Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shane Nicholson at the East Brunswick Club

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It was a lovely show at the East Brunswick Club on Thursday night where Shane Nicholson was the star attraction. A decent enough crowd showed up, certainly more than when I saw Shane perform there in 2006, when only about ten of us die hard fans made it. Amazing but true that an artist of the calibre of Shane Nicholson could draw that small an audience.

In the main he’s yet to be discovered as an individual artist outside his association with his wife Kasey Chambers. He’s a better songwriter than her and has a really fine voice that is pleasing to the ear. He is also a master of several instruments and is an ace guitarist.

Bad Machines was officially released yesterday, though I acquired a copy at Port Fairy, so have given it a pretty thorough run through the player. It’s Shane in country mode, and he does country twang as splendidly as he does pop and rock.

Anyway back to the show…

Chris Altmann and his Que Paso band opened the show with a raucous set showcasing songs from the Que Paso album with a few covers from Neal Young and others. Chris is moving to Canada in May so this was one of my last chances to see him live, so despite the rather uneven sound mix of his set, I can’t complain too much as he’s one of our best local artists and will be missed .

It was aural relief when Shane Nicholson took the stage. This time he was accompanied by fiddle/mandolin player Luke Mullen (?) and bass guitarist Chris Hale, who was playing with Shane for the first time. Shane in fact did not know his surname initially and got it wrong a second time with profuse apologies ensuing.

With Shane on acoustic guitar the threesome were actually perfect together, creating a beautiful ambiance that complemented Shane’s tunes. Chris Hale also provided backing vocals, assuming the role of Kasey on one song, whereupon Shane quipped “You’d better not get any ideas.”

Shane relished the chance to be “off the leash” as he puts it, performing solo shows, though he did sing one of Kasey’s songs from Rattlin’ Bones album during a solo sequence that included Once In A While and the beautiful new song The Broken Things, which simultaneously reminds me of Julie Miller’s song Broken Things and Guy Clark’s Stuff That Works, though written from a completely different stand point.

As I’ve remarked before , a Shane Nicholson solo concert is a rare pleasure to witness. I truly hope that Bad Machines brings him the acclaim he rightly deserves as a songwriter, vocalist and composer.

I didn’t get the set list this time, but noted it as follows:

  1. Famous Last Words
  2. Where The Water Goes
  3. Monkey On A Wire
  4. Blueberry Pie
  5. Jimmie Rodgers Was A Vampire
  6. Once In A While
  7. Your Day Will Come (written by Kasey)
  8. The Broken Things
  9. Music Is Dead
  10. God & Elvis
  11. The House That Never Was
  12. Summer Dress
  13. Please Don’t Bury Me (John Prine cover)
  14. Trick Knee Blues
  15. Walkin’ Cane (Robert Earl Keen cover)
  16. Bad Machines


  1. Unwed Fathers (John Prine cover)
  2. White Freightliner Blues (Townes Van Zandt cover)

Monday, March 21, 2011

JTE, Joe Pug et al

I'm suffering badly from Music Festival lag today, but I will endeavour to post about the recent Justin Townes Earle concert at the Forum on Friday night and the Joe Pug show at the Toff In Town last night.

Firstly the JTE concert, where unfortunately I was unable to to obtain photographs owing to a ban on cameras that was rigorously enforced by security persons dispersed throughout the theatre.

This irked me somewhat, but it certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the show.

There were two support acts before Justin took the stage, first Lanie Lane, budding songstress from NSW who is described pretty aptly elsewhere as “evoking the growl of Nina Simone, the softness of Ella Fitzgerald, and the sass of Billie Holiday”.

She was followed by the dynamic Joe Pug. More about him after.

Justin was accompanied by fiddler Josh Hedley who provided very tasteful fiddle variations on the familiar JTE repertoire and also vocal harmonies.

Justin was as usual in very fine form and very funny at times, for instance when talking about his relationship with his dad where he avers that his father describes him as “a hard dog to keep under the porch”. Justin’s quip in answer to this was “at least I don’t marry every woman I fuck”.

JTE played his usual run of songs, Who Killed John Henry, Mama’s Eyes, Midnight at the Movies, Halfway to Jackson etc. He also dedicated his song Christchurch Woman to the victims of the earthquake in that city.

At one point he played a superb blues number which I have not heard before and performed a fabulous version of Bruce Springsteen's Racing In The Streets.

In the encore he called Lanie Lane and Joe Pug back to the stage for a gospeller rendition of Harlem River Blues.

The Forum was pretty well packed for Justin’s show, though not sold out, so it seems to me that the days of seeing JTE perform in small intimate venues is numbered, if not totally a thing of the past.

Joe Pug at the Toff


As you can see from the photo above, there was no problem with taking photos at the Toff In Town. I’ve only been to the venue once before, coincidently to the first Justin Townes Earle concert in Melbourne back in December 2008.

That time it was standing only, but last night they had provided tables and chairs to those punters who arrived early enough to claim them. Naturally, in accordance with my usual fierceness in queuing early, my friend and I managed to score a table in front of the stage – essential for snapping good photos.

It was a long wait until the show began at 9.00pm or thereabouts - the doors opened at 7.30pm.

However, all snitches aside once the show started it was magic from start to finish.

Local artist Chris Altmann opened the show with a set drawn from original songs on his very successful country rock CD Que Paso , along with a rather good cover of the Hank Williams classic Your Cheatin’ Heart.


Then there was Joe Pug…

Over the past week or so I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing Joe Pug perform three times. By the time last night came around I almost knew his songs by heart, but that doesn’t mean that I had grown tired of them; the more I heard, the more I wanted.

Joe Pug is a dynamic, passionate performer and you can feel his sincerity and love of music palpably in his stage show.

He reminds me somewhat of the young Dylan, both in his song writing and presentation, though he has a miles better voice than the revered Bob. He writes killer songs, with finely honed lyrics, often very biting and anti establishment. I love good songs myself, and always prefer a good lyric over anything else. I suppose having a literary bent inclines me this way.

Anyway, it was gratifying that last night Joe was the star attraction, as he played a much more comprehensive set than I’d heard previously, but still included the songs I’ve grown fond of over the past few weeks, like Nobody’s Man, Nation of Heat, I Do My Father’s Drugs, Speak Plainly Diana, Bury Me Far (from my uniform) and Dodging the Wind to name a few of the 14 or so songs he performed.

Chris Altmann returned to the stage for the encore for two covers from The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo, I am a Pilgrim and Hickory Wind.

Joe ended the night with a new song possibly called Road of Bones as sussed from the set list I lifted from the stage at the end of the show. Joe very obligingly signed it for me later. He’s a super friendly, personable young man who obviously enjoys connecting with his fans. He’s certainly won me.


I've only one more show to attend this week - Shane Nicholson at East Brunswick Club on Thursday. That'll do me for a while.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Tim O’Brien Magic Medicine Show

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After queuing for 45 minutes in order to obtain some of the limited seating available last night at the East Brunswick Club, and enduring the scrum situation that resulted at the entry to the band room where two queues were converging from different directions, we managed to secure front row seats for the Tim O’Brien show.

It was worth the effort, Tim putting on an engaging performance, displaying his effortless mastery of mandolin, fiddle and banjo.

There were two support acts, a guy called Christof, originally from the Netherlands, who played a short singer/songwriter set, winning over the audience with his natural unassuming charm.

He was followed by local duo Luke Plumb and Peter Daffy who warmed up the crowd with a fine set driven by their mandolin/guitar combo. Luke Plumb plays the mandolin with extraordinary passion, in an ornate style reminiscent of the Willy P Bennett.

Finally Tim O’Brien and his Two Oceans cohorts took the stage for a longish set full of wonderful, perfectly executed Americana tunes, mixed with a few of Tim’s originals. Tim O’Brien comes across as a genial soul, with a dry ironic wit. He’s fond of telling fiddle and banjo jokes.

I managed to snaffle the set list from the stage after the encore. Just as I did this Tim O’Brien came back to the stage for something. Thinking he was after his set list, I handed it to him, but all he did was sign it and give it back to me, much to the envy of at least one person in the audience.


I also got Tim to sign my copy of his great Dylan tribute album Red On Blonde, wherein a selection of well known Dylan songs are given the Bluegrass treatment. It’s a CD I play often, always marvelling at the cleverness and listen ability of it.

Tonight I’m off to see Justin Townes Earle at the Forum Theatre. It should be an ace show with Joe Pug as the support act.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Autumn Racing Carnival 2011 – Week 6 – Ranvet Stakes & Coolmore Classic

Maluckday to run in the Ranvet Stakes

The focus of the horse racing world switches to Sydney this weekend for two feature Group One races at the Rosehill track – the Ranvet Stakes and the Coolmore Classic, plus several choice Group Two competitions.
The Slipper previews for two year olds look interesting. The Todman Stakes ( 1200 metres) is one for the boys and stars Blue Diamond winner Sepoy strutting his stuff in Sydney for the first time. The small field of five seems ripe for the picking by the unbeaten Sepoy. It’s really just a matter of how much he wins by. It would be very surprising to see him beaten, though the also unbeaten Foxwedge might mount a challenge .

The Riesling Stakes for the fillies also has a small field of six entrants. Satin Shoes is the choice pick here and will probably win again as she has in her only three starts. Elite Falls looks to be her main opponent having run second to Satin Shoes in her last two outings. The extra 100 metres could make a difference, but Satin Shoes should cope with that, no worries.

More Joyous, always a joy to see racing, will be contesting the Group Two Canterbury Stakes (1300 metres). Last year’s Doncaster winner Rangirangdoo resumes in this and could threaten the star mare, but she has an edge over the distance, Rangi preferring it a little longer. Also in the reckoning is Love Conquers All and Demerit, also resuming from a spell.

The first of the Group One races, the Ranvet Stakes (2000 metres) has attracted a field of seven stayers, including Descarado and Maluckyday, who represent the top chances. One or other of the mares Sacred Choice and Keep The Peace could cause an upset.

The Coolmore Classic , a Group One race for fillies and mares run over 1500 metres, has been won over the years by some top fillies and mares – Sunline , Tuesday Joy and Typhoon Tracy for instance.

There are 17 acceptances for this race, almost a bigger field than all the aforementioned put together. There are no outstanding runners but I’ll be watching to see how Graceful Anna performs. She’s been allocated the bridesmaid position in her last three starts, so here’s hoping she can win this. She has the services of top jockey Damien Oliver which increases her chances. Melito as usual cannot be dismissed out of hand, though she has failed to win beyond 1400 metres. I have a soft spot for Lady Lynette as she is the great granddaughter of one of my favourite fillies who raced in the 1980s. Born To Be Queen was her name and she won the 1986 Metropolitan and ran third in the Victorian Derby in 1985. Lady Lynette may be outclassed here, but she has been a winner in weaker company. Others worthy of consideration are Montana Flyer, Aloha, More Strawberries, Warpath and the Peter Moody trained Miss Gai Flyer.

Though last week was out as far as previewing the racing action, I did follow it up even though I only witnessed one race – the Newmarket Handicap where Black Caviar carved her name into the history books with an effortless win carrying top weight. Her next race is the William Reid Stakes on Friday week at Moonee Valley. I’d love to attend in person, but I am committed to going elsewhere that evening.

Martin Simpson at Basement Discs

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More music today, with the second in store for the year at Basement Discs featuring British folk singer Martin Simpson. He was much talked about at Port Fairy though I only managed to see a snippet of his performance there.

So I am glad I got this opportunity to see Martin Simpson play today as he is a very accomplished performer, both musically and vocally.

He played a variety of songs, from Scottish Border Ballads such as Sir Patrick Spens, to a protest song written by his father in law Roy Bailey. He also sang a wonderful, deeply moving, song about about his father - a sharp portrait piece of a feckless dreamy man who could neither save any money nor hold down a job.

Tonight I’m off to see Tim O’Brien at the East Brunswick Club.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Port Fairy Folk Festival Postscript

Well I’m back home and still somewhat spun out after an excellent weekend of quality music.

As festivals go – not that I’ve been to many – the Port Fairy festival has to be one of the best organised and laid back music events in Australia. I was impressed and pleasantly surprised by the whole experience.

I’ve briefly posted on the first two days of the festival, so here’s a brief run down of Sunday events.

The highlight of the day for me was Shane Nicholson’s set on Stage 4, Sunday evening. He’s very underrated, but perhaps the release of his latest CD Bad Machines will change all that. It was available at Port Fairy, though the official release date is March 25. Naturally I purchased a copy and also got it signed by Shane when he and Kasey were hanging around after Joe Pug’s set on Saturday evening. They are both big fans of Joe Pug, not surprisingly, it is well known that they appreciate quality song writing.

shane_nicholson 003_b

It’s a rare pleasure to see a Shane Nicholson solo performance. He opened with the lovely Broken Things, currently my favourite song from his new record and went on to play a total of fifteen songs, some from the new album and others from Rattlin’ Bones and Familiar Ghosts. Kasey joined him for One More Night, then departed, informing Shane (so he reported) that she was off to see Joe Pug, whose show was on at the same time.

Here’s the set list for those interested.

  1. Broken Things
  2. Where the Water Goes
  3. God & Elvis
  4. Famous Last Words
  5. Monkey on a Wire
  6. Jimmie Rodgers Was A Vampire
  7. Short Fuse Part 4
  8. Summer Dress
  9. Once In A While
  10. One More Year
  11. Blueberry Pie
  12. Bad Machines
  13. The House That Never Was
  14. Not You Again
  15. Trick Knee Blues

Besides the Shane Nicholson show, I also saw Western Australian band Blue Shaddy. Their show was fast and frenetic, and yes, fast and frenetic all the way through. The harmonica player Belly McClennand was amazingly energetic. He was drenched with sweat after only a short time. The band is a family affair, with brothers Belly and Jim (who plays a mean guitar), with Jim’s wife Sandra playing bass. The young, unrelated drummer was pretty good as well.

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Throughout the afternoon, I sampled several acts, including Tim O’Brien and Crooked Still again.

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I get to see Tim O’Brien once more on Thursday night at the East Brunswick Club, where Shane will be performing the following week.

I was sorry to miss Justin Townes Earle on Sunday night, but the tent was jam packed. However, I have tickets to his show at the Forum on Friday night this week.

All in all it was a wonderful Festival, and to cap it off, the weather was perfect all weekend.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Port Fairy–Day 2 & 3

A perfect sunny day welcomed the beginning of the festival on Friday. The main events kicked off at around six o’clock.

Rather than to commit to one show initially, I roamed around the festival site getting my bearings.


I eventually settled on Stage 3 where Luca Bloom was about to play. I have never seen Luca Bloom live before so was interested to see what all the hype was about.

He’s an engaging troubadour from Ireland.

He was followed by Crooked Still, more my type of music. A four piece Nugrass band from the USA, their brief set was delightful. Lead singer Aoife O’Donovan’s voice has been compared to Alison Krauss.


Whereas Friday was pleasantly warm and sunny, Saturday turned out hot and summery. Horror Country band, Graveyard Train were literally sweating in streamlets throughout their set of macabre songs which focus on the darker themes of ghosts, werewolves and graveyards.

graveyard train

I took time out in the afternoon to watch the Newmarket Handicap at the Star Hotel. As the horses were being loaded into the stalls, a sizeable crowd of drinkers gathered to watch an historic moment in racing history. Black Caviar won easily by several lengths despite lumping 58 kg, a record weight for a mare in the race. As she broke free from the pack, the crowd in the bar cheered uproariously to celebrate her perfect 10 from 10.

Back to festival - in the evening we grabbed a front row position in the Stage 4 tent, for two splendid acts.
First up was Joe Pug, singer/songwriter from Chicago. He’s a riveting act, playing his excellent songs with intensity and passion.

joe pug

Joe Pug was followed by bluegrass and multi instrument maestro Tim O'Brien and his Two Oceans trio – in a word superb.


This morning is the first time I’ve been able to write without extreme glare making the process almost impossible. I’ll be investing in a laptop antiglare screen as soon as I get home.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sea Change–Day One at Port Fairy


Arrived here yesterday afternoon after a relaxing train trip and am writing this from the accommodation, which is a short distance to the beach. The above picture I snapped last evening when the tide was out.

Fortunately the mobile broadband dongle works a treat, so reportage will be possible.

More news will be forthcoming when the festival begins this evening.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Port Fairy Bound

pflighthouse (Small)

Tomorrow I’m heading off to the Port Fairy Folk Festival for a weekend of music at the seaside. I’m travelling by train then bus as my original ride has come down with the flu. I don’t drive a car so public transport is the go.

I don’t mind – I’m fond of the leisurely style of public transport and enjoy my own company.

The only other music festival I have attended was the Thredbo Blues Festival in January 2002, which I had won in a draw on Rhythms Magazine. It was a great prize – travel, accommodation and entry to the festival were all included, and it was a very enjoyable weekend in a spectacular location with great music.

I wasn’t contemplating going to the Port Fairy festival at all, but one of my Nu Country friends had a room going begging at the accommodation she regularly books for the weekend of the festival, so I figured why not get away from the big smoke for a few days and take in the vibes of the festival, and of course see any number of my favourite artists who are performing.

Here’s the poster with the complete line-up of artists. Click for a larger view


I will try and post from Port Fairy throughout the weekend, time and internet connection permitting or else report when I return.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Autumn Racing Carnival 2011 – Week 4 – Australian Guineas

We Can Say It Now – classy New Zealand filly

Only two Group One races this weekend, the Australian Guineas at Flemington and the Chipping Norton Stakes at Warwick Farm in Sydney.

Both are 1600 metre races, the Guineas being for three year olds and the Chipping Norton being a standard weight for age competition.

The Australian Guineas has an intriguing field, with several of the top contestants being from other states and in one case, from New Zealand. The West Australian colt Playing God seems the top pick. He has a picket fence against his name in the form guide, and a number of those wins have been in open company against older horses. Like wise the classy New Zealand filly We Can Say It Now aiming to emulate Miss Finland who won in 2007, one of the few fillies to ever win this race. The other class filly is Southern Speed from South Australia. Only lightly raced, she has remained unbeaten in all three of her starts to date. Local hopefuls who are in with a chance are Bullbars, who won his last start the CS Hayes Stakes after running second to Enjin Number Nine in the Manfred Stakes, Spirited Eagle, who ran second to Bullbars in the CS Hayes and Enjin Number Nine, who though disappointing in that race after starting favourite, is worth another chance. Anacheeva who won the Caulfield Guineas in Spring has shown none of his former brilliance this autumn, but blinkers may make a difference.

It’s a very open race with no clear cut winner as has been the case in the majority of the recent Group One races, ie Sepoy in the Blue Diamond and More Joyous in the Futurity and of course Black Caviar in the Lightning Stakes.

The Chipping Norton has the usual contingent of Sydney middle distance runners such as Theseo, now getting a bit long in the tooth, Danleigh, Zavite, Centennial Park and Vision And Power, as well as stayers resuming for the autumn carnival – Descarado and Maluckyday who ran second in the 2010 Melbourne Cup. However, all the above will have to beat the brilliant mare, Melito who thrashed them in the Apollo Stakes a fortnight ago. She has not run over 1600 metres before, so it will be a test of her ability to stay.

As previously mentioned Sepoy took out the Blue Diamond Stakes last week in sensational fashion, winning by four lengths. He will probably contest the Golden Slipper in April and could well complete the rare double. More Joyous continued her winning ways in the Futurity outracing the fast finishing Whobegotyou – an obvious quinella. Also I must mention old favourite Heart of Dreams who won the St George Stakes, proving he’s still got what it takes and is not a spent force.

Next weekend the Newmarket Handicap and the Australian Cup are scheduled, but I won’t have much time to write about them or even see them on television as I’m off to the Port Fairy Music Festival, so expect blog posts about that rather than racing.

I’ll try and get to a TAB to watch the Newmarket where Black Caviar will be out to make history carrying 58kg – a record weight for a mare- and surely winning her tenth straight race and third Group One.