That’s right folks, this week and next, it’s all about the music! Specifically a roundup of my 2019 year in music – and what a year it has been! Loads and loads of gigs, record purchases, and playlists later…I’ve discovered a lot about what I like, what I don’t like, what I didn’t know I liked till I found myself listening to it. It’s been heaps of fun and also because it has been such a HUGE part of my year…I’ve found I can’t fit it all into one blog! So this week is part 1 – the gigs (well a few highlights) and my top picks for the year. Next week – part 2 some more special mentions, top venues, the records including my favourite new release for the year, the playlists, radio and…rediscoveries. Oh jeez…maybe I’ll need a Part 3!
The gigs 2019
From the first on Jan 5 to the last on Dec 15, the live music has been sensational! There were so many great moments with some truly talented artists. Melbourne really is so lucky to have such a vibrant live music scene – so many great local and international artists.
Mumford & Sons – I’ve loved these guys for ages so was stoked to see them play, and they didn’t disappoint – had a 12000+ crowd eating out of their hand. This was possibly THE happiest crowd I’ve been a part of for a long while, and whilst I’m giving full credit to the music, I might just mention there was a plentiful aroma of a certain herbal remedy wafting through the air!
Support acts, local Gretta Ray and fellow Brit Michael Kiwanuka’s sets were fantastic, and even better when they joined M&S on stage. The highlight for me was an acoustic version of ‘Awake My Soul’ the crowd listening in rapt silence, and then joining in perfect unison. Literally blew me away, and also apparently, the nearby Australian Open crowd at Rod Laver arena!
Jeff Tweedy – everybody’s favourite mid-western teddy bear. A slightly sarcastic, exceptionally talented teddy bear. Wilco’s founder and front man was touring solo on the back of his new album ‘Warm’ (and later release ‘Warmer’) and a Memoir to boot. I saw him at Howler in May, and as ever, his storytelling was sublimely irreverent and the music…just lovely. Favourite for me was ‘Let’s Go Rain’ delivered in the inimitable way that makes Jeff so endearing. With a new album from Wilco ‘Ode to Joy’ released late 2019 – fingers crossed for a band tour of Australia in 2020!
Stars…ah, my sentimental OZ country rock favourites from the seventies. I soon had the sentimentality blown out of my system when they started playing new tunes from their current album ‘Boundary Rider’. They pay tribute to their fallen bandmate and friend, Andy Durant, and his songs sound as great as ever, ‘West is the Way’ and ‘Look After Yourself’ timeless classics. The new incarnation blends seamlessly with the old – newbies Nick Charles (guitar) and Erik Chess (replacing Glyn Dowding on drums) fitting in with Mal Eastick (fabulous – ah THAT tone!) the always funky and every colourful Roger McLachlan, and of course – those pipes – Mick Pealing still belting out the big numbers and lulling us with beautiful ballads.
I saw them play a number of times; Yarraville Live was a great catch up with many long-time friends (I think we were a party of about 23-24 in the end!) all loving being out seeing one of our faves together again. We rocked our little socks off, my mate Sandra scaring the hell out of the band by sliding along their meet and greet table after the show!
I think though the gig at Caravan Music Club in August was my favourite, musically the band had it 150% together and their high energy and happy vibes spurred on an already enthusiastic crowd. It was a fabulous night including teasers from the upcoming album and aided by the support act, immensely talented and all-round nice guy – Matt Walker.
Watch out for Stars new album and launch shows in February 2020, sure to be another stellar effort from these long-standing legends if those few teasers they have played so far are anything to go by!
I’ve also seen duo Nick Charles and Mick Pealing play a number of times, mainly at The Drunken Poet, and boy we had some fun those nights! The lads let their hair down, bouncing one liners off each other and the crowd; and as the key songwriters for Stars, often road-testing new numbers as well as some of their favourite songs. A lot of fun, great music and interesting conversations are to be had whenever these two get together!
Tex Perkins – I saw Tex twice in 2019. Firstly in May at the Spotted Mallard with Matt Walker, doing a ‘swampy blues type thing’ my brother Gavin in attendance. Reminder to self: do NOT try keeping up in the drinking stakes with your 6’ 4” brother…messy! Well, to be fair, we both were extremely messy, and so was the music – grungy, magnificent, dirty, messy blues. Yowser! Tex and Matt are back touring in early 2020…a do not miss for sure!
Saw them both again in August at the final (?!) run of shows for ‘Man in Black’ Tex’s long running Johnny Cash show, joined by Rachael Tidd as June Carter Cash and The Tennessee Four, including Shane Reilly (Matt’s Lost Ragas bandmate) Steve Hadley on bass and Dave Folley on drums. I’ve seen this show twice, both times absolutely fabulous, Tex and Rachael give an honest and wry telling of Johnny’s life, and the music…just superb.
I love Tex, he’s a down to earth, funny as hell dude with a heart of gold. He’s organised some great fundraisers for farmers and firies, and he’s not afraid to call it like it is (his one finger salute to our Prime Minister on New Years’ eve went viral on social media).
Monique Brumby – ah Mon, multi Aria award recipient and more importantly (from my selfish point of view! 😉) my once, and all-time favourite, gardener. I met Mon in 2016 when she took on a herculean task, lovingly transforming my huge neglected yard into a thing of absolute beauty, as we shared a lot of laughs and great conversations.
She moved back to home state Tassie in 2017 and has been busy looking after herself through connection with family, music and the land. The result is an album’s worth of songs she previewed at the Gasometer in mid-December. I went to this one on my own but felt like I was in a room full of friends. Such is the essence of Mon, and the people she attracts, both fans and friends, with her poignantly honest, witty and revealing tales and music. And her voice! Just beautiful…can’t wait for her album to come out. Mon is one of the world’s truly beautiful souls – I adore her.
Broderick Smith – what a national treasure! My friends and I used to follow Brod’s Big Combo obsessively in the early eighties, and of course everyone remembers the iconic Dingoes! so I was really looking forward to catching him again. Firstly at Kingston Arts in May with Lost Ragas…wow! (Sidebar: Ragas were magnificent, I could feel the hooks sinking in)
Broderick was at his storytelling best, as a friend commented “musings on life as it was and life as it is was wonderfully humorous, sprinkled with terrific song-writing and musicianship. Really good night.” That about covers it I think, thanks Phil! I don’t think any other artist this year has made me howl with laughter at his tales (apparently he wants a ‘Crusty the Clown’ headstone!) and then cry again with the beauty of song -ah, ‘My Shiralee’ and ‘Tomorrow Wendy’ just beautiful – Thank you Brod❤️
Favourite International Artist Gig:
Oh there are SOOOOOO many things to love about this band. Musically they are amazing, and Nate writes songs that are poignant and full of emotion – joy, hardship, pain, loss, love and the band delivers them in a soulful, blues infused, New Orleans jazz, folky utterly delightful way.
From the time they walked on stage April 18 @ Croxton Bandroom to the time I hopped in the car to go home I danced and sang my way through their set and I certainly wasn’t alone! I loved this show so much, the band has incredible energy and so much joy – it still makes me smile thinking of it. So much that I created a playlist of their set (thanks to the person who shared that little nugget on Facey!) I love the videos these guys put out and also that they are socially and politically active – not just words, actions! Have a read about the Marigold project they are involved with for starters or the Fort Flannel fundraiser organised by Jeff Dazey (sax) just…beautiful, beautiful men.
Favourite Local Artist Gig:
OH.MY.LORD. This band!! I’d heard of these guys, but not really listened to much of their stuff previously or ever seen them play. So on the recommendation of a friend (Phil again!) I checked out their new album (Songs from the Aftermath) on Spotify and went to the in-store at Basement Discs, looking forward to a laid-back performance. JEEZUS H was that a miscalculation of biblical proportions!
Henry hit the stage and BAM!!…straight in peoples’ faces. It was a loud, compelling, fabulous 45 minutes and I was sold. I bought the vinyl there and then and was not disappointed – and I LOVE the cover artwork!
Their album launch at Croxton Bandroom (hmmm, is it a coincidence both of my top gigs were at this venue?! 🤔) was even better – the whole band was a riot, and from go to whoa…magnificent, each song delivered with the joy of a band that loves what they do. And Henry Wagons…how does one describe the tsunami of infectious enthusiasm that is Henry? Ummm, well maybe that descriptor about covers it actually…almost. He’s clever, insightful, funny and immensely talented. And also… I got a tea towel!!
PS – just doing a final edit and Wagons have announced a fundraiser at the Night Cat on 13 Feb with proceeds going to CFA, Wildlife Vic and Fire Relief Fund for First Nations. Details in the fundraiser link above. Get there – see a great band and support a great cause!
And my Favourite Band/Artist of the year?
So, I’ve seen these guys more than a few times this year and they snuck up on me, each time I’ve heard them I walked away happier than the time before. They just have something really extraordinary; a trippy, unique vibe of alt country-Americana that speaks to their fans (an ever increasing and extremely loyal number).
Matt is excellent on guitar, with dark distinctive vocals that complement the music and songs perfectly. Shane on pedal steel, mandolin, guitar and high but husky harmonies (how on earth does he get THAT combination?!) is a highlight and the banter between these two is always something special. Roger and Haydn round the band out as a tight talented rhythm section, and again…a band that really works because you can see they all love what they do.
They were great at Kingston with Brod Smith, playing their own set and then supporting Brod on stage also. I did forget Shane’s name temporarily and referred to him as Benedict Cumberbatch for the evening (To be fair he was rocking a Cumberbatch look – Shane, I promise it’s a compliment!)
Their June Union Hotel residency in Brunswick was stellar…yes, I went to all three gigs…what??!! Well, I live just down the road and they’re so good, why not? And with different friends each time, I spread the love around. They crowd tested a couple of new numbers as well as a fabulous cover of “Dark End of the Street” which some of you can probably find a small snippet of on my Insta or Facebook (I am the world’s worst at videoing anything so I’m not providing a link to prove it to the world!) Each gig was packed to the rafters with happy punters, all of us treated to a veritable feast for the soul.My favourite gig though would have to be the launch of their new album This is Not a Dream at Spotted Mallard on 8 November. Not gonna lie, I was tired…my daughter’s 21st was the next night and we’d both had a hell of a week preparing, but still I was determined to get out and relax for a few hours. I did, and Lost Ragas delivered in spades, with a guest appearance by Ambrose Kenny Smith (King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard)on harmonica. Fabulous gig…I floated out of the Mallard afterward, weightless with the dazed euphoria that comes from the special blend these guys seem to have – talented musicians playing fabulous music, with great often quirky songwriting and whimsical banter in between.Finally, and another reason to love them…weird little vids that randomly appear on social media, and the gem of a clip that accompanies ‘Keeping up with Yesterday’ the latest single from the album. Did I say I love this band? I love this band!!
So there you have it folks, my roundup – part 1 of “all about the music” Please throw me a like or a comment…what was your favourite musical thing of 2019? Friends – don’t chide me over ‘missed mentions’ – I promise I will try and cover the remaining next week, plus some other stuff! Do check out the various links above to learn more about the artists, venues etc and PLEASE listen to the music, watch the vids – we have such a wealth of talent musically, particularly local!
Peace and love