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

31 July 2007


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


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


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


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 cafĂ© 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.
"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....