How The West Was (Probably Not) Won (This time… but may well be one day) - Part 3

With 1/16th of a tank of petrol and paying no attention to the fuel gauge the journey continues...


Gig #3 – Lightning Ridge 

The forecast was for a 42 degree day. In September. Normally I would veto any suggestion of leaving the car and it’s apathy inducing A/C but en route to “The Ridge” is something worth the stop. In the town of Brewarrina there are built some fish traps. By which I mean: 

The Brewarrina Fish Traps are a complex arrangement of stone walls… nearly half a kilometre in length, these fish traps are the largest known in Australia and were an ingenious invention long used by Aboriginal people to catch fish. The age of these fish traps is unknown and they may be one of the oldest human constructions in the world. – Brewarrina Council Website 

Believe me, it’s an incredible thing to see and think about. 

So anyway, 90kms from Lightning Ridge I realise the tank is empty. Dale isn’t legally allowed to drive and I can’t imagine him being too keen about pushing the van while I do. So I hope. Luckily this combination of hope and petrol gets us to our destination, just. The outdoor stage we were to perform on is painted in a Pink Floyd inspired mural however it is 39 degrees so we opt for an unobtrusive corner of the bar (aka “inside”). 

Again, the crowd is appreciative. A family tries to give me $20 for a CD that I’m only talking about releasing – another lesson about tour preparation there – obviously I can’t take the money but the conversation that comes later is just as valuable. No that should be more valuable, it was worth way more than $20… I’m struck for the third time in as many nights by the willingness of people to give music they have never heard a listen. That doesn’t happen everywhere I can guarantee. 

Lesson #3 

My friend and tour companion Dale is a gigging musician. This becomes obvious as I begin to struggle with the physical rigours of performing two hours of music for the third night in a row. And that’s nothing, imagine a year-long world tour! There’s a lot of emotion in my songs, in the writing and the performance, they mean a lot to me but while my back and shoulders are aching and my throat is getting a little raspy, Dale is still playing away, a piece of percussion in each hand, more hanging off his leg, sitting on a Cajon and operating the pedals with his feet… and somehow managing to make schooners of beer disappear at the same time! It’s probably called match fitness… or professionalism… truth is I’m playing more gigs this week than I have in some years. I need to put a bit more work in it seems. And it’s not only that. My first thought, after “humourously” rejecting the first Cold Chisel request we’ve had in three towns my thoughts turn to packing up and getting some sleep. Not Mr Freeman, he makes the connection with the willing requester and 10 minutes later knows his story, his reason for being there watching out music on a Wednesday night and eventually becomes his one-man karaoke machine as our new friend belts out “Flame Trees”. I have spent so much energy railing against calls to play covers – I felt, still feel, it comes from a genuine desire to encourage the creation of new music. In some ways it has made me militantly so – I could easily say I’m a product of my local music scene. More than a few people have been actively trying to establish a respected original music scene for the best part of three decades but sometimes, most times I suspect, it’s not about me. Maybe I might be beginning to understand.

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