Electric Guitars, Umbrellas, Cricketing Legends and Bouncing Back

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Phil Emmanuel in flow

Electric guitar sounds out through the rainy night.  Pink images of the guitar man in flow seen through a lens that needs more white balance and connoisseurs of guitar lap it up.  Chariots of Fire, Sultans of Swing, A James Bond Medley, Going Home…  the rain pounds harder.  Two young ladies with pink umbrellas and transparent raincoats dance in the rain with their beaus.  Two ladies sit under umbrellas swaying along to the music.  Phil Emmanuel sways back.  ‘It’s a quality crowd, although there’s not many of you, ’ he says.  And in tribute to that quality, he gives quality back.

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Rewind, earlier, I am searching through the crowd for my family.  Somewhat distracted by my photographing I have lost sight of them, in the flow of set, see, special moment, and click.  I know they are on a quest to find Phil Emmanuel and have him sign their guitars. Youngest has been carrying his guitar around all day just for this purpose. I run into a work colleague of my husbands, and his family – they suggest they may have gone to the ‘green room.’  So I head in the direction of the show ground’s green room.  They are coming towards me, my family, and beaming.  Youngest shows me his guitar.  I have missed their special moment, but I hear all about it.  Phil tuned youngest’s guitar, so fast, checked it, tuned it, in an instant it was tuned.  My hubbie says he has never seen anything like it.  ‘He tap tuned it.’ Youngest played something for Phil and he encouraged him, asked him when he started to play guitar.  ‘Eight’ announced youngest.  Good on you said Phil.   Eldest, well he was shy, but did get his guitar signed, and watched as youngest lapped it all up.  Hubby had a conversation with Phi.l  Asked him where he grew up and a few other words I have yet to find out.

Rewind even earlier, we had managed to get the facebook of Phil’s manager, and asked her ‘Can we just go up to him,’ ‘sure, down to earth, very approachable,’ she replied.  So we knew the grand master of guitar was not going to be a person to send us away.  Still we needed that reassurance as we didn’t want to upset his guitar work by approaching him at the wrong time.  We know musicians need creative space.

Now going forward again, I am sad I have missed this special moment, but later youngest, comes and grabs me, ‘please photograph me with Phil Mum.’  He is tapping me on the shoulder as I am talking to Graham Connors, a wonderful singer song writer who I am just thanking for sharing his songs with us.  He commands $100 tickets to concerts and has come all this way just with airfares and accommodation to cheer us all up!    He has played a riveting song,’ Cyclone Season’,  which he checked with organisers would not be too painful for us all, as well as ‘Pacifica’ with audience participation and some of his other hits like ‘Let the Cane Burn.’  He is sitting in the grandstand with Anne Kirkpatrick, daughter of Slim Dusty and some other friends or family.  It is all so surreal.    He is talking warmly with volunteers for the event.  He seems to be lapping it all up, maybe he is writing a song even now.

But I must leave this conversation, it’s time to complete youngest’s quest, now he has to have his photo.  We go back to the green room – serendipity- Phil is having a photo with someone.  He looks up smiling  ‘There’s ……. again…’ The moment is posed, the photograph take, click, freeze, capture, and now gone.  My youngest is so happy!!  This is his moment to remember and he is in guitar boy heaven.

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My youngest gets guitar hero signature and photo

Later back at the scene of Phil’s playing, youngest is under a yellow umbrella inching closer and closer so he can see the handiwork of the master.  He is beaming with each piece, and pleased he knows their names.    He calls out to me what each is…

To think he was tired and wanted to sleep and almost did fall asleep, but we knew he had to be up for this performance.

This is the highlight of the Yasi bounce back concert for my sons and my hubbie.  But there is so much more in the experience to unpack.

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Jeff McMullen with youngest and my hubbie

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There is the memory of me and my hubby yarning with Jeff McMullen, and presenting him with an anthology.  Turns out Jeff knows Anita Heiss quite well, I met and interviewed her whilst doing my doctorate and she was close enough to come to a family bbq where close friends and family celebrated the completion of  my own Phd.  She’s a fabulous person, author and advocate of Indigenous literacy.  I have been going in online writing sprints that she has organised for writers feeling like they need a bit of extra inspiration.  I take pictures of him with my hubby and youngest – who is really enjoying the whole experience.  He doesn’t really know who Jeff is, but he knows we have a lot of very famous and talented people in town.  Jeff tells me about a film he has made that is on line, and of his dream that reconciliation really happens at a deep level in this country – and that Indigenous people have equality.  We speak about all the mixtures of backgrounds within families.

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Hayley Warner and guitar friend, absolutely brilliant!

Then there is mercurial Hayley Warner who was the second opening act.  So humble and yet belting out the tunes with effortless power.  She sings some songs of her own, and ‘Mr President’ by Pink and Divinyls, ‘Fine line between pleasure and pain.’  At one point she stops to notice a lady in the crowd dancing.  ‘you dance much better than me, beautiful (later the audience member is cornered by security as it turns out she has been disregarding the no alcohol rule.).  Hayley begins an impromptu version of Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen.’  It isn’t planned but natural and as if we are sitting in her lounge room and she’s mucking around.  Extremely self deprecating, but immensely talented is my overall impression of her.  I want my kids to have her joy in life and in her own talent.

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Hayley with my daughter they were big fans on Idol- glad we got to meet her.

Haley is accompanied by a single guitarist, a childhood friend and she is energetic and caring.  ‘Anyone with lost ones, my sympathy, ’  she says. Now there would only be a few people who were affected by an actual death, however tree, gardens, and moving away from the area friends, are all lost ones.

When Hayley has finished, Jeff McMullen, who has asked everyone why they came to do the concert to fulfil his compere, reporting duties, thanks Haley and lets us all know there is wandering retired cricketer Damien Martyn around, and we can go and see him at the Westpac Tent.  So we do.  My youngest in  what will be one of three significant photographs of the day loves meeting Damien and much to my surprise we have a bit of a chat about the cyclone, and how my youngest son kept his fear in check by getting updates on the cricket score.  Damien wants to check what game that was and now youngest is engaged and chatting, and mentioning his own cricket escapades for his small school.  He is a talented little sportsman and won the sports award for the school last year for boys.  How many talented cricketers have come from little country towns, and gone on with big hearts!

I take a picture of Damien with my youngest child, and then something really impressive happens, Hayley has been listening to the story I have been telling Damien, and she comes up to us and says, ‘June do you want a picture with your little boy?’  ‘That’d be great’ I reply and so we take one.  She is squeezing his cheeks and mucking up like a bit kid.  What an awesome chick, she really is what the tv showed, a cool girl with a big heart and a big voice!  My daughter is really pleased to have a picture with Haley too, my kids were avid followers of her on idol and to have her here in Tully is something special.  I thank Hayley so much!

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With Cricketing Legend, Mr Martyn and my youngest getting to meet so many amazing people.

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Tully Times come and take a picture of the whole family with Damien.  I am so hanging out to get a copy of that one!

Catherine Britt, a massive country star, prior to her performance is flanked by body cards, and a girl in a green cyclone yasi tshirt worn as a mini dress.  She is obviously country royalty and I have seen her on the tv.  She’s on the front page of the Tully times.  She doesn’t like to do too many Charity gigs, but this was something to come and cheer people up so here is she is.  She seems distant, going into her performance zone, meticulous about sound checks, voice sweet and real country in style but she is warm and caring as well.  At one point she invites some of the audience up onto the stage, and they sing and dance with her.   She manages that space, also with a single accompanying guitarist, like Hayley, and fills it with her kind of music.

More memories and I am seeing a dancing crowd,  doing trains with friends, swaying, singing, people speaking warmly with Jeff McMullen and an audience that changes, as some people go home, change into dry clothes and then come back or don’t depending on their taste in music,  their kids patience, and their resilience.  It’s not a big crowd as Phil as pointed out, but it is an appreciative one.

People loan rain coats, tents, and play with and amuse our children.    My daughter runs in the rain with some caring high school girls who watch her drawing and colouring in the grandstands when we were taking a break from the mud, rain and wet.  They listen to my boys playing guitar, also when they needed a break from the twelve hour marathon of the day.

David Hudson, awesome didge player,  has some jokes my husband appreciates, files away and retells.  I think he needs to do his own blog of the day though!  High school band what a roar from parents and fellow high schoolers.   They are rockin’.  They are enjoying themselves.

We are treated to free pizzas, and sausages, and presents of toys for the kids.  We speak to so many people.   They are bedraggled, wet, but smiling.  We get bogged at one point when we leave the concert to go home briefly to all get changed and find umbrellas.

Bounce Back feels like a special party just to celebrate being alive, encouraging us to sing, dance, play be happy and be in community.

(c) June Perkins, all rights reserved.

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