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Lime Tyger talks: Just wash your hands Karen…

(Apologies to all the Karens’ out there…)

Well, these here are crazy times! People going nuts over toilet paper and hoarding groceries ahead of an imminent lock down in Australia, indeed the world. It feels like we are a world away from the compassion and giving we displayed as a nation during the recent bushfire crisis. 

So in an effort to be helpful, informative, and hopefully inject a bit of humour as well, I thought I’d provide some information on why handwashing and sanitizing is important, and how you can work around the lack thereof on our supermarket shelves. These insights come from littlebird’s alter ego ‘Lime Tyger’ who knows and cares about such things. So here goes…

The ‘Simples’ version:

Covid-19 or coronavirus outer walls are made up of lipids (like fats or oils) protecting the actual virus behind the lipid layer. Soap also contains lipids, and when you wash your hands really well you get all these lipids on your hands. So if you have Covid-19 on your hands the lipids in the virus wall start to break down, they are soluble in the lipids in your soap on your hands. 

Breaking down the lipid layer with lipids in soap kills the virus. It’s that simple.

Making sure everyone has access to soap (liquid or bar) to wash their hands is also important. The more people killing the virus by washing their hands thoroughly after contact the less likely it is to spread. Proper washing is vital though – You need to ensure your hands are wet and fully lathered with soap, cleansing EVERY part of the hand down to the wrists, for at least twenty seconds. Look at this video of *WHO handwashing technique as a guide on how to wash properly. 

*World Health Organisation

If you don’t have immediate access to wash your hands, sanitizer is a good alternative.  IF the alcohol content in commercial sanitizers is at least 60% it can effectively destroy the proteins in the virus. Less than 60% and it will not, and higher concentrations will likely cause irritation and dryness to your skin.

NOTE: alcohol based sanitizer doesn’t discriminate between good and bad germs…it kills them all. That’s not a good thing long term, so use wisely and sparingly!

So the million dollar question is…what do you do if the panic buying, stockpiling arses in the community have stripped the shelves of hand soaps, washes and sanitizers?

Substitutes:

  • Last time I looked (this morning) in a couple of my local supermarkets there were still bars of soap on the shelves…check first as this really is the quickest and best option. I know bar soap isn’t as popular as the liquid variety these days, it is however, just as effective.
  • Dishwashing Liquid – it is more abrasive than soap, so efficient at killing the virus, BUT potentially damaging to your skin. Not recommended for people with sensitive or allergenic conditions, and for everyone else…short term use only and moisturise regularly. (You can also dilute the liquid with water, that might help)
  • Shampoo and conditioner. Shampoo is not really effective as most shampoos are constructed with the aim to leave the lipids in hair as much as possible so as to not dry out hair follicles. It will clean your hands, but not necessarily destroy the virus. Conditioners are more likely to be effective as they are often loaded with lipids in order to – as the term suggests – condition your hair.  For both of these again, no guarantees and probably a short term measure at best.
  • Laundry liquid – couldn’t find any information on this at all, though based on some research findings that dishwashing liquid can be used as a substitute for laundry liquid, you probably could use it – again, treat it like dishwashing liquid…not at all for sensitive/allergenics, short term ONLY for everyone else!
  • Hand Sanitizer – there is no substitute. Make it or buy it  – those are the options. And no, do NOT soak your hands with vodka!! Firstly what a criminal fucking waste of vodka, and secondly, refer to the first statement! 
Me when I hear about people using vodka as hand sanitiser

Seriously though, vodka (or any white spirit) does not generally have a high enough alcohol content to make it effective as a sanitizer. Most commercial vodka is about 40% alcohol (80 percent proof) way below the 90-99% recommended range. So stop wasting good vodka by pouring it on your hands. Leave it on the bar shelf or make a vodka lime and soda or espresso martini instead and sanitize from the inside out. (Sensible drinking limits apply)

Make your own:

Making both bar and liquid soap can be quite involved, so unless you’re a soap making enthusiast, either of these quick solutions for liquid wash are effective:

Simple Method:
Leftover soap bars (total weight 120 gm) or an unused soap bar, grated
4 cups cold water,
bring to the boil and add grated soap.
Leave for 15 minutes then stir again
Leave to cool completely (several hours)
Add essential oils (approximately 20 drops per cup of mixture)*
If you are happy with the consistency, it’s now ready to pour into containers/
dispensers.
For thicker soap, reheat and add more soap flakes. For thinner mixture,
reheat and add more water.
From scratch:
 1/2 cup liquid castile soap
 1/2 cup distilled water 
1 TB vitamin E oil(optional)  
1 TB sweet almondolive or jojoba oil (optional)  
15 drops tea tree essential oil  
5-10 drops lavender essential oil
Mix all the ingredients together and shake well.
At least 1 tbs of oil is recommended for moisturising properties and those
all-important lipids.
Jojoba is highly recommended as it mostly closely resembles the human
skin’s natural oils
Oil will separate from the castile soap base, so you will need to shake this
mixture before each use 
Hand Sanitizer:
2/3 cup of isopropyl Alcohol (99%+) or ethanol
1/3 cup Aloe Vera gel
8-10 drops of your favourite essential oil*.
Mix well, package and you are done. 

Important points:
1. The Alcohol MUST be 90-99% alcohol otherwise it won’t be effective.
2. It (alcohol) MUST constitute 60% or two-thirds of the total contents  of the
sanitizer or likewise, it will not efficiently destroy the virus or sanitize hands.
3. Aloe is a vital ingredient as it is the emollient that offsets the harshness
of rubbing pure alcohol on your hands. 
4. Aloe may separate from the alcohol, this is normal you just need to
shake the container before use.
As no testing has been done on this, I am not guaranteeing it is a successful
means of sanitizing your hands, however there is plenty of evidence that the
proportions above (with the required alcohol strength) do make for an
effective sanitizer within WHO guidelines. 
*Essential Oils 
Research essential oils before you add them to either liquid hand soap
or sanitizers.

Many essential oils have antibacterial qualities that whilst having no
impact on COVID-19, are still helpful in combatting germs generally.

Some oils have strong or adverse side effects and are not
recommended.

Lavender and tea tree are universally considered safe, but do not
exceed recommended volumes

Do NOT use citrus based essential oils in hand sanitizer especially, as they can
cause photosensitivity and exposure to UV rays could result in burning or skin
reactions. 
Purchasing ingredients:
Check online for suppliers of isopropyl alcohol, Aloe Vera gel, carrier and essential oils, Castile liquid soap
Confirm they are fit for purpose before purchasing

These recipes are provided for personal use only and not intended for sale. If you intend to sell, please research your obligations with regards to assurances and the information and packaging required.

Please DON’T go panic buying these ingredients now and creating a shortage in yet another area. A little goes along way with most of these recipes! These are unusual times for all of us, and really tough for some. Be kind and helpful to strangers around you…a smile and a kind word costs nothing but can transform someone’s day. And don’t pour vodka, gin, tequila or any other white spirit on your hands FFS.  Google cocktail recipes instead and learn a popular (and practical) skill when you go into Iso*.

*Isolation (apparently a whole new slang is developing out of this pandemic)

YASSSS…This!! 🙌🏼

Stay safe lovelies,

Lime Tyger xx

Click on links above (embedded) and below to learn more about information and sources for stuff in this post

Why soap kills coronavirus
Google: Can you substitute vodka or Gin for rubbing alcohol
how hand sanitizer worksEssential oils guide
Diffords guide for cocktail lovers
Lexiscleankitchen
Featured

Introducing Lime Tyger

Hello all, littlebird here…happy Saturday!

This is just a quick note to introduce one of my other ventures Lime Tyger. Lime Tyger specialises in natural health, beauty and home cleaning solutions and our philosophy centres around kindness to our environment. Essential oils, natural and organic bases form the core of our products in support of our values.

Right now, there is a real problem with people world wide being able to source basic cleaning essentials from retailers, even wholesalers due to panic buying, stock piling due to fears surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19). It’s important that everyone has access to cleaning products particularly hand soap and sanitizers to to kill and limit spread of the disease (in conjunction with social distancing and other measures) Lime Tyger has some good information to share in relation to alternatives, but I need to get it out there fast!

I’m setting up a separate page and blog for this, but the criticality of some of the information I want to share is over running my production pace, so I am linking Lime Tyger to littlebird tweets temporarily so I can share stuff fast and furiously. I hope you find some of the information useful, or can share with people who might. I’ll tag the blogs so it’s easy to see what’s Lime Tyger as opposed to littlebird’s tweets, and will separate them as soon as I can (after all no one wants a cat amongst the birds do they?)

Peace and love,

littlebird xx

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It’s a Wrap – February 2020 (part 1)

What a weird and wonderful month…well it was for me anyway. Some fabulous gigs though and also…new music, plus film, art, comedy – I really am living my best art life at the minute.❤️❤️ And, just because I’m never shy of a word or thousand…this month’s wrap is split in to two parts so I can cover everything. Regular readers are unsurprised, friends are rolling their eyes, only too aware of how I do like to stretch a tale. So, let’s start with the music shall we?

Gigs…

Kicked off on 2nd Feb with Mick Pealing and Nick Charles at The Drunken Poet. Entertaining and witty as always playing new and old STARS songs, and some favourite covers including outstanding acoustic versions of ‘Shooting Star’ by Bad Company and ‘Crossroads’ (Robert Johnson). Mick and Nick featured some new tunes from their album due for release February 21…more about that below! It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday evening, fabulous tunes, fabulous company…my favourite venue! I might just throw in a quick plug for The Drunken Poet’s blog here – The Sneaky Pint. It’s a riotous read worthy of the Poet’s established reputation for irreverence, weird and wonderful characters and rollicking good fun.

Feb 8 – went to see Horns of Leroy album launch at Howler. They were supported by Jules Boult, and also Dive team-5.

It kicked off at 8:30pm with Jules whose set flew and was over way too quickly – this guy deserves a lot more time! Check his stuff out he has a really cool New Orleans Blues-Jazz vibe. Dive Team-5 are instrumental with a pretty reasonable sound, but they needed to interact a bit more with the crowd in my book. It didn’t quite hit the mark for me but they’re a young band, so hopefully they’ll learn. 

Horns of Leroy hit the stage, and whoa…those horns really pack a punch!! Great set, lots of energy and dancing to be had all the way through. I’d have liked the horns to be a bit more front and centre, at times they and the vocals (by the superb Thando) were swamped by overly heavy percussion. Nit picking from me though…they have a great sound, great vibe and well worth catching around town if you can. Check their new album out.

Feb 13 Wagons held a Fire Fundraiser in the round at The Night Cat. Supported by James Ellis & The Jealous Guys playing some very fine Merle Haggard tunes. I’d not heard James & Co before, but in that way that often happens when you discover someone new they are popping up everywhere now…go see them if you fancy a little bit of honky tonk and country, they do it well.

Wagons hit the stage and the whole band was on fire, very relaxed and it shone through in their performance. They played two sets, and in between held an auction, the main attraction being an Epiphone Les Paul (see pic below) which raised $2000 on the night. Great work by Henry as auctioneer (watch out Sothebys!) and well done to Andy Gearing who donated this superb guitar and also took some fabulous photos on the night.

Tribute song ‘Willie Nelson’  was probably the one that fired the crowd up most this time round, but honestly every number was stellar, and you will NEVER leave a Wagons gig not hungry for the next one! AND what a fabulous cause they got behind…funds raised (about $8.3K I believe) were donated to CFAWildlife Vic and Fire Relief Fund for First Nations.

Next up on Feb 18 – Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets with Jim Lauderdale at The Forum. I’m not sure I have the words to do this justice, seriously. I’m already tipping it’s a top contender for my International gig of 2020…and it’s only February!  And I can tell you now…this is who Melbourne musicians go to see…the room was full of our local musical talent…and rightly so!

Jim is lovely, mellow and so talented, well worth seeing on his own let alone with this line-up. Standout was the tribute he paid to the late Robert Hunter, singing ‘Headed For the Hills’ which they wrote together. Also…man does he rock a nudie suit

Los Straitjackets played some instrumental tunes in between Nick’s sets and wow…you know, I’m not a huge fan of instrumental but when you do it as well as these guys…eh, maybe I am. Have a listen to their great version of Friday on My Mind. Still find the Mexican masks they wear on stage somewhat confronting though! 

And the man himself…Mr Nick Lowe? Let me just pick myself up off the floor first. Wow…like seriously WOW!! From beginning to end, he was sublime, and effortlessly so. He is a natural at developing a rapport with his audience, and man he looks good, and sounds even better. From older numbers ‘Cruel to be Kind’  ‘I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and my favourite ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding’ to newer offerings ‘Tokyo Bay’‘Love Starvation’ and newest of new ‘Blue on Blue.’ he was brilliant. I can’t emphasise enough…you need to see this guy next time he is here…NEED TO…NOT optional.

Feb 21 – The Basement Discs was host to the first of a trio of launch events for STARS new album One More Circle Round The Sun. The guys were in high-spirits, effortlessly delivering their new tunes interspersed with a few older classics to a packed house. This band honestly never disappoints, playing with the practiced ease of musicians at the top of their craft, and they sounded very fine in the excellent bunker acoustics of Basement Discs.  Give the album a listen…Buy it (remember…support the artist buy the music) and whenever you can get out to see STARS live…that’s where the magic happens! 

New Music

Will And The People (WATP) – I found this band via Sticky Fingers, and immediately loved their music and energy.  They were in Australia touring with Sticky Fingers late last year, sadly not on the Melbourne leg but hopefully will be back soon. Originating in the U.K. WATP have loyal followers from all over the world and it’s no wonder…these guys certainly live life large and that energy is reflected in their music . They have recently been in the studio recording and released a new tune on Feb 14 ‘Started on Love’  <–link to a lovely acoustic version here, and check out the official release and the rest of their catalogue as well. You won’t be sorry…I’m predicting a number of their tunes will find their way onto my obsessions list over the coming months.

They have an interesting vibe, hard to define in terms of genre, which can be good a thing I think – doesn’t limit their scope musically. If you’ve listened to my current obsessions playlist you’ll have heard one of their other relative newbies Gigantic (May 2019). A new Album will be out soonish (I’ll keep you posted!), and the lads are touring in Spring, tix and details available through their website and Facebook page if you happen to be lucky enough to live in the UK or Europe! (See how I have to list them separately now…Brexit…jeesh! 🙄) Australia, be patient and immerse yourself in the music…in fact also, give their Started on Love playlist a whirl, a bunch of songs about love, to celebrate the release of the single…nothing but good stuff here!

STARS  – One More Circle Round The Sun is shaping up as another stellar effort from these Aussie legends.  Stand outs, at the minute ‘Big Wet Long Dry’ is really good and so is ‘Boats and Songs’ and ‘A Little Heaven’ is rapidly becoming a favourite. More are likely to land on my playlist as I listen, and listen, and…repeat. Mick Pealing featured the album on his Country Miles radio program, he and Nick Charles giving listeners the stories behind the songs which just adds to the enjoyment including ‘The Anniversary Trail’ a lovely song about Mick’s early years in Adelaide, ‘Blue Ruin’ – inspired by old English horror movies, and ‘Big Wet, Long Dry’ posing the big climate change questions.

Mick also had Mal Eastick in chatting post launch, this pair have a wealth of stories from their collaboration spanning over 40 years – makes great listening! CD or digital copy  is available from STARS official website or a record store near you. Vinyl is on its way…keep an eye on the STARS site, Facebook or Instagram for updates on availability. While you are checking out their various web presences…make note of when they are playing in a town near you and get along…they really are the business live!!

Playlists

My Spotify current obsessions have been moving about a bit in February…sometimes my listening choices surprise even me! It’s never a shock that Nick Cave  or Etta James somehow end up back on there, although Alice Cooper, Traffic and B.B. King were a bit of a revelation. But then again obsession kinds of lends itself to the unexpected I guess. I’d certainly forgotten just how good ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ is, and also one of my favourite Australian tracks of all time ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ by Hunters & Collectors. Take a listen and give me your thoughts, even better, suggestions for new songs to obsess over!

That’s it for part 1 folks. As always, listen to the music, stream, play, fall in love with it…BUY IT! Yes you know my mantra by now…Support the Artist, buy the music!  Go to the gigs! They do it all for love, but musicians still have bills to pay, mouths to feed…help ‘em out will ya!

See you soon for part #2

Love & peace

Littlebird. x

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Always take the weather with you…

I’ve had a blog on climate change in my head for some time…having spent the summer watching Australia burn and then flood, watching the aftermath  of this on my fellow country men, women and children. 

But – what to write and, when?

I sat on this topic for a while for several reasons. I found it hard to articulate what I wanted to say. A creeping suspicion developed that as time marched on from the terrible fires raging through our country in the second half of 2019 and early 2020, people would forget and move on and nothing would change, especially attitudes.

I notice in times of emergency and tragedy, people get all caught up in emotion of the moment and are hungry to change things and make a better world, until they’re… not. A large number of the populace gets tired of the surplus of information, and not necessarily because they don’t care, they just become immune to it being constantly in their face. 

As a reminder, here are some photos capturing the absolute shit-storm that was Australia over the past several months…

In our own country a month to six weeks out from the worst of the fires…it’s no longer the topic on everyone’s lips. The thing is – it should be. It’s important. But people get complacent.

Why is that?

Well…time, and normality. Apparently if we are not experiencing extreme weather conditions ALL the time then it’s easy to dismiss climate change. I can’t fathom this at all. So what…we need to be living amidst dangerous weather patterns constantly for people to even believe let alone act? There seems to be no recognition of the concept that getting to THAT point means it’s probably too late to do anything about it.

In case you missed my subtle(🤔) commentary above – I believe climate change is real. I believe it is having a devastating effect on our planet and we need to do something about that – not at some point in the distant future. Now. RIGHT.BLOODY.NOW.

That about sums it up!

Segue here to briefly outline my view of just what IT is…

Throughout the history of the world there have been occurrences of erratic weather patterns and subsequent events. I’m not sure scientists are going to agree with me lumping the Ice Age in as an ‘erratic weather pattern’ but bear with me here. 

We have things such as tsunamis and cyclones, avalanches and volcano eruptions, bushfires and floods… natural occurrences, mostly. They happen periodically with sometimes tragic outcomes, people and animals die, forests and homes are decimated. But we rebuild, we go on. That’s not climate change that’s just life on this planet.  Been going on since the dawn of time…the Ice Age remember? The actual thing…not the movie…just bear in mind though, that cute prehistoric squirrel was responsible for the seismic ice age events in his pursuit of that little acorn…

Scrat “Ice Age”

Nothing to see here.

BUT…what has happened since the beginning of time are developments influenced by humans. The evolution of farming and agriculture, the industrial revolution and the technological age. Sourcing power from natural resources -electricity gas, coal, redirecting water sources, decimating forests through logging. Emissions from our cars, from the methane produced by cattle farmed in large numbers, from agricultural fertilisation using nitrogen…all to feed our growing population and voracious consumer appetite for an ‘easier’ life.

Humans. Humans are to blame for global warming and excess greenhouse gas emissions.

See bored panda link below for more pics

We have taken and taken and taken from our planet and not given back. Or not given back enough and that’s why levels of greenhouse gases are out of balance and our planet is warming up at rates much faster than over the past several million years. And we need to change that around, ALL of us, to try and firstly to undo the damage and then to recover. It’s a mammoth effort. Not impossible, but very bloody difficult. And how do we do this? 

Firstly what can YOU as an individual do about it? Here are some things you can change around your home, or personally to try and make a change for the better:

  • Read about it…search google, read articles, watch programs on TV, YouTube…be intelligently informed. Then…get vocal and get involved. This is NOT OPTIONAL.
  • Plant trees, fruit and vegetables (or grow them in a pot if you have an apartment) Eating less beef, pork and dairy and organic food choices is also helpful.
  • Think about the energy you use. Switch stuff off when you’re not using it. Put a jumper on, don’t turn the heating up. Install ceiling fans. DON’T switch on your air conditioner the minute it gets above 24°C (72°F) and then leave it running 3 days straight.
  • Recycle your house water onto your garden instead of leaving your hose running for hours. DON’T water your concrete driveway-it doesn’t grow. Trust me on this one, I’ve done exhaustive research with a couple of my neighbours…none of their driveways  has grown even a thousandth of a millimetre despite the tons of water they’ve wasted on it. Don’t have 30 minute showers twice a day. (I’m speaking directly to my son here!)
  • Install solar panels. Not only is it good for the planet…I can’t adequately describe the joy you will feel when you watch your electrical meter whirring backwards storing up all those lovely kilowatts. OR, can you imagine this…waiting for the electricity bill, to see how many credits you’ve earned feeding your solar energy back into the grid. You’ll no longer be just an energy consumer…you’ll be an energy provider. (To all the users attached to my grid…you’re welcome!)
  • Walk, don’t drive whenever you can or take public transport.
  • RECYCLE, RECYCLE, RECYCLE …better yet, think about packaging when you’re at the supermarket and choose loose items or recyclable packaging where you can. Also have a read of the Victorian Government initiative with regard to waste disposal – kudos to them for trying!
  • Get used to a bit of inconvenience. It won’t kill you.

Remember how I said above that this weather stuff has been around for ever, bit of a disaster and we recover, go on? Thing is …our forebears went without a lot of these ‘conveniences’ I’ve mentioned above so they did less damage, and consequently, had a better recovery rate. Ours is slipping, has slipped cumulatively over time because of all this stuff each successive generation thinks it needs to use or do in order to lead more comfortable lives.

I’m not saying let’s go back to the dark ages and live in caves, although if that’s your thing…power to you. Just pull back a bit. Do the things you can do to make the environment better. And then do a little bit more. Keep making changes till it hurts a little bit. Because then you see…our planet will be a little less sick. 

Will this fix everything? Of course it won’t. In fact it could open up a host of global economic problems, which is why there needs to be a world consolidated view on tackling climate change. The UN has been trying to have this conversation for a number of years.

It requires a lot of big changes from governments and industries that up till now have been very disinclined politically and financially to wise up and save our planet. Ceasing mining of fossil fuels will impact the economies of some countries (Australia among them), and likewise farming and agriculture could be impacted if billions of people suddenly started growing fruit and vegies at home or eating less beef and pork. 

On the flipside, one of Australia’s biggest industries-tourism- will take a hit if we do nothing. It’s already suffering due to the deteriorating ecology of the barrier reef and took a major hit with the fires raging in tourist areas and the smoke pall circling the globe. 

It’s a global catch 22 – if we do nothing our planet will die, but if we change things our global economy will be altered. Not an easy resolution by any means. But not talking about it or acknowledging a problem exists, achieves nothing. One of my favourite comments to make over this summer to climate change denialists: ‘Go ahead and stick your head in the sand. The rest of us will be getting on trying to save our planet while your ass burns.’

NASA image capture of smoke from Australian bushfires circling the globe

If you’re wondering what the title of this blog has to do with anything, it’s this: You take the things you need to worry about, the things you care about, with you always in your head and heart. Make the weather on our planet one of those things. Keep in mind the impact on our planet when you’re going about those little everyday things we do.  And the big things too.

In other words…always take the weather with you.

(And if you’ve heard of Crowded House…you’re totally singing THAT song right now…good, makes it even easier to remember!)

Now go forth in peace and love, do your bit to make our earth green and whole again.

Littlebird x

Links below for more information and images in relation to climate change, Australian bushfire, what individuals can do:

causes of global warming
disasterphilanthropy
Nasa – climate change causes
worldatlas-largest australian industries
nature.com
bushfire smoke circles world
Mallacoota bushfire crisis
Blue mountains cliff face fire
boredpanda – bushfire photos
things you can do #1
things you can do #2

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Turning on the light…

Quote from “Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K.Rowling

I have deadlines looming…mostly to a self-imposed timeline so I can easily ignore them. But they gnaw at my mind …I want to keep the promises I made to myself and will feel like a failure if I don’t.

We all have days when we can’t be arsed, and our motivation is lacking – you know what I’m talking about right? Those days when staying in bed seems reasonable and staying in bed with a bottomless cup of coffee, an endless packet of chocolate biscuits and a good book a valid and indeed, excellent lifestyle choice. 

That day is today. My head is thick and foggy (not alcohol induced!) I can’t concentrate and my thoughts are muddled, my whole body feels heavy and listless. I’m familiar with this feeling and know I’ll come out the other end eventually…but in the middle of it, I do feel somewhat dark and desperate. I can’t write in this state, I stare dazed at the blank page. Don’t have the motivation to exercise, even though I know the endorphins a simple walk would produce could help shift this funky mood. I have a bunch of practical household tasks lying around waiting for my input, but the effort required to do anything more than stare mindlessly out the window is beyond me.

I am leaden, and listless. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I’m stunned momentarily by the image staring back at me. My eyes are lifeless, my whole body, even my hair looks…defeated. I feel numb, yet I want to cry. I’m familiar with the person in the mirror, with how she feels right now. I’ve been her before. I don’t like it. I don’t like HER.

Even my playlists can’t soothe me. Music – ever a mood changer – is currently an irritant as I skip, skip, skip through song after song looking for one that doesn’t annoy the beejezus out of me. It won’t be Nick Cave or Nate Rateliff – their moody songs are likely to see me spiral deeper. Even songs from the world’s most adorable and quirky teddy bear, Jeff Tweedy, or the perennially funny and flirty Mick Ralphs can’t cheer me up. Bugger…this really is dire.

After staring out the window for a long while and letting my eyes fill with tears for reasons I can’t decipher, I force myself to write. I start with trying to write the feelings I’ve described here…coercing word after word onto the page. It’s hard going at first. 

Ideas either won’t come at all…and if they do, they fizzle out after a few bland sentences or are dark and bleak. A good day for writing some of the darker passages in the story I am working on at the moment you’d think, but it’s not that easy when your mind refuses to co-operate. I keep going, even gibberish is something, and at least I can at least admire my penmanship though the words themselves are utter shite. 

Eventually my pen glides over the paper more readily, and I can feel the process of writing lifting me. It helps…I no longer cry unheeded tears, my tears if they fall now are for a character who is in the middle of an awful tragedy, and I ponder her next move or her motivation. I get lost in the story, in the characters I have created…marvelling at one’s resilience, empathising with the despair or deviousness of others. 

Before I realise, an hour, then two has passed and I have written myself out of a funk. I glance again at the mirror and ahh, there she is…eyes bright, smile curving the edges of her mouth. She looks ready to go for a run or tackle the laundry…take on the world again.

Most of us are familiar with this feeling, this inertia, that cloaks us at one time or another. The frequency, the depth, and the ease with which we bounce back (or don’t) determine whether we are labelled with depression or merely a low mood. I understand the triggers for this episode of mine, most I can control and overcome, one or two are external factors outside my sphere of influence.  And I knew as I said in the beginning, that I’d come through it…and I did. 

I’m mindful of those that don’t possess the reserves I do, the self-awareness or the tools and tricks I use to claw my way back. I’ve had those days too. I’m not sure what the message is I want to convey here…be kind to people around you? You don’t always know what’s going on in their head.  Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to feel the bad as well as the good. They are the yin and yang within us after all. Look for the things,  the distractions or whatever that will trick you into thinking you feel better, until you actually do.

Ok…this doesn’t mean I’m advocating espresso martinis on repeat from 9:00am or devouring a 500g block of Cadbury’s* in one sitting, OR liberally sampling other herbal or chemical remedies…yeah, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about here!

* This of course is perfectly valid if you are trying to ward off dementors…hey, I opened with a Dumbledore quote I may as well continue with excellent advice from Professor Lupin. Jo Rowling’s Harry Potter series after all creatively explores fear, depression and the full gamut of emotions etc that make up the human condition… a constant source of inspiration for me as a writer.

I mean little things. For me today, it was writing – on another day it might be music or a long walk, binge watching Mamrie Hart on YouTube. Whatever it takes. And on those days where nothing seems to help…outsource. Phone a friend, a family member, a helpline…someone will listen, will be there for you.

I know this is kind of a low mood piece – no apologies, this is where my head is, was. You can’t appreciate the euphoria without having tasted the despair.

Ooh, that’s a brilliantly quotable statement, what? Sometimes my effing genius astounds me.

Ahh…and there you go…the snarky littlebird returns…I love her!

Till next week…

Peace and love

Littlebird x

PS: if you need external support for anxiety or depression, consider some of the following agencies or sites

Australia:

Beyond Blue

Orygen

Lifeline

Kids Helpline

The World:

mind.org.uk

healthyplace.com (USA)

Wiki list of crisis lines (worldwide)

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It’s a Wrap – January 2020

Hello there music lovers, time for my monthly wrap up of what’s been happening around the traps, or more specifically… what I have been up to during January 2020.

Kicked off 2020 on 7 January not with a gig, but a documentary presented by Films for Change ‘John and Yoko: Above us Only Sky’ on the making of Lennon’s iconic album ‘Imagine’. Loved this so much. A lot of the footage is taken from the original film that accompanied the album, shot mainly at John & Yoko’s residence Tittenhurst Park and premiered in 1972 after the album release. There is a lot of wry and informative commentary from John and other musicians (including a very hairy George Harrison), critics and journos on the inspiration, development, production and presentation of the songs. 

For me it presented a different view of the John and Yoko often portrayed in the press, particularly Yoko. An vindictive press always showed a tiny dark haired woman unsmiling, perpetually hidden behind huge glasses with a weird artistic bent, who had somehow bewitched John and broken up The Beatles. This doco shows a different side – a woman very much in love, smiling and relaxed, solicitous of her involvement in the production of the album, and also her thoughtful reflections on growing up in a devastated post war Japan, and how that informed her art. That was the biggest “AHH” for me watching this, learning a lot more about Yoko Ono without the insidious influence of mis-media, as well as Julian Lennon’s reflections on his life at that time, with the benefit of hindsight. 

If you get the chance to see it, DO. So much to love about this album and the pool of talented musicians, producers surrounding John in its making, but it is the personal glimpse of a couple in love and transforming that love into art which is truly inspirational.

Jeff Duff and his David Bowie – Unzipped show @ The Spotted Mallard (12 Jan). Jeff is a great entertainer, and he didn’t disappoint here. Every number was given loving treatment, by a very witty, energetic and unfiltered performer and classy band. The Thin White DukeZiggy Stardust and other Bowie characters deserve to be lauded at every opportunity, and Jeff and these guys certainly do it best. As Jeff will tell you when proudly displaying the gift awarded to him by the Bowie foundation for his contribution to promoting David and his body of work. Another must see if you can, Jeff pops up a couple of times a year…so watch out for his return to Melbourne in the second half of 2020.

The Teskey Brothers along with Cash Savage and the Last Drinks and Thornbury Theatre, held a  Bushfire fundraiser on Jan 16. Well this was a no brainer to attend and we were lucky enough to get tix to…if they hadn’t been heading OS Teskeys could have filled the theatre 3 times over at least! Thornbury has had a face lift and looks all the lovelier for it, though the bar queues are still a pain. Teskeys delivered as always, this a particularly emotional performance, the highlight being Hold Me with CFA volunteers up on stage to sing with them. You can find video of this number on the event site or Thornbury theatre FB page..take a look it really was special. Final tally raised was in excess of $52,000 for the event…fabulous effort!

Rob Snarski and Shane O’Mara residency at the Union Hotel– I went twice  (18th and 25th January) and loved it both times. Rob has a lovely voice, matched perfectly with Shane’s guitar,  and he (Rob)  usually  does a reading a droll anecdote or two, from his book as well for an extra treat! It really was a fab way to spend a late afternoon – early evening summery Saturday, with good music, great friends and your choice of bevvy.

Tex Perkins and Matt Walker …if you’ve read my earlier blogs “All about the music” parts 1 & 2 you’ll already know how much I love these two guys and performing together…something else! Saw them at Northcote Social Club on January 19, Tex was at his dry witted best, channelling his inner rock star perfectly. The ‘finger’got a special mention, and he had some fabulous banter with the audience. And Matt…sensational as always… this guy really is just so good, it’s such a pleasure to listen to him playing guitar. They also played a couple of new tunes written together…fingers crossed that turns into an album in the near future!

Elton John…hmmm, I admire Elton and his work but wouldn’t call myself a massive fan. Still, farewell concert and all that, so I decided I’d like to go – I’ve missed out on plenty of artists that I’ll now never be able to see, I didn’t want to leave Elton off the bucket list! Plus Hanging Rock  in January (26th) sounds like such an idyllic setting…I’m in! 

Well, I’m going to say, it was average. Good not great. If you were further back than the first few rows you were basically watching the big screen not the stage – drawback of any big venue I guess. I could live with that. What I couldn’t forgive was the technical glitch that saw Elton without a mic every  time he stepped away from the piano. An oversight early on one might think, but clearly Elton had a lot to say to his audience at his farewell show, so how did this continue for the ENTIRE PERFORMANCE without being rectified?? I was astounded, and royally pissed off. 

Elton was in fine voice however, backed by a great band, clearly experienced and comfortable playing together. There was a wide variety of songs from his vast catalogue, including instrumentals and soundtracks (No Lion King or Pinball Wizard though folks) and some songs probably known only to real aficionados. Which is fine, and I’m sure there is (in fact I know there is!) a science to the ordering of set lists, but there was a problem with this one. Too many lesser known songs, instrumentals and slower quieter numbers grouped together in the middle. The crowd around us on the hill lost interest and were chatting amongst themselves for a good half hour. And then people started leaving and not a dribble of exits – a flood! Which was an absolute shame because the last 30-40 minutes including the encore was absolutely fantastic and made me remember why I wanted to see Mr John in the first place. 

The shine was taken off by the car park debacle which the hanging rock management needs to address – frustrating at best, at worst…a tragedy waiting to happen.  In summary, Robyn and I agreed – we were glad we went but stand by our assessment – it was good, not great. Which is not how you want to finish your touring career I would think. 

19-Twenty saw these guys at the Spotted Mallard on the very last day of Jan – yeah that scorcher! Not as hot as these guys though…hoo-wee! Found by my friend Yasemin, we had a listen on Spotify, and thought why not? And we were impressed from the very opening bars of their first number. They hit the stage rockin’ and didn’t stop until the closing notes of their encore! A three piece similar to Stray Cats and The Living End with guitar/vocalist, drums and double bass and similar loud rockabilly energy to these two bands as well. Bassist John Gwilliam was all over, under and on top of his double bass, matched by Kane Dennelly’s furious guitar work and versatile vocals, and percussionist Sydney Green who even stepped out from behind his kit to play a bit of slide guitar.

They played mostly original songs but incorporated Cab Calloway’s ‘Minnie the Moocher’ into their opening number, did a wonderful version of ‘Amazing Grace’ and paid tribute to one of their influences The Angels with a rockabilly version of ‘Am I ever Gonna see your Face Again’ complete with that iconic crowd refrain. Sadly no footage of this band’s version of the song but I’m sure you’ll enjoy The Angels vid…still rocks!

Check out some 19-Twenty vids here,  particularly ‘Hips’ , but honestly if you get the chance go see them live – that’s where the real magic happens!

You might be wondering about the relevance of some pics I’ve included this week. Well  in late January my friend Chris nominated me for a Facebook challenge – to display an album a day (ten in total) that  influenced my musical taste and nominate a friend to do the same. Only a couple of days in I realised, ten was not enough, and resolved to go to 13 (following another friend Dave’s example) Well…that wasn’t enough either, so we ended up with multiple albums on the one day, and some commentary just because…I can. The albums pictured here are my biggest influences…there are many more I could add, thanks to my friends who played along and covered some I missed and vice-versa. 

It was a LOT of fun, and has opened up my listening choices for February, and of course as a result I’ve also updated my littlebird current obsessions playlist if you want to check out what’s tickling my fancy now, and also…what survived (or didn’t) the January cull! (Removed tracks now on my past obsessions list)

Not a bad start to the year I must say! Lots of good stuff coming up in February – and not just music, some comedy, exhibitions and more Films For Change. It’s all art – I love it! 

I’ll leave you with this little article about the tangible benefits of going to see live music regularly, so if the music itself doesn’t convince you…get out there and add nine years to your life!

Peace & Love

Littlebird x

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Forays Into the Mystic

As promised in my last blog, I’ve shaken off the procrastination vibes, and offer up an old story that’s been hanging around for quite a while. It begins with me, stuck in London in the 1980s during an unusually hot summer,  rolling transport strikes which although warranted (this is after all, set in the time of Thatcher) sending commuters collectively round the bend. I decided the best course of action was to bugger the hell off out of the wasteland that was London, and head for greener pastures. Quite literally greener pastures, as I turned my eyes toward the Emerald Isle.

Céad Míle Fáilte and enjoy this story!

I think it was about Day 3 into my Irish travels I found myself in Arklow, a village south of Dublin in County Wicklow, sticking my thumb out at a roundabout on the road to Wexford from where I planned on heading to Waterford. Now hitch hiking is NOT a regular activity of mine, and Ireland being the only place I’d probably do something that reckless while travelling. Hang on, actually that’s not correct…I have stuck the thumb out elsewhere… but that’s another story! 

Anyway, after only a few minutes an old blue Ford pickup stopped (circa 1930s by the look of it!) and offered me a ride as far as Wexford. Paddy the pig farmer had a mass of brown hair and a shaggy beard, decked out in overalls and gumboots and an accent thick enough to spread with a knife. He was however, convivial company and did me the immediate favour of suggesting I stop at Wexford, being the better town with more to offer than Waterford (besides the crystal obviously!) That settled, Paddy and I established an easy banter. About halfway into the trip Paddy looked at me shyly “I need to ask you a question”. Oh feck, my head was reeling with all the possibilities that question might entail, whilst my hand covertly hovered over the door handle in case I needed to make a quick exit. 

But what do you think was the burning question young Paddy wanted to ask me? …My views on Irish politics or the state of pig farming in Australia vs Ireland? (Both topics on which I had a view I might add) Or perhaps my plans for travel through his lovely country, or my relationship status, or more nefariously…where I might want to spend the night? 

No. None of these. 

What Paddy coyly, desperately, passionately wanted to ask about was… ‘Neigbours’. Yes, the Australian TV show that currently had England Ireland Scotland and Wales in its thrall. Will Scott marry Charlene, is Mrs Mangle really such an old cow, etc and so on. A topic as it happens, I could not have been less qualified to talk about given I had never watched the show in Australia, my introduction to it being forced upon me by obsessed housemates in London. 

It was in fact another reason for wanting a break from England – every second fecker had a question about bloody ‘Neighbours’ whenever I opened my mouth and was pegged as an Australian. I could have got free anything and everything just for answering their incessant queries. I did actually land a job at my local (Denmark Arms on High Street, East Ham) on the strength of some bullshit I fed the publican about Lassiters but you guessed it, that’s another story.

So back to Paddy. Clearly I wanted to make sure my lift to Wexford was secure and also, because he was such a sweet young thing, I invented plot twists and storylines feeding him this shite like slops to pigs. And he loved it, his most fervent wish being to travel to Australia some day and visit the set of Ramsay Street. NOT visit Uluru, or the Opera house, bask on our beautiful beaches or gaze in wonder at the rugged but stunning interior of our wide brown land, no what Paddy most longed to see was a poncy made up street in a leafy Melbourne suburb because of a second rate soap opera where most of the cast were on their way out of an acting career – up or down – but either way, out. 

Paddy and I were done. My own dreams of becoming  an Irish pig farmers wife were in tatters, shattered by his ignorance and lack of interest in my country and his own. Oh Paddy, how could you! 

He dropped me in the centre of town, no doubt both glad to be rid of the other, and I set about finding digs for the night, in the form of the best accommodation concept ever and a godsend for backpackers everywhere – the Irish Bed and Breakfast. I climbed a small mountain to the B&B I’d arranged, greeted by a tiny old lady with a kindly face and a faint scent of mothballs and sanctimonious Catholicism. 

Ladies and Gents meet Mrs O’Riley – upholder of the faith and moral compass for wayward travellers. Her house was liberally ornamented with religious paraphernalia, and lace doilies. My room had no less than a dozen doilies, on pillowcases, dressers, chairs…even in the bathroom – one was draped over the toilet roll holder. Obviously hand made by my host they were exquisite handiwork and you know, it’s good to have a hobby. The most disturbing thing about the bathroom, however, was a picture of Jesus Christ hung strategically so he had a view of the entire room. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be showering with Jesus watching over me, that seemed a little like keeping TOO much of a close eye on his flock. Jaysus! 

I went downstairs and asked Mrs O’Riley where I might get a meal, but she had no suggestions, not surprising as I didn’t figure her to be much of a patron of restaurants and the like. It was at this point I made the fatal mistake of engaging mouth before brain “No worries, I’ll probably just grab a bite from the pub at the bottom of the hill”. Which I realise  now were NOT the words a little old Irish Catholic lady in a house full of Jesus and the Blessed Mary ornaments, and who crossed herself at least once every 2 minutes, wants to hear. 

“Oh no, no no, no, no. You can’t be going to the pub on your own, it’s a den of evil. An innocent lamb shouldn’t be near dat place. I can cook you up a plate of sausages and eggs on toast. You’d be better here with me reading from the good book. I read it aloud meself after ma tea.” (I’m trusting you to read this in an Irish accent for full effect!)

Now, there are several things here to unpack. Firstly, I’ve been called MANY things in my life…’innocent lamb’ however, is not among them. Secondly – sausages and eggs? In a fishing port with the finest, freshest seafood Ireland has to offer? Ah, no thanks. Finally, my own religious leanings being more of the pagan ritual variety (NO, not dancing naked round a fire…well, not all the time) than holy trinity, an evening of scripture reading was not high on my agenda. 

I politely declined all offers, assuring my fervent hostess my virtue would remain intact, my head clear of demon drink, and my heart pure (ok that last might have been a bit much!) She was uncertain but went about the business of organising my breakfast order for the next morning (which included I might add, liberal serves of sausages and eggs).

So I tripped happily and literally down the hill to the pub…it was quite a steep hill and my laces came undone halfway. I wandered into the bar not knowing quite what to expect, and ordered a beer, finding myself almost immediately surrounded by a group of Irish lads, all offering to buy me said drink. The minute I opened my mouth…Australian sheila in the pub lads….no one asks for a beer. A Pint, an ‘alf, a lager, an ale, a Guinness, yes, but a ‘beer’? Never.  So of course I allowed the handsomest lad to buy me a half of Smithwicks (What? Who said there was no self-interest here?) and resolved it would be a night of Neighbours stories, free drinks and who knows…I mean he did have eyes of the deepest blue and shoulder length black hair, and that accent…sigh. 

(Segue: if this happened with the benefit of today’s tech savvy world, I’d probably have whipped out my iPhone and added to my story a photo with aforementioned lads captioned “Night out with the lads” #stillgotit #freebeer #gonnashagmeapaddy…and no, it’s not meant to read ‘snag’ – I was in my early twenties and single (sort of) after all… prime time for shagging not snagging!).

Fortunately, there was no technology so it was just me having a laff with the lads and some drinks, and more drinks, and then yet another drink, till at some point it dawned on me that these charming boys who were all so very affectionate  and attentive, might just have a less than enchanting agenda, and Mrs O’Riley’s fears could actually be well founded for this not so innocent lamb. So hazily I looked around for a way out, and also something to eat – I was starving! I found both, as it turned out in the unlikely figure of a HUGE Yorkshire man sitting at the bar. He had the blackest beard and eyes I’ve ever seen and apparently, a voice to match. He was to be succinct, terrifying, and scattered the boys in short order putting them in mortal fear of losing their bollocks. 

‘Mick’ he introduced  himself as, a former truckie now salesman who had a daughter about my age likewise travelling the world, and while preferably not getting herself tanked and into certain trouble with the local lads, if she was – hopefully had someone like him there to rescue her. I christened him my defacto dad for the evening, and he turned out to be charming company, witty and clever – a far better option than the lads at any rate.  And probably far better for my health, making me switch to lemon squash and pork scratchings (if you haven’t tried these in an English or Irish pub, you have not lived!) bringing me back to partial sobriety and filling my stomach with something slightly more substantial than Smithwicks Draught.

We talked about the history of Ireland, politics and the IRA,  the poetry of Yeats, Heaney & Behan, the writings of Wilde, Joyce and Beckett. It was wonderful – way more interesting than an evening of pointless banter with some randy Irish lads hoping to get their leg over. Although, ‘romance’  (with the aforementioned black haired blue-eyed lad) might have been nice, I did confess to Mick I could probably use a break from that as well–a third reason to exit England being a much needed gap from an increasingly complicated love life, with not one but two lovely fellas one called Mick and the other, ahh…Michael. My present likewise named companion laughed uproariously at the unlikeliness of this and the seemingly ever-present and frankly unnerving presence of blokes with that particular moniker in my life, assuring me he had no intention of adding to the complication. I had no interest either, so it was a satisfactory outcome all round.

My platonic new friend Mick asked if I would like to share a meal with him, his plans for a seafood platter lending itself to sharing. I was about to say yes, when two gents standing behind me interjected, and suggesting perhaps I might like to join their party of Australians in the bistro. Rather pointedly suggested it was a better option than hanging about in a bar with a bloke that looked like he would murder little girls in his sleep, or their sleep – whatever –  you get the picture. Now I completely understood their point of view, and Mick was particularly gracious, given he had just displayed similar gallantry in rescuing me from a dodgy bunch of lads, so without committing anything, I politely went with them to at least meet the rest of their party. All thirty of them. Middle aged couples on a bus tour of Ireland, it was like I had walked into a bar full of my parents and their friends. I made polite conversation for 5-10 minutes and then hightailed it back to the bar and Blackbeard. I did NOT want to spend the evening in the company of countrymen I’d travelled halfway round the world to escape, particularly in conversation that consisted mainly of listing everything that was better about Australia than “over here”. 

No, the black eyed salesman was far better value in my opinion, and we quickly dived back into our interrupted conversation on Celtic mythology.  This was an area I was keen on writing about, and a large part of my fascination with Ireland, made even more poetic with the green rolling hills, rugged cliffs, wild seas and haunting mists that make up the landscape and mystical backdrop for my story. And that put Mick in mind of a small village nearby, set among salt marshes that he felt was something magical I ought to experience, and over the next hour or so of dusk, the perfect time to see it. Our seafood platter would take around that long to prepare so we had time to drive there and back AND stop for a pint of the best Guinness in the land.

Now clearly there are a few things here I need to address. Obviously, if I had any of the Mrs O’Rileys about me at all, I’d have at least considered the potential danger of hopping into a car with a virtual stranger and disappearing into the salt marshes for a ‘mystical experience’, marshes in which I could disappear permanently. Did I though? Consider at all that as charming as he seemed, as fatherly, Mick the black-beard could actually be a serial rapist/murderer luring me off to a secluded destination? Did I feck.  

To be fair, Mick was at pains to reassure me of his good intentions, and pure interest in providing me with a richer experience than a night in an average Irish pub surrounded by local lads with bad intentions and even worse tales, or a bunch of standard issue bus tour Oz-Strayans. 

Secondly, and more importantly (come on…we all know I survived!) let’s address this comment…”a pint of the best Guinness in the land”. I’d been in this country a sum total of 3 days, and heard this over a dozen times, probably double that. Every pub I’d stepped into or been advised to visit apparently has “the best Guinness in Ireland”, even my lazy logic deciphered this boast couldn’t possibly be true for every pint of Guinness poured in Ireland. 

So we took off in Mick’s car (I think it was black, seems in character!) for mystical experiences and outstanding Guinness, a relatively short drive accompanied by suitably atmospheric music from Clannad, Enya and Van Morrison

And then suddenly, we turned a bend, and entered another world.  A world of mist and shadow, pale setting sun, an even paler rising moon, of eerie marshes and early evening sounds. Mick parked up and we got out taking in this otherworldly view, and honestly – no words can adequately describe the beauty and magic of what surrounded me. Photos (even if I’d had my camera with me) would not capture the wisps of mist, the lone building in the distance seemingly floating on the marshes, the sound of the ocean in the distance. And then Van came on, in the background, singing “Into the Mystic” as the mists ever thickening, surrounded us bringing with them the dark of evening. 

It was a perfect moment. 

And I’ll tell you something…whenever I think of this scene or hear this song, I am back there living in that moment, completely. I was speechless, which is no mean feat for me I assure you.  I don’t know, and I never thought to ask if Mick had engineered that piece of wizardry to have “Into the Mystic” play at the exact right instant, or whether it was just another piece of magic, perfecting the moment. I kind of hope he did it, would confirm my view of him as a bard, a man with the soul of a poet.

And then it was dark, pitch black and there was nothing more to see, except the marvel of Guinness in the floating pub. The locals were curiously immune to the miracle I’d seen, bored most likely by my effusive attempts to describe the wonder of it. But then again – they lived there, witnessed it time and time again, probably viewed the mists as a hazard rather than appreciating their ethereal beauty. And the Guinness you ask? Well as I predicted, it tasted pretty much the same as the ‘finest’ Guinness I’d tried everywhere else. I did however compliment the barman on his skill at pouring said beverage – for that is indeed an art. 

I waxed lyrical on the journey back to Wexford, my mind filled with romantic notions of living out my days here, dedicated to writing poetry, stories and songs that celebrated this mystical corner of the earth. Mick laughed at my notions, although I do think he understood them.

And then to top it off, perfectly timed for our return, a huge platter of the most delicious seafood appeared at our table making my eyes bulge and mouth water. Downed with some more excellent Guinness (though not as finely poured!) I was in culinary heaven. A makeshift band featuring a bodhran and fiddle, played some lively Irish tunes and emotive ballads. I danced with the locals, laughed with them, and even a few of the Australian party ventured over to join in. It was a fabulous way to end a memorable evening.  I staggered out the pub after drunken teary farewells to all I’d met, Mick pressing into my hand a voucher for a free night in a prestigious Cork hotel – should I ever determine which of his namesakes in England I deemed worthy of such a romantic gesture. (Yeah, that’s another story, and not one you’ll be reading here!)

I staggered up the hill to Mrs O’Riley’s, well crawled might be a more apt description, noting the light in her bedroom went off when she heard me come through the door. I slept like a babe and awoke the next morning to the sounds and smells of that most delicious of meals, the full Irish breakfast, being prepared. And it was delicious – did I mention Mrs O’Riley made the soda bread served with more sausages, bacon, eggs and tomatoes than I could possibly eat. Or thought I could…I certainly didn’t need to eat for the remainder of the day! I thanked her sincerely for her hospitality, her care (no doubt including several rosaries for my safekeeping the night before) and that soda bread…although she wouldn’t divulge the recipe!

And then I was off on my next adventure, via Waterford, which as predicted by Paddy was nowhere near as colourful as Wexford. I sat on the local bus Walkman playing,  locals staring at the mad Australian laughing to herself, reliving her adventures.

So there you go. Just one tale among several of my time spent in Ireland. I travelled there many times both as a tourist and a local over the next few years, and whilst my appreciation of the country, the people and their history deepened with each visit, nothing was quite so special as the wide eyed wonder of this first trip. Do click on some of the links and discover more about the places, artists etc mentioned here (I’d forgotten what a fascinating history Arklow has!) I hope you enjoyed this yarn and interested to know if you think it resembled the diagram at the top! Mostly, I hope it gave you bit of a chuckle.

Slán go fóill (farewell for now)

Littlebird x

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The Art of Procrastination

Nothing like being caught short is there? Not on ideas or inspiration, but on priorities mostly, and time. I got carried away with one piece of writing and forgot about another. That other being, err…this blog. So this rather short fragment is really just a placeholder for something better (hopefully!) to arrive in the next few days.

Now normally I’d attribute this to writers’ block – a familiar enemy of any writer, especially with a deadline looming. Except that I was writing, and I have given myself permission to write whatever and wherever my muse takes me. Which is fine, but that deadline was still lurking in the back of my mind, along with associated guilt. So Wednesday morning I finally put aside my other work, (having rather conveniently reached a bit of an impasse after days of zealous scribbling) started to give attention to this blog and was almost immediately distracted by a fascinating article on …procrastination. Do give it a read, seriously – debunks the myth about procrastination being related to poor time management and actually more aligned with managing emotions. Could explain my entire life as a serial avoider! Which brings us closer to the real source of the problem. Avoidance. Also – how’s the irony of procrastinating via the very subject itself! I should get an award for that sort of ingenuity, surely?

Anyway…what to write about? Lots of ideas in my head but none jumping out at me, or none that didn’t require some research that would push my commitment back even further. So my page remained, stubbornly, blank. 

And then I thought…Why not read over older pieces I’d written, searching for some sort of inspiration? Which could be mistaken for yet more stalling, but often this tactic has led me off in different renewed writing directions, so it’s at least worth exploring, right?

 And TA-DA!! 

I did stumble across an old anecdote from my travels, one I have hilariously regaled my friends with many times over the years. To clarify THEY laughed and deemed it comical, not me projecting onto them. Although it is, trust me, kind of funny – even more so because it is absolutely true to form and most of you who know me well will recognise this, complete with requisite groans and face palming. For those readers who don’t know me well, or even at all…welcome to the mass of contradictions, dubious decisions and over-indulgence amongst various other little quirks and foibles, that is ME !!

I have a bunch of these tales from a specific period in my life, documenting my travels through Europe and America, and everyday life living in England and Ireland providing a riotous series of adventures that I thankfully captured in a daily or at least regular journal, size and intensity of hangover permitting.

I will warn you…these stories when they surface are entirely unfiltered, completely non-PC and peppered with colourful language so if you have delicate sensibilities…exit NOW.  They’re also written as if I’m telling the story (not writing it) and so contain precious little grammar and the like.

The one I first want to share, does need a little editing though so do be patient for a day or two dear reader, whilst I tart up an old tale I hope you’ll enjoy. And while you’re being understanding, ponder this…a blog mostly about procrastination, which is in itself an exercise in hedging, buying myself some more time to present you with something more worthy. If that isn’t turning procrastination into an art form…I don’t know what is!

See you in a few days.

Littlebird x

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It’s all about the music (Part 2)

Aaron Schembri ‘City Lights’ Launch 25 Sep @ Memo Music Hall

Well here we are again and it’s all about the music…part 2!.  This week I’ll round out the  special mentions, the records including my favourite new releases for the year, the playlists, the rediscoveries and…Radio!

Special Mentions (part 2):

Justin Townes Earle – I saw JTE with my friend Ed, in August at the Spotted Mallard, touring on the back of new release  The Saint of Lost Causes and my goodness, his style definitely hits you in the face. His banter with the audience didn’t pull punches and he is certainly not shy of calling out social and political injustice. He spoke candidly about the difficulties following in the shadow of his father; his marriage breakdown and struggles with depression and substance abuse, as well as the joy of becoming a dad. Playing solo he filled the room with great music on the strength of just one guitar and his voice. He’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I’m sold – I love his brand of blues infused folky Americana, and his ‘in-your-face’ style!

The Teskey Brothers I saw twice at The Forum on their Run Home Slow tour and boy oh boy…what a load of talent in this band, and doesn’t the whole world know it too! The boys are very laid back, each exceptionally gifted, and seriously…just where does that voice come from Josh Teskey???  Highlight of these two shows for me was ‘Hold Me’ off the new album, which they performed A cappella on the Wednesday night (13 Nov), stepping off stage and into the audience, Josh hoisted on the bands shoulders with the crowd joining in the chorus – this song is made for crowd participation, and the band managed to make it feel very intimate and personal. No doubt that version will make it to the DVD they are producing of the tour so keep any eye out! 

The Temper Trap also at The Forum playing their Conditions album from start to finish on their 10thanniversary tour of that album in December, and they were fabulous, much better than last time I saw them at Festy Hall (I blame this bleurgh venue not the band!) Jonny Aherne is always a big, bouncing bundle of joy, Dougy Mandagi seems so comfortable in his skin these days, and that voice…still gives me chills! Was also nice to see Loz Sillitto join his former bandmates for the tour. They paid homage to long-time fans, playing some  unrecorded numbers from their early days. Still my favourite Indie band, I sure hope they’ve got plans for a new album soon!

Dougy Mandagi, The Temper Trap @ The Forum
4 Dec

Nick Cave …oh Nicky, so much of my late seventies and very early eighties spent watching Nick and Boys Next Door, Birthday Party at divey little clubs in Melbourne, later of course with the Bad Seeds (slightly bigger, equally divey venues).  A seminal part of my teen & young adult development, and partly responsible for my early anti-establishment views, politicisation, and also err, experimentation with various substances.  Two VERY different gigs this year; the first an interactive conversation, plus a few tunes on piano. Nick answered questions honestly, sometimes tongue in cheek, others impatiently and spoke candidly about grief and his son’s death. I love the obvious need he feels to connect with his fans, audience on a deeper level with this conversation series. If you want a taste of what this experience was like , check out The Red Hand Files (the inspiration for the ‘Conversation’ series) and if you get a chance to go to one of these shows – DO IT!!  The second show was with Warren Ellis and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, showcasing the film music of these two artists. Honestly from my perspective– this gig was all about Warren. Nick was the drawcard and though heavily involved creatively, it  was clearly Warren who shone here. A very different performance, but I loved it, as I do pretty much all of Nick and Warren’s collaborations.

Russell Morris Another incredibly talented artist from my past I had the privilege to see perform twice this year. Russell continues to astound me with his voice and music, his new tunes sit seamlessly with the old, his songwriting is just fabulous. I will go and watch him again and again, just brilliant. Loved him at the Spotted Mallard in July with loads of great friends, and again at Memo Music hall in December (with Kerrie, Gavin and Kathy) on a bill including ever loveable, Broderick Smith. 

Russell Morris @ The Spotted Mallard 12 July
Russell Morris @ The Spotted Mallard 12 July

Alex Smith  – A fantastic Aussie talent with a new album out in 2019. Yes, he of Moving Pictures fame, with a solo album The Thread – startling in its purity, honesty and stellar songwriting. I saw him at the Spotted Mallard (another favourite in case you hadn’t noticed!) and he was just…WOW!! Such a great storyteller and musician, Alex has a voice that beyond the technical excellence is saturated with emotion, helping convey the stories in his lyrics every bit as much as the words. He’s another I will always have on my list of ‘must see’ whenever he’s in town…all too infrequently since he now calls Italy home.

I had the chance to see Mick Pealing sing a couple of times in one of his other projects, Raw Brit and…Lord almighty what a whole lot of rockin’ that was!! He really belts out those 60s-70s Brit power rock numbers that are the staple of this band. If you’re a fan of this music (and who isn’t!!) they really do it best…not surprising when you add the combined talents of Dave Leslie (Baby Animals) and Boom Crash Opera rhythm section Peter ‘Maz’ Maslen (drums) and John Favaro (bass) to Mick’s incredible vocal range.

I know Mick is a huge Free and Bad Company fan, and he certainly gives Paul Rodgers a run for his money belting out the hits these two bands are famous for. Maybe he should have replaced Paul in Bad Company #2 instead of Brian Howe. He certainly has the pipes to back it up, and I’m sure Ralpher and Simon would have preferred him to Mr Howe! 

Anyway…back to Raw Brit, they don’t play very often, so if you get the chance to see them…snap it up, there’ll be no regrets trust me!  

Another great band featuring music from the same era, but with an Australian focus, is Stepback, featuring my long time mate David Zerafa. I’ve known Dave since we were wee tots at primary school, right the way through high school – Dave with guitar in hand the whole journey! Some great memories, including jam sessions when we should have been in class, our singing emboldened with liberal doses of wine (Coolabah cask, naturally!) and also ahem, the odd ‘herbal’ cigarette. We thought we sounded fabulous – Dave at least really did! These guys are great – and along with Raw Brit, top the list of a very small number of tribute bands I’d recommend.

Aaron Schembri – A new discovery this year – what a fabulous night my friend Yasemin and I had at Aaron’s ‘City Lights’ album launch @ Memo in September. A stellar cast of Australian music royalty turned out to support him and his band – one of the best nights I’ve had in a while. Check out  the impressive cast featuring on his album in Aaron’s Spotify bio and sample one of the songs ‘Good Enough For You’ while you’re there.

I obviously saw a lot more than I’ve highlighted here, a lot of really fantastic local gigs, and the odd miss as well, though they were far and few between. Some of the other acts I saw in 2019:

Richard ClaptonKevin Bennett & The Flood
DingoRadioRob Snarski
Mike RuddSarah Storer
Billy Miller & the Love BrothersBoom Crash Opera
GroovetonesRenee Geyer
Tim Scanlon TrioBloom (Linda Ronstadt tribute)
Joe Creighton (Van Morrison tribute)The Whitlams

So that’s the gigs people, and while they took up a lot of my spare time in 2019, they weren’t the only musical something I had a lot of enjoyment from…

I mentioned in my first post ‘2019 – my year of Yes’ about the joy of rediscovering vinyl and also of trawling through collections at Crate Digger Fairs (Howler) and The Basement Discs. It all started with the return (mostly) of my record collection after a long and bitter custody battle, and that led to a turntable (birthday gift from my lovely daughter Gabby) and then searching out missing pieces in my collection. I had a lot of fun looking, chatting to fellow collectors and vendors at Howler – and I picked up some GREAT albums. Really hard to pick a favourite, but if I had to…there’d be two: Free Story (Free…duh!) and 2 Miles From Heaven  by Mott the Hoople

Favourite new Release(s) 2019: 

I tried REALLY hard to pick one, and narrowed it down to three, sorry but it’s the best I could do –

Lost Ragas       This is Not a Dream

Wagons           Songs from the Aftermath

Jeff Tweedy    ‘Warm’

Read my comments in last weeks all about the music (Part 1) for why, OR…have a listen for yourself via the links above! PS…if you like them…be sure to go out and BUY people (Support the ARTIST, BUY the music!)

Playlists.

I’m mostly a Spotify girl, although I occasionally I do dip into iTunes. I’ve put a number of lists together based on favourites generally, Australian bands, older stuff, my dad’s favourites, and then I came up with the concept of ‘Current Obsessions’. This list was meant to contain, well as the name suggests – my current obsessions – new tunes, old favourites, random stuff suggested by Spotify radio, whatever I liked, and wanted to hear over and over. Two simple rules:

  1. I had to keep it to about 30 songs (or just long enough for my daily walk!) and 
  2. once I started skipping a song…banished from the list! 

I broke rule no.1 in the first month…I have a lot of obsessions, apparently!

Anyway, if you want to know what songs I’m listening to on repeat – littlebird current obsessions playlist has my current faves which I’ll be culling come Jan 31! Never fear though, all songs end up on littlebird past obsessions, so you can still have a listen there…beware it’s a very lonnnng list! You can follow me on Spotify find my public playlists (and some of my kids – eek!) at limetyger. All of my playlists are prefixed ‘littlebird’. 

Radio

I’ve also found myself listening to radio more this year. ABC 774  Melbourne is a favourite, and I do like Brian Nankervis & Richelle Hunt (Jacinta Parsons in 2020) on Friday Revue at 2:00 pm. They have great guests and Brian does stellar interviews – very natural. 

Breakfast shows are often hard work, because – morning – but I have tuned in to Mick Pealing’s Breakfast show on 96.5 Inner FM 7:00-9:00 am Thursday. Mick covers a  very wide variety of genres and eras – you never know what you’ll get…could be a laid back easy listen or a BAM!! wake you up with sound at the strength of 7 espresso coffees back to back!

Another favourite is Henry Wagon’s Tower of Song on Double JJ Monday nights at 8.00 pm great tunes on the periphery of several genres peppered with great banter, and well…Henry who of course, is always a delight. 

My favourite for the year would probably be ‘County Miles’ (on Inner FM again) which sits comfortably in the Monday 8:00-10:00pm  timeslot. This show kind of took me by surprise because I’ve never really considered myself a big fan of country. Remember that statement from last week’s blog, about not knowing I liked something until I found myself listening to it? Well here we are! 

I like a lot more country than I thought I did, mostly on the fringes admittedly, and I’ve discovered a lot more mostly thanks to our erstwhile host (Mick Pealing again) who puts together interesting playlists spanning the depth and breadth of the genre, interspersed with interesting facts and humorous Facebook banter between Mick and his listeners. As Mick himself says’ if he can put ‘country’ in front of it – he’ll play it! I may have tested that theory once or twice…I’m fairly sure my requests for country flavoured Zeppelin or Mott the Hoople may have had our host face palming in the studio!

So that about wraps it up folks, my 2019 year in music. I could keep going on and on, and no doubt I’ll be revisiting music as a topic throughout 2020, which is shaping up already as another outstanding year! But for now I’ll sign off until next week saying a huge thank you and sending much love to all the people I gigged with in 2019 …here’s to 2020! See you next week with a fresh bunch of words on…something.

PS  – I’ve created a Links page which contains a lot of the artists I’ve featured or mentioned here, as well as all my littlebird playlists; do check them out and…ENJOY!

Peace and love

Littlebird x

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2019 – My year of ‘Yes’

Bear with me folks as I embark on my blogging journey, trying to work out what the hell it is I might have to say that some of you may or may not want to read. Truthfully, anything and everything could be covered here, if what goes on in my head and generally comes out of my mouth is any guide! And I hope it feels natural, like a conversation rather than an essay, albeit with slightly better grammar, and possibly the tiniest bit more PG (That’s NOT a promise people, so be warned!) What I’m mostly hoping for is discussion back from readers in response to my ramblings, so please, please comment…even if it’s just to say ‘hi’ or give a thumbs ups, thumbs down.

So here goes…

To kick off, being as we’ve all just been birthed into a new year, I thought I’d write something deep and reflective about the year that was 2019, for me at least. I may be kidding about the “deep and reflective” bit, we’ll just see how whimsical vs philosophical I get…or possibly could be sizable portions of shite, who knows? That’s the fun bit right?

2019…for me, kicked off with a personal resolve to make it my “year of yes”. I’ve spent the last few years working too hard, trying to raise kids as a single parent, stressing about anything and everything, and truthfully spending precious little time on my own wellbeing and happiness. Then in late 2018 my father died, and it threw my life into sharp perspective. My dad although possibly ignoring his physical health at times, certainly nurtured his interests, hobbies, passions and looked after his mental health. Revisiting his life while gathering information for his eulogy, and sorting through my own grief, I was struck by the vast and varied things dad achieved during his time on earth. It made me put my own life under the spotlight, and I found the last several years to be lacking in the things that I had always loved: writing, reading, painting, drawing, music. I’d sacrificed a lot of friends for a relationship that ultimately failed and made the classic mistake of putting my kids’ happiness and wellbeing before everything and ignoring my own. Which, as anyone who has experienced this knows, is ultimately self-defeating. My kids needed me to self-care and be responsible for my wellbeing and happiness, so theirs’ can fall into place much more easily, when their primary caregiver/s isn’t perpetually stressed and miserable. 

So 2019 was the year for me to look after myself first, and trust that my kids could take care of themselves a bit more (a lot more as it turned out!) And by committing to saying ‘yes’ to more things I guaranteed myself a little more ‘me’ time. I discovered, the thing with saying ‘yes’ (or ‘no’) to things is… it can be quite addictive. You’ve just got to have the yes and no in the right order. Saying yes to gigs, art galleries, exhibitions, catching up with friends, dates (good lord THAT could have a blog on its own!!) opened up a whole new world of experiences, happiness and enjoyment, rediscovering lost passions, reconnecting with old friends, making new friends, being reinvested in the world. It was, and is, a heady experience.

And I rediscovered music, opening up a whole new set of doors for me, not least the fabulous music scene we have in Melbourne, but also the past – my dad’s old favourites, that shaped mine and my brothers’ musical tastes, and also my own obsessions from the seventies and eighties (the teen years) and everything before and beyond that I loved. I have created the best Spotify playlists I can tell you – and boy have they taken a beating this year!

I went to lots of gigs, LOTs and LOTS of gigs, drawing in old friends and new to come along and experience the joy with me. And oh what joy it has been! Music has always been the background to my own creativity, and so once I started to re-engage with music…my muse came roaring back and I have been writing my little heart out. Page after page of writing books filled with my fevered imaginings, sparked by music, by people, by the world around me. I existed for most of the year in a euphoric cloud, and I noticed it infected people around me, as joy does, inevitably. (The reverse is also true and negative feelings also bring others down…but in 2019? – uh, uh nope!) My kids in the main benefited from this new happier, relaxed me, with the occasional blip on the radar generally the result of Year 12 stress, or the absence of dinner cos mama was off at a gig. Minor stuff, part of life and character and independence building for my children. (for those of you who don’t know…I have three delightful offspring, one who turned 21 in 2019, and 17-year-old twins who were in Year 12 this year…so not little kids in any sense of the word; my son at 6ft 5in, is a virtual giant!)  There was the odd panicked phone call when I was out…mainly around whether the cats had been fed (?!) or ‘urgent’ requests for cash transfers or uber eats…nothing life threatening.

I should also tell you that I kicked off the year by taking extended leave…in fact commenced in Nov 2018, just to give myself a well-earned breather from a full on job,  space to grieve for my father and reconnect with the me that was trapped inside behind a bucket of baggage and self-imposed misery. THAT was a great thing to do, and I recommend it to anyone who has been in a job for a long period of time (or several long periods of time)…give yourself a break, it can’t be all about money, and also…you don’t need as much money as you think you do!  And spend it on stuff that makes you happy, enriches you –NO that is not necessarily the latest technology or newest car or designer clothing. 

I’ll share with you 3 things (out of the many) I spent money on that made me indescribably happy this year:

  • An exhibition: Revolutions Records and Rebels. A whole lot of reading, listening and thinking came out of the Revolutions Records & Rebels exhibition (and the resultant book purchase!) I am still blown away by the sheer enormity of what happened around the world during those years between 1966-1970.  And no small amount of envy in being too young to be a part of such a vibrant time, although I’m also happy NOW that I’m not ten years older! 
  • Records from Crate Digger Record Fair (@Howler first Saturday every month). Vinyl from this fair (and Basement Discs, my other favourite go-to for several reasons) have given me some really happy moments…I really do feel sorry for the generations who didn’t grow up with vinyl, such a different experience all round – the crackling sound of the needle on vinyl and time spent pouring over every inch of the record sleeve, absorbing every detail…you can’t get that kind of pleasure with other recorded musical mediums.
  • New felt pens and writing books (quite a lot as it turns out!) The writing that followed…well there’s no point buying all those pens and writing books if they sit in a cupboard unused (and I have done this over the years, trust me!) Nothing is quite as satisfying as filling a page with words from your imagination. Many people have said to me ‘why don’t you use a computer or typewriter for writing?’ HELL NO!! It might work for some but for me (and Nick Cave incidentally) pen to paper is easily more satisfying for the soul and the imagination.

I can hear my friends all saying, but what about the music, the gigs? How could they not be in the top 3 purchases…and yes, some serious coin has been spent on live music this year for sure! I have been to a lot of STELLAR gigs this year, beyond amazing – new artists, old favourites, I’ve had a wonderful time!! So now you know what my NEXT blog will be about…come on, there is no way I could fit my thoughts on all the brilliant music I’ve heard, the lovely musicians I’ve seen and met, all the fabulous friends I’ve experienced this with, into a few paragraphs!! Next blog peoples…all about the music!

So clearly I’ve had a great year…mostly. Work, when I returned in March 2019, was less so…probably because my workplace had changed, and so had I. We’d outgrown each other. After a mostly unhappy seven months, I took myself off on leave again, this time for a longer period of six months and my personal journey continues in 2020…all the more exciting because this time I have PLANS, and also…it’s a new decade. 

2019 was my “Year of Yes” so what will 2020 be? Well…I sense a revolution in the making, my own personal one. But also I think the world is ready for a revolution. Politically, musically, culturally, environmentally…bring on the changes. I’m ready. Are you?

Thanks for reading. PLEASE comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my 2019, read all about your 2019, and maybe start a discussion on what our hopes are for 2020.

Peace and love,

Littlebird x

It’s all about the music (Part 1)

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats @ Croxton Bandroom 18 April 2019

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❤️

Top gigs 

Favourite International Artist Gig: 

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.

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: 

Wagons.

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!!

Yes, it’s …THE 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 CFAWildlife 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? 

Lost Ragas

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!!

Lost Ragas @ The Spotted Mallard 8 Nov 2019

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

Littlebird x

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