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Chrissy Amphlett

22 Apr

Vale Chrissy Amphlett. I was 7, maybe 8, when I first saw you on the tele. I was pretty newly arrived in Australia and without any new heroes to help me through the bullying and difference of newly suburban Nerang, a highway town they’d started carving out of agistment acreage and farms in the 70’s.

Classic Chrissy Amphlett by Tony Mott

Classic Chrissy Amphlett by Tony Mott

I was sitting cross-legged on the floor like you would in the Pleasure and Pain video, engrossed in my essential weekly show Countdown. I’m pretty sure it was Boys In Town. I remember then putting Boys In Town on the jukebox at a pub near my school where my Dad was playing pool. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the context but, as I grew into my body and my teens, that song became my Suburban Girl’s Escape Manual, “I was just a red brassiere/to all the boys in town/put this bus in top gear/get me out of here…” Aussie girls were tough, sassy. I would be tough and sassy too.

I was in immediate thrall to your toughness, your wildness. You thrilled me. I was glued to the TV or the radio every time you were on. It took me a little more maturity to see your equal and brave vulnerability. You were so tough because you laid your whole self on the line – defiantly, provocatively – Are you man enough to handle me? Please be man enough to handle me.

You had the onstage stance of a school brawler: squared off, sharp elbows, crouching and ready – a female John Wayne cowboy in a sailor suit, flat shoes and suspenders. Rather than your spectacular writhing on the industrial grid flooring in Pleasure and Pain, I was struck by your quick, ugly, angular arm gestures and wide, confronting eyes. You, Chrissy, pointing and sarcastic, “Ha! Oh please don’t ask me how I been getting on.” It took me years to understand you were singing, “how I been getting off” – a world of difference. Your sarcastic ‘Ha!” was also in Hey Little Boy, the last Divinyls song I really liked. “Ha! Well! I’m talking to YOU!

Chrissy Amphlett at Australian Made by Bob King

Chrissy Amphlett at Australian Made by Bob King

In 1986, a bunch of cowboy promoters staged Australian Made, an all-Australian music festival I was too young to go to. But I wore out the video watching, well, Michael Hutchence – who wouldn’t… and you, Chrissy. Breaking the fourth wall. Getting off the stage and wobbling precariously on the camera track behind the crowd barrier. Sitting open-legged on the lip of the stage. Yelling, “Where are all the boys?”. Sitting next to Hutchence saying, “I just do my thing, Troy. Whatever happens, you know, the moment takes over.” I wanted to be you so badly. I practiced being you with a broomstick mic stand and hairbrush microphone. I wasn’t a tough girl, but I was a mouthy girl, a quietly provocative girl, a girl with a strutting walk – liquid on the inside and solid brass on the outside. I wanted to be you so badly, I got into singing.

Your gasping, sucking breathing in songs, your hiccuping yodels and growled, fried notes were so against the normal rules of recorded singing and so important to the intensity of your sound, and mine. I got into my first band at 15 and, with you as my patron saint, finally began to enjoy myself and confuse my fellow students at lunchtime gigs. Strangely, I don’t remember us doing Divinyls songs. They were such a tight band with such classy, rippling lead lines, a killer pop singles band, that we couldn’t touch those sounds, but I was never really looking at Mark McEntee.

Your conversational tone with the audience during Temperamental, your cowboy walk from the hips, your pointing and simply owning the stage as if this argument was in your comfortable kitchen at home. Your red hair. Your open mouth. I absorbed all of this from you.

I saw you once in the toilets at the Athanaeum Theatre in Melbourne during a Tex, Don and Charlie concert. I sat in the cubicle bracing myself to say hello, thank you for your inspiration. As I emerged, another woman beat me to it, catching her eyes in the mirror (she couldn’t look directly) and offering you, “You inspired me and my girlfriends to be tough and strong. Thank you.” She’d said what I would have said and you just kind of looked at her and drawled, “Yeeeaaaaahhhhhhhh.” No big-sisterly smile and wink, nothing. I slunk out without a word, appalled but exhilarated to have been in your presence. Praise or bile, like Dean Martin, you seemed truly not to give a fuck.

I turn 38 next month, Chrissy. You were only 14 years older than me. I’m so happy you went peacefully in your sleep after your body was ravaged by both cancer and MS. In interviews, you seemed to take a lot of wisdom and strength even from two solid body blows like that – a brawler ’til the end. I’ve now strapped on an electric guitar and, vocally and musically, I’m aiming for the mix of cool, vulnerability, wry humour and balls that you taught me, Chrissy. You were my first musical hero. What you offered us shaped me on stage and helped give me a place and an identity as an immigrant to Australia. Thank you.

Love,
Sam

A new month, new resolutions

1 Feb

February 2013. After a slow January hibernation, I had the sudden morning sense of the months’ temporal velocity. And an ache over how few of my many ideas make it out of my brain or past a coffee and chat with a potential collaborator. I do a lot of things – playing concerts, a house concert series, a new booking agency, friends, longer tours, songwriting, writing, collaborative events – but could I be more effective, more engaged, more organised?

Firstly, the promotional parts of the post: I have concerts coming up and I’m testing new, different material. If you’re in Berlin, I’d love you to come along.

Tuesday 12 February at Das Hotel, Kreuzberg. 21:00. Free entry. Two sets.
Saturday 23 & Sunday 24 February – English Theatre Berlin. BERLIN-KREUZBERG DE. 12:00 – 16:00. 5€. One on One singer-songwriter shows produced by Sofa Salon and Everyone is from Somewhere.
Friday 1 March supporting Bocage at Amiga Club, Treptow. 20:00.
Thursday 11 April with Salon Band at Kugelbahn, Wedding. Salon Band are reinterpreting songs from my ‘Close as a Slow Dance’ album. 20:00.

I am in my cave at 9pm on a Friday night doing up a blog post on organisation, engagement and resolutions.  Honestly, I’m not in much of a bar mood at this time of year. Winter, especially a grey, wet one, is like a damp, heavy St Bernard sitting on the knees of my sociability, so I tend to use Winter to plan, book Summer tours, make lists, found new years’ enterprises and the planning meetings force me out of the house. A useful Winter Blues coping strategy.

Plans for this year include taking guitar lessons to polish up the things I can do and add to my skill set. Take Yoga classes on a weekly basis, but I am yet to leave my cave at 8am in order to do so. Buy a Hagstrom semi-acoustic guitar to boost my live sound. Write new songs for the new band format. Rehearse weekly alone and also with the band. Find a band residency. Promote my shows more effectively. Use my diary everyday. See more songwriters. Get my booking agency’s festival and club lists in some sort of order. Find a writing class. Leave Berlin for reasons other than touring. Get a weekly sauna. See my friends more.

You can see the list is endless. I am an inverterate list-maker after my father, I suppose but, like him, many of those things don’t get done in the intended time. A rehearsal is delayed. I’m behind with the booking. I am as yet Yogaless. ETC.

The problem is that I don’t really know where to go from my position of (limited) success. I think that issue is rather one of goal-setting and prioritising. I came to Berlin with several goals in mind – to make a record, to tour Europe, to create collaborative opportunities, to write better songs, live as a musician. I have achieved all of them, even the living as a musician goal, but it’s still breadline scale. I was told last week that I’m not actually successful. I disagree, but I am aware that I had fairly achievable expectations and it’s not the wider definition of success.

On the day-to-day level, and even with years of organisational experience, I still find myself adding yesterday’s unfinished work to today’s To-Do list without much in the way of prioritising. I still take what’s coming at me rather than looking towards a greater plan. I still feel under-confident when picking up the phone to find work.

How high should I set my goals? Should I am for high expectations and achievable goals or high goals and achievable expectations? But I either work everyday for small money or find some way of raising my value. I can have another year of longish, small-scale tours or invest the year into developing the band project. I can take guitar lessons or refresh my singing training, but not both. Where are the hours in the day to do enough booking, practice, writing, planning and socialising?

If I think about my goals now, in twelve months time, I would like:
– to have become a better guitarist
– to have two sets worth of new material for the band in the direction I am starting to articulate
– to have established a working rhythm, income and reputation for the booking agency
– to live by myself
– to be in a kick-ass live band
– to double my 2012 income
– to utilise my health care and get my teeth worked on
– to holiday to at least one of my dream destinations
– to be well towards confirmed US and Australian tours
– to have a handle on the UK touring market
– to play at at least one music festival
– to have dinner parties more often
– to see more live music
– to develop a promotional strategy
– to develop a business plan or at least a set of goals and logical steps to achieve them. A friend does an annual life contract with himself.

Do you have suggestions for organisation and goal-setting? How do you manage your time and your life? I’d love to start a conversation about this and add helpful strategies to the website.

Cheers,

Sam

The Last Dance, or Final Tour Updates

15 Jun
Image
Tour update #23: This song is my tour obsession! I’m home straight off the Paris to Berlin sleeper train and my body is still feeling a loooooooong right-hand curve. I must give a huge thank you to all my hosts: Petronella Pflaumenstein, Boumchaka and Le Nimby, Celia Wagenfuhrer, Sylvain, Sam Rasschaert and Salla Lahtela, Oscar, Denis Quélard and Eric for the great gigs and couches and wine and conversations.
Tour update #22: This morning, the Loire Valley skies were leaden, filled with rain and the air smelt like woodsmoke and blown roses. Later, the sun pushed through and I saw the broad river Loire running unusually high and fast, too dangerous to swim in. I saw the indigenous windmills of wood and pale yellow tufa stone, sentinels over the poppies and the low, yellow wheat.
Tour update 21: Dusk. Wandering in Don Walker’s steps “on Rue Île Saint-Louis”, I hear the most glorious singing from a blocky grey building. Of course, it’s a spectacular church and Friday night is full gospel service with 12-piece choir, live band and gooseflesh-inducing vocals from a Jean Carpenter. Went dancing into the night to eat Roquefort by the Seine and met a flute-playing Wizard under a wing of his *butterfly bicycle*. Last drinks at Pop In.
Tour update #20: Last night in Paris. Great time with Irene Wareing. On an otherwise serene Seine cruise, our self-appointed and inebriated “tour guide” exclaimed, “Look! Look! That’s where Diana crashed in the bridge!” Tonight I am contemplating dinner at “Saint Meat” followed by drinks at La Feline.
Tour update #19: Doing after-show shots with my mother at Pop In. That is all.
Tour update #18: Breakfast in Montmartre, then directed some American rockband looking for Jim Morrison as I headed for Edith Piaf to ask for a strong voice for tonight’s show at Pop In with This is Avalanche. — at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
Tour update #17: Paris. That is all.

Tour update #16: Oh Brussels, I had a great time but I can’t take your emergency sirens seriously. They seem to have added vibrato which makes all emergency vehicles sound like a robot child running behind you making “scary” ghost noises. Also, I will never diss lacemakers again.

Tour update #15: I have no sense of direction in Brussels. Well, I was warned. However, I had an awesome plate of Muamba when I eventually found the Matonge district, plus some shopping at the St Gilles street market.

Tour update #14: Walking in Ghent, we saw two little boys forcefully herding a tiny black and white cat – “KAT! NEE, KAT!”. As we passed, they stopped us and, in hard Gantoise dialect, said they thought, because it had no collar, that maybe it was a lost cat so they were keeping it off the road. They pointed to a child’s handmade missing cat poster nearby but said they didn’t think it was the same cat because the cat in the poster was purple.

Tour update #13: From the pre-show dinner, this idea needs venture capital and a documentary immediately, Sam. Drunkle.com – short a drunk uncle at your next wedding/christmas/christening/sauna fest? Drunkle.com will compile a profile of your desired drunk uncle traits (including interviewing said relatives) and send a substitute drunk uncle to your event. Pelvic thrusting? No problem. A vast knowledge of football “songs”? Easy. Tie as ninja-style headband? Obligatory. Incoherent speeches? Our specialty.

For Love and Mayhem Tour 2011

20 May

Next week, I start out on a massive adventure. I’m on my first European tour with Matty Water Music, a funny and talented guy that I’ve never met, mostly going to places I’ve never been.

I am SO excited! I’ve given up my day job and I’m throwing myself on the talent and resourcefulness I possess to try and be a full-time musician. This is all I have ever wanted.

There has been an incredible amount of work since January to pull this tour together. We’re still confirming some new shows which makes me nervous and exhilarated together. I can’t WAIT!

The FOR LOVE AND MAYHEM TOUR 2011 wouldn’t be happening without the support, contacts and friendship of various folk including Mark Steiner, Ola Karlsson, Louise McVey, Eric Eckhart, Dora Schneider, Guy Dale and Dimi, Lisa and Sofy. Thank you also to Felipe Ubilla for the AWESOME poster.

Here’s the dates. Keep an eye out as there may be more to come:

May 26: Joe’s Bar, Berlin (DE)
May 27: Des Geiger’s Raetsel, Leipzig (DE)
May 28: Die Buchbar, Dresden (DE)
May 29: Musik Nonstop, Dresden (1:00-2:00) (DE)
May 29: Veränderbar, Dresden (DE)
June 2: Oslo (TBC) (NO)
June 3: Sofa Salon, Oslo (NO)
June 4: Musikkfest, Sound of Mu, Oslo (NO)
June 9: House Concert, Turku (FI)
June 10: House Concert, Tampere (FI)
June 11: House Concert, Helsinki (FI)
June 12: Bar Loose, Helsinki (FI)
June 15: Fairbar, Aarhus (DK)
June 16: Cafe Retro,Copenhagen (DK)
June 17: Southside Cavern, Stockholm (SWE)
June 18: House Concert, Stockholm (SWE)
June 21: Fete de la Musique, Berlin (DE)
June 29: Pop-In, Paris (FR)
July 1: Edinburgh (TBC) (UK)
July 2: 13th Note, Glasgow (UK)

I’ll be blogging our shenanigans via Facebook, Reverbnation, MySpace and this blog. Please invite any friends you have in towns along our tour and email berlinsofasalon [@] googlemail.com if you want to come to any of the house concerts, many which were organised through Couchsurfing.

Wish me luck.

Love,

Wasp Summer
waspsummer [@] gmail.com


Tour Booking – Grrrr

7 Mar

Ah, tour booking! Tedium. Begging. A necessary evil. It’s what most self-managed musicians bitch about the most.

So, one of the dates on the Water Music/Wasp Summer Summer Tour (summer summer? noo….) has been moved. Now I have to re-contact venues in two countries and shift the other dates I’m asking for. It also puts out the band we’re playing with as I’m booking them shows in Germany and they have to get the time off to play.

On the bright side, I still have the gig. That’s awesome. It’s going to be fun, and it gives me an extra week’s leeway in booking. More time to pick up the phone and send identical emails (making sure I change the venue name each time…). Now I need to find gigs for the suddenly empty week. where shall we go? Finland?