A Punter’s Perspective 19 — Christmas Tidings

Anything is possible...
Anything is possible...

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#19 Christmas Tidings
First published in Trad and Now magazine, December 2009

Greetings, salutations, merry whatever to you and yours and good luck to your family.

Typically a sign-off but I thought I’d get the nice stuff going first.

My thanks to all the great gypsy music artists (and faux gypsies) who have provided interviews and sound bites and input into what was to be a brief look at gypsy music in Australia and selected parts of the world.

Ah, plans and deadlines and dumb yet inconvenient luck. All my interviews are in myriad formats and various locations around Canberra and surrounding NSW and getting them together in time to be very late for a missed deadline.

Will get that going for February.

But for now, sitting in a superb little organic café in Nimmitabel, woofing down a superb big breakfast and washing down the first of a couple of long blacks, while the friendly, cheery staff play glorious Celtic music and helpfully ask if the music’s too loud and are helping out an indecisive customer: I’m just a wee bit contented and happy about my Monday morning at work on the road in the music industry.

Yeah, a couple of personal pronouns to come, but if you infer this to be a total piece of self-indulgence then hello, we haven’t met and my name is Bill and I might get to see you at a festival soon.

OR sorry, old friend, that you still don’t get me and look, I’ll take away some of the angst in your life by unhooking you from Facebook.

What the hell am I driving at?

Around about the time this edition hits the streets, it will be Sunday 13 December 2009, and that will be a water-shed date for music and me.

Or rather, the music industry and me.

My motivation in sharing this (and it’s nothing new, and others have done so far more eloquently than I) is this.

Boundless worlds of joy and friends and connections and travel and good people and good times and new experiences are available to you if you just (to quote Rampaging Roy Slaven’s assessment when introducing me as MC about 16 years ago): ‘Suspend disbelief and imagine for a moment that Billy can actually do something. And he will be almost immediately. Ladies and gentlemen, your MC for this evening: Big Bill!’

Ladies and gentlemen….. make that women and men, or friends, or ‘hey you’: suspend disbelief and imagine that YOU can actually do those things you want to do.

Yes, bucket-loads of cash and winning tickets in power-lotto-scratch-draws can help. Or can they? What wonderfulness do you fly over to get to that far flung place for that hopefully life-changing experience?

OK, let me go back a step to unpack one of my frustrations of the past few years of dabbling in ‘the industry’ (whatever that is; blowed if I could pick it out of a line-up).

Right. If I hear one of these phrases or a derivative thereof one more time, I will not be responsible for my actions.

(Usually delivered over the top of spectacles, with a school ma’am-ish air.)

“Bill, what you have to realise is that we’re a community organisation. We’re not a professional organisation.”

“We’re a volunteer organisation. We’re not a professional organisation.”

“We don’t have the resources to fix that. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

“We’re doing everything we can.”

What a steaming pile of foetid llama droppings. Can llama droppings be foetid or is that just dingos’ kidneys?

27 minutes of battery left: self-discipline needed here.

Of course you can be both volunteer/community/charity and still professional. I can think of several just off the top of my head. But I’ll not mention them here, as I’d hate to either damn with faint/feint praise nor offend my omission or commission.

I’ll pick just one example.

If the state of your machinery that you use to produce the music and art so adored by your public is in such a run-down state of ill-repair that the knock-on effect is to drive members of your organisation totally batty, deprive them of precious time to do what they’re good at and enjoy, causes over-runs that then ark up volunteers against each other and have people swearing, storming off, and starting blood feuds that they’ll be reading about for centuries to come, you have options.

One option is: do nothing. I don’t mind Status Quo, but I’m more a fan of The Sweet.

Another option (which is especially salient) is to take the offers of a professional who is also a volunteer and empower them to raise extra funds, hit networks (people and organisations; hitting your servers and cables is rarely smart) and provide a means of QUICKLY fixing the problem.

Much better than sitting around over wine and cheese and flyers for the 2010 subscription season and whining like the engine of a 747 about the woeful state of things and how ‘there’s nothing we can do about it’.

Amateur hour.

17 mins of battery power left. There might be lots of pictures.

Amateurism and volunteerism and community spirit are WONDERFUL. They’re core to my being. The seven year old going around with Dad collecting Silver Circle money, the 12 year-old door-knocking for the Heart Foundation.

And the 22 year old accepting a donation from a former Tax Commissioner in the back garden and telling him with a straight face that if he keeps the receipt he can get a tax deduction.

The look was pure ‘former Tax Commissioner’. “Oh, Mr Speaker, that’s outrageous!”

Actually, it was more like, “You’ve got your donation, and done your stand-up, now bugger off, clever trousers!”

I’d wager that just everybody reading is a volunteer or community-active person in some capacity. It’s very typical of Australian society (home-grown and imported).

That doesn’t make us noble or worthy of laurels and wreaths every day, but my word, some people fully deserve those gongs from the local folk club or more National bodies, and those letters after their names have been earned.

I’m not quite that accomplished.

BUT the ones who do it well are the ones who can tell you that professionalism is a corner-stone of the mobs that do it well.

I have several missions in this life. Many. I can’t share them all just yet but a couple I have for starters are: to get Jonno Zilber (dot com) played on the Qantas in-flight sound programs, and to have The Feldons (dot com) playing behind the weather on SBS.

You can read more at my blog but for now, I’m going to stay true to my word and watch this machine power off and sh………

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