2022 has been a big year for fans of Canadian folk-rocker Neil Young.
(Arguably it’s been a big year for Neil himself, but he wasn’t available for comment prior to press time.)
It’s been 50 years since Young’s seminal album ‘Harvest’ was released in February 1972. (The column author was in first grade at Rosary Demonstration School at the time and was sadly oblivious to this moment in musical history.) ‘Harvest’ was the best-selling album of 1972 in the USA and has remained Neil Young’s best-selling album to date.
‘Harvest’ was remastered and re-released on 2 December 2022, and not surprisingly in this digital, multi-platform age, it comes with a host of extras. The reissue comes in either vinyl or CD box set form, with both including two DVDs. Young’s much-bootlegged ‘BBC In Concert’ is included on CD and vinyl in the respective packages, and three ‘Harvest’ outtakes are also made available in physical form for the first time – on a third CD or a 7-inch record in the vinyl set.
And early December 2022 saw the debut limited release of the 1971 film ‘Harvest Time‘, a documentary covering the ‘Harvest Barn’ sessions at Young’s northern California farm, his performance with the London Symphony Orchestra in London, and in Nashville there are scenes of Young working on various album tracks.
Support act is the wonderfully talented local singer-songwriter Carla Geneve.
MTRC have a new seven-track EP out and about – ‘Back In The Day’. It’s a mixture of reworked Weddings, Parties, Anything and Mick Thomas and the Sure Thing tracks, plus some others from The Saints, Johnny Thunders, and Neil Young & Crazy Horse. It’s a teaser for a 2023 album in the works titled ‘Where Only Memory Can Find You’.
On Monday 12 December in Fremantle time for the interviewers, and just a tick or three of the clock into Tuesday for the interviewee in Melbourne, Mick generously gave some of his time at the witching hour to talk with Frank Hodges and Bill Quinn from 107.9FM Radio Fremantle about the upcoming dates in WA.
Bill Quinn: Hopefully on Saturday we can bung on some balmy weather, but joining as from the cold, Siberian-like/Arctic wasteland that is Melbourne, we can say hello, good evening, Mick Thomas.
Mick Thomas: Hello to you.
BQ: Is it as bad over there as we’re hearing? Is it really, really cold?
MT: It’s too cold for this time of year, in my opinion.
BQ: Mick, before we dive into questions about the EP and the upcoming album and the gigs, I’ve got a bit of a confession. In the last ten years or so, I’ve lost track of the Mick Thomas story since the days when I was part of the furniture at the Illawarra Folk Festival – where you were always a very welcome visitor to the Slacky Flat Pavilion.
Can you just fill us in with what you’ve been up to in the last ten years or so?
MT: I’ve been making records and putting together bands, different bands. Yeah, I just kept making music; that’s my thing. That’s why I keep making records.
The new thing is The Roving Commission which is me and Wally [‘Mark “Squeezebox Wally” Wallace] who was in the Weddings with me – Weddings, Parties, Anything. Wally came back into it and had a big part – a big role in it.
We thought we wanted a second singer in it, so we’ve run through a bunch from Shelley Short to Ayleen O’Hanlon to Jac Tonks to Brooke Russell. And we finally ended up with Brooke Taylor who’s there at the moment, and she’s sort of killing it, and we really like that.
So I really like that second singer. We’ve played lots, we’ve made some records during the lockdowns of Melbourne, which is something you guys in Perth didn’t get.
But we got it. It was pretty big and it was pretty strong, and it really affected us. But we made a couple of records. And we made them in our back rooms and we sent our files to each other. It was a big deal.
Having not ventured from Perth/Fremantle since landing in Western Australia in April 2022, it was great to zip off for two weeks in a rented campervan to see the great south west, mostly to take in the 2022 Albany International Folk ‘N Shanty Festival. Heading off towards a weekend of music, song, and good people is hard to beat.
It was my first time driving in Western Australia and proved quite the revelation. WA for me conjures up images of stark rocky ranges, miles of pindan dust, and a harsh, dry climate. But Freo to Albany and return via Denmark, Nannup, and Margaret River has the look and feel of south east NSW or Victoria. Dairy cow, vineyard, and tall tree country.
Albany is quite stunning. Turning up early and staying late was wise. A boat across Oyster Harbour and up Kalgan River, a morning zip around King George Sound on a whale-spotting boat, a spin out to the wind farm, and wanderings around the tops of Mounts Melville and Clarence (Corndarup) – all recommended diversions. Bring a jumper.
Add in a trip to a local brewery and the giniversity and that was a pretty full first visit. Now add 2.5 days of a shanty festival and stir liberally.
Overheard On The Road Observations, interviews, and stories from the backroads, main roads, and city streets of Terra Australis and the world – This article appeared in Trad & Now magazine in early 2021.
Barry Skipsey – Photographer, Singer-songwriter, Northern Territorian by Bill Quinn with Madison Collier
You can read all about it in Trad & Now edition 143, September 2021. Mentioned in dispatches is Barry Skipsey, a man of many talents, with a story to tell that’s in many ways a common tale: come to Australia’s Northern Territory for a few weeks; stay for decades.
But in the most important way, it’s unique to Barry Skipsey.
A man who just yesterday (as I type in late 2021) appeared on stage in Alice Springs with no less than Scotty Balfour, Ross Muir, and David Evans in the ‘Living Histories’ show: stories and songs from the legendary band Bloodwood, plus their solo adventures outside the band.
On a Sunday afternoon in June, The Shavings had finished their singing workshop and the afternoon concert was kicking in, we had a chat with Barry, dressed in his territory rig and leaning against his territory rig. (First rig is a clothes reference, the second is a mighty automobile that ploughs the Stuart Highway and beyond).
Bill Quinn: Barry, you’ve been doing folk for about 145 years?
Barry Skipsey: (Laughs) Seems like it. I’m only 64 but yeah, we’ve all got aches and pains. I’ve got a couple of brand new knees in recent years.
BQ: But you’re not originally from the Northern Territory?
BS: No, I was actually born on King Island. I’m a Tasmanian, technically.
I left there when I was about six years old. My father was over there building soldier settler homes. My brother and I were born there, and I left there when I was six. And I often say that we came to Australia. We came to Melbourne.
This article also appeared in Trad & Now magazine in August 2021.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and almost three hundred hearts were filled with music, song, poetry, and good cheer in June as the Top Half Folk Festival (THFF) returned – after a year on sick leave – to celebrate their milestone 50th annual event.
Covid19 had cancelled the festival in 2020, and conditions were still dicey in the lead-up (meaning some interstate visitors could not make the trek north). But it all kicked off in brilliant conditions and sublime surroundings at the Mary River Wilderness Retreat on the June long weekend.
While I’m not on commission for the venue, I highly recommend you add this little accommodation gem to your itinerary if you’re headed to the top end.
Situated just over 100kms east of Darwin along the Arnhem Highway, the cabins and sprawling campgrounds are tailor-made for a folk festival or a stopover. And the management have been generous and constant supporters of THFF since it moved to that locality in 2000.
Well, half of it moved there. Let’s go back a step.
This article also appeared in Trad & Nowmagazine in mid 2021.
While the world is in various stages, tiers, and iterations of lockdown thanks to corona virus, Australia is one nation that’s managed to escape relatively lightly with restrictions.
That’s doubly or even more so for Darwin.
After what I’ve termed ‘Lockdown Lite’, hospitality venues were starting to open here again in May 2020, gigs were on again from June 2020, festivals with some restrictions were on in July 2020, and open air music festivals were live and kicking by the end of the year that dare not speak its name. (Even though I have. Others still call 2020 ‘Voldemort’.)
It’ll be a while yet before we see international touring acts flooding back to our shores, but nationally, musicians are starting to shake the mothballs and cobwebs off their touring paraphernalia, and live music is limping back to life.
A welcome returnee to the north, Daniel Champagne is a hometown boy from Brogo, New South Wales. Brogo for me was always a bit blink-and-miss-it on the map, and be careful to slow down quick because the highway takes a mighty dogleg off the end of the bridge, though Daniel is a font of information about this fascinating part of the far NSW coast. (That all came over a dinner of Darwin music-related people on a monsoonally wet top end night, and before the recorder went on. Ask him about it sometime.)
The last time I interviewed Daniel was in a radio studio roughly 4000kms away, and ten or so years and a half dozen lifetimes ago, so as the wet season rains poured down in Nightcliff NT, we sat at an outside table under the awning and got a more up to date state of play.
Bill Quinn: Daniel, as a temporary resident I can say: Welcome to Darwin!
Daniel Champagne: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
I had met Meg very late one misty evening in the main street of Katoomba, as my kitten and I were having a late dinner before heading back to Sydney.
(Long story short: ‘Boris‘ was my temporary charge and I rehomed him a few months later in far north western Sydney. He has fond memories of the Blue Mountains.)
Meg was heavily involved in placing acts in Live and Local, and she spoke to me first about that event and then about Music Hunter.
Text of the interview with Meg Benson:
Bill Quinn: For those unfamiliar with the Blue Mountains of New South Wales,, you might not know that this area is just a hot-bed of music, art, talent, and festivals. If you’ve been around Katoomba, you might have already been to the ukulele festival, you might know that the Blue Mountains Music Festival has just finished.
But there’s so much more coming up this year, and it starts probably tonight, but on Saturday there’s something very important happening. To tell us all about that, Meg Benson from Music Hunter is with us.
Meg Benson: Hello, Bill. Thank you for having me.
BQ: Tell us about what’s happening on Saturday.
MB: I’m very enthusiastic to share our festival information for Katoomba Live and Local that’s happening this Saturday.
Our program itself is accomplished, experienced, seasoned musicians and also emerging, fresh talent. And 25 percent of our performers are under 25 years.
We also have quite a strong (about 12 percent) Aboriginal performers, we’ve got some multicultural performers, some South American music, Mongolian throat-singing, Turkish music, Celtic, jazz, blues, classical, hip hop, electronica – we have a lot of diversity here in the Blue Mountains.
And yes, it’s live and local.
So Live and Local is a strategic initiative that we can’t take the credit for, but it’s something we jumped at because for me, I was really happy to be a part of it because it’s part of my values to create opportunities for musicians that are dignified.
In one day, in Katoomba, 80 musicians are going to get paid $150 each for a 45 minute set – obviously some of them are in groups so they’re not all solo.
On top of that, we have community groups, larger ensembles, and some schools appearing as well – we’ve got a bit of ‘rent a crowd’ there.
So basically we’ve got quite a good cross-section of our community performing this Saturday between 2 and 8pm in the CBD of Katoomba.
The Live and Local initiative is something that was funded by Create New South Wales, and administered through the Live Music Office of New South Wales. And this initiative in Katoomba is led by council, and then their task was to engage with local music industry movers and shakers, which is me – Music Hunter, the event organiser, curator, and co-publicist.
BQ: 80 performers are getting paid to perform at a half to one-day festival; that’s quite remarkable.
MB: Exactly, that’s why it’s so exciting.
I think that’s the reason why I started organising events ten years ago was to create dignified opportunities for musicians. Some of them would find it hard to get a platform to play; they’re not really going to be wanting to play in a really noisy pub. They do want an attentive audience.
However, this festival is kind of unique. What I would normally present is where you might hear a pin drop. OR I do those loud, full-bodied dancing and full sound events in some pubs, and that’s a different type of thing again.
What we’re doing here at this festival is we’re not just caring about the musicians, we’re also caring about the local businesses, and we’re not doing a festival with street closures and bringing in musicians from other areas. All of these musicians are local and at least 50% of the band is local; in most cases it’s between 75% and 100%, depending on the number of people in the band.
So that’s pretty cool, but what we’re doing with the venues is we’re also activating the economic impact of our town by having the concerts inside existing businesses. Some of them are non-traditional music venues such as galleries, cafes. We have three galleries. We really wanted them to be a part of it.
We do have the Baroque Room, which is a traditional performance venue. We do have the church hall called Junction 142 which has a capacity of about 150 people in there, it’s quite a nice one. And Big Beat is our 100% deadly venue which is right in the civic centre arcade, a central part of the festival.
We have Aunty Jack’s which, in the past, did have a bit of a history with a bit of groovy jazz and things like that. But it’s been a pancake place, it’s been a Korean place. These guys are new so it’s going to be a really nice way to welcome them into the town.
We’ve even got one in the food court, we’ve got one in a tiny little cafe called The Elephant Bean which has got one solo act there.
So there’s really a chance to have a wander around Katoomba Street and check out our little business area.
BQ: You mention Create New South Wales, you mention the council. I’ve really been cheered in the last few years by seeing so many councils in travels through Queensland and New South Wales and ACT where they’re wanting to engage with independent musicians, they’re wanting to put a focus on business, and they’re wanting to get past that fly-in, fly-out that some festivals have.
It looks like you’ve got all of that in spades.
MB: Yeah, and so once again, this year the Live and Local model that was presented to us – and in fact the Live Music Office only administers this to councils – and this strategy was specifically made for councils in the western Sydney area and regional areas of New South Wales. So Mudgee, Orange, Hawkesbury, Camden, Parramatta.
And if you have a little look on Youtube, you might find a Parramatta Live and Local Youtube clip. You’ll definitely be able to find one after ours.
We’re pretty proud of the number of musicians we’ve got. We’ve attracted a fair bit of attention from the funders and ministers, so they’ll be rolling up in packs to our official opening and being official guests there, because I think everyone’s quite excited about…
Let’s just say we don’t do anything in halves up here!
We only do music really well up here. We already have quite a few people that give a lot to keeping it going. There’s three of us that are doing it pretty hardcore, and there’s probably another three movers and shakers that do it occasionally.
And something unique is happening up here and between us we’re creating an impact that is more important than whether we feel competitive in a small market place. And the need for creating more opportunities for the large amount of professional, talented musicians, there is a need for it.
Personally myself, I can’t meet all of that need even though I’ll be seen as someone who I felt like I was filling a gap when I started it. I got limitless requests and I realised it was a really big area, so when other people came out to play and started adopting a similar model to what I was doing, which was putting the right act in the right place and being an independent host not attached to one single venue.
That’s quite a unique thing up here, and so there’s a couple of other promoters up here that do that really well. And you know what? Since they’ve come on the scene, I haven’t actually had less people come to my events, so what I like is that together we’re taking that burden on. We weren’t deluded that we were going to get rich quick, but we decided to do it anyway, so we’re doing it.
So, it’s actually nice. Some of those promoters have been on the festival committee and there’s various other brilliant people: braddiedrich.com who’s helped with some data and graphic design. I’ve really enjoyed the collaboration and the sense of not being alone, and being part of such a brilliant initiative. When doing something that has so many good feelings and right ethics from the start, it’s really easy to get cooperation from people around you.
I don’t put my hand up to help at things when I don’t pay musicians. I might not get paid a lot in doing that, but it’s certainly not my hobby to organise things where people don’t get paid. So, for me to be involved in this and to experience how far that good will travels, that people are so excited that this many musicians are getting paid.
We’ve got a band like the Penny Dreadful. They’ve got a 14 year old drummer and an 18 year old and it’s really cool. They’re doing a 45 minute set, they’re being paid $600 and it’s encouraging for them.
BQ: Where can people find out about Live and Local online?
MB: We created a website and it’s KatoombaLiveAndLocal.com.au [expired site?] From that website, you’ve got options to connect up with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Facbook page is probably the most active one.
The festival is on one day between 2 and 8pm, so don’t think it’s at night time otherwise you’ll miss it. Having said that, if you do miss it, you can come to one of my other events that I’m running after that. Yes, I am crazy, but I already had that commitment before I said yes to this festival. So I’ve got an amazing gypsy jazz performer down at the Clarendon.
But anyway, we’re not here to talk about that!
BQ: Yeah, you can!
MB: [Meg goes on to talk about the utility of the website, however, it seems to have since disappeared off the face of the earth, and the Facebook page appears to have been stripped of all content.]
BQ: And I’m going to guess there’s a radio station that’s also behind you as well.
MB: Yes, we’ve had ads on the radio for the last month, and I just recorded three new ones yesterday morning and they’ve already been on air, just for the last piece of excitement, so people don’t hear the same old ads they’ve heard for the previous three months.
BQ: And that radio station is?
MB: Radio Blue Mountains 89.1FM! And that’s brilliant, and we’ve also given them a gold-plated invitation to have a fund-raising barbecue at Junction 142 – 142 is conveniently the number they are in the street (Katoomba Street) so you won’t lose them.
And they’ll be doing the barbecue there so you can meet some of the characters who volunteer. That’s very convenient, because that venue doesn’t have a cafe; musos and volunteers get hungry, and that’s very handy.
BQ: So that’s all happening on Saturday 7 April at Katoomba. It’s Live and Local. And look for Music Hunter – that’s not in the Hunter Valley where I am at the moment, it’s up in the Blue Mountains. It all happens on Saturday between 2-8pm, and do stick around for the ticketed events afterwards.
Meg, thank you so much for talking with us tonight on Overheard Productions, and have a fantastic festival.
MB: Thank you very much, and maybe we’ll see you, but if we don’t, we’ll see you next time!
While that’s bad news for anyone on site who missed his gigs, or for anyone who got along and just wants to see more, the good news for John is that he can now find a shady tree and try to keep cool for the rest of the festival.
“This weather is too hot for my blood!” he observed to the lunchtime crowd of Duck Eggs, as he referred to them, in a friendly way.
While pumping up the nachos at The Chef’s Table and their other gastronomical delights.
Bill Quinn was phonetically challenged….
I’m sorry, I’ll read that again.
Bill Quinn was challenged in terms of phone access which left John with some extra time to enjoy the shade of the Coopers Bar, but they eventually caught up for a chat:
*** Audio file will be deleted by end of March 2020 ***
*** Audio file will be deleted by end of March 2020 ***
Yard of Blondes are preparing to release an album later in 2020, and they’ve just launched their second single ahead of the full record. Lowland, a jaunty, upbeat indy pop track (with maybe some darker themes just under the surface) is a great follow-up to last year’s release of You and I & I, a heavier, rockier track.
Yard of Blondes are based in Culver City, just near Los Angeles, USA but their roots come from across the Atlantic in France. Fanny Hill (bass, vocals, and one half of the French connection) got in touch about an interview, and a few days later on a sweltering late summer day in Darwin, Australia I was talking down the line with Vincent Jacob (guitar, vocals et aussi de la belle France).
Bill Quinn: G’day, Vincent.
Vincent Jacob: Hello. How are you?
BQ: Good, and as I found when I did a little bit of research about the band, I can also say: Bonsoir, ça va? Bienvenue, et c’est un plaisir de vous parler.
VJ: Oh, quel bon français. Bon! Ça va.
BQ: Un peu. Seulement un peu!
Now that we’ve gone down that [French] road, Vince, can you tell me about the origins of the band in France.
VJ: So, actually we started the band in the US, but Fanny and I, the founders of the band, we’re both French.
But we met in Los Angeles.
We were playing music separately in France, both of us, and then we landed in the US – we didn’t know each other – and we met. I guess we were there for the same reason; we needed to escape Europe for a bit, and we ended up in the sun on Venice Beach in LA and we met.
Fanny was here on vacation; she didn’t plan to stay, but we started making music together, and she wanted to stay, so we stayed.
We had friends in common, but they didn’t introduce us at all. We met randomly!
While sitting in the media centre, writing in the last post about how Overheard Productions got its name, Bill Quinn overheard David Cyrus MacDonald drop in to talk with the office staff.
About 3.6 minutes later, David and Bill were outside the donga by the Spirit of Woodford office, standing variously on the wooden palets or in the mud, dodging dangerous ants the size of small cats, and speaking over the sound spill creeping up the hill from Bluestown, chatting about Paper Lions, music advocacy, and the wondrous, wonderful Woodford.