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“Open Mic” at the Taproom.

Thursday nights are Open Mic nights at The Taproom, which is part of the Shedshaker Brewing Company. This is a boutique pub specialising in craft beers. You can find it on 9 Walker Street at the entrance to Castlemaine’s Mill, roughly behind Das Kaffeehaus. It’s on the other side of the road from Castlemaine’s Botanic Gardens.

The Taproom is a good venue. The staff is always welcoming and the beer and pizzas, delicious. You can count on at least one good musical turn of a Thursday night, but this last one—April 28—offered an excellent line-up.

It was a late start because a Book Club talk was on before the Open Mic and apparently the customers there just didn’t want to leave. But finally a trickle of punters made it out through the glass doors and we shiverers in the garden claimed their still-warm seats.

Scott Sanders started the proceedings with a few of his own interpretations and then handed over to the Lorettas. These two ladies have lately been making quite the favourable impression on the ‘Maine. They pleased the crowd at an art opening  at Lot 19 a couple of Sundays ago with Nic Lyons accompanying them on his  bass ukulele. Then, as on this evening, they played Stevie Nicks and that song for our age written by the wonderful Lanie Lane, “What Do I Do?”

Angela from the band called “Angela and the Doc” sang solo tonight, accompanying herself on guitar. She produced a lovely folksy sound with “Grandma’s Hands” and “I Go back.”

Stefan Brown also sang solo with guitar accompaniment. He performed “I Dreamed of Your Green Hills in Winter” a song he said he would have liked to have performed on ANZAC Day just gone. “Ninety Miles an Hour Down a Dead-end Street,” the Bob Dylan song, was next and then “Red Guitar” by Loudon Wainwright the Third, about a guy who smashes up his instrument in a fit of pique. It was a confident and accomplished performance and very enjoyable.

A surprise awaited us in the form of a young gentleman called Rowan Nichol. He normally works behind the bar but Thursday night also got up on stage and performed for us. He did well.

However I have to say that the highlight for me was “Judy and the Upright Gentlemen.”

This is a group whose music I have enjoyed before at the Guildford Hotel (which apparently doesn’t offer live music any more—a new-management decision I find utterly astounding and rather self-destructive) and various events organised by the Grumpies’ Car Club.

Judy—Jude Warren—is the vocalist who also plays guitar. The “Upright Gentlemen” are two fine guitarists, Steve Cole on lead and Russell Mackenzie on bass.

They started with the J.J. Cale song, “Sensitive Kind,” Steve vocally harmonising at the beginning of the song and then providing some bluesy riffs with Russell for the rest of it. Jude introduced the next song as “a little ditty about dementia based on the Dr Seuss book.” 

This is pure, unadulterated charm. Called “Waltzing with Bears” it was performed with a very pronounced 1—2—3 waltz beat and contains such lines as “I’m sure Uncle Walter’s been waltzing with bears. . .” and “There’s nothing Uncle Walter won’t do so he can go waltzing, waltzing with bears.”

Their third item was “Open Up Your Heart” by G. Wayne Thomas, an upbeat, feel-good song. “It’s a start, open up your heart. Try not to hide what you feel inside.” 

Judy articulates clearly when she sings so you hear her every word. Her “Upright Gentlemen” did great credit to her with their lush, equally beautifully-articulated accompaniment.

Looking forward to their next gig.

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