On the road in Australia with Mozaik, March 2002...
NOTES FROM A SCRUBBY MOTEL
Nikola above, Bruce through the
window and Rens at the boot.
At last, I have a moment to begin this journal…
Me and my buddies are encamped in a small non-glitz motel in the country town of Seymour in Victoria, Australia. We are on our way to Albury to play a gig tomorrow night.
WE are MOZAIK, the “band to die for” as I seem to have said in the publicity sheets.
Well.. I probably wouldn’t choose to die for it but it is my ‘selection’. We finally got together in the seaside town of Rye, Victoria about 10 days ago. Dónal Lunny flew in from Dublin, arriving a day late. He had forgotten that it wasn’t a leap year and that there was no Feb. 29th! Rens van der Zalm and myself, who had been on tour in New Zealand and Australia since February, met him at the second time of asking and drove on down to the rehearsal house in my old Landcruiser.
Nikola Parov and Bruce Molsky had arrived the day before from Budapest and Brooklyn respectively, and had spent their time practising an Old Timey tune on Gadulka and Fiddle! Just what I had dreamed of!
It was a really great moment as we shook hands and embraced on the deck of the house that was to be our home for the next 6 days. We started in pretty quick. There wasn’t much time to lose. We had to make this conglomeration into a band in no time flat.
“My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland” quickly segued into “Robinson County” and back again and into “The Trip to Durrow”. Then Nikola filled his Bulgarian Bagpipes and we launched into “The Bear’s Rock” an old Macedonian song that tells the tale of uprising against the Turkish Oppressor. Ireland, Macedonia, Bulgaria, all subject nations for centuries with the same stories of heroes who tried and failed, died and were reborn.
The six days merge in my memory. We practised night and day. Bruce’s Old Timey tunes zipped on through the Summer night as bottles of wine were uncorked and Nikola cooked extravagant meals and played his Kaval, Gadulka and Gajda and anything else that came to hand. Rens was as solid as a rock. He had done most of all of us in pre-rehearsal. That guy knew all the material. Bugger! Dónal moulded, glued, nipped and tucked while guiding the music along with his Australian made Bouzouki and his Martin Guitar.
While all this was happening, we were going through a bonding, which has left us a very happy bunch of disparate latchecos! I rarely saw a happier band. We are really mates! So far anyway…
Rens van der Zalm
On about the third day we were joined by our soundman, Joe Ferguson. He’s from Melbourne and plays Bouzouki with a great up and coming young band called “Trouble in the Kitchen”. We went through the usual euphoric highs and the attendant despairing lows and suddenly it was time to travel to the Dandenongs for our first gig.
The “Micawber Park Tavern” in Belgrave. Charlie Dickens’ Mr. Micawber was always waiting for something to “turn up” and this time it was us. It went down a treat!
Thank you James, Lou and all. I know its only yer local but it was the perfect start for us! To be among friends! The audience didn’t bat a hair as we moved from Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare into Stara Zagora, Co. Bulgaria and mosied along to Galax, Co.Virginia and back. To cap it all, Lou put us up in his magnificent B&B houses, right there at the back of Belgrave. Oh the furnishings! That was a night I will never forget..
Nikola went into the city to do some interviews on the radio. When we picked him up, he said, “You can hear me in Bulgarian at 5:15 and in Hungarian at 11 o’clock.” We were impressed but missed both broadcasts…
We had only the Landcruiser and Joe’s van to get to Port Fairy, a journey of about 3¾ hours. The Cruiser was jammed to the gunwales with people, instruments and baggage. Reminded me strongly of Sweeney’s Men back in the 60’s. Johnny Moynihan would have loved it.
Time has moved on. We are now well into the tour, about half way through probably. It is being a great experience! Still great friends! We’ve had some really great gigs: The second one in The Harp in Sydney was probably one of the best I’ve ever been involved in. Dónal said: “Worth the trip for that gig alone”. We are now in another scrubby motel here in Jerilderie, where Ned Kelly, the famous Irish Bushranger held up the bank and handed the clerk a note explaining his reasons!
“…And is my brothers and sisters and my mother not to be pitied also who has no alternative only to put up with the conduct of a parcel of big ugly fat-necked wombat headed big bellied magpie legged narrow hipped splay footed sons of Irish baillifs or English landlords which is better known as officers of Justice or Victorian Police..”
Goes on for sixty pages I believe. Good man yourself, Ned.