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?

4 Responses to “Sunday, June 6 2021: A Truly Memorable Gig”

  1. Paul Says:

    Yes! I was at the tap room on this magical evening Three performers, a young Charlie who simply made his guitar sing, Joe accompanying on an acoustic guitar and interacting with several solo segments was just a delight to listen to…..Then Melinda stepped up to the microphone and simply blew everyone away. In my opinion, Melinda has the best / strongest voice I have heard in Castlemaine.
    I look forward to hearing this small, very professional group play again.

  2. cheryl Says:

    Thank you Paul. They were amazing, weren’t they?

  3. Melinda Traves Says:

    Dear Cheryl
    What a delightful read. We were rolling with laughter about the riff offs : )
    Thank you so much for being there.
    Big Smiles Melinda xxxxxxx

  4. cheryl Says:

    Yes, that was part of the fun, wasn’t it? What an amazing vibe you guys created that night!

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