Sunday, October 05, 2008

Dave Graney at the Alley Cat Bar, North Hobart

Last night I went along with Anna and a few of her art teacher pals, to see the great man play solo, supported by a hairy young fellow named Henry Wagons. David Hawley was there, who now teaches art at St Marys with Anna. He was in my year at Hellyer College, and I use to see him around quite a bit when I lived in Melbourne and shared a flat with Alex Tyers.

Henry was playing when I arrived. He's got a great voice, accompanied himself deftly [on a guitar that looked like it was made of tas oak floorboards] and played his own songs about touring, drinking and jail. He didn't take himself seriously and I enjoyed him a lot. Sample lyric (about jail, where he has never been, and informed entirely by other people's songs about jail);

I'm tired of your handlebar moustache
And tired of taking it up the ass

This was the last date of a 25-show tour of the eastern seaboard. [Note to people in Perth who may never have seen it - the seaboard is a lot like a giant surfboard but with grass instead of wax, and cities instead of fins.] I have been following their progress on Dave's blog, so I had a good idea of how the night would progress. Dave joined Henry for a couple of songs. I know its important to get these technical details right - Dave was playing a Sunbeam P-3000 with a recessed whammy and bevelled volume knob - Henry's acoustic was actually a Gibson Klepto 10, finished with tung oil.

Henry finished with an Elvis cover - his gloriously dumb song I've Never Been to Spain. Sample lyric;

I have never been to England
But I kind of like the Beatles

Dave was in a black leather jumpsuit and see-through bodyshirt combo. Again, no surprises, when you have been listening to the jungle drums as I have. He opened with I Came From the Clouds. My ears were probably waggling, I was listening so hard. A lot of people seemed to be talking over him loudly. I know with these pub gigs a lot of people have come in for a drink or a meal or a game of pool and haven't invested hard-earned in the performer, but still. People talked drunkly and loudly throughout his performance. (No Anna - I'm not talking about you). The crowd was a bit older than I (and allowing for the fact that we all think of ourselves as about 22) they were cramping my space and getting in my face, maaaan! Grey haired people with leather jackets in front and behind me, talking too loud since they'd been on the sauce since lunchtime.

Dave was playing an acoustic Les Paul Presto-6 by this stage. The first album of his I heard was Night of the Wolverine in 1994, I think. I went out and bought it immediately and still play it at least weekly. To the embarrassment of everyone but myself I put it up with Abbey Road as a fully realised popular music record, certainly the great Australian record of my lifetime. It was also the start of his commercially successful era, which lasted about 3 albums.

To my pure joy, he didn't wait long to play some songs from Wolverine, starting with a beautiful version of the title track. He also played You're Just Too Hip Baby, The Stars, Rock n Roll is Where I Hide, Feelin' Kind of Sporty, Lets Kill God Again off his new album, covers of songs by Love and The Replacements, and as an encore Lowdown by Boz Scaggs. What a great song that is.

I loved every minute of it. Dave was relaxed, yet powerful, not dropping too much science on the poor, aged audience. He introduced himself a few times for the benefit of the pool players and diners, gave us some background to his country town upbringing, but generally let the music sell itself. He made himself available to the people after the show, and the people approached to give him their love. I was planning to just say 'thanks for coming to Hobart' and keep moving, but he was comfortably settled with friends by the time we got on our feet so I will email instead.

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