There have been quite a few moments recently that have made me think about how lucky I am to be a musician. When I actively stop and think about it, what else would I do if I wasn’t? First and foremost, I am quite thankful for all of the opportunities that have presented themselves to me over the past 10 years of performing in the Geelong and Surf Coast region. One of the coolest experiences of my career was busking on the streets of Nashville, Austin and San Francisco, but I think that’s a story for another day.
A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend the premier world screening of ‘Y Blues?” at the Spotted Mallard on Sydney Road. The Spotted Mallard is an amazing music venue and I guess, up until this point, having never lived in Melbourne I had never taken the time to go down there and experience it’s wondrous qualities. Living just round the corner from Sydney Road there are numerous pubs and live music venues of notable mention. The Edinburgh Castle, Cornish Arms, Retreat Hotel are all names that spring to mind upon writing this article, yet for the sake of this column, the Spotted Mallard has my heart. Having walked past the entrance on several occasions over the past couple of months, it felt good to walk through its hallowed doors that have played host to all of your favourite Melbourne and international musicians including Peter Rowan and Suzannah Espie. Up the stairs, you are greeted with a lovely room that can, to a degree, be compared to a small chapel. Various stain-glassed skylights greet the roof and towards the bar there is a little loft that gives you an option to get a bit of breathing space if need be. Walking into the ‘Y Blues’ event, it’s like stepping into the blues music award ceremony or something, because it really is like the who’s who with many faces from the MBAS and across the board, musicians, blues lovers and radio personalities (the event was promoted in conjunction with PBS).
One of the coolest things was the night was opened by blues legend Geoff Achison, who despite being stuck in traffic prior, played a cool set of tracks that led perfectly into the screening of the film. Talking about the history of the Melbourne Blues scene it would be amiss not to mention the legacy of the late great Dutch Tilders. A founding member of the MBAS, there isn’t much to say except the man is an absolute bloody legend. Emigrating to Australia in the ‘50s, Tilders had the opportunity to share the stage with John Mayall, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and B.B. King. Since passing away in 2011, his legacy has held strong with many people holding him in high regard. One of the greatest moments of musical life, was being able to sit down and have a yarn about the blues with Dutch. It was back in the day when the Ocean Grove Open Mic festival was up and running and the organisers had somehow managed to wrangle Dutch to come and have a chat to a few of us around the table at the pub on the Monday.
Sitting at the table with my guitar, everyone got the opportunity to play a song for Dutch and he would show his appreciation and give feedback on the track. I chose to play my most bluesy track ‘On The Track’ that I recorded for my first EP. About halfway through, Dutch started to join in and jam along before ripping into a guitar solo. Watching the blues documentary reminded me of that great day. There is supposedly going to be more blues documentaries and there is such a rich history to it, so I think it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in blues music.
Written by Tex Miller