Mind Warp Pavilion 5 - Jan 9th, 2021
Updated: Jan 18
My first (and at the time of writing, only) gig of the new year was last Saturday night at The Rechabite, where I was one of fifty local WA musos performing the music of David Bowie. It was the fifth Mind Warp Pavilion show, which celebrates the life of Bowie with music and art, the brainchild of Greg Dear and Leanne Casellas. I was lucky enough to be involved with MWP4 last year at The Court Hotel, which was another brilliant experience. This time around though, there were a couple of differences. Firstly, I was unable to play guitar due to my kitchen knife injury on New Year's Eve. The fact that I'd hurt myself meant that some of the other guitarists involved need to fill in and play those parts I now could not. So, I could still sing, but I wasn't able to wield an axe. Which was good, as three songs that were going to be sung by others had now fallen to me as well. The second difference was the change of format for the night. Rather than being in the house band for the entire evening, I was part of one of three different groups. We were going on as the last act of the night, so that meant I got to enjoy the other bands beforehand. So, I sat with my wife Rhona up on the top floor on a barstool at a table overlooking the stage and the crowd. Before proceedings got under way, there was an opportunity to have your face painted by The Glitter Girls to help get your Bowie on. Also, a wonderful artist called Rahalie McGuirk spent the evening painting an Ashes to Ashes-inspired portrait of Bowie, which would be auctioned off at the end of the evening.
Celebrations began with a choir singing an arrangement of Five Years from the Ziggy Stardust album at 8pm. I wasn't due to go onstage until around 10:20pm, so there was a bit of a wait and a lot of entertainment to get through. The first band crashed onto the stage with a fierce rendition of Diamond Dogs, complete with dedicated cowbell, courtesy of Mr Dear. Bluebird threatened to upstage everyone with his red-coloured mullet, outrageous silver dress and massive heels as he tore into Rebel Rebel. Other highlights for me from this set were Queen Bitch and Moonage Daydream, which featured Greg and Damien Goerke on lead vocals respectively. Clayton Brown of Flith Wizard was the band's lead guitarist, one of four players who would cover for me in the last set. His solo during Moonage Daydream was most awesome! Other members of FW made up the group, including drummer Jess June and bassist Jenna Hardie. They were also joined by Cissi Tsang on guitar. There was a short acoustic set fronted by Shaun Corlson with performances of The Bewlay Brothers and Kooks from the Hunky Dory album, as well as Letter For Hermione from Space Oddity, before the second band took to the stage. I was really looking forward to this set, as I'd heard some of their rehearsals in the lead-up to the night. The lead guitarist in this line-up was Kenji Kitahara, who has played bass with WGJS a fair few times over the years. He was wielding a pedal board the size of a small concrete slab, which I'd heard him use in an intimate rehearsal with the guitarists filling in for me. By stepping up to play in our last set, Kenji had added an extra seven songs to his bow.
Laith Tierney kicked off the set with awesome vocal performances of Quicksand and Word On a Wing. Tricky ones to sing, but he pulled it off well! The band were also very solid, with Luke Dear on drums, Cliff Kent on Bass, Greg Dear back on acoustic (or electric) guitar duties, Tara John on the keyboard with the occasional appearance of our mate Mark Ralph on second keyboard. The choice to perform The Motel from the Outside was a strange, but brave choice, and they did a pretty good job of it with co-MC Adam Trainer taking the reins vocally. It was fab to see Brendan Sturcke blow his harp on Cracked Actor, while The Limbs' James Redman took the lead vocal. Big highlights for me were Rose Parker singing Life On Mars?, Matthew de la Hunty's fab job of Song for Bob Dylan and Addison Axe's vitriolic display in I'm Afraid of Americans. Another great moment was co-MC Bob Gordon coming onstage dressed in a hazmat suit, throwing face masks to the crowd before ripping into an awesome rendition of Fashion. Kenji's guitar work was brilliant throughout the set, but I loved what he did with this one. Throughout all this music, my desire to take to the stage was getting stronger and stronger. It was nice to hang with Rhona for so long though, and have the chance to enjoy a couple of drinks together and sing along to some of the songs. We had a couple of friends meet us there too, and it we enjoyed a bit of a chat with them.
It had only been nine days since I'd cut my fingers, and my middle finger was nicely wrapped in gauze and bandages. When I told Greg that I wasn't able to play guitar for the last set of MWP5, a plan was hatched. Clayton Brown from the first band was going to join us on Ziggy Stardust and Suffragette City. Greg was now playing acoustic on The Man Who Sold the World, Sorrow, All the Young Dudes, Space Oddity and Rock and Roll Suicide. Kenji would sit in on Breaking Glass, Space Oddity, Ashes to Ashes, China Girl, Let's Dance, Under Pressure and the final song, Lazarus. In addition to all of her amazing lead guitar duties, Selina had also taken on the intro riff of All The Young Dudes. I thought she'd have to play lead on Lazarus too, but Shaun said during souncheck that the lead line was played on a bass! So, he was doing it, he he he... Also onstage with us were Matthew de la Hunty, Susanna Morley Wong and Riyaana Harman, who were providing additional backing vocals throughout the night (and dance moves). The house music lowered and we were ready to begin; first song - Changes! I stepped into the middle of the stage and took the mic. For this number, we had our core band of myself, Kieran, Shaun, Selina and Mark, with the backup singers and Tom Beech joining us at the end to play the saxophone solo. It felt a little unnerving to not have a guitar, a feeling I've mentioned several times already, but I did start to enjoy the freedom of not being strapped to an instrument as the number wore on. Love Mark's work on the keys on this one. Next up was The Man Who Sold the World, which was going feature James on lead vocals. Greg came onstage and picked up his acoustic and I picked up my guiro. I quite enjoyed the experience of playing percussion, and I hope that it sounded alright out front! He he he...I swapped between the guiro and the egg shaker, depending on which part of the song we were in. Greg moved to the middle microphone for a sing of Sorrow, while I stayed nearby and shook my egg.
It was time for me to take the lead again, and we launched in All The Young Dudes. I really enjoyed singing this one! I always do, but it nice to not worry about the riff and the chords and just belt it out. During the chorus I was able to wave my arm along with the backup singers and the crowd, which was a lot of fun. With that song at its end, Greg left the stage and Kenji brought his electric on. Shaun and Kieran began the pulsing rhythm of Breaking Glass while Selina fired up the guitar riff! This is one of my favourite Bowie songs and I love, love, looooove singing it. Again, it was nice to be guitar-less and just concentrate on my vocal. It's great hearing Mark play those weird keyboard sounds, and that awesome refrain "You're such a wonderful person/But you got problems/Hooo ho ho hohhh!" is so much fun to sing! When the five of us conferred for the Clancy's Bowie gig, that was a definite inclusion. So stoked that we managed to sneak it into MWP5. After that song reached its end (always comes too quick, even when we stretch it out past its original running time of 1:52), I left the stage to make way for Jane Cornes-McLean and Carrie Lee, who were going to perform Space Oddity. Greg also returned with his acoustic. It was very bizarre watching from the sidelines. I loved listening to Selina's lead lines and Kenji's atmospheric guitar twangs, but I missed singing it; and I missed strumming the acoustic in THAT bit. It was the first moment where I felt disappointed and saddened by not being able to play guitar. No time to mope though, because after that track was Ashes to Ashes, wherein I was going to add some egg and backup vocals. Addison took the reins on this one, and to suit her range, we'd learnt the song up three semitones from the original key. I didn't need to worry about that anymore! It was nice being onstage with everybody, albeit in a reduced role. Tag time again, as Addison and I walked off for Laith to return to sing China Girl. Again, it was hard being off stage for this one, as I love playing it, but at least I could enjoy Selina's SRV solo and Shaun's bassline from the wings.
I was back again for the next three songs, which happened to be the last three songs of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. Kenji stepped off to let Clayton Brown get his glam on and I moved to centre stage again. As I always do when Rhona is in the audience, I dedicated Ziggy Stardust (her favourite song of all time) to her, and the riff kicked off! This another favourite of mine to sing, and when it got to the end, I held off for a few seconds, adding to the anticip...ation! He he he... Selina launched straight into Suffragette City and Clayton joined in and we were away again, this time with The Caballeros' Jake England taking vocal duties (with his own mic). After that tornado subsided, Clayton stepped offstage as Greg brought on his acoustic to start up Rock and Roll Suicide. This is another song that I absolutely love to sing. Again, freed from being shackled to a guitar I was able to really let loose. There was also the added bonus of a marvellous horn section that kicked off at the start of the third verse, consisting of Thea Woodward and Tom Beech on saxophone with John Higgins on trumpet. I love the pause as I sing "Oh no, love, you're not alone!" and the crunch of the band as everyone comes back in. Everyone remained onstage for the eighties juggernaut of Let's Dance with Kenji joining us once again. To give the horns a bit of room to play, we stretched the song out a bit. Somewhere between the single and the album version. I was encouraged by Riyaana to dance and there's some awkward footage of me circling doing my best dad dancing, he he he... Kenji started soloing towards the end of the song and moved toward Selina, encouraging a little guitar dueling. Nice touch! For something a little different, Kieran moved away from the drumkit to join me at the front of the stage to sing Under Pressure. Luke Dear from the second band filled in on the tubs as we both sang without instruments together for the first time ever! This was something that I enjoyed immensely. I've known Kieran for nearly thirty years, and we've been playing in bands together since 1994. He's one of my best friends and I love making music with him. To do something like this was very special.
This brought us to the last song of the evening, Lazarus from ★. I was no longer needed for this number, so I stepped off while Addison took the centre mic. It was an interesting choice to end the night with this track, and while some thought it wouldn't work, it felt right. Addison gave an excellent performance and the band brought it hope brilliantly. All that was left was for Bob and Adrian to make some 'thank you's and close the night.
As with any evenings like this, a lot of work was put in behind the scenes. Kade Ward was the fella twiddling the knobs behind the sound desk, and along with Selina had spent the whole day setting up and soundchecking. It was a pretty mammoth undertaking for the amount of performers and the size of the stage. Before she'd picked up her guitar for our set, Selina had been running around fixing leads and monitors and whatever else. I found out at the end of the night that Malcolm Clark had been responsible for the excellent screen images that shone behind the stage. Along with Steve Parkin, Mal had been the brains behind the Newport Record Club, which morphed into Record Club Roadshow. Throughout those shows at the Newport Hotel, Mal had provided excellent animations and pics to augment the performances onstage. I didn't catch the name of the person on the lights, but he did a wonderful job as well. J.F. James spent the night as stage manager, making sure that the right people were getting to the stage at the right time, and managed to keep the night on time; no mean feat. As I mentioned before, this was Leanne and Greg's project and they pulled everything together brilliantly. Not only did Greg pull the three bands together, along with the numerous guest singers, he played in each set. Even the acoustic one between the first and second bands!
It was a wonderful night to be a part of, and I'm so glad I was able to be involved, despite my accident. I wonder what MWP6 will bring..? Photo credits: Julian Neil, Rob Baxter and, uh, me