Australia Tour 2012 Part 2

“I don’t want to worry you Damh but I’ve got a scratchy throat,” Adrienne said, peering over the bar in the Kitchen. I was sitting at their table and had just thought the same thing about mine. I looked up.

“I think I’m going down with something too…”

It was Monday morning and me and Cerri were due to run our Sacred Poetry workshop that night. As the day moved on both me and Adrienne started to feel worse. The evening went beautifully as I said in the previous blog post, but when Tuesday morning arrived Adrienne was close to losing her voice. I was not as bad, but with me colds often move onto my chest and cause my asthma to come on.

I think I spent that Tuesday in denial as I was due to play the concert for all of the sponsors who had clubbed together to raise the money to fly me and Cerri all the way our here. There was no way I was not going to play that gig. It was being recorded for a live CD to be given to the sponsors at a later date. Now I was a little concerned about that to be honest. I knew I could play and sing well enough to entertain these lovely people, but I wasn’t sure how that CD would come out. In the end we all had a great evening at the wonderful Wheatsheaf Hotel (The Wheatie) and I think, apart from a couple of places where my voice croaked, the CD will be fine.

However, when the next morning came I could feel that familiar feeling that told me the cold was on the move and irritating my lungs. With the three-cities tour approaching there was no way I could risk it, so I managed to get an appointment with a local Doctor and went straight on the antibiotics. It was the right thing to do. That night me and Cerri were due to go to the Pagan in the Pizza bar moot, but neither Adrienne nor myself thought it would be a good idea for us to go, so Cerri went on her own. I was sad to have missed the night, particularly when I saw the video of William’s poem and the gift of P.Uke (the Pagan Ukelele group) who had practiced a version of my song Noon of the Solstice.

The next morning we were off to Melbourne for the concert at Bar 303. I loved this gig last year. The venue is a back room, painted black, with sofas all around the edge, and amazing modern art posters everywhere. It’s the kind of venue you would find in Brighton to be honest. Bohemian, and, well, groovy. Sadly Adrienne had still problems with her voice so Spiral Dance had to do a tune set for this gig. But they did brilliantly, and everyone had a great time dancing to their music. For me, this year had the same vibe as last year and it was another wonderful night. In fact, during my song The Wheel I invited the audience to add some harmonies to their singing, and what I heard gave me goose bumps. You can hear it in this video from the night, a wonderful moment. After the show I was introduced to Kebabs Aussie style. I made the mistake of opening mine up, a lesson learned for another night… Sleep, then up to get to the airport to fly to Sydney.

We arrived at the Bald Faced Stag Hotel with plenty of time. This was another venue we played last year. Adrienne was feeling a little better this night and took the stage to sing with the band, and it was great to see and hear them all together again. It seemed that over the year a lot of people had heard my music in Sydney, and the response from the audience here was simply magical. I took the stage with Spiral Dance again to sing their version of my song Spirit of Albion (at the two Adelaide gigs I had broken a string when I played Spirit of Albion during my set. I started to think that maybe I should leave this song for Spiral Dance, as this land and this audience knew their version, not mine. So I didn’t play it at Melbourne or Sydney, and I didn’t break a string…) and I really wanted to have a beer to celebrate, but I was still feeling a bit grim, and was on the antibiotics with another gig to play, so I just stuck to the water.

Another kebab, bed, then up to catch a plane to Brisbane.

It had been raining most of the trip. It had been raining when we left the UK (although while we were away Britain had its Summer…apparently) but Brisbane was gorgeous. We were met at the airport and taken to the hotel which was just a short walk from the venue. This was the Brisbane Witches Ball. The venue was a large bar with a good sized dance floor. It was quite a rush to set up the gear and sound check and then pretty much straight away people were arriving. Now on the whole my music isn’t background music. I do play some songs that people can dance to, but for me it’s more about engaging and entertaining an audience, going on a sacred journey together. As people arrived for the Witches Ball I could feel that we might have a mismatch. This event was a social event where people were going to to catch up, talk to each other, have a social drink, and party. I took the stage and although I had the attention of a good number of people, to be honest, most didn’t really take much notice of what was happening on the stage and carried on with their conversations. So I turned my attention to those who had come to sit and listen and we had a lovely evening together. In the future I’d love to return to the Brisbane Pagan community and play a concert for them to enjoy as a concert. Hopefully next year!

The next day the weather was lovely. We took a walk along the river and stopped at a bar for a little drink. We thought we’d only be there for a little while. There were no more concerts, so I decided to have a beer, or a number of beers. I was introduced to the Fat Yak, a lovely Aussie beer, while others were drinking Dirty Grannies (a lovely Aussie cider). Well, we sat down for a drink, the Nick ordered more drinks, I bought a jug of drink, the we all sat down and had a drink… A band turned up and played some classic tunes. We all sang along. And had another drink. It was sunny, warm, with good friends, and good music. The perfect way to end a great tour.

We had a couple of days free before we had to leave to return to the UK, so on the Monday we met up with Louise and little Maddy so I could take Maddie’s cuddly duck D. D Rock on the road with me and pass him, and his travel diary, on to other Pagan musicians in the USA to help raise money for Doctors without Borders (see the video below) .

Then on the Tuesday we went on another tour of some of the South Australian vineyards. Yum.

As I write this I’m returning in my mind to the goodbyes at the airport. I love Australia, and I love the Aussie people. They are a breath of fresh air to this Brit who has a hard time with all of the UK’s health and safety laws, and the way that political correctness has taken some of the soul out of our character. With that Aussies that edginess is still there. Each time I go to Australia I get reminded to chill out, relax and don’t take stuff so personally.

As they say – “No worries, it’s all good!”

I really hope we are back again sometime in 2013.


Australia Tour 2012 Part 1

I’ve just returned from another wonderful tour of Australia.

After being collected at Adelaide airport by the lovely Adrienne and Nick from the band Spiral Dance we headed into the Adelaide Hills to try and stay awake all day to beat the impending jet lag. We managed until 9pm which was pretty good and woke up at a very respectable time (clog-dancing possums on the roof  at dawn not withstanding).

Friday was set up and sound check day for the English Ale festival at Mylor Hall. I played this event last year and had the most amazing time, and I was really looking forward to being there again, and also knowing the running order of the day. Set up done we headed home and this time I woke up at 5am and just could not get back to sleep. Mind was ticking over adjusting set lists and other details, but I knew that if sleep didn’t come it would be a tough day as I was due on stage at 10pm the following night. But it remained illusive.

The day of the English Ale began with morris dancing at the local pub. The enthusiasm for the English country dance here in Australia is palpable. It seems to have much more respect than it does here in the UK where it does seem to be on the receiving end of jokes. By the riverside that morning though each dance was given due respect, and I for one was so pleased to see this. And to add to the authenticity of the morning, it began to rain. It felt just like home.

Time next to go to the hall where the bar was being set up ready for people to arrive for the festivities of the day. More morris dancing and music rang out across the Mylor Oval, and it was only when the Galahs called and flew through the branches of the huge gum trees that I remembered I was in the southern hemisphere. In the afternoon Cerri and I took part in a Druid Gorsedd meditation, then it was preparation for the procession and wicker man ritual.

I had the honour of leading the procession last year and was asked to do the same this time. So with massive blazing torch, and about 300 people following, we set off in procession to the waiting figure. Giants, ‘obby osses, morris sides with musicians, masked figures followed. It felt like a scene from the wicker man last year, and this year was even more so. We paced the oval, then walked under the trees to the figure.

This year instead of a wicker man a dragon stood before me. I led people into the circle as the drummers played under a star-filled sky – the Southern Cross shining high. Silence fell and I was handed the Gorsedd sword. Facing the east and just pulling the sword from the scabbard slightly I welcomed the east and asked if there was peace. There reply was that there was peace. Walking sunwise (anticlockwise) to the north I handed over the sword and fire was called and honoured, then to the west, and finally earth in the south. I returned to my place.

From behind me a flaming figure walked forward. Blazing with a flaming sword. “Hail to King George!” was called as the figure walked forward. Now I have a strange relationship with the English Patron Saint. His history just doesn’t sit well with me, and killing dragons also doesn’t endear him to me much either. But this is just my own ‘stuff’, so I dropped it to be in relationship with all of the others who entered into the spirit of the ritual as his sword touched the waiting dragon and the heat spread out across the cheering crowd. Drums began, dancing began, and I slipped away to the hall ready for the evening of entertainment.

A mummers play, traditional English music hall entertainment, a punch and judy show, then Spiral Dance, then me. From 7pm until midnight about 140 people who got tickets (some couldn’t get into the hall) had a great night. It was so good to hear Spiral Dance again who played a great set. Then it was me. I was actually a little nervous to begin with, but the love I felt coming from the audience in great waves just dissolved that fear, and pretty quickly we had that performer/audience wave to rapport that just goes from me to them, then from them to me, and round it goes. When this happens, magic happens. It was such a great night, and my set ended with a surprise. Spiral Dance had learned my song Hills they are Hollow, so at the end of my set the band joined me and we played it together. I haven’t played with a band on stage since 2000 and this was a real treat for me. The audience were up and dancing, singing and shouting the lyrics. A wonderful moment I will never forget.

Sunday led us into Adelaide to have Yum Cha, a meal I had looked forward to all year. The most glorious Asian food in abundance. Yum Cha indeed!

Monday me and Cerri did a poetry workshop where about 100 people together wrote about 200 poems in about 2 hours. But it was on Tuesday morning, with the sponsors concert approaching, and then the 4 state concert tour on the horizon, that both me and Adrienne, the two singers, developed colds, with Adrienne losing her voice, and me developing a chest infection.

To be continued…

Tales from the Road: Sydney and the Three Sisters

I’m writing this on the plane to Los Angeles just after taking off from Sydney. So much to think about, so many memories, so many new friends. The day after the gig in Sydney we all gathered at the Five Dragons for our last Yum Cha – a new vice that I’ve been introduced to here in Australia. Although there was much laughter, the atmosphere was tinged with sadness as we all knew that the tour was over and soon Spiral Dance would be leaving and heading back to Adelaide. But that didn’t stop us from thoroughly enjoying the moment while we could. But in the end it came time to say farewell. There were tears and hugs, I felt torn as I saw them all drive away and missed everyone the moment we parted, but we then had the opportunity to spend some time with our hosts here in Sydney, David and Kelly Garland, facilitators of PAN (the Pagan Awareness Network).

We had two days in Sydney and I just had to see the Opera House and

Sydney Harbour bridge – two places I never thought I’d see. So the next day we headed into the city and there they were. The Opera House is an amazing building, completely crazy, and I didn’t know until I saw it up close that the iconic white roof was made out of what look like bathroom tiles. But

it’s a breathtaking sight and that, along with the harbour and bridge, make it well worth the visit.

That night we polished off a bottle of The Devil, the Tawny Port we bought in Mclaren Vale, and the next day drove into the Blue Mountains to visit the home of the artist Norman Lindsay (if you’ve seen the film

Sirens, that was set at the house and was about his life). Apart from being the author and artist of the children’s story The Magic Pudding, he was also a really controversial artist who portrayed naked women happily

engaging with Satyrs, and his most controversial work was the Crucifixion of Venus. An amazingly magical place, and an amazing life.

After that we went to see The Three Sisters. The legend is that three children were being chased by a Banyip, the equivalent of an Australian Yeti, and to save them their father turned them to stone. This reminded me of our British legends that some stone circles were dancers turned to stone

for dancing on the Sabbath Day, so I was expecting a row of three standing stones. What I actually saw took my breath away it was so beautiful. A photo can never capture the majesty of the place but here I really felt the scale of the Australian Bush as it lay endless before me.

That night we watched Sirens and then went to bed as we had to be up at 5.50am for our flight to the USA. Once more we found ourselves saying goodbye to two new friends with whom we had made a deep and lasting bond. So as I look out of the window of this aircraft, I say a very fond farewell to Australia, and to everyone we met who helped to make this trip so wonderful. You all touched our hearts, and I know that we will be back again soon to see you all once more. To play music, laugh, and eat more Yum Cha!! Blessed be!

Tales from the Road: Three States and the Bad Bard

A couple of days after the wine tasting in McLaren Vale we spent a lovely day being looked after by Tamzin and Tom, then it was the Pagans in the Pizza bar night. We had been asked to talk to the Adelaide Pagans about the OBOD, our Anderida camps and Gorseddau, and about our spiritual paths in general. It was great to meet up for a moot that wasn’t in a pub. Everyone munched down on some lovely food before the evening began which created a great atmosphere. We were asked some really in depth questions, and then we acted out the Taliesin story. After a short break we were invited to sit on a couple of decorated chairs and were given the most lovely gift as some of the Adelaide Pagans dressed up as Ogam trees and they performed a dance to my song The Greenwood Grove. It was so lovely and we were both deeply moved by what we saw. Again, such lovely folk!

On Wednesday it was Adrienne’s birthday. We stayed at home and the fizz was opened at about 1.30pm and continued like that well into

was popped at around 1.30pm and flowed all afternoon and, well, deep into the night really. I was introduced to gorgeous home-made smoked salmon Nori Rolls (something I know I’ll be eating back home) and various Australian sparkling wines. Then in the evening we headed off to what has to be the best pizza parlour I’ve ever eaten in. It was a great night but then, in the car on the way home, Adrienne was introduced to The Bad Bard… Don’t worry Adrienne our secret is safe!

I did think that I’d be battling a hangover on the morning of the gig at the South Australian Folk Centre but although a little muzzy, we were all fine. The venue was fabulous with a great atmosphere and posters of past performers all around the walls. Spiral Dance opened the evening with a 50 minute set, then I did a 90 minute set and then Spiral Dance finished the night. I wondered if people would come out again after the English Ale and then the Pagans in the Pizza bar, but I needn’t have

worried. It was a great night and a good last gig in Adelaide before we headed off the next day to Melbourne.

We were up early and dropped at the airport, met by Tamzin and Evelyn who saw us off. And we were later met by members of the OBOD Melbourne

Grove who took us into the city to a lovely ecology centre before moving on to a coffee bar just along from the venue Bar 303. As I walked into the venue I just knew this was going to be a great night. The bar was just like a Bohemian bar you’d find in Brighton and Prague. The seating was sofas, the

stage was small, the beer was organic and cold. Mmmm.

Some amazing things happened that night. I was met by people I’d met here before, others who had seen me play in the uk whilst on holiday and had come out to see me play in their country, and during the half time break a man came up to me and said, “Do you recognise me?” I had to say I didn’t. Then be said, “Delney Avenue?” That’s where I lived when I was about 5 years old and then it clicked! This was Ross, an old friend of mine from childhood! We had connected on Facebook just before he moved to Australia, he had seen I was playing tonight and had come out to see me play! It was amazing. Ross, if you’re reading this it was great to see you again.

The gig was great and by the end we had the most raucous folk version of Anarchy in the UK I’ve ever played. The bar was heaving and I don’t think you could have fitted one more person in. We tried a different format to the evening this time with me opening, then a set by Spiral Dance, then me again, and ending with another Spiral Dance set, each set being 45 minutes. It worked a dream.

We were taken back to the home of one of the Melbourne Grove and woke up to beautiful scenery. Trudy lives on a farm in the country with a stone circle and a noisy, but lovely, pet sheep. It would have been great to have spent a bit more time with the Grove but soon we found ourselves back at the airport and heading off to my final gig of this tour in Sydney.

We were met at the airport by David and Kerry, facilitators of the Pagan

Awareness Network (PAN) and soon found ourselves at the Bald Faced Stag hotel in Sydney. Through the bar we found the most well-equipped music venue of the tour. A massive PA, mixing desk and lighting rig. Paul made me laugh when he said, “I’m not sure the world is ready for 4000watts of accordion yet!” but the sound was amazing. The audience sat at the tables at the back of the hall then others just sat on the floor and we took

the journey together. My last set ended with a heaving dance floor and it was a great and fitting end to the tour. Later me and Cerri joined Spiral Dance on stage for their version of Spirit of Albion and then it was over. I can’t tell you how emotional I felt when we finally had to say goodbye to the members of Spiral Dance, but I know in my heart this won’t be the last time I play music with them here on the Singing Land.

We had a couple of days in Sydney but this has already become a long catch up blog so I’ll leave that to write on the plane tomorrow on our way to Michigan for the Michigan Pagan Festival. I hope I find a wifi spot so I can upload it!

Tales from the Road: The Vicar and the Devil

After the English Ale we chilled out then the next day we went for a trip around some of South Australia’s wine region. We did that last time I was here and I have to say that trip gave me the taste for South Australian wines, particularly those from the McLaren Vale region. So with Adrienne and Nick from Spiral Dance we headed into McLaren Vale!

The first vineyard we stopped at was Maxwells, a vineyard famous for its

Mead. Yes, I was delighted! I can safely and happily report that Maxwells mead is light and delicate reminding me of Lurgashall Mead or Lindisfarne Mead. Delicious! Then we made our way through some of the most tasty whites and reds until we returned to the mead, this time the spiced mead and the mead liquor. Oh my. If the mead liquor was available in the UK I’d always have a bottle in the house!

After that we met our friend Carolyn and went to Coriolle and Chapel Hill vineyards and I have to say that by the time I tried an award winning red called The Vicar I was more than a little squiffy, but then they brought out a Tawny Port called The Devil – well for a balance I had to try that too!

The mead, mead liquor and The Devil came back with us. Might crack them open tonight!

Tales from the Road: The English Ale

I’m writing this on the plane as we leave Adelaide and head towards Melbourne. I had planned to post a regular blog but things became really busy, really quickly!

The English Ale festival was amazing. We started early joining a few of the Morris sides at the local pub for some dances before people gathered at the Mylor Hall. The scene could have been from any English Morris festival. Sides dancing to accordion, fiddle, drum and flute; May pole dancing, cider, sunshine, laughter and singing. A wonderful day. And as dusk fell, so we gathered in the field opposite the venue beside three giants, as the ‘Obby ‘Osses chased and masks were placed. The sun set, and torches were lit for the procession to the Wicker Man. I was honoured to have been asked to lead the procession with Cerri, so with dancers flowing, and about 200

people behind, we slowly set off. Again, as I looked back and saw the torchlit procession it could have been from Lewes, Hastings, Padstow, yet here we were in Australia with some of the most passionate dancers I have ever met.

We arrived at the Wicker Man and formed a great circle. Then a horn was blown and I turned and declared peace in the east. I then walked sunwise (which in the southern hemisphere in anticlockwise) as peace wasdeclared in each direction (with fire in the north). The differences feel completely right

when here on this land. Drums started as a rope fire puppet began to dance around the circle, finally falling, and embracing the Wicker Man, setting him alight. An awesome sight that I’m sure we will being back with us to the UK!

More Morris followed, but I made my way back to the hall as the evening music was about to begin. The concert went really well with some amazing harmonies coming from the audience during The Wheel an Wild Mountain Thyme. I felt humbled to come half way around the world to find people who knew my songs.

It was an amazing day and it all felt really familiar, and the dancing a music was performed with a love and passion that showed a deep love and respect for English traditions. I was incredibly moved by what I saw, and all of the sides would have been at home at the Hastings Jack in the Green festival. I took some video clips during the day and dropped them into a little video that you can find here

I’d hoped to do regular blogs during my tour, but time and Internet connections have made that difficult, but I’ll keep trying!!

We’re Bound for South Australia!

After forcing ourselves to stay awake during our first day in Australia (which is basically forcing ourselves to stay awake all night in the uk) by visiting Adelaide’s wonderful indoor market and then having our first visit to ‘The

Wheatie’, a fantastic pub with the most amazing range of beers from South Australia (I learned last time that our impression of Aussies being mostly Fosters drinkers was completely wrong, and that their taste in beers was equally as good as our Real Ales in Britain!) most of the jet lag had gone by Friday, which meant a very relaxed set up for The English Ale festival.

We arrived at the hall in Mylor, a town named after the Cornish village of the same name with a fascinating history, got out of the car and had that first moment of true realisation that I was not in England anymore. The sweet smell of Eucalyptus in the air, and the sound of the Gallars as they swooped across the playing field opposite the venue where later on Saturday night there would be the burning of the Wicker Man. I can’t help it, I find those moments so exciting and I always just take a some time to breathe in the differences.

The hall was perfect and soon we were setting up the chairs, tables, and the

gear for the concert. I’d brought my new travelling guitar with me for his first outing and was really looking forward to the concert the next night. I did my sound check and then Spiral Dance did theirs, all was well, sounded great, and so we locked up the hall and headed back to get an earlyish night.

On the way back I asked Nick (Spiral Dance’s guitar player) if there were many kangaroos in the area. He said he often saw them and they were particularly active at that time of night. Not two turns later one hopped out into the road ahead of us. It stopped and was lit up in the headlights at the side of the road. A truly beautiful being, and one of my most favourite animals. I remember seeing them on my last visit and finding their energy to be very similar to our European Deer. I never saw a wild Roo that close last time, so that was a real treat, and it was only day two of our trip!

So the scene was set for my first gig of the tour at the English Ale festival. More on that in the next blog! Xx

Two more live videos from Australia

This one is the final song of the Spiral Dance set – the classic Burning Times. We had no rehearsal for this song, but I reckon it still rocks.

And another view of their version of Spirit of Albion.

It’s good to be back in the UK, but man I miss Australia!

Some videos of my Australian concerts

From the Druid’s Dreaming

From The Singing Gallery with Spiral Dance

Pipes of Pan from The Singing Gallery

Wild Mountain Thyme from The Singing Gallery

The Ransom Video, but I escaped…

One Ocean, One Earth

I have seen a number of discussions on Pagan Internet forums about whether the Gods can travel. Suggesting that the old British Pagan Gods are tribal and therefore linked solely to a particular piece of land. The most obvious being Herne with Windsor forest and Ceridwen with Lake Bala in Wales.

Since I’ve been here in Australia I’ve been open to this idea. As we’ve travelled the land I’ve been receptive to the spiritual energy of this Singing Land, asking it to share itself with me, to tell me it’s stories. The voices I’ve heard have been beautiful, awesome, but also familiar.

When we stood in the Bush surrounded by huge gum trees I heard the voices of the land and

the Woodland Spirit. When I stood with my feet in the warm ocean the Ancestral Spirit of the Sea sung me its song. It has been an honour to hear them, and the thing that struck me is that, even so far from home, the Spirits of Woodland and Ocean had the same voices as Herne and Manawydan.

It’s obvious really. There is no seperation between the water I paddled in here in Australia and the English Channel other than the human construct of name – it is the same water. The land I walk upon is the same Earth merely

separated by that water mass. Of course the Woodland Spirit of Australia would feel like the Woodland Spirit of Britain.

As I spoke to the Bush and the Sea I heard familiar voices reply

to me. The same voices I speak to in the UK, just with different names. Our Pagan Gods don’t operate by our imposed regulations. They don’t need to make a 22 hour journey to Australia. All we need to do is be open and listen to the Land. So for me the discussion of whether the Gods travel is answered with a quite obvious ‘they dont need to, they live here already!’.