A Punter’s Perspective February 2014: Phone Drones

Put the bloody thing away!
Put the bloody thing away!

A Punter’s Perspective

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

Phone Drones

First published in Trad and Now magazine, February 2014

A funny thing happened on the way from the Illawarra Folk Festival.

It was Monday morning and I was walking to the Bulli train station in the light drizzle, a damp swag slung o’er the shoulder, a song in my heart and a tune in my pancreas. And as is my wont on a post-festival morn, I was ruminating on the music and song-filled days just passed when it suddenly struck me.

Something had been missing. Something had not been there. There had been a yawning chasm, a gaping void.

I couldn’t recall one single mobile phone sounding in a concert venue.

Not one loud blast of ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ at an inopportune time.

No sudden fanfare of Morris Dancing’s greatest hit in inglorious polymorphic tones.

And while others may have suffered in the auditory department from SMS Alertsville, I could not recall one chirp, beep or apocryphal whistling tone* to announce an incoming text message.

(* I’m a liberal with a small ‘l’, but the creation and use of this whistling alert sound for text messages is, in my book, justification enough for the re-introduction of capital punishment. Especially on Sydney trains.) Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective September 2012: Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own Part III

Nobody gonna break-a my stride. Just give me a minute...
Nobody gonna break-a my stride. Just give me a minute…

A Punter’s Perspective

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

Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own Part III

First published in Trad and Now magazine, September 2013

“Do you have to go on stage? Can’t you just get a radio mic and just let them know it starts in ten minutes off stage?”

The speaker was (and still is) a talented musician and a lovely bloke and what he was to say next was in no way meant to be demeaning. He was in his own pre-game/pre-show warm up and consequently his head was processing a few things and on auto-pilot.

Meanwhile, the MC was fatigued and slightly ill, on the road for 11 days and 3000 kms by road, rail, air, sea, and lots of walking, pack mule style. He…

Ok, let’s leave this third person malarkey alone. I had been on the train down the escarpment to the gig, nodding off slightly as the NSW Trains carriage gently rolled about from side to side within a narrow range of oscillation.

The phone had rung and the gig promoter had asked me to step in at the eleventh hour to MC the big, almost sold out extravaganza that many in the area had been building up to for many weeks.

An MC's pharmacy shelves
An MC’s pharmacy shelves

I’d literally run down Crown Street then back onto the one that runs parallel, stopping off for a bottle of medicine for later after the show. You know the sort of medicine I’m talking about. It comes in 700ml receptacles, this one was blended (many are single malt), and there are fine healers from Scotland who distill and distribute it for its magical, health-giving properties.

(As it happened, the stopper never came out and it stayed parked outside the venue, and I went to bed, un-dosed and with my medicine uncapped.)

Back to the Green Room. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective March 2014: No Such Things As Mistakes

Oops! There are no such things as mistakes.
Oops! There are no such things as mistakes.

A Punter’s Perspective: Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

No Such Things As Mistakes Part I

First published in Trad and Now magazine, March 2014

As has been the case from time to time in the seven years plus of A Punter’s Perspective, ’tis the night before deadline and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a half-decent idea for a folk music magazine article.

Realising my dilemma on the train to work today, I turned to the world’s font of most knowledge (and funny cat videos): Twitter. And I asked publicly to all, and pointedly to three or four music bloggers, what might a good topic be.

Image courtesy of The Dutch Guy
Image courtesy of The Dutch Guy

The answer came from a former radio presenter now blogger/vlogger (a kindred spirit, then) from the Netherlands who goes by the title of ‘The Dutch Guy’ (@DutchGuyOnAir), and he suggested:

“How about talking about some mistakes indie artists might make?”

By curious coincidence, this is a topic I’d considered before and only pulled back from it at the risk of causing offence.

Causing offence is a service I do occassionally provide — usually unintentionally.

I’ve put enough noses out of joint in the music world in the past nine years by commission, omission, or at the very least, blind stupidity, and have no need to add to that tally by more inadvertent misadventure.

I often say that I can have my intelligence insulted without willfully watching certain TV programs or listening to certain radio stations. (And that I didn’t mention them by name is at least a sign that I’m learning — slowly.)

Therefore, some disclaimers.

I am totally in awe of musicians, artists and singer-songwriters.

The concept of playing a three to 20-stringed instrument (or one you blow, slap, or pump) while singing and possibly dancing (or at least a little light duck-walking), and then doing that from 20 minutes at a time, for up to three or four hours, leaves me absolutely breathless.

disclaimer

Continue reading

Interview: Lucie Thorne on tour, 2014

Image courtesy of Lucie Thorne
Image courtesy of Lucie Thorne

Lucie Thorne is doing one of the things she does best — touring around Australia, making her way into major centres, but also visiting a few places off the beaten track.

After two successful runs in Australia in recent times with Pieta Brown, showcasing the ‘Love Over Gold‘ album, Lucie is back on the road solo, albeit with long time collaborator percussionist Hamish Stuart, and teaming up for a double bill in Bacchus Marsh with Liz Stringer.

I should stop mentioning that the locations for doing these interviews are a little weird.

I can’t remember the last time I did a straight face-to-face interview in a studio. For this brief chat, I was in the salubrious surrounds of a Brisbane City Youth Hostels Association dormitory room, finishing the interview just a moment before house-keeping arrived with the bins, hose, and industrial leaf blower. Lucie, meanwhile, was in South Australia relaxing on a friend’s property complete with 3D cattle.

If you’re reading this on the day of publication (Tuesday 3 June 2014) you can tune in and hear Lucie live on air on ABC 774 Melbourne with Lindy Burns from around about 9pm AEST. You can listen online.

*** Audio file will be deleted at the end of February 2020 ***

LT1-PhotoByGraemeRuck
Photo by Graeme Ruck, courtesy of Lucie Thorne

Continue reading

Interview: Michael Johnathon of Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour, 2014

Image courtesy of Woodsongs dot com and Michael Johnathon. Photo by Larry Neuzel.
Image courtesy of Woodsongs dot com and Michael Johnathon. Photo by Larry Neuzel.

Image courtesy of Woodsongs dot com and Michael Johnathon. Photo by Larry Neuzel.

From humble beginnings in 1998, from a small venue that sat just 20 people in the audience, Michael Johnathon has built the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour into a public broadcasting colossus. Woodsongs is heard and seen around the globe each week from its current home in the Lyric Theatre, Lexington KY.

The program showcases bands, performers and troupes from across the broad spectrum of bluegrass, Americana, roots, acoustic and alt-country, and a few others around the blurred edges of folk.

It’s a 100% community and volunteeer-run operation, making its longevity and sustainability all the more remarkable. And laudable.

It gets even better than that – but you’ll have to listen to the interview for the part that rocked me back on my heels.

And upturned kayak.

The show has reached an eye-watering 750+ episodes as of April 2014, many of which are freely available from the Woodsongs website in audio and video formats. Apart from its legion of individual listeners, Woodsongs has spawned a string of coffeehouse groups which meet to experience the show as a community.

The log cabin. Image courtesy of Michael Johnathon.
The log cabin. Image courtesy of Michael Johnathon.

And it’s not like Michael has anything else to do with his spare time.

Like being a singer-songwriter of many years standing. Or touring. Or arranging other concerts. Or building a log cabin and surrounding structures plus landscaping and bridges etc. bare-handed. Or being a father of two adult children (and two more on the way in one hit).

No, I lied. He’s all of that and more.

An just get a load of where he got his folk beginnings from. I can only interpret my silence at hearing who his neighbour was in upstate New York as a little mild shock and awe.

On a chilly autumnal morning in Sydney, I stepped off the Manly* Ferry and found a suitable-ish place to record an interview over the shaky airwaves from Australia to Lexington, Kentucky. A picture of my luxurious chair in the ‘recording studio’ appears below.

* For international audiences, ‘Manly’ refers to a suburb and location on the north side of Sydney Harbour named ‘Manly’. We don’t believe in forcing gender stereotypes onto our aquatic transport vessels. Actually, if anything, we refer to them as ‘her‘ for the most part. Continue reading