Vance Gilbert Visits Cooranga North

Vance plays at the small hall in Cooranga North

Day 17 -23

Friday Dec 1- Tremendous community show. All kinds of people, kids, food. Promoter’s daughters and I stalk my first wild wallaby in the pics. It knew we were no threat. It just kept drinking.
Later a Philippine woman selling curry rice and Pad Thai cracked me up. She could tell I wasn’t from Australia, asked me what I thought of Australia so far. I told her that the animals were so strange to me in real time. She told me she knew what I was talking about because her son felt the same way after they had all left left Manila to follow dad’s job. After a while he told her, “Mamma, I feel like we live in a zoo!”
Liz did a brilliant set. Pre show, one kid asked if she knew any John Denver. Liz took the keys from road manager Courtney, drove up the hill to get reception, downloaded the lyrics to Take Me Home Country Roads, memorized them, drove back, took the stage, and along with her other stellar material, just killed it. I laughed out loud when the audience sang “West Virginiaaaaaaah…. mountain mahhmaaaaaa….”. Kids ages 2-6 dancing in a mosh in front of the stage to any and everything.
It was perfect. And It was on.
Hell yes I did my jazz/RB version of Sunshine On My Shoulders. I re-rocked the house she had already rocked.
Victualers wandered through the hall while we were packing up, giving away food they couldn’t sell.
Real community, great listeners, delightful kids, even the talking outside and in the rear of the hall “worked”. Perfect. Thanks you, Ball. You guys lived up to that name.

Next morning we drive to Suret, and I know this will be a great gig because the name sounds similar to one of my favorite Impressionistic painters.
We stop for lunch at one of the promoter’s house. Lovely lady with 2 really sharp girl kids. And Morris the dog, who could easily eat your face in one lazy chomp but look at the video.
Who’s a big fuzzy wuzzles I ax you?? He’s a big lovey boy yes hims is!! Who’s a snootsnuffle?? Guuuuu Boiiiiie!!!
And the land they own where they raise their cattle. After the math, it’s 26 square miles. Twenty six. 26. That’s over 5 miles a side for you model building pals of mine. I have no words.

We get to the actually pretty nicely appointed hotel and the owner, a roundish, 70 year old man named Doug greets Liz:

“Hello, Blondie”.

Before we could recover he looks at me nods and says:

“Hello, Boy”.

I froze. A million things ran thru my head.
It’s regional.
It’s lovingly colloquial.
He’s acknowledging the age difference and just being silly familiar. …………

Then I think a little less frozenly:
He’s got cable.
He just gave us the internet code.
I’m a little less gray than he is, and visually maybe but ten years younger.
He’s reading a recent novel.
Outback don’t know better didn’t get the memo my ass.

Martin Luther King would have taken him aside as a Christian man and broached the subject.
Benjamin O. Davis or Arthur Ashe would have held heads high and just carried on like it and he didn’t matter.
Richard Pryor would have cussed him out and said stuff about his mother he didn’t know.
Muhammad Ali might have smacked him.
Malcolm X would have…. oh dear.

I suited up and went for a run in what was notably rare rain. I didn’t care that I’d have little legs left for the show. I found a dirt road and just kept running…..running.. It surprised me by running alongside what turned out to be an infrequently used air strip, and anyone who knows me knows how zen that ended up being.

There Doug was on the porch when I got back. So here I represent the Festival Of Small Halls. I represent the USA. I represent American Black Folks.
I had looked at the notebook dossier of the hotel stuck in my room and read that he’s the great-grandson of some original Scotch-English “settlers” of the town.
So I picked his brain about the airport and the planes that landed there. Each one type he mentioned that landed that did this or that I amended with how it might have been powered or who made it. Even if I didn’t know for sure I made shid up that sounded more probable than not. I mansplained my ass off. I showed him my shirt. I told him I was a musician and an aviation historian.
He was exhausted by the time I was done. He asked how old I was while I was stretching. I told him. He tried to salvage the chat with how he walks his dog to the runway’s end and around and back for his exercise. I told him I pretty much did that but I ran it. He blanched a teeny bit more. And any time I addressed him I called him “laddie”. A pond of flesh is a pound of flesh. Shush up. I’m not perfect.

This show was set up similarly to the previous one but the talking and kids and general din made it tough like a bad bar gig. Shoveling ice during a ballad. Moving chairs. Just talking. Liz struggled. I played a Christmas carol, and did that long pause quite thing where you dare the room to make a sound during some ballad or another by singing so sparsely and quietly. Still, It was rough.
I won them, but there wasn’t much art going on. Pride in, pride out.
Sometimes I believe, even in the midst of the sale of these shows to these venues, that though we are there to not only bring the best acoustic singing and writing to folks that would not usually have access to such art, and to foster community around said art, we should tell them to receive the art as they would classical music when it comes to town.
Be quiet.
There’s words you’ll like.
We promise.

Then came a long lovely 9 hour drive in van to Qantas Museum with soundman Harry dropping me off for 2 hours. Nicely done museum, heartwarming if not the most scintillatingly or correctly done replicas (damn my amateur aero historian eyes…), great stuff to read.
I bought a T shirt. And stickers.

Part of this day I was to teach a performance workshop to a number of people. Only taker was 13 year old Elke with her guitar in hand, along with her mom, dad, 10 year old brother and 8 year old sister. Mom videoed. The other two kids sat as audience. I made dad phaux sound engineer. By the time I was done I had all these kids singing together on a Carrie Underwood song on which the teen was doing quite well.
Still licking my wounds from the night before, Peter the dad surprised me by noticing my Tuskegee Airman T-shirt, and whether I knew about what I was wearing. If you’re still reading and you know me just a little You know why I had THAT shirt on today. 35 minutes later we were still at it. Turns out he’s a private pilot, occasional crop duster. He told me this wonderful story of recently getting “checked out” in a 2-seat P-51 Mustang fighter well enough to land it with an instructor present. Guys were having beer after their check rides in this classic warplane from WW2 and telling stories. One guy talked about a cross wind landing in his crop duster that made for a tense moment. Peter was all ready to talk about a dusk landing with low visibility and wind when another quite a bit older gent started a story. Using his right hand following a left hand, somewhere in the remembrance there was “on the deck full after-burner for home with a MiG on my tail……” . When it came to Peter’s turn he said to himself “well *I’m* out..” and got another beer….
I had him look up videos of my planes. He motioned furiously for his boy to come in and see that these were done with “no radios it electric or gas engines”. He’s now my best Australian “maite” as I write this. Imagine that?
He asked me about race and Trump and the south and he wondered what it was some of the people seemed to want to talk to him about but didn’t. He wondered what had happened and how it was possible the election went the way it did. He said in his dealings with business people he could feel something simmering. No, I said nothing about old Doug. I told him to trust his instincts, and that I’d trust mine..

There are 28 people at this show. They hung on all of our words. Bless them all. Perfect show. Particularly great watching Elke drop-jawed at Liz’s work. In the making.

Oh lovely complicated Australia. I still don’t get:

-On/off Switched electrical plugs “We don’t understand why you don’t have them!” is not an answer. Even an electrician on hand couldn’t give me a real reason. Finally I was told it was for safety….

-Room keys that turn on lights and other electrical appliances,

-piss troughs… see the pic. They dominate urinals at road stops like 10 to 1. There’s an overhead pull cord that lets water rinse the whole thing by gravity. Ewww. It’s not that green, I’m sorry. Eww.

-roadside kangaroos….so many dead in the Outback, a carcass easily every 100 meters. I’m so over the kangaroo thing now, so much so that I even imagine American deer are like “damn y’all, when you see headlights, back the hell off …”

– custom front kangaroo bash bumper grills for cars that look like football face masks made especially for your Toyota. …..see the above note from our American deer.

-owned vastness, miles and miles of….
Now I understand the meaning of the saying “when the Cows come home”.


Skip to content