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.