Archive for June, 2021

The 3-Chord Club

June 26, 2021 - 4:31 pm No Comments


 John Hannah started the 3-Chord Club in October of last year with the help of Rob Williams, Peter Marples and his partner, Gwynn James. Considering the range and variety of talent  presented last Sunday, June 20, 2021, at the Guildford Hotel, it’s going from strength to strength.

First up, Sean Kenan, who usually dazzles us with his fiddle, banjo or dobro playing, surprised us all with a charming little shadow play, a kind of silent movie he operated solo behind a screen.  

Next was Dean Richards who presents his own material—often tales of perfidy and love-gone-wrong set to some techno wizardry which brought to my mind that virtuosic Japanese electronic music man, Isao Tomita.

Charlie Steel followed with On the Breadline  —‘I don’t need the kind of things that shiny money brings.’ Charlie too, writes a lot of his own material which is evocative and poignant. (Remember his gorgeous song about travelling through the dark on the V-line train?) “Down the Lost Highway” and “I Don’t Want to Die with Dirty Hands” were his offerings on Sunday.

Richard Weis, the next act, is new to the 3-Chord Club, but a consummate musician on chromatic harmonica, all the same. He had some really funny patter, too. He verbally offered us a whole range of musical styles he was prepared to play us, including Holocaust music—which, he pointed out to us, kind of puts the Lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic—at least in Australia—into perspective.

Banjo Baz, aka Barry Fitzpatrick, was number 5. After his turn on stage he told us he was nervous, showing us still-trembling hands, yet he put in a wonderfully professional performance of banjo picking, from the very lyrical “Tennessee Waltz” to Barry and Robin Gibb’s  “You Don’t Know What It’s Like to Love Somebody,” then had us all lustily singing “Country Road” with him. 

Next were a couple of delightful out-of-towners (from Melbourne) who played us some World Music that had everyone stamping their feet in time with the music and ‘encore!’-ing. Jonathan Hicks played banjo mandolin and fiddle and Sue Ferguson piano accordion. They were accompanied by our Bill Thompson on drums. Starting  with a heavily rhythmic Russian folksong, they ended with an Italian partisan song. Stirring stuff. 

Sugar and Spice was in the 7th slot. These ladies—Vanessa Craven and Z’dene Schwanmeier—have appeared several times before at the 3-Chord Club. This Sunday I was charmed by “We’re Still Friends”—an original work—and “You’re Leaving” sung and played on a Dobro or Resophonic guitar accompanied by ukulele bass.

Jude Warren usually plays with Steve Cole and Russell McKenzie but this Sunday Steve was unable to attend. Jude sang “Once in a Blue Moon” and the Jo Stafford hit, “You Belong to Me.”  Her style this time was more intimate and restrained, a gentle contrast to what was to follow.

The last item was some rowdy, rollicking Old Time Chicago Blues and didn’t we lap it up? The performers, Darryl Pyers and Kez come from the lovely town of Dunnolly. Tall, slim Kez with long blonde hair under a black cowboy hat, mini-skirt and boots, managed to look kind of enigmatic until she got down to the business of playing her guitar—when she wowed us. Darryl’s gravelly voice was perfect for the genre though I didn’t catch too many of his words. But these guys ended this gig on a very high note and we hope they’ll find their way back around these parts sometime very soon. 

The 3-Chord Club, an Open Mic event,  happens on the 3rd Sunday of the month at the Guildford, starting at 2.00pm. You have to book but it’s still only 5 bucks to get in—which has to be some kind of miracle considering the quality of the music.

Sunday, June 6 2021: A Truly Memorable Gig

June 8, 2021 - 8:47 am 4 Comments

So we’re just out of Lockdown in rural Victoria. It’s been cold, but when a friend mentions Mel (Melinda) Traves will be performing at the Taproom in Castlemaine, I immediately phone my partner. He says of course we should go, failing to mention that his footy team, the Blues, are playing at the same time. I only twig this when we are driving to the venue. The radio is on and somebody either has or has not kicked a goal. Not sure which. Look, I’d be feeling really guilty about this if it was anyone other than Mel performing tonight.
At the Taproom we learn that we should have booked. I say the people who told me about the gig tonight would have booked us in with them. We sign in, the masked lady behind the bar checks the list and our names are not on it. She says we can stay—it is early and my partner has just ordered pizza and Ginger Kids—until the people whose table we are sitting at arrive to claim it. They’re always lovely at the Taproom.
Anyway the legitimately-booked people do arrive into about the third song Mel is singing with an amazing young guitarist whose name is Charlie Bedford and they graciously invite us to stay at their table. We move down a bit, encroaching on another table where the people are equally kind. We count heads in the Taproom. We’re just under the prescribed limit. Just.
Long, slim Charlie with silky blonde hair that keeps falling over his face, is the other part of Mel’s band, The Great Unknown, here tonight. The other three are in Lockdown in Melbourne. My partner leans closer to me and says, “This kid is incredible and I don’t think he’s even started shaving yet!” Somebody at the next table reckons he looks 14. I would’ve said 17 but he must have been learning to play that guitar in utero to have reached the standard he’s offering tonight. Charlie also maintains a confident patter with Mel between songs and when he sings he enunciates so clearly you hear every word.
Mel of course is Mel. Fabulous voice with a range of between two and a half and three octaves and always the consummate performer. They do an adorable version of “Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens” and “Little By Little (I’m Losing You)” with just the right amount of pathos, when I notice that the Taproom that is usually abuzz with background chatter is listening intently. This is particularly gratifying to me. When I go to a gig it’s always to hear the music.
It’s when Mel invites Joe Polidoro onto the stage that something happens that can only be explained as the juju born of brilliant musicianship and an intelligent, appreciative audience. Joe’s softer acoustic guitar sound is equally virtuosic. The two guitars now become interactive, ending each song with extended riffing that suddenly seems to make the memory of those duelling banjos somewhat effete. Mel is laughing, shaking her head at the two of them but the audience is electrified, urging on this glorious misbehaviour on the stage. Joe is smiling, perspiring, Charlie is offering another challenge, Joe rises to it, offers another.
Suddenly the gig ends and the audience members are almost as exhausted as the musicians, but aware that they’d just been part of something that they really couldn’t have been expecting on this cold night in downtown Castlemaine. They may be wondering what just happened, but feeling as I do, that they’ve been transformed into gladder, even wiser versions of themselves. If The Great Unknown minus 3, plus 1, is as amazing as this, what’s it like when the complete band gets together?