Thursday, December 17, 2009

Save Peregian Originals

I wrote this editorial piece for my local newspaper in response to the Sunshine Coast Regional Council's decision to shut down the long running Peregian Originals concert series event. This free community music event takes place in a park in Peregian by the seaside and has been held bi-monthly for the past ten years.

For me, the beauty of Peregian Originals began when I moved to the Sunshine Coast several years ago. I read an article in this very publication about a ‘free music event’ and decided it would be worth checking out. I didn’t know a single soul on the coast back then.

As someone who has travelled extensively – I know what it’s like to walk the streets of a town where nobody knows your name. That feeling of being ghost-like as you move through the crowd of unfamiliar faces. Total anonymity is not always a bad thing, but when I returned from my time overseas and experienced this feeling in my own hometown – Sydney – I decided I wanted to live in a place where there was a sense of belonging.

As I sat in the park at that first Peregian Originals concert and noticed the people on picnic blankets around me smiling and greeting each other like old friends – I realised I’d found my ‘home’.

Back then, I had no plans to pursue a career in music but I kept attending the event and soon got to know the warm-hearted bunch of musicians behind the live music scene. I started writing songs again, energised by a powerful creative force that exists here on the Coast and soon enough, I played my first Peregian Originals.

My debut album, which was penned in Peregian, was recorded last year. I’ve spent the past 12 months touring it - performing at countless venues and events including some of the country’s biggest music festivals. I’ve met a lot of musicians during my time on the road and when they ask me about the live music scene on the Sunshine Coast I tell them proudly about Peregian Originals and they are always amazed.

You see, most independent touring artists are forced to do pub gigs - where the crowd is too busy guzzling beers and playing the pokies to care about the music taking place. For them, a gig with a guaranteed crowd of 400, a stage under the blue sky and the ocean just metres away – well, it’s dreamlike. Yet for a huge number of Sunshine Coast musicians, this gig has been a blessed reality.

But there’s so much more to this concert series than just music and if you’ve never attended, it would be hard for you to understand. In all my travels I’ve never seen a music event where grandmothers share a grassy dancefloor with teenagers and toddlers. Where mums and dads feel comfortable to let their kids run free around the park, knowing they will be protected by the caring energy of the crowd. Where people gather to truly connect with one another.

Some people don’t understand the beauty of community. They don’t understand that Peregian Originals is not an ‘event’ that you can just shut down or move around. Peregian Originals is a family and the park behind Peregian Surfclub is our home.

As the movie The Castle so passionately states:

“You can acquire a house but you can’t acquire a home because a home is not built of bricks and mortar but love and memories. You can’t pay for it, and you’re just short changing people if you try”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Q Song, Yeppoon and the Happy Sun

There’s nothing like celebrating the end of a fabulous festival weekend with an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet dinner at the Happy Sun restaurant in Yeppoon.

I’m not sure what convinced my best friend and I to dine at this particular eatery on the Capricorn Coast. Maybe it was the ornate Asian-style awning hanging over the front door or possibly the tennis-court fake grass at the entrance or just that good old fashioned value-for-money thing kicking in which seemed to override that other old fashioned principle of eating food that contains some sort of nutritional value. But what can I say, I’m a sucker for a good spring roll.

Ah Yeppoon! I have just come back from two nights up north performing at The Village Festival and it just might have taken the lead on my “fave fest” list.

Not only does the town offer buffets on a Sunday night…it also has the most eerie looking bat colony I’ve ever seen. I’m talking thousands of little black tear drops hanging from mangrove swamp trees in the broad daylight, launching into flight as night falls over the seaside town. I won’t go into the town’s claim to fame when it comes to the Hendra virus because it might give you the wrong idea about this wonderful part of the world which is home to one of the most professional and friendly little music festivals in Oz.

Why so good? It was a beautiful mix of awesome talent (including the AMAZING Mr Percival, Mojo Webb, Tijuana Cartel, Rosie Burgess), a well designed festival site with two intimate main stages, perfect weather, friendly and dedicated volunteers, a festival shop run by a superwoman called Leanne…and lovely punters (not to mention that I got to hang with my bestie all weekend). YAY for Yeppoon!

The festival topped off a pretty exciting week for me after winning the Q Music Encouragement Award at last week’s Q Song ceremony in Brisbane. A little bit of pee might have come out when they called my name, but I managed to control the bladder long enough to get on stage and accept my snaz-looking glass trophy which, I’ve discovered, when placed on my stereo opposite my television reflects the images so perfectly that I can view my favourite program whilst seated on the loo (not that this hippy is addicted to trashy TV or anything – but I do appreciate multi-functional things). I also won a full day in a recording studio in Brisbane which I plan to use to put down a few new tunes.

The award resulted in some extra airplay last week – with Tip Toes played on ABC Brisbane, ABC Coast FM and Triple J. ABC Radio National’s Michael Mackenzie mentioned the award on his program after he played Brown Shoes last week, saying Aniseed Tea was “one of the great local albums of this year”. YAY and YAY again!

I had a really special gig a few weekends ago here on the Sunshine Coast. It was a private house concert in Eumundi – unplugged, just me in the lounge room - chatting and singing for forty people in a beautiful home surrounded by tropical trees. I’d really like to do more of these intimate kind of shows….so if you know of anyone with a space that would suit a house concert and friends who love to listen to music…feel free to pass on my details!

If you live in Sydney – I have two dates free at the moment – October 15 or 18 and would love to fill them with a house concert-style gig.

I think that’s about all. Oh – if you tweet – I am now on twitter so feel free to follow me (

Sunny Coasters….I’m going to be playing Peregian Originals next month so put September 20 in the diary and pray for sunshineJ

Sydney gigs coming up after that and hopefully (crossing all my fingers and toes) I’ll be back at Woodford at the end of the year. I should find out in a few weeks time.

Thanks for reading! Sending you all the good stuff.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dreams and schemes and nectarines...Tassie tour

3 February, 2009

Sometimes control-freaks need to let go. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I had decided before flying down to Tassie that I would not book accommodation between the two festivals I had to play down there, even though the control-freak within was rather traumatized at the idea of rocking up to a new town without a place to stay.

You see, I used to be good at the whole “letting go thing” when I traveled around the world and lived overseas…but after a few years back in this western world I’ve become a little more anxious about things that I don’t really need to be anxious about….like accommodation in Hobart between music festivals.

So I set myself a goal on my Tassie tour to, well, ‘wing it’... like they do in the movies. You know - that conversation between some hippy chick holding her guitar sitting in a bus station and that handsome stranger who pulls up in a cool car and says “Heya honey, where you heading?” (Of course those movies often end in some kind of filthy sicko crime being played out by the not-so-kind-stranger…but I am talking about movies with happy endings!)

I flew down to Tassie and headed for Cygnet, which happens to be one of the cutest towns in Tasmania. As I walked around, surveying the sweetness, I pulled out my roll of sticky tape and pile of gig posters and began plastering the town – as you do. It didn’t take long for a tall young man to approach me and begin asking about the poster, my gigs and my time in Tasmania. We got talking about my plan to “trust in the universe” and my current struggle as I fought off the fact that - come Monday - I had no place to stay.

Turns out, this tall stranger owned a little concrete boat. He said it was ugly and green and moored in ....Hobart.... and that he’d been planning on taking it for a little run, over to some island. He asked whether I wanted to join him on such an adventure and ….I said "yes".
I spent the next two days asking random festival-goers if they thought it was a wise idea to set sail with a tall stranger. Most of them said “no”.

The following day I asked the tall stranger two questions, which I’d decided were vital when it came to my final decision: What’s the name of your boat? What is the name of the island?
Both began with the letter “B”…. it was a done deal! The lucky letter was the alchemist-style omen I was looking for. That, and the fact that my gut had registered goodness from this young man right from the start.

And so, after a delightful festival and some memorable gigs, the tall stranger and I set sail for Bruny Island - with a box full of nectarines and a few good books. I was a little uncertain I’d made the right decision as we left the harbour and entered rough seas. He kinda went all quiet on me as the white water began crashing over the boat and the pots and pans began falling to the floor.

Then came the “Yeah, I’ve never really sailed down this passage when it’s so rough. You don’t mind if we stop talking for awhile – do you? I’ve just got to focus for a bit” (which was followed by his tongue doing that concentration thing when it sticks out, searching with uncertainty for the top lip).

There was little a control-freak could do but support this tall stranger’s battle with mother nature by offering up occasional words of reassurance (“um, I don’t really know you very well but you are doing an AMAZING job and I am sure we are not going to die”) and catching the kitchen goods as they fell.

Thankfully, as expected, the letter “B” pulled through and we made it to calm waters….cheers-ing the victory with our first two nectarines.

We anchored in a peaceful bay where the surface of the green ocean seemed glass-like … where the almost full moon cast luminous triangles of light in the night blackness.
There we spent the week - far from cars, bars, televisions, telephones, computers, commuters, reality and responsibility.

Back to simplicity… where the goals were just to sleep, eat, listen to the water lap at the side of an ugly green boat and believe that the conversation you were having - be it about the state of the global economy, the nature of human beings, the beauty of a veggie patch, or the way the heart can break from loneliness - could quite possibly change the course of history in some way.
A week later, after my first gig at the second festival, on my last weekend in Tasmania, I fell asleep on a patch of grass in the late afternoon sun in Georgetown. I was woken by a man in his early 60s. The following conversation took place:

“Hello, are you okay there?”
“Yes, sorry, just taking a little nap”
“Oh, did you know that you are napping on my front lawn?”
“Shit, no, oops. I was so tired, I just saw this nice patch of grass and thought it looked like a good place to rest”
“Ha! Well you keep sleeping then. I just wanted to make sure you were OK”

He went back into his serviced apartment and I stayed in that square of fading sunlight for another half an hour before he reappeared from his balcony:

“Are you hungry? I can cook you some dinner if you like?”

Sensing this man was a little lonely and after a week on a boat, realising I could trust the universe to keep me from being murdered - horror-movie-style, I picked up my bag and walked towards his door.

He cooked me a beautiful meal….and as I sat in his swanky apartment, full of the latest gadgets and appliances and big screen everythings, he told me about his wife and grown-up daughter back in Melbourne. About how hard he has worked, and still does, to provide for them. He works for a big company - most of the time seven days a week - interstate, overseas – he works, and works, and works. ....

He looked weary and at the end of our time together I asked him a question that I was certain would end the conversation on a high note:

“So, you work so hard…surely you must have big dreams for your retirement?! What’s the big dream??”

There was a long pause, and then:

“My wife and I used to talk about traveling around Australia in a campervan but we don’t really talk about that anymore. I think I stopped dreaming ten years ago”

I wonder whether, at one point in his life, he sat on the roof of an ugly green boat in a silent bay with a box full of nectarines and dreams. And if so, what happened to him in the years that followed that made him stop feasting.

On the road with Tété

14 October, 2008

Now, I'm not a religious person, but I can tell you that as I flapped around like an interpretive dance-bird inside the Mullumbimby Civic Hall on the final night of this mini tour, I think I may have seen the light, or at least had a 'moment' with the universe.

Maybe it was the fact the hall was church-like in its interior design, maybe it was because it was full of fellow music lovers who felt inspired to get up and dance within minutes of Tété beginning his set (although I must say that their enthusiastic moves could have been influenced by a bit of the green stuff pre-gig…not sure how I can justify my own stylishness given I was sober)…which leads me back to that religious experience.....

Do you ever have moments in your life when you say to yourself (often out loud, if you are as crazy as me) "I can't believe this is MY life!" and you feel ridiculously high and happy and joyful … and begin jumping and prancing and dancing and feel inspired to do running leaps across whatever room you are in (thankfully this particular joy hit me during a music concert full of hippies so my interpretive dance was not so out of place or shocking to anyone).

What led me to bust these particular moves you ask? Well, it was the build up of joy (the kind of joy that makes unhappy people want to hate you) from three days on the road which began when I picked up the beautiful Nicolle Lane (who had organised the tour) from Brisbane on the first day. We drove to Byron Bay (please note – many place names beginning with the letter B on this tour which was bound to make it magic!) through rolling green hills, past sleepy cows and along ocean roads to meet Tété.

We took to the highway - three different people, from three different backgrounds, with no shared history in a hire car which we named Mavis…because she smelt like the perfume your nana used to wear (not that my nana was called Mavis - her name was Jutta - and she never wore perfume...but it made sense at the time).

Mavis carried us from gig to gig, allowing us the perfect little nana-bubble to share the stories of how we came to be here, on this highway, with each other.

For Tété, it began when he broke his leg and his mother bought him a guitar to help him pass the time as his body recovered from the injury. Little did he know that would be the start of a career which would have him signed with a major record label, sell half a million albums and play to packed stadiums across Europe.

Between the stories, there were rest stops....
Like the antique store near Tweed Heads full of marine paraphernalia … anchors covered in barnacles, treasure chests, shells, frayed ropes and rusty ship windows.

Across the road from that store is a public toilet next to a river where everything is automated…you have to press a button to enter, a button for toilet paper, a button for soap and another button for water…and yet there's no button to turn off the speaker above the loo which blasts "What the world needs now, is love sweet love".

There's a McDonalds restaurant between the Gold Coast and Byron that has an usually large photo on the wall (like, it takes up the entire wall as if it were photo-wallpaper) of a young man sitting on the roof of his car smiling as he looks out across the, well, we were not sure what he was looking out towards but we were certain there was some sort of subliminal message about Maccas being the key to life long independence and freedom....

In Surfers Paradise there is a Queensland Women's Association shop amongst the skanky pubs and nightclubs where they sell homemade beanies and shawls and aprons. "Yes, we've been here for 40 years" said the old lady behind the counter (whose name just may have been Mavis) when I expressed joy over discovering so many knitted goods quietly tucked away in the craziness of Surfers Paradise...

On our last day together we walked through Mullumbimby in search of a hearty meal ahead of our final gig. We strolled past a boy and his mother on the footpath. He would have been eight years old. He was wearing a batman t-shirt and looked up at his mum and said, in the most matter of fact ways - "But I know that fairies aren't real".

Maybe he's right. I am usually the realist in any given conversation. The girl who finds those purple sparkly stickers on the back of cars that say "Magic Happens" rather nauseating.
But, on Saturday night as I stood at the back of the Mullumbimby Civic Hall and watched this world class performer beam musical love across the dancing hippies, I allowed myself to get carried away with the fairies.

I have this goal-diary which lists the things I want to achieve with my music. Six months ago I wrote down "Get a support spot with an internationally recognised artist". I ticked that box last night.

I'd also set myself another goal - "Sell 47 CDs on my Tété tour".

I sold 15.

I put a huge smiley face in that box…to remind myself of a tour full of laughter, life-changing music and fairy-inspired interpretive dance moves :-)

The Pope, a tiny baby, a winter tour

August 1, 2008

To say my mini tour was a memorable one would be an understatement. I managed, with great skill, to time my tour to coincide with not only the coldest time of year in Melbourne but also the largest gathering in Sydney since the 2000 Olympic Games…World Youth Day.

With my eight dollar pure wool, fully lined, knee length jacket from Vinnies – I felt quite prepared for the cold of Melbourne's winter. The fact that the guy in first coffee shop I walked in to actually allowed me to use the loo without buying a beverage made me believe that despite the cold, Melbourne was a place full of warm and kind people (every city must pass the pee-without-purchase-test if they are to be given the tick of Ange-approval)

Adding to the warmth, the musicians of Melbourne – talented, kind, witty and welcoming. In particular Mick Hazelman who not only gave me a roof over my head whilst in town but also stepped in as my unofficial guitar-tech during my gig. You are the best Mick!

I was blown away by the performers who took to the stage at the Melodica acoustic music festival which was organised by Undercover Music Lovers and held at The Wesley Anne. If you haven't heard of Hazel Brown and her band OTOUTO then look her up. She's ridiculously talented for someone so young… and is beautiful to boot…some girls have it all!

The audience at the festival was generous with its silence and a pleasure to perform for but I think that has a lot to do with venues like the Wesley Anne which offer acoustic live music an intimate space, great sound system and magical stage.

My second gig was at The Empress with the delightful Kate Rowe whose comical song about breaking up with a man she's never met ensured I took to the stage with a smile on my dial. My set was followed by the always captivating Young Werther…and if all goes to plan these two songwriters will be helping me launch my album on the Sunny Coast in October!

I left the calm of Melbourne suburbia for a crowded airport full of pilgrims in their hundreds - gathering to fly to Sydney. (To paint the picture….yellow and red backpacks, big white WORLD YOUTH DAY passes flapping around necks….big smiles on every happy face, praise the lord, our lord)

Now I am usually the way-cool muso chick at the airport who carries her guitar with pride as she walks up to the check-in counter but given that every second Filipino nun had a guitar strapped to her back - I was not feeling my usual rock star self!

I will try to avoid cursing the Pontiff and sending myself to hell at this point but I will say that I hold him completely responsible for my guitar going MIA on the flight from Melbourne to Sydney.

By the time I touched down, Sydney airport baggage handlers had gone into meltdown. Chaos reigned amongst the carousels and conveyor belts thanks to more than 100,000 people having flown into Sydney for the religious occassion.
There were piles of unclaimed suitcases mounting in the hallways. More concerning - the guitar cases scattered like musical dead bodies around the terminal.

When my baby didn't turn up at the oversize baggage section I searched through these piles, despite the man in the luminous yellow vest yelling at me "you won't find it in here love, these guitars and bags arrived on a flight from London this morning". Joy!

I was told by the lost baggage lady that my guitar had most likely gone on to Honolulu. As you do, when you are a guitar that has flow from Melbourne to Sydney.

Three days later, one day before my Sydney gig, my beautiful guitar was hand delivered to my parents house by a Jetstar courier dude who remarked "you must be here for the Pope ay, gonna play a few tunes in the guitar for the pilgrims ay?".

Special mention must be made of Nicolle Lane…the creative beautiful young woman behind Undercover Music Lovers who helped organise both Sydney and Melbourne gigs. A true problem solver, she'd vowed to find me a guitar - come Papal rain or shine for my Sydney gig....but thankfully the Maton returned unharmed.

Another musician I must mention is Brian Campeau who, thanks to Miss Nicolle, was part of my Sydney gig. Not only is he Canadian (I have such a soft spot, as some of you may know) but his name also starts with the letter B (another soft spot) AND he's a guitar songwriting genius!

Despite a beautiful gig, I can't say that Sydney – with its Kumbaya singers on every corner and cold southerly winds – offered me much 'love'. As the mini tour wrapped up, I began counting down the hours and dreaming of warm Sunny Coast air.

Life changes so quickly. From counting hours to counting contractions on my sister's hospital monitor in Canberra. From worrying about my cold feet in bed, to looking in disbelief at the tiny toes of her newborn baby who decided to enter the world three months before her due date.

And knowing I would have traded all the warmth in the world for her to have stayed inside the womb for a few more months, a few more weeks, a few more days.