though I'm able (or at least have finally discovered the skills necessary) to actually play the piano, be at one with it, the material, the sound, the keys, everything. How could I possibly consider throwing it in?....
....but this nice little life at the mo has it's limits, and they're encroaching it's borders with quickening pace....decisions must be made soon...house, employment, location et al.....but the most important thing to remember is that it's all moving, and when things are moving, in a state of flux, that's when some of the greatest learning takes place....and as long as I'm committed to getting out of my nice cosy solitary bed in the mornings and embracing the day and everything it has to offer, then I know I'll be okay.....
....well, that's enough self-centred navel gazing waffle for this entry - here's the current media watch....

BOOK: Inner Game of Tennis - just finished Cloudstreet and all it's beautiful Oz imagery, so onto the next self help - since I opened it yesterday I can't put it down....offering alternate takes (as it were) on material I've already sifted through with 'Effortless Mastery', 'Everyday Zen' and 'Free Play'....looks like I'll knock it off in another cuppla tube rides as well.....

MUSIC: Monty Alexander - with Ernest Ranglin and Solo - mentioned that before, but also a little Aphex Twin and some organ stuff, Jimmy Smith, getting the basics together....

until soon friends,.....

23 March 2007

Jay And Silent Bob (of Camden Town)

....bidding farewell to D-Funk at Lock 17, J-Sax and I wended our way briefly by the side of the canal, across the bridge and down the unusually quiet high road. I was propositioned with skunk only the once last night, bit disappointing really, expected a bit more from the boys, and was quite displeased at the fact that not once last night was I called Charlie. What's the place coming to, I mean really....
All drink and no food makes Mike a moody boy, so we cross the bridge and head for the first dodgy pizza place we come to on the corner....
And the vibe is strong! Glowy christmas lights adorn the awning and 'Don't Stop Till You Get Enough' is blasting from somewhere inside. Eerily enough for Camden Town, the street is pretty quiet, no-one else is around.
And seemingly no-one is behind the counter. But there's a tall lanky guy drifting around next to us - trucker hat, aviators, stubble - who may or may not be working here. J-Sax and I are in the thick of muso talk but something is already seeming a little curious.
A moment goes by and no-one emerges....
"Don mine him man he's jes doin his fing yo no" says 'Jay'.
.....(all right, and who might that be?).....
All of a sudden, 'Silent Bob' backs out from no-where, moonwalking without a doubt, does the turn to face us - brown hat, collared white shirt, red jumper - speechless.
He's looking at us - another moment goes by....
"Orright mate, I'll have one of those thanks," I spurt out tentatively....
Bob dances off somewhere. Jay is back behind the counter, sometimes. J-Sax and I are still in the thick of it....
"This is a wikkid song!"
"Damn straight. The bridge bit with the fat brass....."
"This was with Quincy Jones, right?"
"I think so"
"It's not happening for Mike these days though is it...."
".....Yeah, it all went downhill after Quincy left...."
Bob dances back in front with a 'What would you like?' look on his face, still speechless. I pointed to a tasty selection and he whisks it off to the microwave. Jay starts talking to us....
"Man, this is the place to be on the High Road!" I tell him, and he's into it, I think. J-Sax agrees....
"Could I get some vine leaves too thanks mate?" I request from Bob, looking at the four for a pound sign. He whisks over and gives us each a free one. Nice! No four though, that seems a bit too much at this point.
'Don't Stop Till You Get Enough' is still blaring....
"Hey, did you hear that story about 'Billie Jean'?"
"No?"
"They're in the studio and Mike's done heaps of takes and just isn't getting it, and Q is drunk apparently, so he gets the irits, goes into the studio and beats him up!"
"No!"
"Yeah! and so Mike makes one more take and that's it! That's the one we hear!"
"Wow....talk about chill studio vibe..."
'Don't Stop Till You Get Enough' fades off.....and starts again? Bob must be really working on his fing.....
(.....This wikkid little Fellini-esque vignette playing before us is up there with that time I took a girl to 'Booty Wine' round the corner after hours, where the guy behind the till mutters another language through the half-shut roller door and suddenly a hand comes out from underneath with a six quid special in a brown paper bag....one asks no questions in a city of such mystery...)
....Bob whisks over from the microwave, gives me the pizza slice, goes back over to open the till and THEN comes back over for the money....and not a word, the whole time....
"Thanks boys, have a good one." Phew!
Camden Town, that kinda place....

22 March 2007

well...

...so I'm recording this demo on Tuesday, thinking that I've got all day Wednesday blocked out for teaching - I've been doing some through some music shops in the north and they've rigged me up a day at a 'school of religious character' - and I get this call from the teaching guy saying that the people at the school want to meet me before I start and can I come in this afternoon. They have to interview me before I start, meaning that if I don't come in this afternoon I can't start tomorrow. And even if I did, the pay isn't gonna get to me for another month anyway.....
....and there's that sigh, that weariness at the backwards inefficiency of this whole place, worn briefly from this new Londoner and shrugged off in an instant, but what of those who've lived here their whole lives?....
....yeah fine, I make the call and arrange an interview the next morning, speaking to Gerry who keeps going on about 'timewasting' students and how we have to get rid of them. Haven't even bloody met them yet!
So it's an early morning tube off to Totteridge and Whetstone, one of the quainter named stations and the second last stop on the High Barnet branch of the Northern Line. The place is easy enough to find, a couple of brown wood buildings near a field on a private road. The electronic gate shuts in my face.
In this bitter cold we've suddenly had this week (after a balmy precursor to summer), I had to laugh. All part of the continuing adventure I suppose....
So I meet Gerry and Graham, seeming patriarchal moral overseers of the place with their Ultra conservative uniforms and haircuts and they talk me through the guidelines of the Brethren, the particular variance of Christianity that this school falls under.
No recorded music at home: radio fine, but none of that ghastly modern popular music. Beatles and Bob Dylan is fine, but then Gerry's lately had some reservations about them too, so maybe not. So I can show them something from a recording, but I can't give them one to take home or ask them if they're into anything at home - they won't be because they don't have any.....
So Mike, what's your background? And I go into this pre-fab rave blah blah honours music degree did you catch the honours bit blah blah taught in schools for over a decade variety of students blah blah but it's not my main thing of course (all the while screaming in my head SHOW ME THE ROOM, SHOW ME THE PIANO, SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!!)
They attempt some banter at the usual junctures and I'm so not up for it.
They hand me the guidelines of the school which I flip through on the tube home. Here are some highlights:

"...a way of life which is governed at all times in every detail by the Holy Bible"
"....The Theory of Evolution is regardes as a falsehood..."
"The Trustees regard occupation with, and the study of, computers damaging to the proper development of children's minds, and only serve to reduce and limit their thinking capacity to be conformed to programmes and the manipulation of a keyboard and screen. it is regarded that computers in many fields represent a misuse of physical and natural phenomena created by God."
"Brethren children have not gone on to study at Universities since the 1960s, but have suffered no loss through this...'

I'm still interested to see how this all turns out. Apparently music creation is very strong in homes among family members, and the previous teacher has left me a list of the students and where they're at and from a teaching perspective it sounds promising. Maybe the last minute interview request and week's delay set me off about it all. I'm taking the gig because financially, it'll pluck me from a potential pickle...
.....and don't get me wrong here, I have the utmost respect for anyone who chooses a religious path for their life.
It's just the social rules, the conventions, that get me, all those little restrictions and forbiddances, the details that people feel they have to impose on themselves and their families.
An essential part of my experience as a travelling freelance musician has been the observation of human experience. Branford Marsalis has been quoted a couple of times as saying that musicians are basically social commentators, and from my own limited experiences I've seen that the human experience is vast, so much more expansive than setting oneself and one's family to sets of rules derived from a book written long ago and far away.
It's the 21st century, it's suburban London. We shall see.....

19 March 2007

Requiem For A Dream

....I had this bizarro dream last night.....I don't seem to remember my dreams anymore and I don't usually tell anyone else my dreams, mainly because they turn out to be open-ended stories that go nowhere and the person you tell can never fully associate, but this is a bit of an exception.....
First of all, real life - Did the Belvedere last night again - it's a four hour gig, and as I said before, no soft pedal, it's a loud piano, and the diners are really close. The management came up twice in the first set to ask me to play softer - it takes me enough concentration to just play solo piano with a working time feel and good tone and interesting harmonic movement without someone bugging you from the side. Of course the more people that came the louder I was able to play. Oh yeah, and they interrupted my meal for me to play Happy Birthday which I have to say was pretty annoying.
So came home, stayed up a bit, some wine and Google Video, went to bed - and then I was in this sort of psychedelic Victorian era version of London, doing a gig in what looked like some department store, and I'd go to play a song and there was this woman in one of those massive curly Baroque wigs who was barking at me, really having a go at me about how wrong it was or how loud I was playing or it was the wrong song, so I would stop and try something else and she wouldn't let up.
So after about five attempts at songs, I blew my top, stood up and yelled at this lady, something about leaving (this version of) London and never working for her again. "You can't do that," she said, "you need to work here! This town's too small, you can't just walk away." "Watch me," I said, or words to that effect. And then she said the line, the kicker....

"You'll be doing these gigs for years!".......

That's what got me - imagine a Simpsons-esque echo of that line to end the dream and me suddenly awake sitting bolt upright in the bed.....
....damn, I gotta write and perform me some original music!.....