Tales of A Zoom H4n – Shane Howard & Band – Colac

Well, that was huge fun. Jools and drove down to Colac (160 km)and it was a good run, although it rained off and on all the way. So why the hell were we driving all that way in the cold and the rain?


Shane Howard and Band - Colac 2014

Shane Howard was doing a gig premiering the songs from  his new  album “Deeper South”  and we hadn’t been able to catch him for years

Shane’s gig was an absolute hoot. What a great show!!!

He was leading a 4 piece band (no drums). Shane on vocals and guitar, John Hudson on guitars and a Godin mandolin (never seen or heard one before – nice toy), Ewen Baker on fiddle and mando, Ruben Shannon on Bass and Double Bass.

They were amazing. It was so far from a slick and rehearsed reiteration of what’s presumably on the CD. It was a  wonderful evening of musicians listening to each other guessing what was about to happen and reinventing/making up the arrangements as they went.

Total heaven to listen to.

We were sitting 12 feet back from Shane so the sound we heard was a mix of the PA, the foldback spill and the live stuff from the stage. There was no one in front of us.

Shane said during the gig that “there is nothing more exhilarating or terrifying than exposing new material for the first time” Well for those of us in the audience, the prospect is much the same. A performance without any of the songs and stories and memories that we have built up over the years.

The show starts with Shane doing an aboriginal welcome to place song, goes into the title track of the new album and finishes with a set of Irish tunes. Neatly sums up the threads we will be exploring over the next 2 hours and the show has only been running for 10 minutes.

I am so in awe of a performer who can chance alienating an audience of diehard fans by not doing his old tracks, we all know that there will be future opportunities to hear them but there will never ever be another “first time” for these songs. An amazing risk, and the songs?

My total favourite was his pirate song and murder ballad all rolled into one.

There were a lot of songs about the sea, love found and love lost. The title track “Deeper South” is classic Howard storytelling.

The audience was so small. Jools finds it hard to believe that so few people were in the audience, my guess would be 150 if he was lucky. I suppose it’s not the current generation’s taste, and he is unlikely to get any airplay, there was no hit single in what we heard.

Is he really a mainstream artist anymore? People I was working with on Friday didn’t know the name and it was only when you mention that mainstay of oldies rock radio “Solid Rock” they sort of go “oh yeah I’ve heard that. Is he still around?”

I confess that I find it completely amazing that in the same month I get to hear a brilliant new Jackson Browne album AND a brilliant new Shane Howard album (albeit live). Both are songwriters who need you to actually listen and pay attention to their words and stories that they are telling,  both do it with such apparent ease (and great guitar sounds).

Shane said that he had his poetic license renewed. Have to tell you he played some of the best guitar I have heard him play for years.

So was it worth all the money, the miles, the pain, and being offline for nearly 2 days by choice?

You bet.

Hope your weekend was as much fun as ours.

As I have said before, if you ever get a chance to see Shane play, grab it, he is never to be missed.

Here he is at the 2015 National Folk Festival.

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 up at the flown PA. We were about 4m back from the stage ( 3rd Row) Right of centre.

The audio recording was cleaned up in Sound Forge.
The pics are by Jools Thatcher


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.

Culture Music

Leave Our Gigs Alone

Enda Kenny and Ian Bland
Enda Kenny and Ian Bland (photo by Jools Thatcher)

Jools and I went to see Ian and The Lamington Drive Orchestra (and yes this is the infamous MFI Ian for those of you who came in late). Needless to say I  had my bag of toys with us and for once all our tech worked.

This is one of those priceless moments where you get to capture a performance that while it was not one of  the performers best it WAS one of the highlights of the night.

Enda Kenny joined Ian and The  Lamington Drive Orchestra on stage for a song that had been written in response to some really really really stupid Victorian Govt. legislation that requires music venues to have security guards (mainly I suspect so that all the small venues will close down and their mates at the casino will be the last venue standing – but that would be me  – I may be cynical but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong – I digress)

So here it is, rough around the edges,  a PA that was struggling to keep up,  a song that had never been rehearsed before and so far from perfect that there is a gap bigger than the governments credibility on defending the arts, the musicians and the communities who are lucky enough to still enjoy the pleasure of a night down the local.

And for all it’s imperfections I love it.

Leave Our Gigs Alone [audio:LeaveOurGigsAlone.mp3]
You may recognise the tune but it is really totally different to that other song.

Recorded on the ZoomH4n and there will be some other highlights from the gig posted later.


My Friend Ian, A Pub and a Zoom H4

Ian Bland at The Lomond Hotel © Jools Thatcher 2008
Ian Bland at The Lomond Hotel © Jools Thatcher 2008

It’s been a while since we have taken the Zoom H4 on an outing but last Sunday found us at the Lomond Hotel in East Brunswick (Jools and I used to live across the road from it a long time ago). My Friend Ian (hereinafter MFI) had a gig with his band, the Lamington Drive Orchestra.

Jools decided to take along a video camera we had picked up a while back  to see what it did in lowlight etc. We mounted it on a tripod about 3 metres back from the stage, set it on wide and then just used the pan to keep it all nice and simple. Like I said, it was it’s first outing and I’m an audio geek.

It didn’t turn out to bad really. There were no lights to speak of and the vocals were coming out of a PA that was 12 feet up in the air and not really focussed anywhere near where we sitting.  It’s a strange room but when you are there with the band playing it has a nice vibe about it.

Here is the video of “God On The 67 Tram” one of MFI’s more irreverent pieces of social commentary. It’s not one of the pieces that’s on the album, I think it was song Ian wrote for a performance he did on 3RRR a couple of years back.

Next up is a  video of  “Not Going Back”. This is one of Ian’s newer songs and it’s about change. I like this one.

Boring Tech Stuff:

Zoom H4 mounted on Camera Stand
Zoom H4 mounted on Camera Stand

The Zoom H4 recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was mounted on the video tripod using a Gorilla Pod, but below the pan head so as not to interfere with the operation of the camera. . It was 3 metres back from the stage more or less pointed at Ian (roughly stage centre) and as usual I crossed my fingers. The gain settings for the mics were on on L and the limiter was turned on.

The audio recording was edited in Sound Forge and all I did was cut out below 30Hz (bass lift from the proximity of the ceiling) and add 3db at 1.5kHz to help the MP3 along. I then used Vegas to drop the Zoom audio into the video. It scrubbed up OK I think for a first attempt at this stuff.


Mad Violet, The Front Row, Foldback Wedges and a Zoom H4

About a year ago I wrote a quick review over at duggup of Mad Violet, a killer duo from Canada.

So I was absolutely chuffed when I got a note from Harmony Row @ Albert Park announcing that Mad Violet and Kristina Olsen were going to be playing there. A quick call secured tickets and then it was just wait…

Mad VioletFirst up on the night was Mad Violet. After waiting over a year to see them play, tonight’s the night (good title for a song). Soundcheck was just finishing when we arrived and the sound straight off the stage bodes well.

Albert Park Lounge is a squarish room with a low ceiling, the stage is a small riser and the PA speakers are set wide, in front of the stage were 2 powered foldback wedges. So where did we sit? That’s right… front row centre just behind the gap in the wedges and where did I put the Zoom H4? On the top of my bag angled up towards the mics. Going well isn’t it?

The funny thing is, that live the show sounded great. Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac are just fantastic performers. From the moment they started the first song they just owned us. The audience went wherever they wanted to go.

The track I picked to put up is the last one of the set. Brenley is playing a 1957 Harmony semi acoustic tenor guitar and Lisa is on her Taylor for the song and fiddle for the set of tunes.

Never Saw The Ending” and Tunes [audio:MadVioletLive@AlbertParkFeb2008.mp3]
There is a lot of the room in the recording but it will give you an idea of just how much fun they were. The tunes especially are just awesome.

If you get a chance to see them ask them to sing “Ransom” it’s a nice shiny new song that they were playing for the second time and it will break your heart when you hear it. This one sounds amazing as a duo, and when they record it with the band… wow .

Second Bracket is Kristina Olsen & Steven Tabener on double bass
Kristina is an engaging performer with a deep throaty blues voice and brilliant guitar skills, I fell in love with her bright red fibreglass body “Beltona Hi-Life” resonator guitar (Yes I want one). Her bracket like the “Mad Violet” bracket before it went so quickly. Head to her MySpace site and have a listen to “How I Love This Tango”, it was my favourite song on the night.

Steven Tabener on upright bass and occasional vocal gave Olsen’s songs a broader dimension, especially on the blues pieces. He gave them a punch that allowed Kristina to stretch a bit.

So the lesson from the evening? Zoom H4’s don’t like sitting on foldback wedges (go figure), Mad Violet were fantastic and Kristina Olsen is a great performer and I want to hear more of Steven Tabener playing bass.

All in all a good one.


My Friend Ian, A Party and a Zoom H4

Ian Bland Live At BackwaysLast weekend Jools and I went to the 30th “Festival Of The Sun”, a party held annually by Rob and Doreen. My Friend Ian (yes that’s My Friend Ian of MFI fame) played as usual with his band as he has since the first party. But unusually he also did a couple of acoustic tracks. just voice and guitar so here is a great live version of“Kilcunda Wind” [audio:kilkundawind.mp3]

and also for your listening pleasure, here is “Crashing Into Walls“, [audio:Crashing.mp3] again just Ian on guitar and vocals. I really did well that night I got two of my favourite tracks live (you can checkout the CD at

Jack Rabbit and The Pubic Hares

Next up was the band “Jack Rabbit and The Pubic Hares“, this where MFI rushes into the nearest telephone booth and changes into his Jack persona complete with costumes (hopefully Jools will put some photo’s up at Joolsweb sometime).

There are three tracks here I recorded at the party, first up is a medley of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band tunes that the band did when it first started up.

Bonzos Medley [audio:01_BonzosMedley.mp3]

It’s a bit rough and loose in places but considering these songs haven’t seen the light of day for going on 30 years(back when I was a member), it is understandable.

Here are a couple of more recent tracks,

Middle Class White Boy[audio:04_WhiteBoy.mp3] more funk guitar riffs than you would believe it was possible to be put in one song. Alan Lawson is the guitarist here. Damn he’s good.

Toy Boy [audio:05_ToyBoy.mp3] I will leave you to wonder about this one. I always do.

To Rob and Doreen: Thank you as always for a wonderful evening and I look forward to another 30 years of party.

Boring Tech Stuff:

The Zoom H4 recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. There was a bracket in the ceiling so I used a Gorilla Pod to fly it above the punters heads. It was 3 metres back from the stage and slightly stage right. I angled the Zoom at about a 30 degrees down to more or less point at Ian and as usual crossed my fingers. The gain settings for the mics were on M and this proved to be totally inadequate, the first bracket was a washout. I changed to the L setting and turned on the limiter for the Second bracket. Never trust a sound check… or the guitarist. I should know better. I used to be one.

The recording was edited in Sound Forge and all I did was cut out below 30Hz (bass lift from the proximity of the ceiling) and add 3db at 1.5kHz to help the MP3 along.