Tuesday, 9 October 2012

More Tales From Canberra

Rodwell trying out at The Espy in July.

As a loyal "Rockwizer" since 2006, it had always been on my to-do list to be a part of the show eventually. Little did I know that I would get to be a part of it twice in one year.

I was thrilled to be offered tickets to a taping in July, when my "rock brain" (to use Brian's words) just missed out on being a part of the taping that night. Still, a souvenir tea towel for my efforts wasn't a bad result (thanks Brian) and I couldn't wait for the touring show that was coming up a few weeks
later in my hometown of Canberra.

With the mixed emotions of my Melbourne experience still in my memory, I didn't want to get ahead of myself when I turned up at the Canberra show. I was just glad to be a part of it, and happy that I could do it all again.

Once in the foyer, I successfully picked up my wild card from Brian to be a part of the elimination rounds. Nothing I hadn't done before, and I knew what to expect, so I thought "Why not?"

Again, my hopes of being a part of the show were kept under control when Brian announced that unlike the rounds of only twelve people at "The Espy", there would be twenty four in this elimination to accommodate a larger audience. Again, I didn't think too much of it, as I was just there for a bit of fun, and didn't want to take it too seriously.

From that point, it was one surprise after another! I DID end up as one of the final four who would take part in the show that night. Rushed backstage, I met up with Julia and Maestro James to rehearse a
song that fellow contestant Michelle and I were going to sing together. At this point, things started getting surreal. Was this really happening?

As the show began, I was seemingly cast back twenty years to my "Black Sorrows" phase. I sat next to lead singer Joe Camilleri, had backing vocalists Vika and Linda Bull singing behind me, and occasionally flashing a smile. (I must admit, I loved that!) Sitting so close to James Black, Peter Luscombe and the Orkestra playing live just topped it all off. I was in Aussie music heaven!

For a night with humble beginnings, my taking out the title of "Some Kind Of Genius" was an unexpected surprise. I saw a few folks standing up in the front rows, but the standing ovation was hard to see. Quite a moment nonetheless, as I could "hear" it. The souvenir t-shirt was a great memento too! So far, I haven't actually had to buy any Rockwiz merchandise!

Thanks to Julia, Brian, Dugald and the whole team for an absolutely unforgettable night! A privilege to share the stage with artists I've been listening to since the age of twelve. 

Thanks again for having me, and see you all at "The Espy" next year.


Julia, Michelle, Brian, Rodwell, Chantal, Gene
When I was asked if I’d like to share my personal experience of RocKwiz, I was a little trepidatious. Not being a particularly linear person, and having scant regard for detail, any recount was likely to jump all over the place.  This post should probably be subtitled “What I did on my holidays”, but I’m sure being the True Rock Believers that you all are, you will indulge me.

I rarely take holidays but on this particular occasion, Fate, being a cheeky monkey, contrived to make a years worth of events all occur in the same 8 day period, thusly: 2 RocKwiz Live concerts (Newcastle and Canberra), the1st show in Rufus Wainwright’s Australian tour with Megan Washington supporting, Father’s Day, and a trip to Sydney to seek out a craftsman to repair a 2 piece Martin D-28 (any guitarists reading this may have just made the sort of anguished yelp which follows having one’s testicles hit with a very expensive hammer).

The RocKwiz shows ARE brilliant. To anyone who has even a remote desire to see a RocKwiz show live, GO! 
Go early and go often.

Last year, I was lucky enough to be at one of the taping nights for the RocKwiz series at the Esplanade Hotel. At the end of the night I made the point to any unfortunate soul caught in my fall-out zone that there was only ever one item on my bucket list and I’d just ticked it off.  The live tapings at the Espy are fast & furious, 2 shows a night. Each show filmed straight through with only a couple of 15 - 30 second breaks for the digital data to be downloaded, then it’s on again. What you see TV, is what you see live.

The concert shows are longer, more guests, unexpected twists, new segments but still with the same format that we “special folk” love. If you’ve read the other posts here, or been to one of the previous shows, you’ll know the drill. So, when circumstances forced me to head to Sydney for guitar repairs, I leapt (yes, leapt) at the chance to go to the Newcastle concert. Brilliant show on all levels, and I have to say that a highlight for me was the amazing RocKwizzer, John Wardell. Definitely, Some Kind of Genius!!

At the Canberra show, Brian the Brain stalked through the foyer with a megaphone on full volume enquiring if the audience could hear him, or should he “crank it up to 11”. Then with the smile and mischievous eye-twinkle straight from the Cheshire Cat he grilled, thrilled and willed those brave enough to request a wildcard to participate as one of the initial 24 on stage.

The 1st half of the show is predominantly Brian.  The many Brians.  Brian the master of ceremonies, the consummate showman, the warm-up act, and the True Rock Believer (and later on, the Grand Adjudicator); he prepares the audience for the magical history tour to follow. Then as Brian invites the lucky 24 to come forth, we are aware he has been joined on stage by the Master Roadie & Stage Ninja, Dugald. Following 4 fast paced rounds of questions, the final 4 were extracted of which I was one, and then its Intermission.

While the rest of the audience is enjoying refreshments, backstage is a flurry of activity. We meet the brilliant Julia, James Black (a personal highlight for me) and Dugald. I have to say, what a nice guy. You’d think that with all the miles he’s travelled, and all the knobs he’s had to put up with, he’d be a bit jaded. How wrong could I be!!  Doogs is a great bloke.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye Intermission is over and its time for Part 2. Now everyone trouts on about the guests (who, let’s face it, ARE brilliant and deadset legends!) but what about the RocKwiz Orkestra (including Ash Naylor). These guys have to be THE tightest band in the world. Thorough professionals. And how good are Vika and Linda Bull - what great talents, and what babes, they both are!

Julia whips the Men of Rock in action and so it starts. Most of it is a blur to me now, but a blur I’ll treasure forever. The Guest Artistes were Joe Camilleri (Legend), Jess Cornelius (future Legend and my Team Captain), Bob Evans (alter-ego Legend), and the 4th guest?  When a spotlight lit up an imposing giant in the middle of the audience holding a white silk scarf above his head and the theatre echoed to the sound of “This is it folks, OVER THE TOP!”, it could only be the intergalactic force that is Doc Neeson.

While as I say most of it is a blur, one moment shines out. The category when Julia says “Sing the next line, name the artist and song title”.  Now as someone who proudly wears the “I have never EVER done Karaoke” line as a badge of honour, I’m filled with a mixture of elation, then horror, when I know the answer to the 1st question, and the realisation sets in that I’ve already hit the buzzer and have….to….actually…. sing….it (you see Dear Reader, I very carefully avoided answering any of these types of questions, at the live taping at the Espy last year). And so,
Julia: “They got married early……?”                  
Gene: “Never had much money” (Phew)
Brian: “Keep going”
Gene: (Aw shit)……
But I kept going, and Brian kept egging me on, and the audience kept applauding, and I don’t die.

Julia being the consummate professional (and the little bit of a tease) that she is, comes straight back with “Correct Gene, and in other circumstances I might say ‘Ladies and Gentleman, Paul Kelly’ and out he comes out, and sings it with you, but that’s NOT gonna happen tonight, my friend”.

All too soon its over.
The final score, the finale duet, and the encore were all a triumph (our team won).
Rufus Wainwright in concert the next night capped off the best 8 day holiday ever.

As I said before if you can go to a RocKwiz show, go; and go often. It’ll turn up your soul to 11.

Footnote: to the guitarists reading this, I definitely found the right person to repair the D-28, and all’s right in the world.


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    1. Was meant to say to Gene Robinson-thanks for the kind words,but my surname has 2 D's and no R in it