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: Billy Bragg previews his March 2014 Australian/New Zealand Tooth And Nail tour (text version)

Billy Bragg's Australian Tooth and Nail tour
Billy Bragg’s Australian Tooth and Nail tour, March 2014. Image courtesy of Billy Bragg.

Interview audio version first posted in Timber and Steel in September 2013.
Interview text version first published in January 2014 edition of Trad and Now magazine.

Recorded in the studios of community radio station 2XX-FM, Canberra.

Thanks as always to these three venerable institutions for the very fine work they do in supporting folk and independent music in Australia.

In March 2014, Billy Bragg will be touring Australia with band on his ‘Tooth and Nail’ tour, part of a worldwide expo of his latest studio album. Last year, I interviewed Billy as he made a whirlwind promotional tour to Australia. We revisited some old themes and looked forward to this year’s tour.

[For the time poor, the full audio file of this interview (including outtakes featuring gratuitous underwear references) is at: Timber and Steel.]

Having interviewed Billy a year and four days previously, I started by asking him what the last 369 days had comprised.

Melbourne Recital Hall, Melbourne. 19 October 2012.
Melbourne Recital Hall, Melbourne. 19 October 2012.

Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective #43: Overheard at the 2013 National Folk Festival

The iconic National Folk Festival bunting
The iconic National Folk Festival bunting

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#43 Overheard at the 2013 National Folk Festival

First published in Trad and Now magazine, April 2013

I usually stop short of epithets like ‘the best’, ‘the greatest’ or such like. But in a relatively short experience of the National Folk Festival (my ninth of a possible 47), this year’s was definitely the most anticipated Nash I’ve personally known of.

A number of variables made the lead up to this one a little tantalising.

The organisers made no bones about the fact that it’s been testing times for the National. Some may shudder at words they’ve used like ‘consolidation’, ‘challenge’ and ‘sustainable’, but I’m actually a bit of a fan.

If there are threats to a festival’s viability, you can either fix a smile and adopt a ‘Move on, nothing to see here, all is well’ approach. Or squat on your heels, furrow brows, chew bits of bark and declare we’ll all be rooned.

Or you can call a spade a spade (not a manual earth-moving device) and accept there are indeed challenges and forge ahead.

Disclaimer: I’m observing all of this from some distance, and am NOT privy to any of the National’s internal machinations. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective #42: 2013 Cobargo Folk Festival

2013 Cobargo Folk Festival
2013 Cobargo Folk Festival — it were a wee bit wet!

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#42 2013 Cobargo Folk Festival

First published in Trad and Now magazine, March 2013

Like many festivals I include in my yearly routine, I’m not even going to approximate any sort of objectivity here.

I love the Cobargo Folk Festival.

It’s been an irregular destination for six years, but what a place to end up at?

Whether you’re coming from the north or the south, the approaches through gently rolling green hills and valleys are captivating. Despite having familial ties in the Eurobodalla Shire slightly to the north, it was only on way to my first Cobargo that I drove past Lake Corunna, and nearly ran off the road as I sucked all the oxygen from the surrounding atmosphere.

It’s a stunning part of the world.

And the festival site looks like it was placed there by an inspired land surveyor/geo-spatial technician/landscape art historian. I will never tire of simply drifting around the site from top to bottom, over the ridge and back again, finding some new perspective, some new aspect, some new way the light has hit the trees or crept through a cloud outside the venue, at just the right time and just the right angle.

And all that before the music’s even started. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective #41: Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own II

Belting out drivel on a smartphone at the Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.
Belting out drivel on a smartphone at the Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#41 Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own II

First published in Trad and Now magazine, February 2013

This is where the text goes. Normally.

This article was written in the bar of the Carrington Hotel one Tuesday morning as I stretched the monthly friendship with Trad and Now’s very personable editor to get something vaguely printable in by the sometimes usually rubbery marker some people refer to as a deadline.

I had several challenges that day, not the least of which was a dead laptop.

So over the course of about two and a half hours, I wrote and submitted my article in text on a Samsung Galaxy I.

It was a bit silly. Nay, it was a lot silly.

I didn’t think I still had it, but it’s there in my sent emails on Gmail. I’ll probably save a copy into Dropbox for posterity’s sake.

But I don’t see any need to regurgitate it here now. It’s more for continuity than anything else.

I had a timely and amusing reminder of my publisher’s good humour and brevity of phrase when I told him some weeks later that normal service would be resumed in the March edition. His response was simply:

“Good.”

The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.
The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.

A Punter’s Perspective #40: Don’t Mention The Wall! (Interview)

Don't Mention The Wall! Rob and Deta Rayner. Image courtesy of Rob and Deta.
Don’t Mention The Wall! Rob and Deta Rayner (Germany). Image courtesy of Rob and Deta Rayner.

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#40 Don’t Mention The Wall!

First published on the Timber and Steel blog on 2 January 2013
Second published in Trad and Now magazine, January 2013

Berlin folk pop band The Beez have been frequent visitors to Australia in recent years with their latest tour taking place at the start of 2012. The band is now taking a short break at the start of 2013, however, band members Rob and Deta Rayner will be coming to Australia very shortly with a new show: Don’t Mention The Wall! – songs and stories  from the fall of the Berlin Wall and beyond.

On a variously muggy mid-summer’s Australian morning or frosty Berlin midnight hour, depending on your hemispherical perspective, I spoke with Rob Rayner on the line from Berlin about the show.

Bill Quinn: The Beez left our shores back in April, was it?

Rob Rayner: It was May. It was the epic tour of four months. We never thought we’d get through four months but we did. AND the amazing thing is that we’re still talking to each other! Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective #39: Warren “Arch” Bishop: Bush folklore for the kids

Arch Bishop (centre) at 2012 Illawarra Folk Festival with Peter 'Pearl' McLeod, Rick Saur, Rosie McDonald and Billy Arnett
Arch Bishop (centre) at 2012 Illawarra Folk Festival with Peter ‘Pearl’ McLeod, Rick Saur, Rosie McDonald and Billy Arnett. Photo by Bill Quinn.

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#39 Warren “Arch” Bishop: Bush folklore for the kids

First published in Trad and Now magazine, December 2012

When I was introduced to “Arch Bishop” at Cobargo Folk Festival in 2007, it took a while to confirm there wasn’t some sort of wind-up going on. (After I’d genuflected, crossed myself, mumbled ‘Your Excellency’, and kissed his ring – just in case).

Warren Bishop (universally known as Arch or Archie) is a master of the straight-face. He even got me hook, line and sinker when I rang for this interview, though I can’t repeat the story here until ‘Trad and Now’ magazine develops a sealed section.

“Arch” is a larger than life part of the New South Wales folk festival scene as a poet, story-teller and raconteur. He’s a man who loves to laugh – especially if he’s sharing the joke with others.

And stories. He’s got more stories than….. a very tall building that has lots of floors. Lately he’s been finding new horizons for this mastery of the spoken word, and it was these developments and potential new pursuits I was keen to talk with him about. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective #38: The Good Intentions — Americana from the UK

Peter Davies and Gabi Monk. Image courtesy of The Good Intentions.
Peter Davies and Gabi Monk. Image courtesy of The Good Intentions.

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#38 The Good Intentions: Americana from the UK

First published on the Timber and Steel blog on 5 November 2012
Second published in Trad and Now magazine, November 2012

For 20 to 30 years, I’ve been aware of the UK TV series ‘7 Up’ and its sequels without ever having watched them. I’ve wanted to, but as they’ve come along in seven-yearly updates, I’ve had this chronologically pedantic need to see them in order.

I mean, you wouldn’t start watching Star Wars at Episode IV now, would you?

Oh wait…

(I should mention at this point that the ‘7 Up’ mentioned here is not a carbonated beverage, and the ’56 Up’ that will soon be mentioned is not the middle-aged version with added cranberry juice, added fibre and iron supplements for the senior on the go. Click on the above link for a catch-up on this TV series that chronicles the changing lives of a group of Britons at seven-yearly intervals, starting at age seven.)

Fearing I might not live long enough to see them in order, my initiation to the series was the redux of ‘42 Up’ at the end of October on SBS TV in Australia, and then two days later, the debut of the latest offering: ’56 Up’.

My interest was slightly piqued in ’42 Up’ when the show’s host mentioned that a couple of participants had pulled out along the way. I idly wondered whether they would rejoin at a later point.

Sure enough, one of the first vignettes in ’56 Up’ included one R. Peter Davies, and when he quite clearly stated his reason for rejoining the program, I literally clapped and applauded:

Peter wanted to get some publicity for his independent band.

There may be more worthy causes but they’re not springing to mind right now.

Before the segment was over, I was looking up ‘The Good Intentions’ on social media, and through the wonders of technology, mutually agreeable diaries, and time zone differences, just under four days later, I had phone and recording device perched precariously on the compost bin under the carport, and was having a chat with Peter Davies and Gabi Monk, two-thirds of the band that also includes Francesco Roskell. Continue reading