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1) Rocky from Two Bob Millionaires 2) Alana Galea and Debonair Dom made it to Fawkner

3) Bren Mason hoons it up
gig report
Musicland Fawkner Trevor Young benefit
28.2.09 -
I drove right past Musicland the first time - it has a non-descript frontage jammed as it is between as caryard and a furniture shop just down from the Fawkner Cemetery. (Gil Matthews said he'd killed two birds and checked out his plots on the way to the gig). When I finally walked in, carrying Bill's and my guitars, I felt as if I was in some sort of Bombay* time-warp, an impression reinforced by the thunderous mix being given hapless Rocky (pic 1) and his Two-Bob Millionaires to a small crowd comprising mostly of wives and girlfriends. Spectrum wasn't due on till 9.10, so I was still trying to work out a set when at 8.50 Rocky and the boys wandered off and it became evident we were supposed to be up on stage, rather than Tattoo Rose who were busily setting up, but who were actually meant to be on at 8.20.
So, I was a bit edgy, and, as a result, concocted a curious set off the top of my
head, comprising of early Spectrum classics like Going Home and The Crab, wobbling uncertainly onto Having A Wonderful Time and Louie Louie, capping it off by choosing Albatross as the penultimate tune, which I managed to cock up ingloriously, instantly depressing the crap out of me and contributing to my unique re-arrangement of The Song. Wally Bishop was hosting the evening and was most welcoming and gracious and said some lovely things about us, and it was nice to catch up with the Blackfeathers and everybody, but I left agitated and depressed. Trevor Young shook my hand fiercely as I left and said something smokily incomprehensible. I can only hope the evening helped him in his efforts to conjure up a replacement kit of drums
*The Bombay was the love-child of Premier Artists and was meant to be a showcase for their roster. It lived at the other end of Sydney Rd from Musicland throughout the '80s. A lot of things happened there, most of them tawdry
Love Bucket bushfire benefit on fire!

1) Geoff Achison and the Souldiggers finish off the Love Bucket benefit night on a high
gig report
Blues Love Bucket bushfire fundraiser at The Corner
25.2.09 -
I got to the Corner early to add my Fender amp to the backline, but opted to go home again to change and pick up some bits and pieces I'd forgotten first time around. When I got back, Fats Wah Wah had just vacated the stage and Bobby Bright (pic 5) walking in ahead of me, fell over Andy Burns' keyboards. 'That means we won't have an organ', I thought, remembering that Rob Harwood had said earlier that Mal Logan was bringing only his piano. I hadn't constructed a set at this stage, not wanting to trample on anybody else's set list- it was touted as a blues Love Bucket afterall - but I needn't have worried. While I didn't see Fats Wah Wah, of the rest only Chris Wilson referred to the standard blues' repertoire.
I should mention at this point that I was feeling just a little seedy, having enjoyed a lunch plus pinot trimmings with bro' Dick, and so I wasn't exactly bouncing tigger-like around the green room, but I did occasionally wander around the main room and observe the various acts desporting themselves on the ungenerously appointed Corner stage, including the afore-mentioned Chris Wilson, (pics 3 & 4) blowing up an absolute storm on harp, his partner Sarah Carroll, lankily referencing bygone eras on her electric ukelele, the always affable Lil Fi, who was joined on stage by basso Bobby Bright for her Johnny Cash number, Jaimi Faulkner and Kerri Simpson, (pic 6) the latter seemingly singing with everybody, and, of course the stars of the show, Geff Achison and the Souldiggers, who rounded off the night with a typically punchy set.
Monique Brumby was on before Spectrum - just as I was trying to get my bits and pieces together - so I didn't get to actually see too much of her set - just a fragment of the last song with the ubiquitous Kerri Simpson helping out on additional vocals (incidentally way out of her usual blues shouter character). However, I think it could be safely said that Monique departed from the blues motif by the widest margin of the night..
Our set seemed to go OK, despite the missing organ. All the acts were allotted twenty-five minutes, so we managed Going Home and a couple of blues' staples before the inevitable finale. Max Crawdaddy, who'd been agitating for a twenty-five minute version of Some Good Advice beforehand, gave me the thumbs up after we came off stage, so it must've been OK.
Geoff and Michelle Achison are to be commended for this initiative. While everybody involved gave of their time willingly, the hard yards in these events are done by the people that pull it all together. Geoff and Michelle dispensed with the services of the usual intermediaries and did the whole thing themselves, which speaks volumes for their dedication and integrity. Bravo!

2) Jane Clifton and PBS' Helen Jennings rev up the crowd 3) Chris Wilson gives Shane Bourne the ultimatum

4) Chris Wilson and uke-toting Sarah Carroll 5) Bobby Bright's just got snapped again!

6) Kerri Simpson and Jaimi Faulkner 7) Mal Logan and Roger McLaughlin guess where Jane Clifton's going next

A tale of two gigs..

1) The guests begin to arrive at the Aherns' 2) Our host, Paul Ahern, makes a few adjustments to the lighting

3) The boys drift off during mum's birthday speech 4) Robbo with drummer Jackson and guitarist Dan

6) Robbo with Lynne and a couple of handsome blokes 7) Alana's signed Squier guitar

gig report
A fab 50th in Foster followed by the Croydon Hotel BBQ
23.2.09 - Paul Ahern is obviously a man who knows what he wants, and he particularly wanted Spectrum to play at his wife Mary Ann's 50th birthday party on Saturday night - and so that 's exactly what happened. The Aherns live a few k's out of Foster, (in South Gippsland about 170 k out of Melbourne), and Paul led us off into the hills in his green Citroen delivery van after we'd settled into the accommodation in town.
About ten minutes later we'd arrived at the Aherns' place, comfortably nestled in the hills and well appointed to party. (pic 1) We set up around the Ahern boys' kit and amps, as they were doing a couple of sets before we swung into action, and ate a splendid meal with the family and some early arrivals.
I wasn't quite sure how to pace the night, but after learning that the Aherns' had hired Ross Hannaford and Nicky Bomba a while back, I decided there was enough sophistication in the room to handle Spectrum as it comes - and that's what happened. The sound was almost like playing in the open air and the band had fun working out, the crowd was warm and receptive - especially at the end of the night - and the Aherns were generous and thoughtful hosts. There wasn't one even slightly unsavoury incident throughout - the catering was particularly savoury in fact - and we left the Aherns' sometime after 1.30 feeling a little worn out, but well appreciated.
We drove straight to the Croydon Hotel from Foster the next morning to discover that nothing had changed - if anything, we were another umbrella down since we were last there. (pic 8) It was a warm, cloudless day, and while we made sure we weren't going to cook, there were only two umbrellas left for the audience. (A moderate crowd did build up later in the afternoon, but I found it unnerving watching them stew in the heat).
Amongst them was my 'niece' Alana Galea, and she'd brought a Fender guitar along with her for us to sign. (pic 7) She's bringing it along to The Corner tonight for Geoff Achison to sign, and then she's going to auction it off on eBay for the bushfire appeal. Well done Alana!
I like playing at the Croydon, but I hope we can persuade them to do something about the lack of cover before we play there next or we'll simply have to set up indoors, which I'm certain isn't what they were aiming for.

8) The Croydon's beer garden looks deceptively inviting, but where's the shade for the audience?

Chris, Deb and Rory McGrath cheered us up..
gig report
A Clayton's night at the Clayton RSL
23.2.09 - It was probably badly timed, being in the same week as the Mulgrave Country Club in the neighbouring suburb of Wheelers Hill, but the woeful turnout at the Clayton RSL exceeded even my low expectations. Having been there the week before I suspected we were going to struggle to pull 'our' audience, but a few die-hards did make the effort, including the McGraths, (pic) which helped brighten us upa bit.
We also amused ourselves with a few variations on the standard sets, and it was a luxury having Daz for the second time iin the one week. Nothing bad happened either, so that has to be a plus..

1) The CFA chief gives an emotional tribute to the emergency services personnel 2) Bill's new Holden
gig report
Strathie 'gathering' at Arthurs Creek
20.2.08 -
Bill met me in Hurstbrige and led me (in his new station wagon! - pic 2) to Arthurs Creek via the scenic Nutfield route. It was very scenic too, every corner revealing another postcard rural scene, but every now and then you'd catch a glimpse of the hills beyond with their blackened stick forests reminding you of the recent devastation wrought by the fires.
We were hours early, but it soon became clear that they were expecting many more than the original 40 - 60 Bill had estimated. In the event I'd have guessed between 300 - 500 turned up, and our tiny PA was struggling to be heard over the noise of the generator, let alone heard at the back of the crowd.
Bill and I played some nylon-string instrumentals before Ron the emcee introduced the program. Then Joanna, the local school music teacher, conducted a group of thirty or so kids in a song that was only heard about three rows back, but the crowd gave them a generous ovation anyay. The assembled crowd heard (just!) an emotional tribute from the CFA head (pic 1) and then were invited to reflect on lost family and friends in a few minutes silence

3) The Strathie School kids choir poses with Bill backstage
(apart from the generator).
When Bill and Georgina's daughter Celia and I took the stage, I think the crowd was ready for something a little cheerful, and so when Bill gave them a rousing rendition of The Valley of Ewen they responded rapturously.
It was obvious things were going to go on for some time, with people re-uniting and hugging and crying and laughing, but I'd had enough excitement for one day, and so I packed up the PA and retreated gratefully back to the bosom of Camberwell

Mike hands over the I'll Be Gonz cheque to Petrina
Spectrum donates I'll Be Gonz cheque to Kids Under Cover
20.2.09 -
It's taken all of two years to nail her down - and in that time she's actually resigned her full-time position at Kids Under Cover - but I finally caught up with Petrina Dorrington (pic) at Porgie & Mr Jones in Auburn yesterday morning (after seeing the accountants) and presented her with a cheque for $1000.00 accrued from sales of the I'll Be Gonz CD over the last few years.
It's not a BIG cheque, but the printing's big. It's quite appropriate timing too, as one of their foster family houses burned down in Strathewen, and I was heading up to Arthurs Creek to help Bill present The Valley of Ewen song at a gathering of survivors that very afternoon..

Wayne celebrated his 54th birthday at the Mulgrave
gig report
Mulgrave Country Club

19.2.09 - I don't remember the Mulgrave being quite so much fun the last time we played there. It might have been the size of the crowd, but in any case it felt different somehow. The surprise interpolation of harmonioca player, Coral, leaping about entertainingly and playing Summertime and St Louis Blues on her chromatic harmonica was certainly different, but we had a cluster of people at the end of the night (pic) buying CDs and demanding we sign them.
Bill fielded a radio interview with Derek Guille after the first set, and Derek promised to invite us into the studio in the near future. Now for the Clayton RSL just down the road.
Bushfire benefits left, right and centre!
17.2.09 -
One of the immediate effects of Bill's Strathewen fire escape was the cancellation without notice of Spectrum's gig at the Lomond that Saturday night. Of course, it was unavoidable, but I feel bad about it nonetheless, so I'm more than happy to plug the benefit they're having there this coming Sunday from 3.00 - 11.00pm. (see poster) It .looks like a corker lineup too, so you should pop along. I'll try and muster the energy but it's a very busy schedule for Spectrum this weekend and it just may not be humanly possible.
In other Bill news, I'm happy to report that he and Rosemary have been inundated with practical assistance from all quarters, and that Pedro the goat, who looked like carking it there for a while, has undergone a course of treatment and is well on the road to recovery. Bill has shown me photos of the house and surroundings, and it's even more evident how cool-headed he was to save the house under unimaginable pressure - not to mention how lucky he was. Again, thanks to everybody who has e-mailed me, texted me and phoned me to enquire after Bill's welfare. In the meantime, you can show your solidarity with the victims, the survivors and the emergency services by turning up at a benefit near you..
Feel the love, people!

1) The stage in a picnic setting 2) Ross Ryan fronts his definitive band for a neat set

3) Wendy Ealey and Jess Evans put in a touching set 4) Shane Howard being Shane Howard

5) Strathie Bill with Jo Kelly Stephenson and Robbo

gig report
Sunday Sounds at the Talbot
15.2.09 -
Bill was at my place early early enough - about 10.30 - which gave him time for him to give me a précis of his adventures with the fire and for us to run through a couple of things before the Robbos arrived. Leticia had texted Robbo to say there'd been an accident and the Chandler Hwy was blocked, but we got to the site right on time at 11.30. Ross Ryan, (pic2) with Ken and Roy, was about to take the stage and, while the crowd was still pretty sparse, (prompting a crowd-surfing quip from Ross), the band put in a thoughtful and pleasing performance - Bill thinks it's the definitive Ross Ryan unit and I think he's right. Jess Evans and my judgemental friend, Wendy Ealey,

were next with a short set, and then we were on stage. We were only due to play for thirty minutes, so Robbo brought a snare, hi hats, cymbal and jembé and Bill and I were equipped with nylon-string guitars and my bag of mouth harps. The set wasn't in the least bit stressful - Ross and Tina Ryan even jigged conspicuously when we played Baby Please Don't Go and I'm sad that I don't have a pic of that - but Bill in particular was just pleased to be playing after all his harrowing adventures.
Understandably, Bill had to get back to the valley pretty promptly, so we didn't see that much more - just a taste of Shane Howard (pic 4) and then we were gone. Keep your eyes peeled for more bushfire benefits coming your way soon!

1) Anita Monk and Mike - haven't we seen this before? 2) Clayton revellers strut their Clayton stuff to The Sub's

3) Sub's Pete Summers delivers another '60s classic 4) Sub's bassist Peter Robinson
Clayton RSL gig preview
14.2.09 -
Mid Life Crisis bassist Peter Newson is promoting this variation on a theme at the Clayton RSL, and MLC and The Substitutes pulled a healthy crowd last night. I popped in to remind folk that Spectrum's playing there next Friday and, not for the first time, ran into Anita Monk.(pic 1)

1) Michelle Achison with Suzanne from the Leader 2) Chris Wilson, Mike, Geoff Achison and Jimi Hocking
Blues Bucket of Love Bushfire benefit
12.2.09 -
Spectrum doesn't do benefits that often, (we are still doing the Talbot show this Sunday however), but when the Souldiggers' Mal Logan e-mailed me about Bushfire Blues Love Bucket Relief benefit show at The Corner on Tuesday 24th, I thought we should definitely get on board! Geoff Achison's wife, Michelle, (pic 1) is doing the hard yards on the organisational front, and she invited me along to a photo session at The Corner this morning.and as it seemed a nice opportunity to touch base I happily agreed. Also having their mugs shot were Geoff, Jimi Hocking and Chris Wilson (pic 2). Suzanne from the Melbourne Leader took advantage of the situation to grab a few comments from us as well.
Speaking of Bill, I've had so much mail and so many phone calls asking after his well-being that I've barely been able to tackle anything else. He's hoping to finally get into town tomorrow, although it's been the same story every day. He and his partner Rosemary have been given a generator, so they now have electricity and hot water, and Bill's got a new phone, which sesems to be working a bit better than his old one. Today was the first day I've smelt smoke in the air here in Camberwell, but Bill tells me they've smelt nothing but smoke since Saturday and everybody's developing persistent coughs as a result. Bill would like me to thank everybody for their concern, and he's looking forward to returning to a stage near you ASAP.
gig report
Not quite Spectrum at the Croydon Hotel on Sunday arvo

9.2.09 - Only in Melbourne can you go from a gobsmacking 47 degrees one day to 17 degrees the next, but no-one was talking about how cool it was when we started playing in the Croydon Hotel beer garden at just after 2.00 on Sunday. Or, strictly speaking, when I started playing, having elected to open proceedings on my own with only George the guitar for musical company. There was even the odd sprinkle of drizzle, as if to reinforce the suspicion that perhaps Black Saturday never happened and was just a horrid collective dream. In any case, I prefaced my set by explaining the reasons for Bill not being present and I think that the audience donated a little extra enthusiasm for the rest of the afternoon's fare as a result.
Near the end of my set I noticed Robbo in conversation with an impossibly young bloke carrying a guitar case, but I didn't immediately click that it was Grant Cummerford, the bass-player that Daz had recommended I get in touch with to substitute for one facet of the 'essence of Putt' as Paul Hester described it. When I rang Grant on Saturday night he was in Port Macquarie at the Cassegrain Winery with Ani DiFranco, and he only got back into Melbourne at midday. His being there at all added to the unreality of the afternoon's proceedings; afterall, I'd not heard of or met him before, and I'm pretty sure he knew nothing about Spectrum other than by reputation. Jimmy Sloggett though, was my insurance, and as soon as he wandered amiably into the beer garden where Robbo and I were setting up, I felt a lot less anxious about the way things might go.
I'd done some charts for Grant that morning, some of which obviously helped and some others that weren't quite so helpful, but there was always the blues, and there was always Jimmy's salving sax, easing away the tension and inviting the listeners to relax and lose themselves in the music for a while.
At the end of it all everybody seemed happy, so our job was done right enough. Before he left for his next gig, Grant told me a funny Jackie Orzasky story, which I'll tell you one day if I can still remember it. Grant's playing style reminded me of Jackie - and Harry Brus, particularly visually. It would be nice to think we could do something with him again sometime.
Packing up was a nightmare. Robbo and I are always the last to finish, but this time we were really last. I even turned down an invitation to sample some fine red from Chris who's back from his Indian adventure. I mean, how tired was that?

Bill survives Strathewen bushfire inferno - and saves house!
7.2.09 -
Bill rang just as I was leaving to take Chris back to Vermont St - at 4.40 according to my phone log. He seemed calm enough and said that Rosemary, along with all the women and children in the valley, had been evacuated to Diamond Creek, but that he was staying on to switch on the pumps when the embers started to hit and then he was getting out. That sounded fairly dire, but he seemed calm enough and he's constantly telling me how much preparation they've all been doing so I figured he knew what he was doing and wished him luck
The next thing I get a call from a very distraught Rosemary saying that Bill hadn't been heard of for a couple of hours, all the houses in the valley had been razed and she was very concerned for his safety. I tried to reassure her that Bill would be OK, but the call unnerved me and I rang Robbo to let him know what was going on. I then rang Stephan, who books the Lomond, and told him it was possible that we would miss the gig tonight and of Bill's potential circumstances as far as I knew them at that point.
By now the implications of what I'd been told were starting to get to me, so I rang Rosemary again. She'd just heard that her house had been saved but she still didn't know where Bill was. I was pretty buoyed by this news, figuring that if the house was OK, chances were that Bill was also. That is unless he'd tried to make a dash for it in his car and got caught in the fire - Rosemary had also mentioned that a burnt out car had been found.
Then, at 7.29, my phone rang. At first all I could hear was panting, but I thought recognised it anyway. And it was indeed, the original and one and only Mr Bill Puff! Man! I was so relieved to hear his voice! The fact that he couldn't get down to do the gig wasn't an issue - the man was safe!
I rang Robbo and Stephan - and then rang James at the Lomond for good measure. Everybody was just relieved that Bill was OK.
Tomorrow arvo at the Croydon is a problem though. Bill doesn't think he'll be able to get through even then, so we'll either have to cancel or be a little creative. I've contacted a potential fill-in, but it's difficult. We do what we do and we don't really have a lot of covers, apart from the blues stuff. Hmmm..

Wayne Reid's invite
5.2.09 - I heard from an old friend in Wayne Reid the other day. He's planning a retrospective exhibition of his photographs beginning this coming weekend. Wayne and Helen used to run Rhythm & Views in Northcote, and Bill and I have fond memories of playing there to promote the Volcano CD. Anyway, here's what Wayne has to say:
I am about to have my first Photographic Exhibition in years and I'd like to invite you to come along to celebrate this with me. This will be a "Retrospective" exhibition, called "Abstractions, Creations, Derelictions", and contains work I have done over many years, beginning with my earlier years in NZ, and coming forward to what I am doing now. There have been some large gaps in my creative life, such as the ten years when I had my CD & Record shop, Rhythm & Views, in Northcote. I loved those years at R&V, and all the great friends I made through the shop, but all my energy and time (& money) went into that venture, and I was left with nothing to sustain my main creative passion, photography.
Now that I am living here in the country near Winchelsea (half an hour out of Geelong) and working in Aged Care for a rural Health Service, four days a week, I
finally have a balance of time, energy, and resources to put into photography once again; and I'm loving it! Where we live is close to some beautiful country (the Otway Ranges, and the Great Ocean Road coastal area) so I have been busy looking at the inspiring landscape around us, as well as some of the smaller, more intimate details. Don't know if it is because of my own aging, or the influence of country living, but my images also seem to be looking at the old, the weathered, the "rustic"...appreciating the Japanese concept of "wabi sabi", the strange beauty that arises when the processes of nature and the passage of time work on human constructions.
Recently I was invited by a friend, Paul Sanders, who works at the Augustine Centre in Hawthorn, to use their community art space/gallery, to show my work. Although the offer was "short-notice", and therefore I haven't had the chance to work towards it with a "theme" in mind (hence the retrospective idea), I jumped at the opportunity, and am preparing the work right now. It is a great joy to be able to show you what I am up to. I will be hanging it soon and it will be up for most of February, with the official "opening" on Saturday 7th Feb.

Abstractions, Creations, Derelictions is showing at the Community Art Space at the Augustine Centre, 2 Minona St, Hawthorn. 9819 2844. The gallery is open to the public: Tuesday to Friday: 9.30am - 4.30pm and on Saturdays 14th & 21st from 11.00am - 4.00pm

The light's not good enough...

Bill delivers his ode to Pedro the goat
3.2.09 - I've had a copy of the first version of this video for a few weeks, but Bill wanted to upload the version with Celia co-singing the vocals - so, today he dropped off the final cut. It'll be up on the site in a minute or two, so why don't you check it out on the Videos page?
Bill and I took the opportunity to discuss a few issues over a cup of tea before I tottered down to see my dentist, Bernie Smith, to repair some outstanding damage incurred on Christmas Day. I took the pic of Bill (left) with my new phone, which I'm still getting the hang of, hence Bill's sceptical look.


Alana, Jenny, Mick Newman and Daryl make a crowd

gig report
Something's missing at Moonee Ponds
2.2.09 - Well, for a start off, a crowd would've been nice! I inwardly groaned when I walked in - nothing's changed since the last time we were there, apart from the later start, which guaranteed nobody was still there from lunchtime. The good thing was I elected to use our own PA, which meant that it sounded the way we wanted - it helps to at least feel comfortable when you're surveying a small crowd spread out over a large room. There was nothing wrong with the way we were received though, and the faces were all friendly, if not familiar. Mick Newman (pic) offered me some of his wedges before the last set, which probably saved me fainting from loneliness..

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