Doing it Live!

There’s nothing quite like live…

Last night I had the great privilege of experiencing English poet Harry Baker live at a house concert. Yep, that’s World Champion Slam Poet Harry Baker in a lounge room around the corner from my place.

One of my son’s mates is a mad HB fan, and reached out to him when his Australian Tour was announced. So, the arrangements were made – gig on Tuesday night, lounge room recital Wednesday night, gig Thursday night, fly out to China Friday. Such is the life of the international poet.

After I received my invite, I resisted the temptation to gorge on HB on-line. Once I found his TED talk, it was enough to hook me – he’s a maths nerd who is into words, my kind of guy. I decided to hear the poems fresh and live for the first time.

And so …

About thirty people – mostly friends of the teenage host and his sister – assembled in a family home for the experience of a lifetime. There were many HB fans, and plenty who were there to find out what the fuss was all about. They didn’t have to wait long.

Photo: Mark Profaca

Photo: Mark Profaca

Like most things, YouTube just doesn’t do justice to the force of nature that is Harry Baker live. He’s smart, witty, unassuming and engaging, while his poetry is all at once gentle, sharp, challenging and inspiring. He held the crowd’s attention for an hour that flew past – no one wanted it to end.

HB and friends

HB and friends

But end it did, with HB spending the rest of the night talking to the fans who are mostly back at school or uni today, inspired not just by his rapid rhyming words but by the journey he has chosen – to work hard at his passion rather than take a course that others might have expected.

Everyone threw some cash in a tin to finance the night – Harry is a full time poet, and no one could argue with the value.

House or Lounge Room concerts are a “thing” in music, and the model has grown in popularity, with one of the Australian pioneers being Deb Conway (see article here). Artists can easily end up making more money playing in a backyard for 20 people who pay $20 a head and buy a CD than playing in a “venue” where the money is tight and a sound engineer needs to be paid.

I’ve hosted, been to and played at a lounge room concert – they are thoroughly brilliant, and you should give one a go.

Meanwhile, here’s my favourite poem from the night – Real Men

Or it might have been this one . ..

Making Music

MacBooksIn late May, I spent a day with a friend helping my son do his first music recording. It took me back to the 80s when I was playing in bands regularly and doing recordings – only we didn’t have MacBook Airs connected up to the desk recording each track digitally as it was laid down. What a difference!

There were two tracks that he had written, and he played drums, bass and guitar. We recorded and mixed into acoustic and accompanied versions of “Flow”, and a full and instrumental version of “Anthem.”  The video camera was running as well, mainly so we could edit a video of the bass and drums of Flow so Jonty can perform “live” playing the acoustic guitar in front of “him” playing the other instruments. The whole thing really tested my video editing – and that was fun!

Here are some of the videos:



The recordings form part of a school music project.Check out more of Jonty’s music and words at

The West Pymble Thinking Person’s Movie Festival

It’s time to revisit The West Pymble Thinking Person’s Movie Festival, because it meets tonight for the first time in 2014.  It’s really just a bloke’s book club, except we don’t pretend that everyone (anyone?) will have time to read a book in the same month – so we eat, watch the film and talk about it.  We choose films about business and/or ethical issues, to stimulate discussion. So far we’ve seen:

  1. Enron
  2. Margin Call
  3. Moneyball
  4. Company Men
  5. American History X
  6. Stand By Me (9 May)

The quality of conversation, both film related and otherwise, has so far been top-notch.  The Festival has evolved into a supportive and challenging event that will play its part in encouraging those present to be better dads, husbands and business people.

Try it yourself – we can’t recommend it highly enough.

Some writers just make you want to weep

In this case, I was listening to a playlist while writing yesterday, and was struck (i.e. interrupted) by a favourite lyric.  So clear, imaginative, good, it made we look at the chapter I was editing and wonder why I was bothering.

I’ll never be a song writer, so I can take some comfort from that.  But still, how dare they be so good?

Here’s a selection of my favourites

Set my guitar on fire with a long stem match.  “Cover You” by The Choir is perhaps not my favourite of their songs, but still, this lyric about how far someone will go for love is a corker.

She’s got cheek bones like geometry and eyes like sin. Oh, Lloyd Cole, how I envied you for writing this (Perfect Skin) and your other masterpieces when I was 21 and you were 23.

You’ve been reading S.O.S., When it’s just your clock reading 5:05.  This is from “Empty” by Del Amiri, a bleak song in a bleak but brilliant catalogue

Feel like Debbie Harry’s hair without the bleach in.  This is from “Too Depressed to Commit Suicide”, a track parodying The Police on the comic masterpiece “439 Golden Greats” by The HeeBeeGeeBees.  I’ve always rated them ahead of Weird Al, as they wrote very passable imitations not “just” rewrote the lyrics.  Not that you can argue with “LIke a surgeon, cutting for the very first time”.  There are no digital copies of this available, so YouTube is the only place you can listen to this massive goodness.

So, how about you?  What are the lyrics that make you gasp at their brilliance?

Making Music

A recent competition on a local radio station invited bands “who never made it” to send in a video or recording of them playing.  You know, no young bands, no professional bands.

“Exhumed” attracted over 200 entries, including one from me.  I’ve been in bands for 25 years, off and on, although the last gig I played with the “guys” was in 2005.  We’d had a few mess-arounds in the last 6 months, without getting too serious.  Or serious at all.

So, I cut together some highlights of the gig in 2005, sent in the link, and . . . got nowhere.

It was fun to dream about playing at the winners’ gig with 9 other bands “of a certain age”, but it was not to be.

So, here we are:  Forty Odd Foot of Grumps, for one night only, on our Phone a Friend Tour.  The band and tour name reference Russell Crowe and an incident in a hotel, for those who can remember.