The idea was simple enough.
Chock-a-block full of Bound For Glory I strapped my guitar to a bike trailer, attached the trailer to me trusty treadly and headed south to Melbourne for a rural tour of this fair country. And why? To play shows in the far reaches of mountainous NSW and Victoria, to give back a little love to the culturally malnourished gold towns of olde and to win some die-hard fans in the process.
I left with my girlfriend Palwesha in the wee hours of a chilly, wet Sydney morning, taking the silver bullet over the Blue Mountains to Lithgow, where we would start this epic journey. Once off the train the weight of the journey unfolded itself underneath a steady downpour, a flat tire and a biting wind charging off the same hills we were to conquer on the opening day Oberon, our first stop.
Foreign hills are like foreign movies, often painful, usually rewarding and you never know if they’ll end. Our final ascent into Oberon required a gut wrenching climb up Mount Lowe. It broke our spirits as we summoned our final skeric of energy, after a wet, cold day of riding 60 odd kilometres, to ascend the hill that had no end.
Needless to say it did have an end, and it ended in the best way possible, as our ride flattened out into a serene sunset, casting spellbinding colours onto the falling Autumn leaves littering the freezing streets of Oberon. Wet and thoroughly discombobulated we rode on to the Tourist Hotel of Oberon, (one of two hotels in town the other being known lovingly as ‘The Punch Bar’) where we were to receive our first bout of country hospitality and where I was to perform my first show of ‘The alt-country-suburban-urban-folk-punk-emo/bluegrass regional tour’.
As me and the missus dismounted outside, a couple of keen locals waltzed out of the bar into the chilly night air, schooners in hand and waved us in. One fella shouting out: “TRACEY! TRACEY! HERE COMES THE ONE MAN BAND! HERE COMES THE ONE MAN BAND!”
Oberon is a pretty busy olde town. The main industries are logging and the production of Medium Density Fibre (MDF). MDF is a very popular building product and it is also a very lethal product. Apparently, after cigarettes, the micro fibres of MDF, when inhaled, are the greatest cause of cancer in Australia. So lethal, in fact, that the American’s banned its use in the 70’s.
First things first. Before I performed my first show I ate Lambs Fry and it is farken delicious. Marg, the head chef at the Tourist Hotel is a mean cook and both my girlfriend and my appetites were well and truly sated by the time I got ready to perform.
And so … I set up on the bar stool and began strumming the tunes. The crowd consisted of a couple of grey nomads from Adelaide in the front row; Tucker, the owner of Oberon’s biggest beard; Kel, a bloody legend as well as Tracey and Dave, the pubs owners and their son (as well as Palwesha).
I started with a couple of loose country ditties to get the crowd in the mood. Dave grabbed his video recorder to capture this moment for future generations.
All was going well and I felt the Love in the room swell like the flames that licked the fresh logs on the fire so I busted out some improvisation:
Its all good at the Tourist Hotel in Oberon
They love a beer, they love a laugh, they love a country song
Forget about your worries, forget what has gone wrong
Come visit the Tourist when you get to Oberon
Dave and Tracey’s friendly faces serve behind the bar
Serve the workers of the town when the day goes dark
If your feeling hungry when you come on off the scrub
Get a feed of Marg, she’s serving first class grub
Well the crowd went berko. Old mate, the husband in the grey nomad couple was slapping his leg in time, his glass of red swaying lustfully in his other hand. Tucker was buying me beers and yelling out
“Keep on playing those bloody songs!”
Needless to say I did.
An hour and a half later, the heady highs and lows of the first concert of the tour had come to an end. My schooner was dry, my lungs empty from blowing the harp with full gusto and my voice was course from the bellowing across the bar. Furthermore we got asked to stay an extra day and play the following night and I did get those coveted new die hard fans: a couple of grey nomads from Adelaide with respectable rhythm, Kel, Dave, Tracey as well as Tucker, my big bearded friend in Oberon.
TO BE CONTINUED…