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Under Western Skies: Coonamble (Show #2) 

There was a fear that my skills in logistics and timetabling had let me down again (honestly they are not skills that I sharpen with any regularity) when I got a call a few weeks out from the Coonamble gig. 

“There’s a Rotary Ball on the same night” 

Of course I laughed because in my experience this was the sort of thing you needed ID to get into - that ID being a seniors card - which, according to Spotify (surprisingly) isn’t our most popular demographic. 

Lest I rest on my mistaken assumptions I was quickly informed that oh no, Coonamble Rotary is different... of course as it turns out different means “directly appealing to the exact same crowd that one would normally expect would support a night of live music” 

Damn. It. 

I hurriedly put in a call to the Bucking Bull (aka the venue of the unbelievably rocking rock show about to hit town) and decided to play along with a game of publican knows best when one of original music in the west’s new best friends Trevor assured me it wouldn’t matter. 

Fast forward to the day of - fresh from a moderately well attended gig in Coonabarabran we were prepared to play for an empty beer garden like it was Wembley Stadium. 

It wasn’t a lack of faith I promise but more that feeling that sometimes comes over songwriters when there’s this sneaky feeling that no one will show. Dave and Dallas took the van and gear via Baradine and Tim and I cruised through the Warrumbungle National Park for a spot of bird watching. 

What? That’s a legitimate exercise to engage in on a rock & roll tour! 

Technically it was Tim doing the watching (he’s really very good, pick his brain about it) while I asked annoying questions and probably made far too much noise in environments where that wasn’t exactly the recipe for success. 

A few dirt roads later we hit Coonamble and cruised past the pub - and what is out the front? A big effing chalkboard with “LIVE BANDS ONE NIGHT ONLY” and the line-up. OK, so the pub was excited, this might be OK. 

We stopped downtown, imposing ourselves on the only open cafe at a distinctly non “lunchy” time and losing the battle to have them turn the fryers back on we walked out with 4 chicken sandwiches, having heard the people behind the counter talking about “the big gig tonight” unbeknownst that it was us that was the big gig. That was enough fuel for my ego - the optimism meter was starting to flicker... 

Joined by our great mates Civil Hands, Mannequin and Simon Allen there was one thing we knew - there would be at least 15 people there ‘cause we all weren’t going anywhere else. 

A few early birds put that at around 25 and I was happy, telling myself that it was a pretty good number for this tour of songs you’ve never heard. 

(Here them here!)

You know they even gave us a green room to relax in (Trevor, you are a legend!) and I don’t recall it happening but by the time the opening D chord to Magpie was ringing out the crowd had swelled to a hundred or more. Estimates from the pub put it near 200 by the end of the night. 

The pattern of losing myself in the set continued so the memories are fuzzy but I know there was singing and dancing... I need to give a shout out to the two incredible people who pretty much danced all night for the bands and got other people up to do the same. 

OK, I’ll admit, occasionally I’m prone to the use of hyperbole but if I said this was one of my favourite gigs ever I wouldn’t be stringing you along. Coonamble, you’ve outdone yourselves and it was an absolute pleasure to play for you. Until next time! 


Under Western Skies: Coonabarabran (Show #1) 

As I was flying into Dubbo that Friday afternoon, content in the knowledge that I had completely avoided the responsibility of packing the tour van (I do have a little bit of lead singer disease after all) it struck me, “we’re going on tour!” 

I like to think I’m a rock star sometimes but I’m almost 40 and have never been on tour. What’s that all about? 

Barely fitting my remaining gear into Tim’s car (do I really need two tuner pedals? Yes, I do!) we started the trek north to Coonabarabran. I have fun memories of Coonabarabran, it felt like longer in the family car when I was 10 but a 90 minute trip to hang out in a dinosaur themed park is right up there with my favourite childhood memories. It may have cost 20 cents to make the T-Rex roar but it was worth so much more than that… I miss you Miniland… 

Anyway, time for a road trip, on with the tunes! Except not, because despite a CD being clearly visible in the CD player in Tim’s car, pressing eject could only elicit a “No Disc” message. Was it trying to tell us something? I don’t think so but it was frustrating none the less (for Tim) because any silence gives me the opportunity to fill it with diatribes about the music industry, politics and the state of education – sometimes even a combination of the three riveting subjects… 

I’m sure the CD player will magically be fixed next time. 

The venue awaits. The only place fitting enough for an unknown band playing unknown songs at loud volume – the local Bowlo. I can’t fault the CBC for their support, they even let us park on the grass, which is the ultimate sign of respect (I gather). 

With 4 sets of hands and basically no idea what we were doing we started to assemble the PA. And all went swimmingly as far as I could tell, although I was doing a lot of pretending to be busy so I didn’t have to carry the subs. Banner up, instruments tuned and ready to go, schnitzels ordered and perhaps a beer or two to calm the nerves. It was time for the main event… the meat raffles. 

In all the excitement, Tim and Dave invested their per diems in dreams of a meaty reward, exactly what we would do with 10kg of fresh fillet steak if they won had not yet been considered, perhaps the plan was to let them roast in the Coonamble sun the following day like we all would? 

Righto – time for some music to calm the carnivorous hordes. Brad Haling sir, you are up! Only problem was, having plugged the PA in (we assumed) correctly in a slight state of panic we didn’t test it and now there was no sound. NO SOUND! That’s the only thing a PA exists for, to give sound and this one gave none… thankfully plugging the cables into where they really went instead of just where we thought they went fixed this. 

Brad serenaded us with his gravelly folk tunes and women and children cheered (and men too I gather… I couldn’t hear anything, stress had robbed me of most of my senses… and this was only Day #1!) 

Mannequin were next, hitting the stage in acoustic mode, very fine tunes not at all assisted by our inability to provide anything in the way of background music for the set change aside from some sub-bass sound that approximated being locked in the boot of a car doing midnight mainies. Still having class support acts paid off again as the night was righted and the mood was set for our… um… set. 

Honestly I can’t remember that much from the performance. Still struggling with sound I begged Scott from Mannequin to fix it (which probably only he could, and did) and we’d just play. I swallowed my heart, my life flashed before my eyes (or perhaps it was the kitchen light being turned off) and I took out my in ear monitors (rookie error) and we played. 

I thought it had gone about as well as we could have expected until our second to last song where we were joined by Churchy, friend and great supporter of the band since day #1, local hero and stellar guitarist for a guest spot. All of the sudden the phones came out. I’ve never had 7 cameras recording my performance before… and they weren’t this time either , they were on Adrian so I tried to photobomb him as many times as possible… it was a triumphant moment and a pleasure to have him on our stage. 

Pretty good for first night jitters – look out Coonamble you (and we) don’t know just what might happen next!