Back in Australia – the first four days…

The plane on the tarmac at Melbourne International AirportAfter about 24 hours in the air on QF030 I touched down at Tullamarine just before 8am on Thursday morning. It was quite a comfortable flight with an aisle seat on the first leg to Hong Kong where they turfed us all off the plane with our hand luggage. We had to go through security again (twice) before we got back on the plane giving us a welcome opportunity to queue (twice).

Peter Anderson, an accordion player of some note, picked me up from the airport and took me back to his place in West Heidelberg where I will be staying during the Melbourne portion of my visit. I spent the rest of the day sorting out a local mobile phone, getting a data dongle for my net-book PC and trying to stay awake. In the evening we went out to a local pub for food and I had my first Aussie steak for four years.

Nifty Nissan NomadNext day I had breakfast on the veranda watching Aussie birds while  I munched on my corn flakes. Pretty much another rest day apart from making some phone calls and so on. Peter sorted out the tappets on his nifty Nissan Nomad window van which he has kitted out as a camper.  After being introduced to the secrets of the dual LPG / petrol system I took it for a spin. Driving in Melbourne is pretty easy compared to London, except for the trams which still make me slightly nervous.

Saturday I go over to see my brother in Ringwood and pick up my lovely Yamaha Pacifica electric guitar which is in a dire need of a restring after four years on the shelf, so I pop into the really excellent Five Star music shop nearby. G7th Performance capo...Also pick up a new clip on tuner and capo both of which I’d forgotten to pack. After chatting to the guy behind the counter I decide to go for a G7th ‘Performance’ capo which has a clutch mechanism rather than a spring or screw adjustment. I’ve heard good things about these and some guitarists I know use them, but they cost quite a bit more than more standard types.

Dancehall Racketeers (Deluxe western swing)In the evening I go down to the Lomond in East Brunswick to catch a bit of a set by the Dancehall Racketeers who bill themselves as Deluxe Western Swing. They certainly have the sound but I think that they more eclectic than that, with some excellent blues with the aid of a couple of friends in the audience who come up to help out with vocals. Last time I was over here we did a gig here with an acoustic version of the enQ line up – it’s a great little roots venue, check it out if you’re in Melbourne.

Mandy and Richard playing at IDGAFF in MelbourneOn Sunday arvo I catch the fabulous Mandy Connell at a small venue on Hoddle St called IDGAFF (which is a variation of DILLIGAF). I first met Mandy at a session on my last trip here and then at Fairbridge Festival in Western Australia where we were both performing. Since then I’ve bumped into her a number of times in England and did some gigs on bass for her in Coventry. For this gig she has long term collaborator Richard on double bass and she is swapping between mandolin, guitar and some powerful unaccompanied singing. She really has an amazing voice and the skill to use it properly. One to watch I deem.

Later on I bump into her again at the Lomond when I drop in for a bite to eat. It turns out that she’s going to The National Festival in Canberra, so may well get a chance to do some playing together there. There’s some more great live music happening there with the Monique diMattina Band (Honky-tonkin’ jazz).

Contra dance in Melbourne...Finish the night with a visit to a local Contra Dance at a nearby church hall in Northcote. I want to get an idea of the ‘state-of-the-art’ of the local dance scene, and as contra is often cited as the the north american equivalent of e-ceilidh, I thought that this is was worth checking out. Despite the the rather bleak hall and unsympathetic lighting the dancers were pretty welcoming. The event had rather the feel of an English ‘Dance of Dance’ event with only a few youngsters leavening the older dancers.

The 'contra' band...The band were young, and pretty good too, though they were playing in more of a celtic style than the smooth rhythms that I would normally associate with contra. All the dances were long ways sets (improper) and there were some very good dancers, as well as a few pretty lumpen ones. The overall impression was of a club, albeit a friendly one, and I went away with the feeling that they would be pretty appalled by the sort of thing that I do in the dance department.

Anyway, I’ll get more chances to see examples of the local dance scene at the National Festival and up in Sydney. However I starting to think that I’ll need to start from scratch if I’m going to get E-ceilidh (Bush Ceilidh) onto the scene here….

About Brian Heywood

Brian Heywood is a free range musician who specialises in edgy roots / country / celtic fusion music. Previous work has received comments such as "... aggressive, top notch fiddling set off by periodic guitar explosions." - Tom Nelligan, Dirty Linen Magazine (USA), "Just when it seemed as if newer electric British roots bands were getting thinner on the ground - Very welcome and very good." - fROOTS Magazine (UK) and Steve Barnes Fairbridge Festival Artistic Director (Australia) - "... a rocking band - I was delighted with the audience response."
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