THE LONESOME LOCAL LOCKDOWN

FeaturedTHE LONESOME LOCAL LOCKDOWN

(First published on Facebook – July 3, 2021)

I’ve spent the last fortnight staying in a room upstairs at The Local Hotel on South Terrace, South Fremantle. I’ve been in the throes of moving house, and as a new place fell through just before my exit date, my dear friends at The Local sorted a room for me to stay at in the interim.

I practically live there already. I’ve hosted a weekly talk/performance event on Thursdays off-and-on (mostly on, 28 shows to date) since last October; regularly find a spot to write on my laptop there, and constantly enjoy drinks with folks from the wondrous Freo musical scene. I dearly love the creative community around South Freo, and The Local Hotel is both a heart and hub for this.

In the last week it’s been oh-so-quiet everywhere along South Terrace due to lockdown. While my first week staying at my favourite pub was incredibly social, the second lot-of-seven-days has been a contemplative experience, to say the least.

Week-2 has seen lockdown and the realities that hit a venue such as this. The constant murmur of bubble and squeaks and beats and basslines from DJ sets squirreling from downstairs-to-up; the tales and riffs from local musical heroes, the laughter of fond friends and even the hints of early romance in the front bar have made way for radio silence. It’s all rain and wind outside and faraway footsteps within. THE LOCAL HOTEL HAS BEEN CLOSED.

At times I’ve felt as though I’m the only person in the whole pub. There are other people staying here, but no-one is doing anything or going out. I only hear people and never see them. It’s like they’re ghosts. Which means I am also a ghost. In a Ghost Hotel.

I endeavour to be Casper (The Friendly Ghost, if you recall). It helps a bit as early in Week-2 I develop minor cold symptoms, resulting in a refreshing day trip to Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Turns out she’s not even related to Paul Stanley. Even so, I’m open to being thoroughly doused and dubbed then directed to go home and self-isolate. In a closed pub, during a lockdown. Quiet stuff. My test result comes back within 12 hours and is reassuringly negative. Such a mild experience compared to the scenarios of so many.

But I’m left with this playground. This lovely/lonesome Local Hotel which has been so good to me. So I take a mid-morning to take a walk-around (masked, mind) to capture the quiet, closed moments. It will open its arms and doors to its charming, salt-of-the-earth staff and clientele, but for this moment and all the moments (and the new memories, and the old ghosts), it literally has become my favourite haunt. And I love it now more than ever.

Pandemic or not. Support your Local. Whatever it’s called, wherever it may be.

(Vax, also).

THE REDUCTORS Intellect, Imagery, Humanity And Humour

THE REDUCTORS        Intellect, Imagery, Humanity And Humour

As the ever-elegantly-suited Robert Palmer (RIP) once noted, ‘the proof is irrefutable’.

And it is indeed an irrefutable truth about art – there ain’t nothing like the classics. Some songs, books and films have never finished saying what they have to say. It’s this kind of bedrock that Perth band, The Reductors, are founded upon.

To begin (the beguine), singer/songwriter/guitarist, Luke Nixon, has harboured a deep love of classic punk and post-punk since his earliest years.

“I grew up in Wales, and spent my teens listening to Manchester punk and post-punk bands,” he recalls. “In particular Joy Division, The Fall, Buzzcocks and The Smiths which, as it happens, also had a big impact on the other band members.”

Classic literature has also played a part in Nixon’s continued artistic development. The characters and themes in his songs are borne of a lifetime of reading.

“Philip K. Dick, David Foster Wallace, Martin Amis, Dylan Thomas,” he notes, “variously for intellect, imagery, humanity and humour.”

These flavours and inspirations motivated Nixon to create his own music and write his own songs. Not from a punk-fuelled need to act out, but at various points to explore his feelings both within, then beyond.

“Originally, the motivation was to retreat and immerse myself in my own private world,” he recalls. “At the time, music was the key thing that enabled me to achieve that.

“I stopped writing songs for a long while, and when I started again, it was from a desire to create connections to the outside of that world, for artistic and personal reasons.”

Having landed in Perth, the seeds of The Reductors began about a decade ago. In scientific terms, a reductor is an apparatus for conducting a type of experiment to reduce a substance. “It seemed appropriate for creating social commentary in song form,” says Nixon, bringing it back to the art of the matter.

“Honestly, this band seems to have been a subliminal process in which the current members each materialised into the line-up, through one means or another, over a number of years. A series of happy accidents.”

Those ‘happy accidents’ are Aidan Gordon (lead guitar/backing vocals – ex-The Autumn Isles/Tenderhooks); Gareth Bevan (bass/backing vocals – Will Stoker & The Embers) and Erin Gordon (drums – The Quivers). Occupying the lead vocalist/guitar podium is Nixon, who previously trod the boards with The Horseless Cowboys.

“I write our songs – music and lyrics – and bring them to the band with a form and structure,” Nixon says of the band’s creative dynamic. “We work on the arrangements together, with each of us contributing and developing ideas. The other band members are all seriously talented musicians, who bring vital elements of their artistry, personality and enthusiasm to the creative process, and to our live performances.”

The Reductors released their debut album, Caboose, in 2017, followed by a double-A-side single, Practical Girl/Tremors, the following year. Across the output is an edgy melange of melodic punk and rock sensibilities. It’s not hard to tell that Nixon knows what he wants out of his songs.

“The important thing is to make songs that the audience can connect with, whether through the music or the lyrics,” he explains. “As a band, we all have an affinity for post-punk music, so we are influenced by everything that contributed to that milieu, including American bands such as The Stooges and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, as well as those Manchester bands I already mentioned.”

With that in mind, the band’s new single, Body Scan, shines the light ahead for kicking against the grain in (hopefully) post-COVID times. Already nominated in the Punk Category in the 2020 WAM Song Of The Year Awards, Body Scan fights the future and cracks like The Clash. The song shames body shaming and punches the air in the most satisfying way. 

“The song addresses the illusory and damaging focus in society and popular culture on body image ideals,” Nixon notes. “I have a number of friends who have been negatively affected by perceived norms and ideals relating to body image. The raucousness and pace of the music makes for an effective contrast to those ideals by signifying vitality over perfection.”

The song was recorded with Rob Grant (Queens of the Stone Age, Death Cab for Cutie, Pond) at Poons Head Studio in Fremantle.

“We love collaborating with Rob,” says Nixon, “he is so knowledgeable and experienced, and terrific company. There is also real magic to Poons Head… it is quite unique.”

Body Scan is the first taste of The Reductors’ forthcoming second album, due in 2021. Another single release is scheduled for the end of the year, whereupon the band will increase their local shows and pursue a tour of the South-West.

Despite the downtime of WA’s version of COVID-19 isolation, The Reductors are in a good place to build on the momentum set in the last few years. For Nixon, his initial outlook for the band is evolving very nicely indeed.

“The original vision was to create something unique through a sort of organised chaos,” he says. “We had plenty of chaos, but not much else, so I decided to rebuild, artistically, from something a bit more elemental – the first album is really a record of that rebuilding.

“Now we are liberated from that process and producing our most energised and authentic music.”

In the meantime The Reductors will launch Body Scan on Saturday, August 22, at Lyric’s Underground in Maylands, teaming with The Limbs, who will also be launching their new single, Do Not Help Me, which was also nominated for a WAM Song Of The Year award. Also along for this amazing double-launch are special guests Will Stoker & The Embers and Tanami. Bookings via Oztix.com.au.

Facebook Event Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/events/683873885498057/

Photo credit: Elle Borgward 

Life Grows Where Rosemary Goes (In Memory Of Tim Underwood, RIP)

Life Grows Where Rosemary Goes           (In Memory Of Tim Underwood, RIP)
Pic: Tim Underwood and Gretta Little, Courtyard Club, December, 2016. cr Damien Crocker

It took The Rosemary Beads 24 years to release their debut album, Shine. The journey within has often been dark, but the future looks bright indeed.

Driving through Northbridge along Roe St, on the way to see The Rosemary Beads, the lulling yet gritty tones of Swervediver’s Rave Down on the radio provide a fitting soundtrack amidst the traffic, not to mention one’s pre-gig mindset.

Both bands have been favourites on Perth community radio station, RTRFM, for some time now.

Two decades in fact; for this isn’t April, 1994, but December, 2016, and ‘90s specialist program Siamese Dream has taken over the Friday Drivetime airwaves for a live broadcast of The Rosemary Beads’ Courtyard Club appearance at the State Theatre Centre.

Time sure flies, except when it doesn’t (and let’s be frank, it hasn’t). Yet here we are, out of the carpark and into the warmth of gentle evening sunlight in the Courtyard, with kids playing all over the shop, watched over by strangely familiar-looking-middle-aged parents. They look like people who may have been at The Rosemary Beads’ second EP launch at the Grosvenor Hotel on that Saturday of April of ’94, shaking their heads at the day’s headline news that Kurt Cobain had taken his own life. Oh yeah… they were.

But these here are gentler times. Not that the world is kinder by any stretch of the imagination, but the people gathered – including the band – are tempered by two decades of real life and new life to boot. This is the real life.

Between 1992-95 The Rosemary Beads were perhaps a little too tension-driven to be the darlings of the Perth music scene, but they made a damn good fist of being its prodigal sweethearts. There were several incarnations, but the celebrated/classic line-up of Gretta Little (vocals/bass), Tim Underwood (vocals/guitar) and drummer Cam Munachen motored through three excellent Citadel Records-released EPs in those years (Dog, Breath, I’ll Come When I’m Good And Ready). Little and Underwood had been in bands together for almost a decade by this point and for most of the band’s tenure they were a couple. Until they weren’t.

Little eventually left the band. During 1995 a four-piece line-up briefly trod the boards until Munachen tragically died of an overdose in the spring of that year. He was a good, young man whose demise betrayed his true character and whose loss spelt the end of The Rosemary Beads. Underwood lost his best friend and his band in one cruel swoop. Munachen’s funeral saw a grief-stricken Perth/Fremantle band scene turn up in droves and as his coffin was wheeled out of the chapel it was to the (loud) strains of the Rosemary Beads’ last single, Worried About Fucking. Rock and pop tension to the last.

It really was agonising for all those anywhere near it. The end of The Rosemary Beads wasn’t just a band break-up. People were broken.

Rosemary-Beads-620x347

Rosemary Beads circa 1994, Cam Munachen, Gretta Little, Tim Underwood

Which makes their reformation, in early 2015, something of a fairytale ending… no, make that a beginning. With different lives, partners, paths and children occupying the two decades in between, Little and Underwood connected again via what brought them together in the first place.

It was music.

Doves cried.

Joined by drummer, Warren Hall (The Drones, The Volcanics, The M-16s), a one-off gig was arranged at the Astor Lounge in February, 2015. Their three Eps were conjoined into a single CD edition and a video tribute to Munachen was played before their performance.

It clicked.

The only thing that could happen next was more of it.

“It just kind of happened,” says Little. “At first, we were just gonna do the one gig, then after we’d been jamming together for a little while I think everyone started to go, ‘this is fun’. On the day of our reformation gig I said to Tim, ‘I want to keep doing it if it keeps working out like this’.”

“Gretta and I rediscovered our love for playing music with one another,” Underwood adds. “We’re in tune with each other’s songs… and it just sort of snowballed, I guess. A rehearsal turned into another one, which turned into a gig, then another gig. It was all pretty organic.”

It’s a special, unprecedented reconciliation and as such is being treated with due care. Appearances at marquee events such as the Nannup Music Festival and RTRFM’s iconic In The Pines have been complemented by selected venue shows. After this many years, no one’s in a hurry to wear this out. The beating heart in all this is unveiled as the band’s debut album, 24 years after they formed.

Released in November 2016, Shine features unrecorded gems from the past and independently-written tunes borne since. It sounds like what might have followed back in the day, but doesn’t echo as a mere time capsule. It truly sounds like an essence of then and now, for today… and tomorrow. Because the band’s very existence now, proves that despite the evidence, tomorrow is always a possibility.

“I’m glad you think that,” Little responds. “We don’t sit back and go, ‘let’s make this the next Beads sound’ or anything but it just turned out that way. We sound like The Rosemary Beads but… further along. I did listen to an old recording the other day and I do think that I sing a little differently. I didn’t think that I did, but I do. And I play bass a little differently, too.”

“You can’t plan that kind of thing,” Underwood says. “Even when we were choosing the songs that we were going to do again, the same ones kept popping up. For instance, General Franco (from 1993’s Dog EP), which we still play, that song is 24 years-old, and it’s such fun to play and always gets such a good response. It’s turned out to be kind of timeless in a way that, for example, She Ain’t Around hasn’t remained timeless (laughs).

“You can’t plan it; the songs are either there, or they’re not. I always thought we had a great album in us; and I really like this album, but I think the next one will be killer.”

A new album looks a probability in 2017, but in regards to Shine, songs of yore that were resurrected include She Said I’m Dead, Crack It Wide Open and Torture & Jealousy. Little had a brand-new tune, Comet, and some older songs that hadn’t been done with the Beads – Stars, Denial and The Driving Song, the latter about her old border collie, Blossom, a fixture at the band’s gigs back in the day.

Other memories aren’t so happy. It’s a complicated history.

“I wrote a song called Stars,” Little says. “I had a rather unfortunate run in my 20s. People obviously know that Cam died and Tim went off on a different journey, and unfortunately, for me, there were numerous people in my life having numerous troubles. Stars is kind of about that period of time where lots of really sad things happened in a really short space of time. And that often makes me think about those days as well, which weren’t happy for me, unfortunately, through no fault of my own, but you can’t really do anything about that.

“Those songs are a part of my life whether I wrote them or not. They hold time. I remember things like certain gigs when we play, but mostly I just remember what was happening in my life. I don’t know if other people do that.”

Underwood’s brand-new song is Ain’t Nobody Else Like Me, and it’s the newer stuff he is enjoying playing the most.

“We were always pretty lyrically dark,” he says, “but now I think 20 years later that the lyrics are even darker. We’ve got 20 years under our belts of things we’ve been through and experienced and all that kind of stuff that the lyrics are even darker than they used to be. That’s the main difference. That’s not about the group dynamically, but the lyrics are definitely getting darker.”

Both Little and Underwood speak highly of Hall, the Beads’ new drummer.

“Probably one of the best things about being in a band is fiddling around with a new song and working out what to do with it,” Little says. “We all like that and all sit well with each other creatively. In a band, you need, personality-wise, people who are all going to go okay together and he’s both of those things, as well as being a really good drummer. I’m glad he’s happy working together with us.”

“Waz is quite comfortable stopping a song and suggesting something that could go in at that part,” Underwood explains. “Which is quite interesting, because he’s doesn’t play an instrument, so he’ll say something like, ‘I think we should have a guitar twiddle there’, or ‘I think the bass should run down there’ so Gretta and I will take that input. He’s really committed to the structure of a song.”

Since the album was finished, Cam Sim (Worm Farm) has come on board as the band’s second guitarist, to bring those extra recorded flourishes to the stage.

“That’s interesting because Cam and Waz devised that idea between themselves at the start,” Underwood recalls. “And they had to sell it to me. I was apprehensive at first, because I quite like being the guitarist in The Rosemary Beads. Another guitarist? Another guitarist? But when Cam walked into the room and set up, it wasn’t even an audition. He just slotted in really well, so it was great.”

“It’s going to evolve the sound a bit more and give us a few more options going forward,” Little adds. “It’s good to have someone else in the band to mix things up a bit.”

The Courtyard Club gig goes off with a few hitches (the PA cuts out twice, but everyone is ever-so-calm about it all), yet the band itself are truly sublime. Memories come flooding back, but it’s very much about how it works in the present. And with kids running around everywhere during the show, it’s a touching reminder that there is a future to behold for this band.

“It’s pretty exciting and I just find it really good fun,” Little smiles. “I was at home with twins for four years. You go out and play a gig and people clap you. Nobody claps you at home!”

“It’s not surreal anymore,” Underwood concludes. “It’s one of the most interesting band histories I can think of, where you break up and 20 years later you get back together and start playing again. Basically, the new songs are great; and the rehearsals are great; and the jams are great; and the songwriting’s great.

“Gretta’s still got a set of pipes on her and she’s still playing interesting basslines. It’s great. We’re not getting the crowds that we did in the ‘90s, but I don’t think anyone is. We’re just having fun and enjoying it.”

Tim Underwood passed away on June 27, 2020. RIP.

NICI WARD When Doves Fly

NICI WARD When Doves Fly

Perth Singer/songwriter Nici Ward has worked through a few musical aliases and band names in her time, but her latest venture as Lonesome Dove seems more than a little suited – in name at least – to this isolated era.

“To be honest, we are doing okay,” Ward notes of a life lived well in terms of family and creativity… and iso. “We live up in the hills and for once living away from everything is serving us really well. Our kids (Ward and her husband Ben have two young boys) have a lot of space to run around and that makes things a bit easier.

“I had a major freak-out after the first two weeks, really missing my friends and all the normal things everyone is missing and I hadn’t fallen into a rhythm yet, but things seem to have become a new kind of normal and that’s okay. Just taking each day at a time.”

While having two boys in a row a couple of years apart understandably took Ward away from the creative focus she had known in the preceding years, she felt its return as they’ve both grown older. For some time Ward shared songs she had written as posts to her Instagram account, but that soon proved not to be enough to match her true productivity.

“I started to feel like the material was building into something more and my brain just started going into overdrive with the whole concept of what it could be. I had that name for a long time, it’s actually a mini-movie series from the late ‘80s I remember watching as a kid. Although the name hints to a country vibe, it’s not at all. It’s my ‘90s pop baby (laughs).

“I took a trip to Los Angeles last year and it cracked open a whole creative place in my brain; it really helped me to push myself and realise not to worry about what other people thought about what I was doing and to just make it my own. It’s so cliché, I know, but it was a really pivotal experience for me, personally.”

Though it’s primarily a solo project Lonesome Dove sees Ward collaborating with husband Ben (guitar/bass – Rinehearts, ex-Screwtop Detonators) and his bandmate Ross DiBlasio (drums, piano). Al Smith from Bergerk! brought his mobile studio for recordings to be made at the Ward residence. “I want to use Lonesome Dove as a platform to do things how I want,” she says, “but also to collaborate with other artists.”

Ward has just issued Lonesome Dove’s second single release, Parallel Life, a poppy number that draws aural images ranging from Julianna Hatfield or The Bangles to Gabriela Cilmi (to these ears, at least).

“It’s is basically about the hope that there’s someone out there living your perfect version of life and the hope that you’re going to find them to live that together,” Ward says. “Pining over someone through your phone and having an idea of what it’d be like to be with that person but it’s all caught up in your head. It’s not about the reality of it.

“I like to make up characters a lot when I’m writing, it’s not always about personal experience, but I guess I did tap into that teenage notion of romance and what that meant compared to what was probably the reality of the situation. I guess the girl in the story is kind of sad in a way, she’s lonely and fragile. But she’s also sassy and has a lot to give.”

The accompanying video clip is simple and so very effectively direct. Shot on phone camera at her home, and featuring cameos from her cat and dog (‘my pets are in everything. I’m obsessed with them, I think they just added to the charm of it. Also, they’re cute’.) it was an afternoon well spent.

“I wanted people to see the character in that video,” Ward explains. “To feel what’s going on in her head. It’s a bit manic, I had about an hour where the kids were watching a movie and Ben was away working, so I shut my bedroom door and just got stuck in. I wanted to use the same angle and get as much out of that as I could which I think gives it a bit of a claustrophobic feel. Not to mention I really like the DIY aspect of the project and it’s just me doing everything. So I just set my phone up on a tripod and ran the song a bunch of times and tried to just relay to the camera what I was trying to get across.

“I wanted to show her different personalities and emotions. And the process of her thinking, which is where it goes from ‘fun, happy girl’ to ‘I’m a crying mess’ pretty quickly. I think my boys were pretty confused when I emerged from my room with a face covered in smeared make up, I looked like The Joker!”

Growing up in a musical household herself, it was possibly a full circle moment for Ward. The daughter of Perth singer/songwriter/musicians Boyd Wilson and Denise DeMarchi, as well as the niece of Baby Animals singer/guitarist, Suze DeMarchi, she witnessed both the glam and grim of music life from an early age.

“Music was everything,” she recalls. “My upbringing was bright, colourful and transient. I was an only child up until the age of about 14, so I was around adults a lot. I think I went to a dozen different schools which luckily suited my personality as I’m pretty adaptable. I learnt to be very independent. I liked making new friends. I had very strong female role models.

“My mum is an excellent singer and she and my Dad were always playing and writing and touring. We moved to Sydney when I was about six. We lived in a flat in Bondi. It was very buzzy. We had beautiful friends as family there, all the kids growing up with parents in the industry. One kids parents were touring, the others were the catering for Michael Jackson, another doing makeup for the next big thing. I remember my Aunty Suze picking me up from school with Deni Hines, it was the ‘90s and the song L-O-V-E Love was a big deal at the time (laughs). I learnt a lot from people around me, not just about the industry, but about the value of relationships.

“But also it was a different time, you really saw how much it took and how hard people had to work to get where they wanted. I saw the sweat. Without sounding old, things just didn’t happen at the pace they do now, and it wasn’t expected to. You were expected to work. I think that set me up for having pretty real expectations of myself.”

Unsurprisingly, Ward was compelled towards, if not a music career, then a musical life. She followed in a certain amount of footsteps but was clearly intent on making her own.

“As a late teen I did a lot of commercial/pop work, working with other writers, my Dad, Boyd Wilson, Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) and tried for a few publishing companies. I was also getting put forward for auditions for TV soap kinda stuff. I loved it all. I played a few solo shows and did some fill-ins for existing bands.”

It was fun and all, but as Ward puts it, a degree of teenage rebellion kicked in and she wanted to make her own moves. Welcome to the stage, Nici Blue Eyes…

“Nici Blue Eyes was something I started in about 2001,” she explains. “I went to Melbourne and played for a long time there in a band where I was writing the material. It was country, I loved Wanda Jackson and Dolly Parton and it was heavily influenced by that vibe. It was a lot of fun and I learnt so much. Just constantly playing so much teaches you a lot. And I had a lot of great opportunities playing up in Sydney, Big Day Out, supporting some great bands… The Super Suckers, Six Ft Hick, Graveyard Train and more.

“I loved that in Melbourne if you played country you’d still get put on the same bill as punk and rock’n’roll bands, it’s very inclusive there that way and I made some lifelong friends because of it. The band evolved with different members but I just got to the point where I wanted to do new things, change of scenery, whether that meant musically or otherwise I wasn’t sure at the time.”

Ward and Ben packed everything they hadn’t sold off into their ute and drove around Australia for six months, eventually making a return to Perth.

“After a few years of working out where we wanted to be and deciding to have a baby I was feeling pretty lost,” she reflects. “I think a lot of mums go through it, having a baby is such a sacrifice mentally and physically, and you end up just being this other person that you have to get to know. I knew I wanted to be playing again but I didn’t know how to go about it, really.

“I contacted Joe Bludge from The Painkillers who I’d known for years and we sat down and went through a bunch of songs I’d written. I love Joe as a songwriter, he’s very clever. We formed Petticoat Junkyard which was Joe, myself, his wife Sarah Norton playing bass and Adem K (Turnstyle) on drums. It was a cool little unit and I was just so grateful to be creating again. We put out an album and played some shows and then…. I had another baby (laughs). I took a long time out after my second child.”

Now, several years on, Ward says that home life is a balancing act. “The main goal always is that everyone is happy. Ben is a carpenter and runs his own business. I’m studying personal training at the moment and we have two kids in primary school. So, music for us is our joy, it’s our hobby and it’s something we are both passionate about.

“Only recently have we collaborated together and it’s been very interesting seeing how each other works in that way. I love that it’s constant learning. Being able to put your personal feelings aside and just learn from other people, creatively, is the best. I think we are both learning a lot from our kids too. Our youngest is music-obsessed and that’s been hilarious and incredible to watch, just letting him find his way and find the joy in it, and our oldest is a total mystery, he might end up being a zoo keeper or owning a pet shop he says (laughs) which is great! But there’s always music playing or being played.”

As for Lonesome Dove the future looks bright. Ward has several new songs in readiness for an EP release, including a track co-written with Ben Protasiewicz from Perth indie punk rockers, Pat Chow. The fulfillment that comes from playing and creating music is much its own reward when the world, in general, still faces unsteady times.

“I’m hoping Lonesome Dove ends up just being a constant vehicle for me to put music out and keep working with other people,” Ward reflects. “And as far as everything else goes it’s just day-by-day at the moment. We are so lucky where we live and it’s all about just working hard for what we love and enjoying it I think. So yeah, I think that’s it. Like us all I’m hanging to get back to live gigs! But it’s cool, it’ll all happen when it’s supposed to.”

FB – https://www.facebook.com/Lonesome-Dove-109312573803211/

WOMEN’S FEST FREO

WOMEN’S FEST FREO
Photo: Addison Axe of Axe Girl, Women’s Fest Freo 2020 headliners. Pic: Marnie Richardson @ Three Gates Media

Julia Weller exudes both confidence and an infectious positivity. Many Freo music community folks will know her not only as a friendly neighbourhood barkeep at Mojos, but as a personification of that venue’s open and equal charm.

That’s not all, however, Weller is also a musician and an activist for gender equality. She is the organiser of Women’s Fest Freo, which returns this weekend to Clancy’s Fish Pub after debuting in 2019 with great success.

“Last year was a crazy whirlwind, and exceeded my wildest expectations,” Weller says. “I was – like this year too – amazed by how many people jumped on board for gender equality. Every day leading up to the event last year I had more new ideas and just did them all. It taught me to ask for more help and made me realise I’ve got a really nice community to lean on. I basically went through the roof when I found out how much the event raised for UN Women Australia, with over $6,500 we were one of their biggest individually organised events of the year, whilst having a huge party!

“With so much local female lead talent playing and Abbe May headlining last year, all of the people helping out and donating to the festival, we had a colourful, safe and amazingly fun event. I could never have done it without the help of everyone involved.”

While ongoing steps towards equality in the music industry still need to be made, Weller feels that progress continues.

“Looking at the average line up of gigs nowadays, I can definitely see people are starting to think more about making gigs more diverse,” she states.

“Playing music in the Dan Howls Band and working at Mojos I definitely feel like women have stepped it right up and have been motivated to follow through in whatever way they uniquely choose to express themselves; and that is being celebrated more and more.”

Along with her own work Weller feels buoyed by the efforts of WA artists strongly flying the flag for gender equality.

“There is of course our very own Lucy Peach, Perth’s all ‘round legend feminist within her own right; informing the masses about the power of the period with her fantastic TED Talk and writing beautiful, empowering music,” she notes.

“Another person that comes to mind is Perth talent Stella Donnelly, for being such an outspoken and inspiring women in the music scene. I really appreciate her powerful songs about real things that happen and in my opinion, encouraging everybody to open up the conversation and make a change. That’s really inspiring.”

Julia Yemaya

Julia Weller performing at Mojos. Pic: Tashi Hall

Weller was born and raised in Holland and upon turning 18 felt compelled to head to our shores upon meeting some exuberant Australians at dinner. A few months later she landed in Sydney “and went north, from there on I slowly made my way across, living in the rainforest and the Kimberley along the way.

“When I came to Freo it was my first reintroduction to a ‘city’ – I had been living out of a swag for about two years. I started busking and made my way for a good couple of months before having to get a job. From there onward I started to integrate into the Freo community more and more, working at the Freo markets, coming back every summer, the bubble had started to take shape.

“Then I started playing music with Dan Howls and working at Mojos and I really started to be a part of the music industry. It gave me the confidence of pulling something like this off, something I probably wouldn’t have dared even in my hometown. That’s why I love Freo!”

Mojos has offered Weller a front seat to the music scene, from grass roots to touring icons. She likes what she sees.

“I’ve seen amazing gigs at Mojos of any gender,” she notes, “and I feel like diversity is definitely being promoted and encouraged. Also it’s a zero-tolerance venue, which is actually really amazing. Anyone who feels uncomfortable can come up to the bar, and the issue will be taken seriously and dealt with.”

Women’s Fest Freo features 11 female-led acts – Lois Olney Freaya (solo) Tanya Ransom, Joan & The Giants, Freddie Mai (Bass Lemon), Smol Fish, Bexx, Hannah Smillie (Psychotic Reactions), Grace Armstrong, Lucy Peach and headliners, Axe Girl.

“I love how the main thing connecting these bands is the celebration of women,” Weller says. “We’ve got loads of different genres on the same line-up which promotes diversity in itself. From 60’s inspired garage to jazz, feminist folk/pop to soulful blues/country to indie pop, we’ll go on a musical journey!”

Women’s Fest Freo will also feature a pay-as-you-like second-hand clothing stall, glitter, good cheer and, well, beer. Weller reinforces the fact that the event is a safe space for free expression.

“Absolutely everybody is invited,” she says. I hope people feel comfortable and encouraged to express, dance and dress how they like, celebrating diversity and bring these vibes along to other events too.”

Women’s Fest Freo takes places at Clancy’s Fish Pub Fremantle this Saturday, March 7, from 6pm. Pre-sale tickets are $25.50 (including booking fee) available here or $30 on the door. All proceeds go to UN Women, the biggest gender equality advocate worldwide.

More details on Women’s Fest Freo – Facebook.com/womensfestfreo

BONFIRE FOR THE COMMON MAN

BONFIRE FOR THE COMMON MAN

Rock’n’roll memories, it seems, beget newer/older ones.

Years ago this strange circus of music journalism cast me into the role as a co-curator of a WA music exhibition at the Western Australian Museum. It was a different endeavour for a cultural institution that tended to focus on more traditional histories and it attracted the curiosity of many of the museum’s regular staff as a result.

One such individual was a kindly security guard probably not that many years shy of retirement. As we spoke about the upcoming exhibition I came to learn that he had once played in the Fremantle Pipe Band with none other than Bon Scott.

‘Yeah I knew Ronnie’, he said, referring to the pre-fame ‘Bon’, one Ronald Belford Scott.

I asked if he ever caught up with his Pipe Band colleague, once his AC/DC glory days kicked in…

‘I did bump into him’, he recalled.

‘The last time I saw Ronnie was at Parry’s Department Store in Fremantle near the end of 1979. He said he was really happy to be home for Christmas’.

Sadly, only two months later in February, 1980, Ronnie from the Fremantle Pipe Band, aka Bon Scott, died in the back of a car as a result of a messy alcoholic misadventure in London. AC/DC famously went on to recruit Geordie vocalist, Brian Johnson, and a mere five months later released their seventh album, Back In Black, an immediate break-out success that went on to become one of the highest selling records in history. They have since had a long, storied reign at the top of rock’n’roll.

The misleadingly diminutive Bon Scott, meanwhile, only grew in stature. As one of the country’s most popular commemorative touring shows states in their very name, he is Bon But Not Forgotten. Scott is both history and myth, but most powerfully he remains adored and revered all over the globe in a manner approaching and reserved for the likes of Hendrix and Marley, possibly sharing as many paternity claims as the latter.

Scott’s gravesite at Fremantle Cemetery rivals the mortal remains of Jim Morrison’s resting place at Pere Lachaise in France when it comes to pilgrimages by masses of fans and celebrity admirers (Metallica, Faith No More, The Cult and every touring band who plays vaguely hard rocking music).

In 2003 the climactic scene of the feature film Thunderstruck featured the bumbling young bogan protagonists taking their departed mate’s stolen ashes across the country to scatter with Bon. I was there when they shot the scene, as was then-WA Premier Geoff Gallop. He got to be in the film, I didn’t, I merely covered the experience for Rolling Stone magazine, who decided not to run the article 12 months later after early reviews of the film proved less than encouraging.

Hey, it was nice to be there and surreal as surrealism among several hundred mega-fan extras. Hundreds of them arrived at once, walking down the hill – they were told to come and while they hadn’t already been there they were quite literally back in fucking black. ‘That would be a terrifying sight if this weren’t for a film’, I said looking towards the portly gentleman standing next to me. He nodded. It was the guy who played the Mayor of Parkes in The Dish. Well, golly goddamn!

The whole set shut down in silence when a Saturday morning funeral procession passed in the distance led by, you guessed it, a bagpipes player. You can’t write this stuff.

Oh, wait. I am. So, anyway…

In Fremantle Bon Scott is the patron saint of the unwashed and the well-to-doers who like the occasional bit of dirt underneath their finger nails. His statue at Fremantle Wharf is a photo/selfie-must have, attracting more chips – at least on his shoulder – than the seagulls.

Folks just love the bastard. Sooo much so that the Perth Festival with all its power and cultural might is closing down a good 10 kilometres (and 120 side-streets) of Canning Highway today, Sunday, March 1, embracing the myth and legend that is the song Highway To Hell and calling it just that. It’s the closing gambit for the festival’s 2020 incarnation – a culturally, logistically and cheerfully ambitious 40th anniversary celebration of AC/DC’s wildchild wunderkind.

The Perth Festival, nearing its 70th anniversary in 2023, has never previously celebrated a figure such as Scott. Indeed for, many years in Perth it was seen as an affluent Golden Triangle (Claremont/Cottesloe/Dalkeith) affair. A Bogan Barbecue? It would seem more fitting to call it a Bonfire For The Common Man.

It’s unlikely, however, that it would have happened a decade ago.

“The Festival, along with others, has helped break through those barriers in recent years,” says Event Organiser, Pete Stone. “Things like The Giants (2015’s mammoth marionette city takeover) have helped. I think it’s good to reflect on things like that when considering the maturing of Perth as a big city.”

The Perth Festival were from the earliest stages in touch with Scott’s family via their lawyer and Highway To Hell has their subsequent blessing. Stone sees the event as a spotlight on Perth’s southern corridor, with the various councils – Melville, Fremantle and East Fremantle – also viewing it in terms of the opportunities it presents.

The Highway To Hell concept was hatched in late 2018 by newly-minted Artistic Director, Iain Graindage. Stone, one of WA’s premier cultural can-do figures, as well as an accomplished musician in his own right, came on board in April, 2019. Consultations began with the three councils involved plus the State Government and its authoritative departments, Main Roads, Perth Transit Authority and the WA Police. According to Stone, it was never a case of ‘why do it?’ but ‘how it could be done’.

“We had a particular strategy we employed,” he says, “which was to start at the grass roots. We went to the three local councils who were to be involved, and they were very enthusiastic about the idea. So we took their support with us to the stage government agencies who would have to be involved, we slowly went through that process and gathered everyone’s support along the way and by the time we approached the higher levels of State Government we could demonstrate there were fundamental levels of support for the event, so it was easier to progress from there.”

There a wildness around the event that reflects the man himself. “There’s a risk around it, but that’s exciting,” Stone says. “I think that’s a good space for the festival to be in.”

While Stone is clear that he is an admirer of Bon Scott, rather than a card-carrying obsessive, there’s plenty of artists on this huge bill who are with him in more than spirit.

“The spirit of Bon Scott was probably Jack Daniels,” laughs Selina Paul, guitarist for all-girl AC/DC tribute, Ballbreaker. “But seriously, the spirit of Bon is all about living; being alive. It is evident in his lyrics that he was intent on having fun and lots of it. Always with a charming smile and a silly face on stage yet he was still a powerfully charismatic bolt of lightning. He made sure you knew he was – and if you didn’t like it then that was your problem – he loved being himself. That’s a lesson for anyone to learn.

“Bands from different parts of the country and around the world?  It’s exactly what Bon would have wanted – ‘All my friends are gonna be there too’… he knew what he was talking about!”

Old mate Callum Kramer, from The Southern River Band is a man who seems to have been cut from a similarly cheeky, outlawish yet curiously-well-fitting-cloth as Scott, concurs. Let the thunder and light-en-ing start.

“Bon Scott is freedom. The proverbial ‘middle finger’ directed wherever one sees fit, sometimes literally. One of the greatest working class poets known to humankind.

“If there’s gonna be something to shut half the highway down for, I can’t think of anything better than AC/DC. If playing Touch Too Much as loud as possible on the back of a goddamned truck is culture, well, paint me Stones Green Ginger Wine, and, bigger than everyone else.”

“As a performer, his charisma was pure magnetism,” says End Of Fashion’s Justin Burford. “He belongs in the same pantheon as Freddie, Prince and Jim, or any other rock icon you can name. But, I think what makes his legacy so enduring is despite how bright he shone, he seemed like an approachable, good Aussie bloke, keen to share a cold beer and a hearty laugh. He was everyone’s mate. That’s a hard balance to strike, but he did it effortlessly because it was authentically him.”

For the longest time now, Anna Gare has been a celebrity chef on TV shows such as Junior Masterchef, Consuming Passions and Best In Australia. In the ‘80s, however, she fronted The Jam Tarts, one of the funnest, most charismatic bands WA has ever seen. They were simply irrepressible and have reconvened for this event.

“We’re honoured to be asked and excited about the wild concept of closing down Canning Highway in memory of the legendary Bon Scott and AccaDacca,” she says.

“We weren’t planning on getting the band back together again, but this gig sounded too cool to resist. We’ll be channeling the spirit of Bon as best we can as we crank out a couple of AC/DC tunes. Long live rock’n’roll”

Echoing the iconic 1975  Long Way To The Top video where AC/DC performed on a flat-bed truck moving down Swanston Street in Melbourne, local, national and international bands (Shonen Knife, Amyl & The Sniffers, Odette Mercy, The Pigram Brothers and dozens more) will perform on moving semi-trailers, or at stops along the way.

Pubs on or near the route – including Clancy’s Fish Pub Canning Bridge, Raffles Hotel, Leopold Hotel and Mojos – will have their own satellite celebrations before, during and after the H2H shebang.

Cal Kramer’s pretty sure – in his own way – that he knows what we can all expect from this mammoth exercise.

“From what we can gather through modern information systems, the authentic swashbuckling, no holds barred attack bands from yesteryear – or in our case, today – pride themselves on,” he notes, sagely. “That, and a snug fitting pair of pants, potentially.”

Personally, I’m off to get the train. You can find full details at www.perthfestival.com.au/event/highway-to-hell

IN THE MOMENT, AT THE MOMENT

IN THE MOMENT, AT THE MOMENT

With a well-received debut EP, Holiday Dream, and a new single release, Three, both released in 2019, singer/songwriter Clay Western finds himself in a confident position staring into a brand new decade.

Western was pre-disposed to a musical existence. Whether it be listening to Elton John on an old tape player in his mother’s car as they drove around Denmark, or hearing his musician father’s predilection for the singer/songwriterly stuff of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and an Aussie rock diet led by Paul Kelly, the embrace and escape of playing music was soon to be his.

“I started singing when I was about 15 and I also played trombone,” Western recalls of his high school years. “I realised that trying to sing and play trombone was a bit much to ask, and I was listening to a lot of folk so guitar seemed the natural choice.”

Western’s voice was ‘discovered’ at high school, when, as a member of a choir ensemble he was repeatedly asked to perform solo pieces. Soon gaining confidence as a featured vocalist, and inspired by the folk-stylings of Sunshine Coast singer/songwriter, Ziggy Alberts, he was soon compelled to write and perform his own songs.

“I always put little twists on other people’s songs when I first started learning them and realised that you can make a song the way you want to make it,” he says of his early leaning towards songwriting. “I just started writing songs from that, it just seemed a natural thing that as a musician you wrote your own songs.

“I realised how rewarding it was to write your own stuff and the feeling that you get when you write a song then perform it and people react to the song that you’ve written. It’s hard to beat that feeling.”

Western, at that point yet to finish school, was soon busking around Denmark and picking up venue gigs whenever possible. It was a wonderful place to begin and grow as a musical artist.

“It’s an incredibly supportive and creative community,” he says fondly of Denmark. “Because you know so many people they’re always asking how your music is going and they’ll come along to your gigs or say hello when you’re busking or whatever.  Then you start collaborating with other artists out there and jamming. It was a very supportive culture around music.”

He was motivated and driven from the get-go, embarking on a solo path. “Stuff comes together if you just back yourself,” Western notes, and indeed it’s since been proven. At the age of 16 he supported indie-surf-gypsies Caravãna Sun in Denmark, striking up a friendship with guitarist/vocalist, Luke Carra, which eventually led Western to record a debut EP in Sydney in the months after he graduated from high school.

With Carra producing and Ian Pritchett (The Beautiful Girls/Angus & Julia Stone) engineering, that EP, Holiday Dream, was released in January, 2019, and set Western on a path forward marked by both commitment and learning.

“It feels like a long time ago,” he says of recording the EP and its subsequent release. “I feel like, ‘those songs are out there, what next?’ For the first time in a studio with a set of songs, I’m pretty stoked with how they turned out. I went in the studio totally green and have learnt so much since.”

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Keen to utilise those lessons, Western recently released a new single, Three. Fittingly, Three considers moving forward with a mindful grasp of the past. It’s not so much about regrets, as reflection…

“It’s about learning from your mistakes but not seeing them as mistakes,” Western explains, “more as fond memories from which you should appreciate for what you’ve learnt from them. I feel that shows, lyrically and stylistically, through the various elements of the song.”

“I think Three is definitely more a step in the direction that I want to take,” he says. “You’re always progressing as a writer, as an artist and as a musician in general,  so you’re never quite certain what the next step is gonna be, but I’m pretty stoked with how this came out in comparison to the first songs on the Holiday Dream EP.”

Indeed, the growing confidence does shine through, the track being something of a bridge towards new songs that will be unveiled in 2020 exploring mellow and dreamier climes.

“I’m always into the next thing,” Western says with a laugh. “I’m very in the moment at the moment.”

Fittingly, it’s 2020 vision from here. There’s been a lot of experience earned already and much more yet to taste.

“Since moving from Denmark to Fremantle last year I’ve been doing a lot of groundwork in making friends, going out to gigs and feeling a part of the scene,” he notes.

“I feel like it’s been a nice way to end the decade – sort of establishing myself in Perth and feeling like I can continue to grow into the start of a new decade, while keeping in touch with Denmark and my old friends. I feel I’m getting to where I want to be and looking back on the last year I feel I’ve come a long way as a person and as an artist.”

Clay Western performs at Mojos on Wednesday, February 26, with support from Jackson Carroll and Paige Valentine – https://www.facebook.com/events/1444355379048306/ …and at Nannup Music Festival, February 28-March 2, full details at www.nannupfestival.org.