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MFI at the Brunswick Music Festival

Well once again the Brunswick Music Festival rolled around (it’s the opening of festival season – sort like daffodills and spring).

This year My Friend Ian (hereinafter MFI as usual) played on the PBS  Roots stage for the Sydney Rd Street Party , it’s the opening event of the festival.  He had the band  (Ian Bland & The Lamington Drive Orchestra) with him and they played really really well.

We threw a couple of cameras up and then ran around taking stills. Jools did the video edit using Sony Vegas (she wanted to see what it could do)

Ian Bland – Jesus of Hollywood – Live at the Brunswick Music Festival

Ian’s song “Jesus of Hollywood” was a real crowd pleaser when Ian was in the UK last year, seemed to go down just as well here.

Ross Ryan, Spectrum, MFI and a Zoom H4

Zoom H4 ToyNow as some of you are aware I am a toy junkie, and for some months I had been reading about the Zoom H4 and it’s brethren (actually I was lusting after the Sony PCM1 back in 2005). You can read the O’Reilly Review of the Zoom H4 Handy Recorder by Mark Nelson or just Google Zoom H4 if you are interested. I actually tried to buy one for the Evermore/F1 concert but there wasn’t one to be had in Melbourne (or Canberra) and it was too late to fly one in from the states.

Bear with me, I’ll just do a little more scene setting here.

It was a dark and stormy night… actually it wasn’t it was just a cold Friday night but Ross and Spectrum were playing at the Trades Hall Bar in Carlton. They had jointly announced the dual CD launch via their respective email lists (some a few more announcements than others… yes that would be you Ross). I actually wonder how many people are on both lists… but I digress. 10 hours earlier I had picked up my new toy (batteries included) from Manny’s in Fitzroy and having had a busy day “server wrangling” (it was a draw), I had only read the manual.

OK,I lied I took the recorder out on the tram, I’m a toy junkie remember and the batteries were included, and in less than 30secs was making a test recording. It worked. Put it back in bag and then read the manual.

{time passes}

I walk in to the bar, spot some friends (including My Friend Ian who is now back from the UK), order a drink, chat and then realised I had to setup. The actual setup took less than 90 seconds. I took it out of my bag, pressed record to arm it, set the level, (turned on the built in limiter ’cause I’m a wimp), put in the middle of the table and aimed it above the heads of the punters in front and went back to drinks and chat.

When Ross started I had a quick look at the levels figured they were a bit low but experience has taught me that it would be a self correcting problem as the evening moved on. I was right.

“So”, I hear you say ” What does it sound like?”

Stroll over to duggup and check out the MP3 samples I recorded on the concert review there (yes I am too slack to upload them here as well).

I love it, as a recorder the Zoom performed brilliantly. If the table we were at had have been about 6 feet closer to the stage and the mix a fraction better, I suspect the results would have been even more impressive than they already are. MFI (you remember him) is in a band and it has a gig next week so I will go along and see how that works as a theory.

So after getting home after midnight I plugged the unit into my workstation (it was the Windows one) and once again it just worked. It appeared as a USB drive. I just copied the .WAV files across and they were there ready to be played back in Soundforge. No fuss no hassle, it just worked.

Now those of you who read the MFI or What Bland Did Next post may have worked out that this would be a killer toy to get round the recording problems I detailed there. Well yes it would be, but next time he can take me and I’LL push record, you can’t be too careful with technology.

UPDATE: Further adventures can be found at Ross Ryan And A Zoom H4 At Capers/

MFI or What Bland Did Next

Ian Bland

Sit back, get comfortable, pour a large single malt and let me set the scene.

My Friend… let’s be a bit creative and make up a really cool name to leave Ian with a shred of dignity.

On second thoughts, let’s not.

My Friend Ian (hereinafter referred to as MFI) decided that he is taking an extended trip to “the Old Country”. A several month jaunt through the wilds of both Irelands, Wales, England, Scotland, England, Scotland, an assortment of Western Isles, Scotland then England again. Nothing too strenuous as you can see. Just the usual once around the block and then home.

Now lets get this quite clear, this trip has been a year or three in the planning. It’s not like he woke up one morning last week and decided “Lets go to the UK for a quick “once around the block”. No this was meticulously planned for some time. Meticulously… MFI… what’s wrong with this sentence? Meticulous here is used in the sense of “lets go overseas and drink Guinness… that sounds like a plan”. Irony. I’m sure that’s the word I am looking for. I digress.

Now in between MFI (that’s My Friend Ian for those of you who came in late) deciding to go on his jaunt and the actual going, he recorded (and rerecorded and then rerecorded some more bits and then wrote some new songs which needed to be recorded and then the whole thing needed to be rerecorded yet again, just to be safe) his first solo album, his band’s second album and in his spare time he acquired a weekly segment writing a topical poem on a Melbourne radio station (It’s the JVG Radio Method On 3RRR).

And then just as the boxes of actual product showed up. Yep, you guessed it, he buggered off. AND to add insult to injury the most technological device he took was a camera and a mobile phone. Now as useful as these are (especially if you are MacGyver… MFI isn’t) it’s not really all that useful for communicating in the 21st Century. Now I can hear some of you saying “He’s got a phone, he can use that” well yes he could except that listening to SMS on the radio is a bit.. well… quiet. and have you ever tried to write a website with SMS. I rest my case.

What’s that? “He could phone through the radio segment with his mobile phone”.
Well spotted young grasshopper (the force is strong in this one) and you only missed out on the gold elephant stamp and light-sabre bonus points by the ever so tiniest smidgen. Sadly, you forgot about the time zone thing.

When it’s bright and sunny here it’s NOT over there. In fact they are asleep over there, especially if the person in question (MFI) has decided to take up a one man crusade to test the quality of the Guinness in every pub, working mans club and any other watering hole he can find in both Irelands, Wales, England, Scotland, England, Scotland, an assortment of Western Isles, Scotland and then England again. So the chances of him actually being awake to phone through the weekly missive to the colonies would be in the realm of the mind bogglingly astronomically huge (I have more chance of winning Tatts… without a ticket).

So how did I solve this problem? (“hmm quite the three piper eh Watson”)

Well the websites are moving along swimmingly without any input from MFI (indeed the websites are moving along swimmingly probably because there is no actual input from MFI). They will both be online and taking manual orders by the time you read this. And the radio show? Well there I got a bit clever (here comes the scary bit, thatch is being clever… run and hide now).

Rather than mess about with answering machines and voice-mail and the like (so low tech), I had read of a wonderful company called Gabcast in one of the tech lists that I subscribe to. Gabcast’s mission in life is to allow people who want to dip their toes in the podcasting waters (without buying a ton of expensive toys) to do so using nothing more technological than a phone (ooooh that would be MFI).

They have localish numbers that you can ring up from all over the world. Handily there is one in Ireland and one in England as well as one in Sydney. So,you record your drunken ramblings, er, poignant observations on the human condition and then (and this is the really clever bit) the Gabcast website will notify any subscribed fans via an RSS feed (that’s techy for send an email) that a new drunken rambling is waiting for the fan. They then open a browser and there, in all it’s pristine glory will be Chapter 11 of the “Travels of MFI” or whatever the site has been called.

So rather than let people listen to the aforementioned “poignant observations” I then download the MP3 that MFI has recorded at Gabcast, process it a tad, delete the fluffed lines or large trucks driving past, and then put it up on the website where the radio show host (Jonnie Von Goes) can grab it and put it to air. There is also a copy of the poem, preserved for posterity at

Now some of the more technologically literate of you will be straining at the reins with all kinds of wonderful solutions, and in deference to you I will knock a few on the head straight away.

Netcafes get stroppy about you plugging in mics and headphones not to mention reconfiguring their PC’s with Linux on a Stick USB keys (trust me). Great idea but as a rule it tends not to work.

Finding the netcafe in the first place is always an interesting exercise (especially this early in the tourist season). Kiosks in pubs are great for picking up your email, but then you would be distracted from the Guinness and the band (and probably in that order)
Update: MFI is currently lurking in Cornwall. There is internet access at the dive shop (woo hoo), the problem is that the dive shop is closed because they are always out diving… going well isn’t it?

And then the next half dozen ideas will all probably involve his laptop… that he didn’t take.

For the PLAN B aficionados (secret handshake is a Swiss Army Tinker knife, secret password is Jack Dalton Lies) among you who have spotted the single point of failure (thats techy for if gabcast goes down MFI is up the proverbial creek… No paddle but you can back it in he’ll have a Guinness), I enabled a Skype dial in number with voice mail for three months, and with luck we won’t need it (fingers crossed and sacrifice a politician to the gods). From where I am sitting the Gabcast stuff sounds better than the Skype voicemail, in my opinion.

So there you have it “What Bland Did on His Holidays” and how I survived it.

Now I need a holiday.

Tales of a Zoom H4n – Ian Bland and The Lamington Drive Orchestra

Ian Bland and The Lamington Drive Orchestra @ Caravan Music Club

Ian Bland and The Lamington Drive Orchestra @ Caravan Music Club

Long-suffering readers will be well aware of Ian Bland (You can read all the previous entries about later MFI –  My Friend Ian ) So to bring you up to date Ian has a new album out it’s called Angel in Reverse and Saturday was it’s CD launch.

The venue was one that I hadn’t been to before, Caravan Music Club (it’s over the other side of town) and it’s a ripper. The sound was just wonderful.

The first track here is my favourite song on the album, “My Fathers Ashes”, this is a ripper performance. Ian and the band just nail it.

Have a listen


This next song is called “King Of The Singles Bar”, the band was augmented by Marty Smith on 2nd violin. Greg Hunt did a great strings arrangement and I just had to included this version

I’ll pop a few more up as I get to them.

Thanks to Caravan Music and the band for a truly memorable evening.

ZoomH4nBoring Tech Stuff:
The Zoom H4n recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was sitting on the table, we were left of centrewith the micc just point at the stage. Chopped the recording up in Soundforge and added 3db of volume over all.

The room is an old RSL hall, rectangular the PA set left and right of the stage.



Tales Of A Zoom H4n – Ian Bland @ Melbourne Folk Club

Ian Bland  & Greg Hunt - MelbFolkClub

Ian Bland (right) & Greg Hunt @ Melbourne Folk Club - photo by Jools Thatcher

Jools and I both decided to go out and see some live music and seeing that My Friend Ian (MFI) had scored  a gig at the Melbourne Folk Club, that seemed like a great place to start.

The Melbourne Folk club is currently down in West Brunswick and seems to have a fairly wide ranging selection of styles and performers. (Tonchi is on next week – look for us down the front).

Ian was accompanied by Greg Hunt on fiddle and mandolin and between the pair of them, the just flew. I honestly think that this is one of the best gigs I have seen Ian do and Greg ever so “subtly” reminded us of just what a monster musician he is.

The track I picked is “But For Chance”, it’s one of the contenders for Ian’s next album, I will be really miffed if it doesn’t make the cut, the song has managed to up residence in my head and it shows no sign of leaving.


Have a listen or three and see what you think. Jools and I had a great afternoon, there are lots worse ways to spend a Saturday arvo.

ZoomH4nBoring Tech Stuff:
The Zoom H4n recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was sitting on top of the mixer ( thanks Russ)  and just pointed at the stage. We were about 2.m back from the stage.  The stage right PA speaker is basically what we are hearing.

The audio recording was edited in Sound Forge and all I did was fold the left and right in to about 50% to tighten up the stereo image.

Tales Of A Zoom H4n – Liz Frencham & Pete Fidler

Photo By Jools Thatcher

Photo By Jools Thatcher

Back in Early October My Friend Ian (MFI) scored a gig at the Clifton Hill Hotel, he was performing as a duo with Ed Bates.  BUT this isn’t about him (soon, soon my dark pet) this is about Liz Frencham & Pete Fidler.

All I can say is Wow, I remember hearing Liz play in Jigzag up at The National festival a couple of years back and noting at the time, what a cool bassist she was.  Peter Fiddler? I honestly can’t remember hearing before (and you watch – all these people will pop up and tell me all the gigs he was at and bands he played in) – I can tell you I wont be forgetting him in a hurry.

As a duo they put on a wonderful bracket, had a lot of fun (so did I), managed to showcase just how good they were (without looking like it)

I have picked out two tracks that I have had on my MP3 player since the gig.

First up is a song by Liz called All The Way Home, it’s a ripper

This one made me sit up and take notice, this was where they had settled down and were comfortable with the stage, the sound and the audience. When Liz and Pete hit the chorus I just knew that this was going to be a good night.

They followed that with one of Pete’s instrumentals called “Bell Street Blues“, I left his intro to the track on the recording.

Liz mentioned that they are two members of a trio called “Jimmy The Fish” and according to her recent tweets, they have just finished a recording – seriously looking forward to that.

If you get a chance to see Liz or Pete play in any combination  don’t pass it up. Especially Liz –  good bass players are rare, interesting ones are very rare.

ZoomH4nBoring Tech Stuff:
The Zoom H4n recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was sitting in a pocket on my messenger bag and just pointed at the performers. We were about 3.5m back from the stage. The room is a long skinny room with the PA at each end of the long wall.

The audio recording was edited in Sound Forge and all I did was cut out below 30Hz.

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