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Overland Sydney to Melbourne

Anzac bridge glides our taxi high over Sydney Harbour, gifting us a glorious sunrise view of the world’s most striking cityscape – the Opera House and famous bridge painted onto an early morning haze the colour of a galah’s breast and the city’s towering business edifices catching the suns first rays with the reverence of sun-temples on a strange planet.

The previous night Hana and I had played the Newsagency to a small and surprisingly raucous crowd. I had picked up an illness on the way over which all but floored me this night but we still made the 7:30 am departure of our train to Melbourne – 11 hours gently clattering and  bending through verdant beef and grain country – scatterings of Herefords grazing beneath gum trees, water tanks and homesteads, country towns dominated by looming, crumbling hotels; kangaroos standing on their hind legs to watch us pass. On board we ate scones and cream and watched the land unfold around us.

Finally we made Melbourne – finding Southern Cross station filled with black-and-white garbed Collingwood RFC supporters en route to the night’s big game against the Adelaide Crows. We took the northern line to the suburbs, leaving them behind for the quiet streets of a place called Reservoir.

On Saturday night we went out to sample the city’s famous music scene. Our friend Marlon Williams has just moved here to live and we were lucky enough to catch him playing a warm-up show for Melbourne band Sweet Jean‘s album release. Marlon, who along with Delaney Davidson recently picked up NZ’s best country song and album at Gore, was as brilliant as ever, interspersing Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and Bonny Prince Billy covers with his own compositions and knocking each one out of the park with his incredible voice and musicality. I was particularly taken by Marlon’s own song about Minnie Dean, the Winton baby farmer, which struck me as an extremely well crafted piece of New Zealand country folk-noir. I get the feeling Marlon is gonna destroy Melbourne, and after that the world and he deserves every bit of success he gets. It makes me proud as a New Zealand folk musician to see a South Islander of Marlon’s calibre over here doing his thing.

marlon williams

On Sunday we’d been invited to this little show called Muscycle – a free benefit gig aimed at promoting cycling as a renewable energy source. The whole show was electrically powered by cycling participants and the headline act was Brian Ritchie, formerly of the Violent Femmes, who now lives in Tasmania. Brian is part of a group in which he plays a Japanese flute called the shakuhachi.

Tonight for us: The Old Bar in Melbourne, singing in the round with Donna Dean!

Heres a video of Hana and I playing “Shenandoah” at the Newsagency in Sydney…

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