New brand of blues

DAN HOWLS’ gig at The Albany Blues Club on Saturday night comes with a warning.

“I don’t just rip through the pentatonic scale,” he declared, when describing his approach to blues guitar.

Howls said he much preferred to take the foundations of the blues and add a little something.

“I love the blues, but I take it as the basis for what we play,” he said.

“We’re a bit different than your regular 12-bar blues bland. We want to do something modern with it – think Jack White, Gary Clark Jnr…those sorts of guys.”

The gig at Six Degrees’ backroom will be Howls’ first in Albany, and he said his repertoire and style was well-suited to playing in rooms of varying sizes.

Regular tours of Europe have taught him to ac- commodate crowds of anywhere between 20 and 2000 blues music fans, and he’s just as happy in either scenario.

“I just try to be genuine. Unless you are a typical obnoxious rock star and can pull it off – which I can’t – then you’ve just got to be yourself,” he said.

“I don’t mind talking to the crowd, or a bit of heckling.”

Howls will be joined on stage by four other band mates, including bassist Ben Power, who is based in Denmark, but travels to-and-fro the big smoke to keep his valuable place in the band.

Power will save some fuel for the band’s first of three gigs when they play a set at the Denmark Arts Markets on Saturday. The Blues Club gig follows, then the band finish the quick trip south from their Fremantle heartland with a private gig on Sunday.

South Coast favourite Myles Mitchell will warm the crowd on Saturday night with the support slot. Tickets are $10 at the door, which opens at 8pm.

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Festival program launched

MORE than 4000 people are expected to flock to Albany next year for the expanded Albany Arts Festival Season program.

The festival was launched this year following the exclusion of the Great Southern from the Perth International Arts Festival, and included 18 theatre, classical and contemporary music, visual art and circus acts.

Co-curator of the event Drew Dymond said the 2019 festival season will see 27 different acts perform in Albany across four months.

He estimates 4250 people will attend.

“We had an audience of 3300 people this year, so we hope to build on that,” Mr Dymond told The Weekender.

“And 30 per cent of that figure was from people outside the Albany postcode, so I think there’s an appetite for it.”

Four of the 27 acts were revealed on Tuesday ahead of the full program announcement before Christmas, which included Albany-bred stand-up comedian Amy Hetherington.

Jazz singer and Grammy Award nominee Jazzmeia Horn, theatre production Wot? No Fish!! and Irish singer Sharon Shannon featuring SON form the first Festival Preview Package alongside Ms Hetherington.

“It’s really pleasing,” Mr Dymond said of including local acts.

“We have three collaborations with local and national artists planned.

“It’s terrific to give local artists a platform.”

The inaugural Albany Shanty and Sea Song Festival is one of the new events on the festival season calendar and Mr Dymond believes it’s the first of its kind in the country.

“It’ll be the first Australian shanty festival, as far as we know,” he said.

“Albany is entirely suited to it, being a seaside town, and it will be entirely free.

“It’ll be a pretty enjoyable event.”

Co-curator Rod Vervest confessed the idea for the Albany Shanty and Sea Song Festival came to him while on the airwaves.

“The whole idea unfolded on radio when I was talking to Andrew Collins [ABC],” he laughed.

“The Albany Shantymen were visiting the Fairbridge Festival and it was suggested, well, why not have a shanty festival?

“Australia doesn’t really have an official shanty festival so we thought, let’s go out on a limb.”

Mr Vervest said the “greatest shanty group in the world”, Kimber’s Men from the UK, will be the centerpiece of the festival and be accompanied by seven other local and visiting shanty groups, including Albany’s male and female shanty groups.

He agreed with Mr Dymond that Albany was a “good fit” for such event.

“The festival will open on the Amity,” Mr Vervest said.

“It’ll be a shanty blast.”

Other new elements of the festival season include an additional three theatre performances – both traditional and interactive digital public theatre – 13 free events and the premiering of a local composer’s work.

“I really hope people seriously look at and engage with the program,” Mr Vervest said.

“Just because you haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it isn’t good…we haven’t gone with the obvious and popular, we’ve gone with the new and interesting, people on the world circuit.”

“They’re certainly all must-sees,” Mr Dymond added.

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Players lighten the mood

COMEDY and war aren’t often two things you’d put together.

But Plantagenet Players managed to do it delicately and with style in their latest production 1918 The War is Over.

From cooking shows in the trenches and marriage proposals with an elderly nymphomaniac, to operations with a kooky doctor armed with a mallet for anesthesia, the Players embraced the costume and attitudes reminiscent of the wartime era and breathed hysterical slapstick life into it.

A few serious moments were fed into the script to reflect on those who lost their lives and souls in the war, but the mood was brought back up with dimwitted chefs and drunken mothers.

It was a perfect way to lightly reflect on the past amidst other more sombre Armistice centenary events held across the Great Southern.

The Weekender’s Andy Dolphin showcased the broad spectrum of his acting skills by portraying a surgeon, chef, snobby father and larrikin farmer, triggering fits of laughter in every scene he graced.

Pat Topping surprised the audience with her cheeky lines and animated facial expressions – her mature age making them even funnier.

Co-producer Helen Jeffery smoothly and hilariously transitioned from a thickly moustached sergeant to a singing nurse and later, a half-cut mother.

To top it off, the tale of a boy eaten by a lion – read by Siobhan Gallagher – was woven in between scenes and made eyes water from giggling.

1918 The War is Over will play for two more nights – this Friday and Saturday, and tickets were still available at time of going to print from Mt Barker’s Scrap Shak.

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Kings of the road

THE Swing Kings will be going their separate ways this November after three sell-out performances and a debut EP, but not before hitting the stage for one more weekend to bid goodbye to the Great Southern.

The Weekender had the chance to stop by during one of their rehearsals for a chat about their rapid rise to local fame and their plans for the future.

The band, which consists of Evan Ayres on guitar and lead vocals, Oliver Tetlow on bass, Mollie Hare and Bonnie Staude on backing vocals, Bryce Taylor on trumpet, Anna Leach on saxophone, Hunter Ewen on trombone and Jeremy Staude on drums, said the experience had been very rewarding.

“It’s been terrific,” Ayres said.

“It’s been such a great opportunity.”

The group has a wide range of talents and interests, which is evident when talking about their plans for after the final show.

Front man Ayres plans to pursue music, hoping to score a place at the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) next year.

The same goes for backing singers Mollie Hare and Bonnie Staude, who are both hoping to study musical theatre at the Academy.

Oliver Tetlow is going to university to study engineering, Anna Leach to study social work, Hunter Ewen plans to go into pathology, Bryce Taylor’s going to university in Canberra, and Jeremy Staude said he’d like to go on holiday to Japan.

When asked how being in the band had impacted their lives, the band agreed that it had made life a whole lot busier, but more exciting too.

“It’s a bit tricky to balance our workload with all of us still in school – well, except for Mollie – but I think Evan’s got his priorities straight: music first,” Bonnie Staude said, much to the amusement of Ayres.

“But yeah, it’s definitely worth it.”

The band were quick to respond when asked about the highlights of their brief Swing Kings career.

“It’s probably the adrenaline of performing,” Bonnie Staude said.

“It’s cool to be in a band that’s so high calibre; it’s really good music that you don’t always find.”

Ayres said that having five sell-out shows – including the two upcoming farewell performances – had been one of his major highlights.

“One sold out in two hours, which was pretty amazing,” he said.

Tetlow said his high light came after their first performance.

“There was a lady who came up and said that I was her hero,” he said, sparking a collective “awww” from the rest of the band.

Taylor explained how supportive their fans had been.

“It’s the response we get after the shows; we have people coming through with CDs asking for autographs or just saying how much they enjoyed the show,” he said.

“I like playing fast songs,” Jeremy Staude said plainly, causing an eruption of laughter from his fellow band members, who joked that they’d often catch him nodding off during the slower numbers.

Though the band is splitting up for now, they are all hopeful there will be a Swing Kings reunion in the future.

“It would be sad if there wasn’t,” Bonnie Staude said.

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YouTuber steps in for Kanye

AUSSIE YouTube star and self-proclaimed loose unit Alex Williamson is heading to Albany next week for a show “so wrong, it’s wrong”.

Williamson first hit YouTube in 2003 with the likes of his seven-part Sweet AFL Dream Team series, The Summer of Ben Cousins, and later his most renowned series, Loosest Aussie Bloke Ever.

Along the way, he’s roped in MC Eso from Aussie hip hop trio Bliss n Eso, and fellow Aussie comedians Troy Kinne, Superwog and Frenchy, to perform skits about standard Aussie banter, sex, drugs, booty calls, Pokemon and his beloved C-word.

From there, Williamson’s career spun into an international one, leaving behind his high school teaching career to entertain on stages across Australia and the UK, and wrangling interviews with actors Sacha Baron Cohen, Jennifer Aniston, Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, Ryan Reynolds and Tom Felton.

Williamson spoke to The Weekender while enjoying the sunshine back home in regional South Australia between his Renmark and Ipswich performances of his So Wrong, It’s Wrong tour.

“I was a quiet little kid,” he said, reflecting on his childhood.

“People always ask was I funny in school and I say, ‘nah, I was a f***in’ quiet loser’.

“But I was always talking to people, I never shunned anyone out.”

Williamson said he chose to embrace the Aussie bogan stereotype in his videos because there was “no point” denying it.

“It was hiding deep within,” Williamson laughed.

“Now I’ve realised I’m a bogan, I’m living life to the fullest.”

He said despite being Aussie through and through, he’s had people question his lineage due to his “Aussie-isms” and ocker accent.

“I was overseas and someone came up to me and thought I was doing well, because they thought English was my second language,” Williamson chuckled.

“But when I’m overseas I want to Aussie it up a bit…I flick the Aussie knob to 110 per cent.

“And in the UK, they love it!

“They’ve just got this fascination… but I did feel like I should’ve been in the bogan enclosure at London Zoo.”

His speech has confused a few Americans on his travels too.

“I was at a house party in the US talking to this girl,” Williamson began.

“And at the end of the conversation, I said, ‘ah, fair-o!’ and she looked at me and said, ‘whaaat? Like an Egyptian Pharoah?’”

Williamson is keen to get around regional Australia where everyone “speaks his language”.

“You know us country folk, we can read Harry Potter out loud in five minutes,” he said.

“And I can include all my Aussie-isms that I had to abandon in the UK.

“I had a joke for a UK show and the punch line was Shannon Noll, and when I realised he’s not the next Taylor Swift, I had to change it to some sh** celebrity they would know.”

When informed by The Weekender that Albany is inhabited by a predominately older demographic, Williamson said they might be “a bit stunned and shocked” by his show, but still encouraged all people to come along.

“I had a couple of 90-year-olds come to a show once because they thought they were seeing John Williamson,” he said.

“They left after 10 minutes and complained to the doorman that the only word they understood was the F-word.

“But, they said, ‘well at least he’s getting young people to the theatre’.”

Williamson said he loves regional shows and bringing something to rural towns, as he couldn’t imagine people like Kanye West would make the hike.

So, he’s “stepping in” for Kanye and performing at the Albany Entertainment Centre on November 17.

Tickets can be purchased at the AEC Box Office or online at tickets.ptt.wa.gov.au.

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A stitch in time

KATANNING’S newest art exhibition looks deep into the past at how the humble domestic sewing machine changed the lives of women at home.

Curator of Machines and Makers Jude van der Merwe said it was when she discovered her neighbour’s collection of 260 old domestic sewing machines that she learned about the impact the device had on women during the world wars.

She said her neighbour had been an apprentice sewing machine repairer during World War II and had maintained his passion for them ever since.

“That was the starting point, really,” Ms van der Merwe said of the exhibition.

“I didn’t realise that the domestic sewing machine had changed the lives of women so much…they could make a living, and make clothes for their family.”

Machines and Makers features the work of 12 artists, responding in their respective mediums to the notion that sewing machines changed the lives of women.

It is part of Art on the Move, a Perth-based organisation dedicated to touring contemporary visual art exhibitions across the country.

Ongerup-bred Susie Vickery is featured in Machines and Makers and has created embroidered smaller-scale sewing machines for the exhibition, which Ms van der Merwe described as “absolutely beautiful”.

Other artists have submitted works such as paintings of sewing machines, and even animations – Perth artist Tee Ken Ng has created an animation of mice, which is projected behind a real sewing machine, and the mice are hanging up washing and repairing machines.

Ms van der Merwe was impressed with the range of artwork created.

“It’s an extraordinary medium. It’s very flexible,” she said of textiles.

“I think we are all close to textiles, because we wear it, we touch it and we feel it, and so many people can express their love for it in many different ways.”

Machines and Makers is at the Katanning Public Art Gallery until November 24.

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Music for maintenance

PROCEEDS from next month’s collaborative performance between Albany Sinfonia and the City of Albany Band will fund renovations to their shared home, Lancaster Hall.

City of Albany Band conductor Colin France said the Lancaster Hall committee had recently installed new lighting in the hall but other amenities required upgrading to make the hall more comfortable for users.

He said the building, which used to be a church, had basic toilets, a simple storeroom and limited facilities, and that the urn often had to be filled from the bathroom sink.

He said ticket sales from Last Night of the Proms, to be performed on November 24 at Oceans Church, would go towards funding the hall’s upgrades.

“We don’t really have a kitchen, so we are trying to put one in, and we want to upgrade the toilets too,” Mr France said.

“It’s a good building, but it needs a bit of maintenance…it needs painting too.”

Lancaster Hall committee chair Alison Steer said she planned to have a disabled toilet facility added as well as water access in the kitchen.

“The concert should hopefully pay to put in the kitchen plumbing for hot and cold water,” she said.

Ms Steer said the concert, which will include a guest performance from the Albany Choral Society, will be the first performed at Oceans Church.

She said the impressive facility could seat 500 people and that she was keen to test out its acoustics.

“We are very excited to be one of the opening acts to first perform at the church,” Ms Steer said.

“We are bringing back Last Night of the Proms by popular demand as a bit of fun for the end of the year.”

Mr France added the performance will be “typical” of Last Night of the Proms, so the audience can “sing along and make funny noises” at their pleasure.

Tickets for the November 24 show are now on sale from Uptown Music and trybooking.com.

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Actor right at home

KATANNING actor and silver-screen gunslinger Mitchell Page is returning to his home town next month for the screening of the internationally acclaimed independent film The Decadent and Depraved.

Mr Page filmed alongside Australian TV screen heroes Michael Muntz from A Country Practice, McLeod’s Daughters’ Ben Mortley and Blue Heelers’ Steve Turner during his role.

Mr Page said he initially auditioned for the role of ‘Cattlehandler Number 2’ when he got offered to read the role of Ellis.

“I wasn’t even auditioning for Cattlehandler Number 1,” he joked.

“After auditioning they asked me to read the part of Ellis. I drove off when I was done and they called me back 30 minutes later to do a second reading.

“A week later they asked me if I wanted the part of Ellis.”

Mr Page said Ellis’ character leapt straight off the page when he was reading the script but nutting out the details of his persona was a harder task.

“I started off reading a lot of history on what Western Australia was like back then. It was hard work,” he lamented.

“So I decided to read more about the culture and the poetry.

“There was a lot of Banjo Patterson.

“Ellis’ role was unique in that you just had to dive in, sail over the edge and hope you come back out the other side.”

Mr Page said his character was certainly unhinged and an overall wacky personality.

“I drew a lot of inspiration from ragged bushrangers and Ned Kelly sort of figures,” he said.

“I just really wanted to play on the myth of what it was like back then to be a bushranger.

“I’m definitely drawn to these sorts of characters. I played Monster in the Lockie Leonard series and he was definitely wild and wacky.”

Twenty-one year-old director Jordon Prince Wright said Mr Page jumped into the character of Ellis.

“He starts off as an undeniable cruel villain in the beginning,” he said.

“By the end of the film he’s more of the lovable villain and acts as comedy relief.”

Mr Page said the process of filming The Decadent and Depraved was a great and intense experience.

“It was either scorching hot or below zero,” he said.

“We really had to battle the Australian environment sometimes since we were filming in outback Kukerin, Cue and Yalgoo.

“There were plenty of late nights and rogue animals.

“The fact that we had such a young cast as well with 19 to 20-year-olds was amazing.

“Their work ethic was fantastic. They would just say ‘bugger it’ and have a crack.”

Mr Page said he was ecstatic about the screening at the Katanning Town Hall.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to do a screening of a film I’m in at home,” he said.

“Katanning is known as the heart of the Great Southern and I’m hoping it can be known as the Hollywood of the Great Southern just for one night.

“Mum and Dad are still in town and they’ll definitely be beating the drum, but we’ll definitely do a bit of a shindig.”

Mr Prince-Wright said this would be the first screening of The Decadent and Depraved in Katanning.

“We’ve taken the film on a tour three times already since it has been so popular,” he said.

“Our biggest premiere event was in Perth, but our stints in country towns have had a completely different atmosphere.

“I feel like the one in Katanning is going to be bigger than Ben Hur, that’s for sure.

“The Shire has been treating us like royalty and the locals have been incredibly supportive.

“We had around 200 people turn up in Kukerin to watch Mitchell run his lines.”

Mr Prince-Wright said he was still shocked at how his $100,000-budget film had evolved into a multi-award winning film.

The Decadent and Depraved has so far won six awards at the Los Angeles Film Awards, seven awards at the Oniros Film Awards, three awards at the New York Film Awards and was a winner of the Festigious International Film Festival.

Mr Page said for now he would be concentrating on his most important project yet.

“I have a one-and-a-half year old at home. That is my little project at the moment,” he joked.

“She takes up a lot of my time and energy so I’ll finish off the film tour and spend some more time with her.”

The Decadent and Depraved will screen at the Katanning Town Hall on November 17 from 7.30pm with a Q&A with the filmmakers and actors on November 18 from 10am.

Tickets are available at www.trybooking.com/418922.

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Traveller remembered

A NOVEL inspired by the life of a European settler who named several Great Southern locations is being launched tonight by Albany author and artist Helen Laing.

Circles of Fortune is a fictionalised account of naval surgeon Thomas Braidwood Wilson’s life and tells of his explorations of Australia and his life in the settler colonies.

Wilson explored the south-west of WA in 1829 and named the Denmark River, Mount Lindesay, Mount Hallowell and Mount Barker after his fellow comrades.

Wilson Inlet and the Wilson’s grevillea were named in his honour.

Ms Laing said she decided to write a tale on the explorer’s life after delving further into his history.

“A friend of mine was doing a paper on naval surgeons who contributed to the first settlement,” she said.

“One of them was Wilson.

“He just jumped out at me; he was such an incredible, compassionate man and adventurous, and felt deeply about the plight of Aboriginal people and how European diseases affected them.”

Ms Laing said she chose the fiction format as she is not a historic academic, but that didn’t mean she did any less research.

Ms Laing spent approximately 10 years writing the book, while juggling a midwifery career and later retirement, travelling and renovating a house.

She said she visited libraries in Canberra and New South Wales and spent hundreds of dollars on history books to get all the details on Wilson.

Ms Laing chose to write in the first person as Wilson, but changed Wilson’s writing style to one more suited to her.

“I tried to write with full stops and capital letters everywhere like he [Wilson] did, but it was so stilted!” Ms Laing said.

“So I changed it to modern language.

“But, I included Wilson’s letters to his wife, which are in their original style.”

Circles of Fortune is being launched tonight at the Albany Public Library at 5.30pm and those wishing to attend are encouraged to notify the library prior to account for space.

Ms Laing will join local historian Malcolm Traill for a curatorial next Tuesday at the Museum of the Great Southern at 10.30am to speak about the book further.

Circles of Fortune is available for purchase at Paperbark Merchants, the museum and Bay Merchants on demand.

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Sydney-bound septet

SEVEN young Albany talents are hosting a variety show on October 28 to raise money to send themselves to Sydney for a national music summer school program.

Siblings Bonnie, Josie and Maggie Staude, along with sisters Bella and Ruby Fasolo and Hudson Bell and Jessica Turner will attend the Gondwana National Choral School in January next year at the University of New South Wales in the hope to further develop their vocal skills and advance their musical careers.

Bonnie, who has attended the Gondwana summer school program four times previously, said the septet will spend two weeks in Sydney and live on the university campus.

They will devote school hours to rehearsals with their designated choir, and spend spare time partaking in specialist projects, which range from musical theatre, to drumming, to Indonesian dancing.

“Gondwana is a great way to build connections with composers and conductors,” Bonnie said.

“The Gondwana choirs are extremely good and of a really high calibre, so it’s pretty exciting to think that little ol’ us from Albany will be singing with an international act.”

Bonnie said funds raised during the October 28 variety concert, Pure Imagination, would contribute to the group’s flights, accommodation and participation fees.

“Tickets are going well at the moment, but we would love more people to come,” she said.

“And if people can’t make the concert, we would greatly appreciate any donations.”

Bonnie said Pure Imagination will feature snippets of musical theatre, instrumental performances, classical and contemporary music, and a little bit of comedy.

Pure Imagination will be held at the Port Theatre at 4.30pm on October 28 and tickets can be purchased through Paperbark Merchants.

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