11 February 2024

Sober on Bacchanalia

There are a string of musical communities in Canberra and I've touched on just a few in these pages but it can be eye-opening to visit others.  I remember playing with the Cashews and how overwhelmed I was, and that was a group I'd heard of but not heard.  So the opportunity to visit the organisers of one community was revelatory.  Shortis and Simpson were running one of their Under the Influence sessions where they explore the lives and activities of, this time, Nigel and Beth, beloved hosts at Smiths Alternative.  So we visited family and country roots, studies (science and art), influences and a history of their exploits as musicians and local musical promoters, through the Canberra Musicians Club and McGregor Hall and the Backyard Bacchanalia and now Smiths Alternative.  In fact, along the way we also learnt of S&S's pathways, some shared with B&N and even soundman Bevan.  I've touched on both their communities at times, but being somewhat single minded missed out on the Bacchanalia and more.  But what I took from this session was awe at B&N's work over time and Nigel's perceptive, often humourous songwriting and Beth's lovely voice and quite magical harmonies.  How's this for a telling line: "Love is better left to experts /.../ Love is better served at breakfast".   I was not the only one to draw breath at this one.  Interestingly, we also touched on the history of S&S, especially in relation or in crossovers with B&N, and even with Bevan.  Interesting to see them all come together in this most inviting and varied and bohemian space that is Smiths Alternative for this visit to the lives of Nigel and Beth.

Moya Simpson and John Shortis ran a musical interview session with Nigel McRae and Beth Tully at Smiths.

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