I grew up in Perth, in Kalamunda, surrounded by gum trees, dry earth and the sound of crickets in summer. Maybe our perpective of Perth as an isolated city leads us to think it is too small to have a career in music. I don’t know if that’s everyone’s experience but I certainly planned to leave as soon as I could. But once I started touring with music in Europe about 5 years ago, I experienced the sensation of coming home to a city that was just the right size, with just the right amount of work, full of inspiring and talented people… and I fell in love with Perth.
So here’s my short list of things to love about Perth, mixed in with shameless promotion of my Fringe World shows, because, let’s be honest; I’ll love it less here if I can’t afford to eat.
Firstly, we have some astounding music venues. The Ellington and Swallow Bar are two of my favourite places to hang out, partly because of the sense of community I feel when I’m there and partly because they just know how to do things well. There’s live music on all the time and these venues do a great job of supporting local music all year round. I was lucky enough to perform my Dirty Jazz show at the opening of the Duke of George down in Freo, and I think we can look forward to another great venue supporting live jazz!
Secondly, this town is just EASY. The traffic isn’t terrible, nowhere takes you too long to get to (when you compare the daily commute for a city like London), daily life is easy which means the people are relaxed and we have a great sense of humour. I’m a product of that environment and my humour comes from tearing down anything too serious. That’s the main thought behind the Fairly Average Dance Band, we’re all serious jazz musicians who decided to play instruments we can’t play, not take ourselves too seriously and do terrible dance routines wherever possible.
Despite the small town mentality, we are actually reasonably cosmopolitan, we’re a young city in a young country made up of immigrants and indigenous people and I think we’re a curious bunch, once we give ourselves permission to be. That leads to an interest in many different kinds of music (check out RTRFM if you’re in doubt) and is the reason I can do a *very silly* 90s party show (Fairly Average), an incredibly virtuosic French gypsy swing show with some of the best musicians in Australia (Sassafras: Under Paris Skies) and a rollicking Western Swing show, and they are all received well by loving audiences.
And then there’s the people. We have a wellspring of talent in this town, the folks who were born here, the people who came to study here and the ones who came because they took one look at it and saw what a little gem of a place it is. I am incredibly lucky that I get to work with some of the kindest, hardest working and most talented people in the business. I’m putting on a show called Peggy Lee and Judy Garland with Ali Bodycoat, who is jazz royalty in Perth. I’m also fortunate to be doing two shows with Grammy award winning Lucky Oceans; we’re doing a Western Swing show and a barrelhouse blues show called The Piano Has Been Drinking with Paul Gioia and Bill Lawrie. And finally, I get to perform with one of my favourite people in the world, Mark Turner. He’s a singer, songwriter, saxophonist and guitarist who can actually also play everything else, and we have been playing music together since he was 12 and I was 15. So we’re putting on a show called Best Friends where we improvise a new show daily based on audience suggestions – we play ‘set list roulette’ so the audience has to choose what songs we play and what we talk about.
I am supremely lucky that Perth is my home, not just geographically but also because of the community here who push me to be better and support my ridiculous habit of creating a million different projects and (so far) never letting me fail. So, bring on this beautiful summer, with dear friends, shining skies and large amounts of sunscreen.