Spring has sprung

Well, it has seemed like a long and cold, wet winter here in Melbourne this year.  The La Niña  weather pattern of the last little while has brought us lots of excuses to stay in bed, lots of rain for the tanks and the garden, and quite a few flat tyres out on the road.  Yes folks, rain brings debris and crap onto the roads, and that means more punctures.  I’ve lost count of them in the last few months.

Wet, wet, wet. Like winter was when we were kids.

Anyway, today is the start of spring and it occurs to me that nearly 3 months has gone by since this blog last got updated.  The marketing gurus reckon you have to be in touch with your audience at least every 3 months or else they’ll forget about you.  I read that once, probably quite a few years ago.  Nowadays you probably have to be in touch with your audience every 3 weeks to prevent them forgetting you.  Or you should tweet them every 3 days or so, or something.  Whatever.  Since I mostly write this blog for my own benefit you may think that it doesn’t really matter.   But what if the magic 3 months goes by and I haven’t posted anything, and I lose touch with myself??  Doesn’t bare thinking about.

The main reason for the lack of blogular activity seems to be the lack of blogworthy events.  No noteworthy rides, no grand adventures, no hikes, no camps, etc.  Which isn’t completely true.  There have been long rides, good rides, fun rides and even memorable rides.  And EVERY day is an adventure, after all!  Just not always the kind of adventure that one needs to write about.

Maybe it’s the long, cold wet months of winter.  Not that’s it’s all bad.  It’s an ill wind that blows no good, as they say.  The cold weather makes for good broccoli, since the dreaded cabbage moth caterpillars go into hibernation somewhere.

Nothing beats fresh home-grown broccoli. (Apart from about a bazillion other really cool things.)

And it was looking like a good season for broad beans a month or so ago.  Sadly though, the soil seems to have stayed a bit damp up what this year is the broad bean end of the garden, and the dampness has brought on some kind of fungal rust that seems not to want to go away.  Well, we got lots of nice flowers anyway.  Red ones and white ones.  If we’re lucky we might get some beans in the next month or so.

Crimson flowering broad beans.

Anyway, winter is officially behind us, although you can be sure of a few more cold days and miserable weather still to come before we’re truly into spring.  Don’t plant your seedlings yet!

Some of next years tomatoes, squash, pumpkins and zucchini, waiting for the ground to warm up a bit.

Next weekend I’m heading back to Inverloch with Ridewiser and co.  Unlike the last trip to Inverloch, next weekend’s ride is a bit longer – 350 km over two days.  Tomorrow is my last long ride in preparation and will be 102 km in the Dandenongs, plus the 60 km there and back again.  To keep track of all this activity I recently “invested” in a new bike computer.  (Tip:  an investment is something that feeds you, as the guru once said.  When I can figure out a way to get my new bike computer to pay dividends I promise that I’ll let you know.)

My new Garmin I had to have it.  I mean, ALL my friends had one…..

With luck and good management there will be good photos to post of the upcoming rides and I’ll feel justified in adding new posts.  In the mean time, let us bid farewell once more to our old friend Winter.  The friend whose company we don’t always enjoy, but without whom there would be no renewal.  In its place, let us welcome the Spring.

And one last thing.  I said there wasn’t much in the last few months that was blogworthy, and of course I was being untrue.  There’s been lots to crow about.   It’s just that one doesn’t always want to be crowing.  However, there is one thing that appeared in my life, unbidden, just recently that would go straight to the pool room, were it not so wonderfully useful.  It fits in the hand just so, it has a kind of heft that defies description, and like so many useful additions to one’s life, it has more than its share of titanium.  Best of all, check out the engraving:

The kind of surgical instrument that no self respecting titanium-bike-riding-blog-writing-veterinarian should be without.

Many thanks to Rosstickle for these fine needle drivers!


Winter bushwalking 2012

Last weekend was the Queen’s birthday long weekend, and monarchist or republican, we all love a long weekend, right?  Long may she reign!

Harry and Jack and I took advantage of the extra day off to get out of town for a moment or two, and a couple of days of trekking, schlepping and lightly stepping through the wilds of the Lerderderg Gorge.  The Lerderderg state park is less than two hours drive from our side of town, and once you get there you are unlikely to run into too many other people, especially once you get more than a few hours’ walk away from a carpark.  Which makes it a perfect spot for a weekend hike.

We’ve been there before a couple of times, but only to the northern end of the park, up around Blackwood.  This time around we drove to the southern end of the park, which is just outside the outer limits of the sprawling suburban mass that is Bacchus  Marsh, which is named after one of its original inhabitants, and not the greco-roman god of wine and good times.  Not that there aren’t bottle shops in Bacchus Marsh, but you just shouldn’t read anything into it.

According to the faded interpretive sign there was a massive rocky uplift a couple of million years ago, which blocked the previous path of the river, and in the years since then the water has gradually cut through the rock to create the gorge.  It’s not as big as the Colca Canyon of Peru, nor as famous as the Grand Canyon in the US of A, but it’s still pretty impressive.  And it’s a heck of a lot easier to get to from Melbourne.

(Zoe has visited both of the other above-mentioned canyons in the last couple of months.  Hi Zoe.)

Within a few kilometres of the carpark the path crosses the river a couple of times:

Crossing the river

and then turns away from the water and heads steeply up a long spur to the ridge above.

The southern end of the gorge is deeper, and the sides are steeper, than the northern end.

Unfortunately the path to the top of the spur led not just to the ridge line, but to the fairly well made road that follows the ridge north-ish, and we were forced to walk along the more-beaten track for a while.

Not quite off the beaten track.

The road is so nicely made because it services a weir across the river.  The weir helps to send  some of the Lerderderg’s flow through a tunnel under the ridge and eventually into the Merrimu reservoir, which supplies The Marsh and the surrounding market gardens.

The weir.

From the weir we crossed the river again, and climbed up the other side of the gorge to the ridge on the opposite side, stopping along the way for a bit of lunch.

We had a couple of hours of slogging up the steep side of the gorge to a much less-travelled track on the southern-ish side, which is about where the rain started to appear.

Just drizzling.

Further up the road the trail headed back down another spur and back to the river.  Another long and at times very steep descent, in the rain and the fading light of late afternoon until we reached our campsite for the night, somewhat wetter, and a tad pooped.

Wet and tired.

Hiking in winter is a good way to remind yourself that the nights are long.  Once it gets dark there isn’t much to do apart from sit around the fire getting warm on one side and colder on the other.  Eventually, after what seems like hours of darkness and idle fire-side chat, you casually glance at your watch to see if it’s bed time.  You’re a bit tired after all.  Your watch says it’s 6.45 pm!  Surely you can’t go to be this early…

Thanks to Jack’s inspired menu planning we were able to keep ourselves up a bit longer, cooking chocolate muffin mix inside of hollowed out oranges, wrapped in foil and tossed into the coals.  They were nearly delicious, and we crawled happily into the tent at 8 pm.  At 8.05 the two dogs were out for the count, and neither of them stirred until after 7 the next morning.  The three of us slept nearly as well.

That night we had devoted a fair bit of time and effort to getting the dogs dry, using just a small towel repeatedly dried out over the fire.  So it shouldn’t surprise you that by the morning our cosy little 3 person tent smelt somewhat of smoke, and somewhat of wet dog.

The walk out of the gorge and back up to the ridge was the reverse of the previous night’s descent, but this time the sun was shining and the sky was blue, and all was well with the world!

Climbing up the steep track

I won’t bore you with the details of the day’s walk.  We went up the steep sides of the gorge, and then we went down again.  We stopped on a rock halfway down the side for lunch and a billy of tea, and then dived down to the river banks again for the last few kilometres back to the carpark.

Inverloch – the E280.

Greatness is a road leading towards the unknown. – Charles de Gaulle.

Yesterday I managed to do what I had previously feared I would be unable to do.  Today I feel pretty good about it!

Yesterday was the Annual Ridewiser Enduro 280 km challenge, from Mordialloc to Inverloch and back again, which has been the focus of some intensive last minute training for me over the last few weeks.  280km was further than I have taken a bike in a single day, so the distance itself was daunting.  Avoiding the main roads as much as possible the route took in many secondary and tertiary back roads, including several sections of dirt and gravel.  Here’s the route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/fullscreen/84626623/

But equally as daunting as the route and the distance is the company I would be keeping.  This ride is pitched at A and B grade club racers only, and the pace would surely be on from the start.  Would I keep up, or would I get spat out the back and ignominiously scooped up by the sag wagon?  I was apprehensive. I’ve wanted to do this ride for the last three or four years.  Perhaps I’d have been keen to do it earlier than that, but I hadn’t heard of it, and the way I was riding back then I wasn’t about to get invited.  This year, for the first time, desire and timetable came together perfectly, and I registered about a month ago.

We met for a coffee and a pre-ride briefing at cafe in Mordialloc.  But even before the briefing there had been comprehensive ride notes emailed out.  Crowie has done this a lot of times, and there can’t be many people out there in the wide world that know how to organise a ride like this better than him.  This was seriously well planned, down to every last detail.

Mr. Robert Crowe OAM: cyclist - and loving it!

With the coffee fix taken care of and the last minute instructions delivered, we were off.  A gentle roll from Mordi down to Seaford to warm the legs up, and then a left turn.  Once away from the oh-so-familiar Beach road the pace started to pick up just a bit.  From Seaford there followed a bewildering sequence of twists and turns, as we left the main roads behind us.   And soon the gravel sectors began.

That's me, having a blast on the clay.

Some were just small sections of roadworks along a straight section of bitumen, but others were full-on dirt roads.  Some clay, some loose road metal, and I think we hit just about all of them at 40km/h, and when you hit the loose stuff at that speed, here’s what happens:

All the lights go on!  Every nerve in your body goes to full alert, and every ounce of concentration goes to the business at hand.  The handle bars are shaking like a jackhammer in your hands, the wheels are dancing across the road, and every tiny drift of gravel threatens to turn your world upside down.

The first of the flat tyres was there on that first gravel sector.  After that the hits just kept on coming.  Flat after flat claimed rider after rider, and both the Sag Wagon and the motor bike riding support were working overtime swapping out wheels or helping with tube changes, and bringing riders back to the bunch.   A few riders left some tiny bits of skin on some of those dirt roads, but none so bad that they couldn’t keep riding.

Closing in on Inverloch we turned left for the biggest climb of the day, up to the top of a hill called Krowera.  Seven or so kilometers of mostly up.  If they  were giving out KOM points down to 4th place, then I’d have scored!  What we didn’t realise as we topped the summit was that more skin had been lost on the road behind us, and we sat and waited for five or ten minutes before the back markers came through.

Waiting at Krowera summit.

My own flat came a little later, just near the end of the last gravel sector.  A frantic tyre change followed, and then the  long haul back to the bunch.  I was joined by one other rider for the chase. Unfortunately we took a wrong turn (my fault) and we added a short sharp climb and an extra kilometre or so to the chase.  Even when the motor bike finally found us to pace us back there was no way we would catch the bunch before the lunch stop at Inverloch.

A note about motor pacing:

It is awesome.  It is like heroin on a bike, and I want more.   You sit behind the motor bike, protected from the wind, cranking along at 50+ km/h, and it feels nearly effortless.  Unfortunately, sitting behind the guy behind the motor bike isn’t so great, and it’s easy to drop off the back if you’re not careful.  And damn near impossible to catch back on if the nice man on the motor bike doesn’t slow down for a moment.  I’ve never experienced this before, and I didn’t realise how hard it was for the rider behind to stick to your wheel when you’re floating along behind the motor bike.

The two of us and the motor bike arrived in Inverloch sometime after the bunch.  No-one would give us a straight answer as to exactly how long that ‘sometime’ was.   Oooh, about half an hour was about the best response I could get.  Couldn’t have been more than a few minutes, surely!

Lunch was great, but even greater was a fresh change of clothes.  Of with the sweaty stuff, on with the clean, dry lemon-ie fresh stuff and it could have been the start of a ride, not the middle of an epic.  Not long out of Inverloch came the last big climb of the day, and it’s one that I’ve done lots of times in years gone by.  I’m pleased to report that it doesn’t seem to be nearly as steep as it was when I first did it five or six years ago, but it’s still a climb.  This time they could have been giving out KOM points down to the first 10 places and I think I’d have missed out.  Blame it on the chase before lunch.  Or lunch.  Or something.

Half way up the last big climb and drifting backwards through the bunch...

Missing out on the KOM points. Bunch? What bunch?

After that it was really just the long road back home.  Sure, there was some good stuff.  The road from Beena to Poowong must be one of the prettiest in that part of the world, and the road from Poowong heading north had its own magic.  But after the 200 km mark I for one started to see less of the scenery, and more of the strange inner workings of my body and mind.

Shoulder cramp.  Ouch – go away.  Thirsty.  Song stuck in my head – get out!  Legs are tired, surely I can’t keep doing this.  I’ll miss my next turn at the front.  Tired, tired, tired.  Sag wagon.  What a seductive thought.  But NO, imagine the disappointment.  Keep pedalling.  Pedalling.  Why am I doing this anyway?  What am I trying to prove, for goodness sake?  And then, just in time, a scheduled rest stop at Koo Wee Rup.  A cold can of soft drink, a bottle of water, a slice of fruit cake and all was well with the world again.  Back on the bike for the last 50 km home.

The support van, and the amazing Leanne.

And so it was, as the shadows lengthened and the long day drew to a close, a couple of dozen cyclists made their orderly way back up Beach Road.  To the casual observer we would have looked just like any other bunch of cyclists, I suppose.  Except that maybe the flashing yellow light on the Ridewiser van might have alerted those passers-by to the fact that we were somehow different.  Not just a group of riders back from a late afternoon cruise down the bay, but a bunch of heroes back from an epic day, doing battle with roads, hills and inner demons.

Or maybe we were just a group of cyclists.

I wonder why we did it?

Happy ending!

Lest you didn’t already sense it from my previous words, I should state this clearly for the record.  This day wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing skills, knowledge and experience of four people:

Crowie, Leanne and the amazing Andy LeLievre on the motor bike.  That’s three.  The fourth is each of the other riders pictured above, behind whose wheel we all sat many times during the day.

It really did happen. Average speed I'm told was 32km/h.

Photo credits:  none of the photos in this post are mine.  Many come from Crowie’s phone, shot over his shoulder as he rides along.  Others have been stolen from the Twitter feeds of fellow riders.  You know who you are.

Autumn training

This morning I’ve been riding up in the Dandenongs, soaking up the glorious autumn sunshine, breathing in the fresh air and all that stuff.   I like to ride up in the Dandenongs.  It’s generally quieter and there’s less traffic than other parts of Melbourne, and there are some cool hills to go up, which is of course, a Good Thing.

What you missed this morning...

What you missed this morning...

But my ride this morning had a slight air of urgency about it.  A bit like cramming for an exam at the last minute.  You see, I’d decided earlier this year to have a bit of a break from the bike and to concentrate on other things.  And quite right too, I hear you say.  Nothing wrong with that.

But then my good friend and cycling coach Mr.  Rob Crowe reminded me that his annual ride to Inverloch and back was on again, and I suddenly found myself conflicted.  I’ve wanted to join him for this 280km ride each year for the last few years, and each year I’ve been unable to do so because of work or other commitments.  This year the diary said that I was allowed to go, but would I make it?

To cover 280km in one day is a big ask, and to do so in the company of people like (Olympian) Mr. Crowe and his super-fit coterie is another thing.  So I’ve been rather frantically grinding away at the cranks these last 2 weeks or so.  Cramming.

And what better place to cram than the Dandenongs?  And what better time of year than Autumn?

Grapes on the eastern side of the ranges.

You can’t see it in this photo very well, but right over on the right hand side of the image there is a tractor lying idle, and near by there is a person doing something with these grapes.  Picking them, talking to them, polishing them.  I have no idea what.  But some kind of grape-growing farmer kind of activity.  The point is – what a great workplace!  Now there might be some days later in the year when the southerly is blowing a gale and the rain is driving in horizontally, and this mightn’t seem like such a cozy workplace after all.  But on this autumn day it takes some beating, doesn’t it?

The obligatory dirt section.

To get from Selby to Monbulk you go through a quaint little place called The Patch.  From The Patch you can stay on the bitumen like all the boring riders, or you take take a ride on the ever-so-slightly-wilder side.  How’s the serenity?

After the obligatory dirt section, it’s time for the obligatory coffee stop.  Once upon a time the Dandenongs, like the rest of rural Victoria, was probably relatively sparsely populated, and mostly by serious, no-nonsense farmer types who made their own tea in pots, and drank it at home in front of the wood-fired stove.  These days the Dandenongs, like the rest of rural Victoria, is dotted, nay crammed, with gourmet eateries, cafes, patisseries, bakeries, coffee shops and other assorted wankeries, and that simple pot of tea has given way to a special house blend of single origin fair-trade coffee beans locally roasted and freshly ground and lovingly squeezed through an imported Italian espresso machine that costs more than your car.  Hell, the coffee machine costs more than most high-end carbon road bikes!

What could possibly go wrong?

And it occurred to me that all would be well.  If I divide my life into little individual sealed compartments it’ll all be fine!  A compartment for work, a compartment for riding and training, another one for home and family, and so on.  Then 280 km Melb-Inverloch-Melb will be a doddle!  What could possibly go wrong?

PFFF part 3 – day 2.

Doesn’t seem much point in filling up a lot of space with commentary, really.
Here’s who we saw on the Sunday of PFFF this year:

1st up, the Melbourne Mass Gospel Choir, with various guest artists, singing mostly from the Bob Dylan song sheet.  This is a great way to kick off a Sunday morning.  I should add that my brother Graeme used to sing in this gospel choir, so if you think these guys are good, just imagine how much better they would be with my brother swelling that ol’ gospel sound!

Next, Chris Hilman and Herb Perderson, two guys you may never have heard of, but whose songs are very well known.

The tent for Hilman and Pederson was chockers, perhaps partly because they played on the same stage that had just been vacated by the Gospel singers, but more likely because they were followed by Archie Roach.  Foolishly Jack and I left the tent in the break, only to find upon our return that the door was blocked by some security guy who refused to let us back in, despite our protestations that the rest of our family, and our seats, and our stuff was all inside.  So we had to listen to Archie from the outside.  The instrument makers’ tent was just next door, so we ducked in for a while to check out the steel stringed ukeleles and the five stringed acoustic violins.  Those of you scratching your heads trying to think of suitable Christmas presents later this year, take note!  Liz tells me that Archie is looking old, and seemed to be having some difficulty up on the stage.  From outside he still sounded as good as ever.

Next gig, same tent, was John Butler, who you could argue was the biggest ‘name’ at this year’s event.  Perhaps that’s why the tent was so chockers.  I can’t imagine where he’d be or what we’d all be listening to now if this guy channelled all his creative energy into 3 minute songs to suit the radio stations!  Thank goodness he chooses not to do that.  Amazing musician.

After such a long time in the same tent it was time for some fresh air, which is where we caught a bit of the Kwela Swingsters.  This is a Melbourne bunch of musos (including Gavan McCarthy from Jugularity on bass, as if there’s not enough incestuousness in this whole folk scene already) playing the kind of music that you would hear in Soweto or Kwazulu Natal.

From the bright daylight of the outdoors, from the chirpy happy music of the Township we plunged into the Sheebeen, one of the central, one of the largest, one of the most popular, and one of the most expensive tents in the whole festival.  Also the only one that sells Guinness, which probably accounts for all those ‘mosts’.

No classy act on stage this time, though.  I couldn’t even tell you the name of this band.  Maybe they don’t have a name.  A covers band, which doesn’t sound like what you’d expect at a folk festival.  But this is Sing-a-long Sunday night at Port Fairy, and it’s more fun than you can poke a stick at.  And I’ve poked a lot of sticks!  Imagine a thousand people standing shoulder to shoulder singing “Those were the days my friend”, Proclaimers songs, and the Time Warp, all at the top of their alcohol affected and not quite recording quality lungs.  Great stuff.

Next, Judy Collins, who’s been around since forever, and sung every song there is, with everybody who is anybody.  She was pretty big back in the 60s I think.  I bet she was a really great live act back in the day…

And actually that was about it.  There was still stuff going on late on Sunday night, but we”d more or less had it by then, so we wandered back to the tent and called it a night.  On Monday morning there were a few acts still performing, but we’d seen them at some stage over the weekend, and the road homewards was beckoning.

No doubt we’ll be back there next year for more.

PFFF 2012 part two

Having walked out on the son of one of the greatest song writers of the 20th century, what does one proceed to do?  I may have bumped into a friend and had another beer, I think.  Or not, I’m really not sure.

I do know that soon enough I wandered in to check out local Melbourne group Jugularity.  There’s a personal connection here, since once upon a time in a land far far away (Melbourne circa 1981) I played in the same orchestra as Jugularity’s bass player.  In fact, his violin playing brother was a couple of years ahead of me at vet school, as well as also having played in that same orchestra (The Chamber Strings of Melbourne) way back then.

Luckily Gavan (aforementioned bass player) didn’t see me walk in, nor did he seem to notice 15 or 20 minutes later when all four of us walked out.  Maybe the experience with Adam Cohen had switched on the walk-out neurotransmitters, or maybe Jugularity were just having a bad night.  They didn’t seem very inspired.  They’ve been together for 21 years, so you could forgive them for having the odd stale moment.  Here’s a clip from back in 2008….

From the small and mostly family audience in the Jugularity tent we made our way to the huge and much more young-adult oriented crowd watching another Melbourne group called Tin Pan Orange.  This group is fronted up by the wife of Harry James Angus (see previous post), who also plays keyboards.  This is a pretty standard arrangement in the folk world, by the seems of things.  Everyone plays in their own band and in one or two others, and does guest appearances in a third, whilst simultaneously being married to the mandolin player in one band and being the ex-partner of the singer somewhere else.  It’s a pretty small pool, I suppose.  Emily Lubitz is the singer, and she was great, although her near constant whirling around the stage was a bit off putting.

Next on the list was a country outfit called The Pigs, who really looked like they should have been singing at someone’s huge 21st party in a woolshed, or on the stage at a B&S turn somewhere.  They were pretty funny.

And we finished the night with the adults-only version of Tripod, which was also pretty funny.

Port Fairy Folk Festival 2012

Lest you think that everything is about bikes, here is a brief summary of our long weekend, now a couple of weeks ago:

Liz and Harry and Jack and I attended the Port Fairy Folk Festival.  That’s a brief summary for you.

Here’s the slightly longer version:

The Port Fairy Folk Festival has been running for, ooohh, ages.  Decades.  Well, according to their website, 36 years.   This was our second year, so we’re relative newcomers.  Unfortunately Zoe couldn’t make it this year, since she’s otherwise occupied, being in New York, or Philadelphia, or Boston or somewhere like that, at the start of her own odyssey.  However, something like 15,000 people did attend this event, which swells the normally sleepy seaside town of Port Fairy considerably.  (None of them made up for Zoe’s absence, by the way…)

OK, so I just looked it up.  When the festival isn’t in town, the population is 2500.  So “swells” is a pretty mild word to describe what happens to the place.  There isn’t a bed or a manger to be had in the place, and finding a spot to stick your tent in the camping ground isn’t necessarily all that easy.  You should book early and arrive early!

There are tents and cars and vans and people as far as the eye can see.

There are tents and cars and vans and people as far as the eye can see.

Once you’re there you get to choose between a bunch of big venues inside the fenced-off area of the Festival proper, or from a bunch of smaller 0ff-site venues scattered about the town of PF and its environs.  The main venues within the festival area are temporary structures called “tents”, although not the kind that you’d pick up for cheap at the local Disposals store.  These are some big-arse tents.

Like any other festival, fete, carnival or event with a large number of essentially trapped punters with nowhere else to go there are also smaller tents selling over-priced food, over-priced bottles of water, and fantastically over-priced alcohol.  At $7.50 for a half pint glass of Guinness the grog is definitely over-priced, but that doesn’t seem to slow anybody down!

Here is a bunch of Youtube links to the acts that we saw over the course of a couple of days:

The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band.  These guys were meant to be the bees knees of Bluegrass, but they left me a bit cold.  It *was* early on Saturday morning, though, so maybe they just needed a bit longer to warm up:

The Junes.  This is a local group, singing “glam country”, swing and gospel music.  They were fabulous, darling.  Great musicians, didn’t take themselves too seriously.  Lots of fun.  One of the women turned up again on Sunday morning singing gospel songs, but more on that later.

The Davidson Brothers.  The two boys from Gippsland are the current national bluegrass fiddle champion and national bluegrass mandolin champion between them.  They grew up playing in the Scottish Highland Fiddle Club, and when they played to their Celtic roots they were superb.  But a lot of their stuff was more Lee Kernaghan than Trad. Celtic, and whilst it was good, it just isn’t my cup of tea.  But I don’t wanna sound too picky here.  Like I said, the more traditional stuff they played was fantastic, and it’s easy to see how they won their respective titles.  Apparently their banter between songs is usually a bit blue, but perhaps because they saw lil’ ol’ prim and proper me in the audience they toned it down a bit.

Harry James Angus is perhaps better known to some as the guy that plays the trumpet in The Cat Empire.  But he also plays a few other instruments, and he sings, and he writes his own stuff, and stuff for other people, and all that kind of multi-talented kind of stuff.  Not bad.  If you like that kind of thing.

The Sharon Shannon Big Band was headed by this crazy-happy Irish lass whose name you can probably guess.  She gave the impression of having downed 3 or 4 strong coffees, a couple of Ectasy tablets and maybe smoked a small joint before jumping joyfully and lovingly onto the stage.  They were good.  And then they let their fiddle player loose for just one tune – and he was absolutely sensational.  Can’t find video of him I’m afraid.  I guess you just had to be there.

Adam Cohen.  Son of the famous and rightly legendary Leonard Cohen.  Normally it is true that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, but in Adam’s case it seems that the fruit had some difficulty finding the ground, and when it did it must have got kicked around a bit, and maybe chewed on by a passing horse.  The guy has a lovely, rich, sonorous and deep voice, a bit like his dad’s, only maybe a bit better.  But that’s where the comparisons end.  He was vacuous, self-centred, embarrassingly and transparently libidinous and also not very good.  We walked out on him after 15 minutes.

That takes me nearly to the end of our first day.  I’ll post more soon….

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