Monday, May 31, 2010

The Do Riders debut in Newcastle

It was a week of grizzling about the weather. It'll never happen ... it's gunna flog down on Sunday ... we should still rehearse though ...

Lucky we rehearsed. The rain flogging happened on the South Coast of NSW and not on us at all. We had a lovely day.

The Darby St Coffee & Chocolate Festival was a great Novocastrian launch for us Do Riders. People stopped and marvelled. Well, maybe 'marvel' is too strong a word. But there was obviously a lot of 'like' out there about what we do.

A highlight for me was a young woman who clearly was delighted by our version of 'Love Cats' (by The Cure) - she recorded the audio on her mobile phone, then she signed up on our mailing list.

Despite the wind we decided to try out the 'gather around a single condenser mic' bluegrass type thing. It provides for wonderful interaction between us, and looks good for the audience, and we can hear each other a lot better, particularly vocally. You gather in a semi-circle around the mic and move in and out depending upon what instrument or voice you wish to highlight. There is quite a bit of technique involved and we will be learning that for a while.

Another highlight for myself was a comment from a woman who I have seen from the Darby St coffee lifestyle. She only knows me vaguely, but doesn't know my history.

What you do is great fun! Were you in Newcastle in the 1980s and did you ever see a band called the Castanets?. I said I was in them. She then sort of recognised me, or remembered at least the name (I was Kevin Mancini). Clearly the Castanets was a good apprenticeship for me and has heavily influenced my performance style!

It was great to have most of our parents attend! Despite being in our mid-late forties, we still had the supportive parents there! How funny is that! The only ones missing were the ones who live in Forbes. OK. We can forgive that. A seven hour drive to see your daughter play in a new band would be a big call...

Now to try what we do in the pub situation. We are really looking forward to the Great Northern Hotel on Thursday week! We are loving what we are doing and are really enjoying each other's company. This is what music should be about.

And we are gunning to get the parents from Forbes along some time. Or we will play out there.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lies, marketing and damn statistics...and Ukuleles in Port Stephens

My nephew is a writer. His work is designed to boost search engine results for companies that can afford to employ him (I remember articles on electronic cigarettes). This SEO work (don't ask) rewrites stories that are already written, merely so google rankings are boosted for that particular topic or item or company.

It took me a great amount of brain power to understand what he did when Charles first described his work. But now I understand. All too well.

My life - particularly in the world of electronic marketing - now involves some aspects of what he does for a living. Did I say I am a community musician? Have I mentioned the words Tomaree? Ukulele? Port Stephens? Lake Macquarie? Ukestra? The Do Riders? Workplace Choirs yet?

No? Ok. Then I will.

This blog is about my endeavours to start the Tomaree Ukestra up in Port Stephens for people who want to play the ukulele, just like I have done in Lake Macquarie for the LakeMacUkestra, and Newcastle with the Ukastle Ukestra, and not to mention the fact that our new band finally has a name - The Do Riders.

There. I have now mentioned all the relevant links to help my optimise search engine results (aha!!! SEO! 'Search Engine Optimisation'! - my ex-brother-in-law also is in this line of work - I told you not to ask). Google spiderbot?? Are you listening? Charles? Did I do it right?

Thank you. I could finish there, but I have got very little creative joy out of the writing so far. Now the real crapping on can begin.

Sorry I haven't written for so long. But things other than virtual activities have got in the way.

Like the Tomaree Ukestra. It has begun. The Fingal Bay Sports Club is the venue for my endeavours to bring ukes to Port Stephens (I can't just say "The Bay" because it doesn't help my SEO). I first flagged this in a previous blog. On 17 May I had 4 people. I stayed at Mum's holiday house (a gorgeous kitch joint which was the first house I ever lived in - from 0 to 6 months - I got washed in a plastic bucket) on the Sunday night, and 7:30am on the Monday morning I walked around the local Harbourside Haven leafleting letterboxes - not every marketing strategy is SEO.

I got to the Club and one woman in her 40s was there already (she had caught the bus). Rosie and two others who showed up had read the very prominent article in the Port Stephens Examiner and was very keen. Another woman showed up from my leafleting efforts of an hour or 2 earlier! That was it. 4 people. One struggled with the uke and decided not to return. One was already a performer - sussing out what it was all about - he won't return (maybe occasionally), Rosie is keen and the other elderly lady, well...I'm not sure. Fast forward a week.

Rosina and 3 new people showed. All VERY enthusiastic. Merv has a touch of Parkinson's and his Occupational Therapist had said the ukulele would be good for him. At one stage he said 'Have you noticed? My shaking has stopped!'. I have numerous little victory stories like this that make my life as a community musician so rich. The wonderful thing about this mob is that they all exchanged addresses and said 'let's get together tomorrow!'. My work here is done.

Except it isn't. To make it sustainable for myself I need more than 4 people. But 4 enthusiastic people is enough for me to persist for a while and to build upon. We are having fun, and I love being up at the Bay for just a night. The photo to the right is one good reason why - Zenith Beach - my favourite in the world.

In other news - The Do Riders have a name. I band formerly known as The Flying Penguins are now The Do Riders. We had a fabulous rehearsal the other weekend. It is good. Real good. So we have started to chase gigs more properly.

Jane & I went along to the Great Northern Hotel (opposite Newcastle Train Station - long live the train line!). It has been re-opened by a fabulous young couple, Ross & Chelsea of Sprocket Cafe. They have taken on a mighty big task and my Dad (rest is soul) would be proud. I remember having my 12th & 13th birthdays there. My 12th in the formal dining room before they closed it down, my 13th in the Chinese Restaurant which replaced it. Dad had a share in the hotel with Archie Stammell. (too much detail, get back to SEO writing Mark!).

Anyhoo. It is a grand hotel (for Newcastle) and the foyer area is particularly lovely. The Do Riders are playing in the foyer (they are calling it the Lobby) on June 10th - 7:30-10:30. We are toying with ideas to make it more than a gig - but I want Mick to sell his avocadoes at the gig.

Enough SEO - do your thang google (but I hope it was also worth reading by a human).

I am off for a walk.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The germ of an idea?

This weekend promises domesticity, and a day trip to Karuah for the Bluegrass Festival (going as a punter).

Last weekend was very successful. A social visit to the Blue Mountains, a family visit to Forbes followed by a family visit to Sydney to see my two gorgeous daughters (who live in Melbourne - ages 23 & nearly 16) who were at a wedding.

Forbes was very fruitful ukulele-wise. Only a week before I decided I would try to organise a ukulele workshop in Forbes. After a series of phone calls, and some very very supportive locals, I managed to have a workshop with 10 people! I do hope that they now have the wherewithall to start up a Forbes Ukulele Group (FUG?). I am now brewing ideas on continuing to offer workshops in country areas.

A key memory of the Forbes trip was watching I Walk the Line (the Johnny Cash biopic). It really educated me and I enjoyed it immensely. Am now brewing on a few Johnny Cash / June Carter-Cash songs.

The other thing that is happening is that Tuesday nights (Ukastle Ukestra) is really growing! I got a lot of word of mouth young women coming along in the last two weeks (in their 20s). One in particular sent me the following email (with pre-existing spelling errors).

hi mark, thankyou for your email. Have been on a permanent high since tue night,and havnt been able to put my uke down! i love so much (and am still quite amazed) that i can actually play a musical instrument! music is a huge love of my life and nearly all my friends are musos but after many many attempts to learn the guitar and failing, i gave up. So bless you and your awesome group, I now believe!
Adrianna is just as excited as me, and you will see us regularly, for sure. Thanks again, Learne

Now that is something! How lovely!!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Flying Penguins vids & Ukastle Ukestra public debut

Oh Please!!!! Someone give us a name!!!

We are not happy with 'The Flying Penguins'. There are too many penguins out there. The Ballpoint Penguins, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and Aviva and the Flying Penguins. Naming bands in the global internet age is a nightmare.

The name is good, has a lovely genesis, portrays a certain stupidity, and we have the credibility of an onboard marine biologist to confirm our unique discovery. But there is always that band in Atlanta that could confuse things for us. Newcastle. Atlanta. Newcastle. Atlanta. Damn.

We felt very pleased with our performances at St Albans, and I miss Mick & Nikki. One gets quite involved with people with whom one makes music. Mick's sister filmed us at St Albans, and Jane & I watched a suite of songs last night. Jane's first ever time of watching herself in that sort of a way. We were mightily pleased. Excited even! I am v. hopeful that the material will now provide us with sufficient propaganda for us to get gigs in the various places that would be appealing. Festivals. The snow. The reef. yay and phew .... Thank-you Kim (Mick's sister)!!!!

And yesterday was a very busy day. The Ukastle Ukestra debuted at the Olive Tree Markets. And the night before we had some really lovely television coverage on the local news. We got the cutesie 'animals & community' slot after the weather. Prime time!!! Everyone loves the weather. Betty & Ted from Argenton (who are nearly 80) said everything that I would want to say about the work I am doing. It was a good day (even though we blocked up the Markets for a while with audience).