kev cherry 2020

2RRR-FM host of "Sydney Sounds"
Sydney, Australia

I'm sure that everyone agrees that 2020 has been a shitty year. The worst I can remember in my 60 years on this planet.  I'm not generally into reminiscing and my bad short term memory usually prevents me participating in these types of lists. Living on the Northern Beaches area of Sydney and being in lockdown for the second time, however, I've decided to attempt to give my impression of the year's music events.

The last band that I saw before the first lockdown in March (which resulted in all the gigs I had planned to go to in the following weeks collapsing before my eyes like a stack of dominoes) was THE MEZCALTONES at The Orient Hotel in Sydney’s The Rocks district.

THE MEZCALTONES are a fantastic Mewxican Hillbilly Surf band from the Northern Beaches fronted by COL “PADRE” PORTER, his guitar-slinging wife NERALYN and whip-twirling, go-go dancing, singing percussionist, MISS MIMI, as well as the three other members. They always put on an entertaining performance of original songs and crowd pleasing covers and obscurities. They attract an audience that loves to get up and dance.

I also saw them at a socially distanced performance at The Marrickville Bowlo, which was a different atmosphere due to the restrictions, which meant that none of the audience could get up and dance or even stand with a drink in their hand. 

Also on the bill were JOHN KENNEDY'S '68 COMEBACK SPECIAL, who I also saw performing their “Raining Treasures" tribute to Australian Indie acts of the '8o's at the Petersham Bowlo, backed by a solo performance by PETER “BLACKIE” BLACK of THE HARD-ONS.

JFK was also among the first of the local acts to do a weekly live streaming performance during the March lockdown. 

Another socially distanced gig that I attended was THE BALKAN GRILL, Purveyors of World Punk featuring singing and songwriting guitarist, NED ALPHABET. Paying tribute to the indie rock sounds of Yugoslavia, they played The MoshPit.

I also caught THE MEN FROM U.N.C.L.E., those garage/lounge music fuelled spies by day, rock musicians by night. They played with RUBBERNECKER and STONE COLD FOX at the Gasoline Pony, the latter featuring the talented vocalist and blues harp-playing, CELIA CURTIS, of WHITE KNUCKLE FEVER. They’re another act I have also seen several times during the year.

I also caught performances by the mesmerizing sounds of Post Punk Psychedelic shoe gazers SYNTAX ERROR, featuring former SWIRL guitarist BEN AYLWARD. He also performs with FABLES a two-piece act (with bass and keyboard player HESKE WEIJER) who have just launched a new album. I also caught the power pop stylings of JOEYS COOP with vocalist and songwriter MARK ROXBURGH and guitarist BRETT MEYERS playing new songs from their forthcoming album. I also saw THE SMART FOLK who perform mod/powerpop and Byrds-influenced folk rock.

Musicians unable to perform live due to imposed restrictions spent more time in the studio resulting in some interesting songs about the pandemic.  I received lots of new recordings by listeners of my radio show from as far away as Hong Kong and the U.K. One is THE DRY RETCH, a band that resides in Liverpool, England, and whose song “Don't Touch Me Your Sick” was recorded in isolation using the members’ iPhones. Fronted by Aussie guitarist/singer and songwriter JOHN RETCH (who I first met around 17 years ago when he was visiting Sydney) they have released several albums

Another artist from overseas who is a regular listener to The Sydney Sounds show streaming over the Internet is Scottish musician SANDY CROWE from Faulkirk in Scotland. He records as NEMESISAGOGO and his song “The Future” was recorded before the Pandemic and is mainly about ecological and political concerns. 

I also received recordings from BANJO TRASH, an Australian living in the South of France and another regular listener to The Sydney Sounds radio show, He sings and performs quirky and poetic singer/songwriter and spoken word material.

When living in Sydney he was part of an act called THE BAULS OF SYDNEY that  featured local musician MARK HORNE, bass player and vocalist from 300 ST CLARE, who released his solo album "Black Dirt Bichuman" in March this year. It was recorded in Spain and features guitarist JOHNNY CASINO of Sydney bands ASTEROID B612 and JOHNNY CASINO AND THE SECRETS. He lives in Spain and who recently released a solo album called "Vibrations, Yours and Mine"

The Pandemic has also inspired Sydney singer-songwriter-guitarist and frequent contributor to the I-94 Bar, EDWIN GARLAND (formerly of ‘80s and'90s bands WAXWORKS and DWARFTHROWER) to compose and record “Lockdown Blues”, a song that best describes the frustrations of the current times.The debut recording by his new act broke his 20-year hiatus from the performing and recording scene. THE MOONLIGHT 5 is his group of experienced Northern Beaches musicians that includes a surfer, a literary figure, a music producer, a music programme designer and trade unionist. They include respected guitarist JOHN COBBIN, who runs Moonlight Studio in Brookvale and also performs with TAMAM SHUD and SWANSEA HIT AND RUN.

“Lockdown Blues” has been launched internationally as a single, featuring on an English compilation album and receiving extensive airplay on Australian and European radio. The YouTube video has received thousands of  views. Success Story of The Year! Edwin plans to be putting a performing version of the band together and will be doing live gigs in the New Year.

But the year’s highlight would have to go to the 10 episodes I attended of the webstreamed TV show MONDAY EVENING GUNK, presented by I-94 BAR, Sydney City Council and The MoshPit Bar between September and November. It was broadcast every Monday evening from The MoshPit, a great little venue situated in King Street, Erskineville, and streamed via ZENN STREAMING. Rock music fans were generally encouraged to stay home and watch the stream, but live audiences were also welcome though limited capacity restrictions due to social distancing.

As mentioned, I attended every week. I was generally warmly welcomed by the friendly and hospitable staff of The Mosh Pit (apart from a couple of times when I arrived late due to public transport problems)and was told by co-owner PAT - in his position as COVID 19 Safety Warden - that the venue was at Full Social Distance capacity.)  My pleading of having come all the way from the Northern Beaches by public transport was to no avail. After a quick recount (and someone leaving the venue) I was always let in, to would join the regular group of local, music-loving drinkers, musicians and gig going identities, most of whom I know as mates.

JILL of The MoshPit was the director of the proceedings. About a quarter-of-an-hour before the start of the broadcast she would let everyone know the procedure of the events, telling us where the cameras are and reminding us to shut the toilet door during and after use, as it’s to the side of the stage and in full view of one of the cameras. During the broadcast she would let the guests know when to come on, cue the contestants of the quiz, keep a close watch on the time, and generally make sure everything was running tight as organised, as well as serving drinks behind the bar.

I should also mention the great work done by the sound and vision mixer, ZAC, in keeping the technical side of the operations going without too many problems. Each week the episode would have a theme and be hosted by special guest presenters, often members of a Sydney band from the '80s though they also included a radio announcer, independent record label bosses and journalists.

They’d interview the special guest musician of the week. The interviewers and guests were usually known to each other, connected by the theme of the episode, and the interviews were very insightful, peppered with humorous anecdotes.

My particular favourite was Phantom label boss JULES NORMINGTON interviewing JULIE MOSTYN of THE FLAMING HANDS and WARWICK GILBERT of RADIO BIRDMAN. This was a relationship that went back over 45 years to the dawn of the Australian alternative rock scene.

The interview would generally be followed by a segment featuring THE BARMAN of the I-94 Bar and road manager PETER “ROSSY” ROSS. They would give a rundown on what they had been listening to that week in the way of new releases and music news of the week. They’d be followed by PIT WIZ, a sex, drugs and roll and roll trivia quiz. The contestants were drawn from the audience and included myself, who attempted it a couple of times but bombed out early after a few questions.

After that came the Tipple segment, featuring the MoshPit barman WAX discussing and mixing the beverage of choice for a guest, talking about drinking incidents and anecdotes of a band’s life on the road.

The highlight of each show was the closing 20 minute live performance by the featured guest. Most of the acts performed live at the venue but some of the acts had to be streamed live, such as KIM SALMON (in lockdown in Melbourne) and CHRIS MASUAK in Spain. He and his band, THE VIVERO WAVE RIDERS, did a fantastic tight rockin' set of songs from their “Address to the Nation” album as well as Birdman classics.

Also streamed in was MICK MEDEW from Queensland who was featuring his solo album "Psychopharmacologist" on I-94 Bar Records.

Other highlights for me were THE ON AND ONS with a great set of catchy, rockin' powerpop; Intercontinental Rock and Roll Wrestling Tag Team champions THE PSYCHOTIC TURNBUCKLES interviewed by SIR PHILIP WIGGLESWORTH; and WHITE KNUCKLE FEVER a two-piece act featuring ROSS JOHNSON and CELIA CURTIS.

White Knuckle Fever performed THE HOODOO GURUS’ song “Dig It Up” with Celia climbed onto the bar and got HOODOO GURUS original members DAVE FAULKNER and CLYDE BRAMLEY to sing along. I was amused to see PETER ROSS chasing after CELIA with a camera, trying to catch her animated performance as she charged around the venue.

After each show the guests, cast, crew and audience hung around for a few last drinks and supplied pizza (which was greatly appreciated as a lot of us came straight from work so didn't have any time to have dinner.)

All good things come to an end and the final program of MONDAY EVENING GUNK featured SUNNYBOYS member RICHARD BURGMAN and a rare live performance by THE FREAKS OF NATURE.

It must have taken a great deal of effort and commitment to organise a weekly production like MONDAY EVENING GUNK, so I'd like to congratulate all involved. I hope we get another season in 2021.

The Pandemic has also resulted in the Phenomena of the Live streamed performance enabling punters to enjoy a live performance from the comfort of their own home via the internet on their computer or TV screens and home entertainment set-ups. It Can even be watched on smart phones while traveling on public transport.

The extremely talented STEVE LUCAS’s first live streams were performed for a men’s health group who invited him to play songs and interract via SMS. During lockdown in Melbourne, Steve started virtually inviting friends and fans into his house for Wednesday Happy Hours – which would go on for almost three hours. Great entertainment for those of us who were isolated or socially confined. I caught most of his performances which I think ran for around 15 weeks and included his birthday and Christmas shows and were viewed by 1000s of people around the world.

Steve would play acoustic versions of his original songs drawing from his large catalogue of original material performed with X, solo albums and other bands such as THE PUBERT BROWN FRIDGE OCCURRENCE and BIGGER THAN JESUS, as well as encouraging viewers to make requests.

I was amazed at the vastness of his repertoire which would mainly consist of Rock, Pop and ballads of various genres, mainly from the Rock era of '50's'60's, 70s and '80's but would also include the odd show tunes from the ‘30s and ‘40s which he would perform with the same emotional intensity as his original songs.

The Live Music streamed phenomena also inspired Northern Beaches musician DAVE TOZER to set up THE STREAMING FACTORY, a state-of-the-art studio where bands such as his band THE OVERTONES and other groups can perform live over the internet usually on Saturday night around 8pm.  I went there during JOEYS COOPS live performance.

I would like to thank all the listeners and supporters of The Sydney Sounds show throughout the year, in particular northern beaches resident ALBERT who nominated me and the show for the American Express music backers Nominate a Mate Award, for which I was one of the winners.