I had a feeling that this night would be a good night. Though my voice felt super fail throughout the day I felt determined to head to the gig at Rockdale in St. George Tavern. Andrew and Julia took me to the Wildlife World in the very beautiful Darling Harbour which was most fun for the Legos, the fat Koalas and the super fat Wombat. I felt a bit bad going to a zoo when there, as I’d thought it would be more of a nature reserve where you’d find things roaming around. I’m always think how I’d feel in a cage when I visit them. Some think it’s a great easy life, with everything provided for you – but look how humans degenerate when absurdly rich and pampered. It can’t be healthy.
On preparing to leave for Rockdale I still felt unsure about my throat. Still off. After some hmming and hahing, however, Julia took me there, arriving precisely on time. I needn’t have. The host Carolyn was having huge technical difficulties with the PA, and we didn’t really get started until half an hour or so later. During the interim I walked about and met the other performers and their crews. I classify myself as shy and this takes a lot of energy from me to pluck up the courage, as I go to these things alone and they always go with largish groups. The prolonged time meant I got to meet quite a few of them, including a pair of brothers from Tucson.
Carolyn, a girl from D.C., played a song in that trademark female indie singer way with those grinning leaps into head voice – like Sarah Bareilles’ chorus in King of Anything or any Hotel Cafe singer. Captivating at first. This night I really noticed how one can expect a musician’s sound from their look. Natasha, a diminuitive sixteen year old girl with braces and dressed up like a sabrina the teenage witch complete with black dress, and a cute pair of boxy bowed shiny black shoes. Wish I knew the term for them. And she sang just like she looked, part of that generation of girls who grew up listening to Christina Aguilera like the Christina Grimmie’s of the youtube. Her voice and style, her tosses of the head and winks, her very juvenile (but she’s sixteen! of course they are!) lyrics rife with cliches on how others think she won’t succeed but look, she is! She’s sharing her music! Kind of shake your head adorable. The old men sitting up front looked captivated.
Alan Watters followed her with an absolutely phenomenal set. He’s the kind of songwriter who knows just how to write for his own voice – he’s strongest in the high head voice range and so sings most of his songs there, using full and falsetto just to accent. Good lyrics, too, with a cute sixties Brit style and teeth (think Robin Gibb). He won me with the first song and just kept laying it on song after excellent song despite a discomfort with the stage. The woman who followed him, past forty surely, did not follow up so well. Zilda Smythe sang four “Long, slow and depressing songs, like my life, but it’s getting better!” – her words. She had sort of a Janis/Stevie Nicks/Blondie vibe with her stumbly unfocused Jack Sparrow drunkish (though hadn’t had a glass) way about the stage in her new agey clothes with the forearms of the sleeves slit in half, curly hair and eyes rolled back with teeth bared at the mic. I often looked up surprised she had a guitar rather than a drink in her hand. Reminded me of Stifler’s mom from American Pie.
Malachy Milligan played the next set, with dark emo type songs and a strange uncertain conceitedness with the audience. That is, he’d say things like “Forget that one” and then introduce his last song with the bold proclamation “I wrote this song in one day and I think it’s pretty great because I don’t think it sounds like any other song in the world.” But after Zilda, a welcome change. And finally Lance, an excellent guitarist and musician who’d helped with the PA earlier and knew how to adjust his levels between songs. He played a twelve string in Csus2 tuning, which I thought unfortunately overpowered his voice. The tuning yielded a rather dirgy feel. I still thought his set was the clear second place – excellent guitar skills and a good voice if a bit strained.
I’ve been noticing that the one who goes last almost always get’s last. And so this night Lance only beat out Zilda. That’s the thing with voting based on drinks. People will buy tickets for who they came for, listen to the next artist and then stick that artist on the bill just to get it over with. No one waited ’til the end to vote except me. You see, despite my only getting water, the bartender very kindly gave me four votes. At any rate I played a four song set while Carolyn counted the votes up – From Dawn to Busk, Squirrel Song, Kids, and Stamsund. I felt comfortable among the warm, supportive audience – none besides Christina had left, and she only due to being underage.
After Alan netted his first place five hundred dollar prize and Malachy netted his second place studio time, business went crazy. I turned the pool table into a mini merch table, and people flocked over. Lance asked me for a CD and for my signature, then an older supporter or Alan’s came and gave me three dollars for nothing in particular before taking the bookmark I insisted on. Then a middle aged bloke bought my CD for ten, then another, then the Tucson man bought three bookmarks, and then Malachy’s supporter payed ten for a CD and refused change and then his mother and father look through my bookmarks and buy eleven of them, the father paying an extra ten cents for his and all the time people coming up and thanking me or chatting with me and I’m overwhelmed but oh so happy.
But best of all was the compliment from that same kind bartender. He told me seriously he thought me a great songwriter and could see me with a band. And so the song of the day was his favourite.
Earnings: 55.10 AUD, 20 minutes
Song of the Day: From Dawn to Busk – Terrence Ho