27 December 2011

What can you do?

I didn’t find it unexpected when one of the Lonely Cosmonauts said this. His words “What can you do?” were voiced as knowing and wry and lightly dispirited. Maybe the Right will have its turn, what with the GFC and Climate change and Peak all. The Left has had a bad run but history can turn on a sixpence.

I don’t usually attend music of this style. The Lonely Cosmonauts are somewhere in the blues-folk tradition. They tell stories. They play shuffles and rocky rhythms and feature harmonies and the tunes are short. Not like jazz at all. But I liked the stories, partly because they are close to me as an ex-Adelaide person, and partly because they speak to everyman. And the patter was intimate, jokey, Aussie pub fare, I thought. The main singer, Don Morrison, told us he grew up around Magill and went to a Catholic school, and he shared this with Paul Kelly. He’d also spent time in bands in Melbourne, and gone to parties at PK’s house and even visited Molly Meldrum, so he’d done the rock thing. These days he sings knowing tunes and leads this authentic local band and builds resonator guitars. This is the real rock life, I thought: mature entertainers at a local, interesting pub. The song about looking down on Adelaide going about its business from the Kensington Road hilltop was close to my heart. But you had to enjoy the stories of picking up a girlfriend (Collecting Alby) or the borderline depressive Happy birthday to me where he sings of blowing out all the candles as a boy, then blowing out all the chances as an adult. Or the one entitled “I haven’t been sober since the day before my wedding” that spoke of a wife-to-be who backed out at the last minute. These are men’s songs of wry and laconic self-deprecation: very Australian; not at all American despite the Delta stylistic references. There was one tune that sounded all the world like classic ‘70s Chain, in voice and groove, along with the shuffles and rock grooves, steady, laid back, slow music and rocky up-tempo numbers. There was even country where the band told of visiting Tamworth, lining up for everything, and hearing a mélange of styles, and finally giving up on this Country Road. I luxuriated in a particularly lovely slow take on Led Zep’s Been a long time. And that dejected left-wingers’ patter. The bravado of the band’s role in getting Mike Rann out of office (only recently ex-SA premier) and the US out of Iraq. But the cosmonauts tag was not for nothing. I spoke to bassist Michael Saies. Their current CD is Columbus of the Cosmos and it’s all red and formal and bedecked with pics of cosmonauts in uniform and dedications to Yuri Gagarin and the lesser-known Alexei Leonov. I’m not sure I caught the story correctly, but the band wanted to visit Moscow and play in Red Square to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s fight manned space flight (12 April 1961). I don’t think the whole band could get there, but then the Left knows its high ambitions and dignified failures. A nice band, but even nicer Aussies. I liked the Lonely Cosmonauts.

I liked the pub, too. It was the Wheatsheaf Hotel. Long established, real beers on tap and no cocktails or pokies, a not-much-glorified tin shed for the music, bare floors and sparse furnishings and an inner-city clientele in an industrial area just outside the CBD. Well worth a visit for the eclectic music. They invite bands to play (“no cover bands or ultra-loud combos please”) and the audience ranges widely from inner city shaved to aged hirsute rocker. It’s a nice earthy cosmopolitan feel.

The Lonely Cosmonauts are Don Morrison (vocals, guitar), Michael Saies (bass, vocals), John “Dingo” Van Bowman (guitar, vocals), Phil Bray (keyboards, accordion, vocals), and Andy Przygonski (drums) and they played at the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Thebarton.

  • Wheatsheaf Hotel
  • Don Morrison's resonator guitars

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