Vale Ronnie James Dio 10.7.42 – 16.5.10

17 05 2010

One of Heavy Metals’ greatest legends has passed.  Ronnie James Dio, some time singer for Black Sabbath as well as his own bands,  was reknown for his soaring vocal range and mighty power-ballads exploring the epic struggle between good and evil. He was also immortalised in several pop-culture forays including cameos in South Park, The Simpsons and the Tenacious-D movie, Pick of Destiny, as well as being one of the first to popularise the “devils horn” salute now de riguer at rock shows everywhere.

I first heard Dio in 1989, when CDs were a novelty and some of us were buying our very first. One of these was Dios (also the name of the band) first album, Holy Diver. I was blown away. The soaring melodies, epic fantasy themed lyrics and above all, the sheer power of his delivery were in a big way responsible for hard rock becomimg my musical genre of choice, and Dio, one of my all time faves.

Black Sabbaths first album with Ronnie on vocals, Heaven & Hell was another standout, with the epic title track acknowledged by the man himself as his personal favourite. Many may disagree, but I always think of this album and its live followup a few years later, Live Evil as Sabbaths best.

I finally got to see him play live, two years ago in Perth.  Heaven and Hell, essentially the Dio-era members of Sabbath including Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinnie Appice, had reformed and were touring prior to the release of a new album. It was truly awesome to see them performimg many of the famous tracks from the early Sabbath albums and plenty of Dios’ own as well. At the age of 65, the man still put on a show to rival others a third of his age, the energy and power of both the music and the vocals having lost nothing to time.

Ronnie James Dio passed away yesterday, Sunday, of stomach cancer. He was 67.

A Classic track from the first Dio album, Holy Diver : Don’t Talk to Strangers


The Crossing

27 04 2010

The arrival of some new cars at work combined with Australias NorthWest Tourism holding their biannual awards for the first time at Fitzroy Crossing, seemed like a good excuse to make the 400km trip out and see the sights. Having only really passed through the town before myself,  it was good to this time get out and see a bit more of the surrounds.

Fitzroy Crossing, the town, most often makes the news for unfortunate reasons : much of the  mainly indigenous population is wracked with the twin evils of poverty and alcohol abuse, which make the headlines, at least in WA, on a reasonably regular basis. Politicians from all sides argue and propose stopgap solutions infrequently, but the vast remoteness and spread of the region coupled with inadequate resources and  allocation has meant little real progress over the years.

Four of us, the better half, friends A & C and myself did spend one evening up at the “local” Crossing Inn. The place has a fearsome reputation,  but on Saturday night, we saw no problems. Flash, the place wasn’t. Picture a corrugated iron shack, barred windows and a rarely-felt air of neglect. Large iron shutters and gates hung from the ceiling, ready to be brought down in times of trouble, whether to lock people in or out, we weren’t entirely sure. Only full strength beers served were Emu Export or VB, cans only, and only after 6pm, result of a largely ineffective alcohol “ban”, really a curbing,  placed in force on the town over the last year.

Signs everywhere spelt out the penalties for spitting, fighting, and “humbugging”, ranging from eviction, to in the worst case (for assaulting barstaff), 6 month bans.  But the only action we saw was around the pool tables, the decent sized crowd all in good spirits and happy to chat with us out-of-towners, the only “white fellas” there. In fact, I’d say the hour or so we spent there would have been one of the  friendliest you’d find anywhere, with everyone wanting to say hello and strike up a chat.

Also got to go on the Geike Gorge riverboat tour. This was well worth doing, a one hour slow cruise up a small section of the river, with great commentary from AJ, our Dept of Environment & Conservation tourguide. As well as being DEC staff, AJ was also a local Bunuba tribesman, so knew not only all the facts and figures on the river (in wet-season flood, the second highest flowing river in the world  : 30,000 m2/s – would fill Sydney Harbour in 20 minutes!) but also all of the dreamtime stories and tales of the local people going back thousands of years.

Some photos of the gorge : white shading indicates usual rise of the water levels every Wet Season.

Tassie Babes in Brisbane

18 04 2010

Whoa. Yep, it really is over 3 months since last post. Time has either flown, or life here in remote WA actually is as quiet as you might imagine. Probably a bit of both. And I have also recently succumbed to the dark side, namely Twitter, so don’t expect a resurgence in blog posts any time soon. Seems to be the way these days, most blogs I frequent seeming to be suffering similar cases of dying-in-the-ass…

But, school holidays have just finished, and as was again my good fortune, the Brisbane Arts Theatre chose the same time as last year to stage the second must-see production set in John Birminghams Felafel universe , The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco. So it was bags packed for the drej household, and off in a jet plane, well, two, we went.

It was a great week overall. After a brief stop for dinner with the in-laws in Perth Friday night, it was the overnighter to BrisVegas, arriving about 0530. Picked up another quality XR6 rental at  the airport, headed for the city where we had the good luck to grab an early check-in at the Sofitel, and promptly slept the morning away, our bodies catching up on the missed hours of sleep suffered on the red-eye. This proved to be a wise move, given the late night ahead…

Hit the shops briefly with the better half and kids in the arvo before heading back to the hotel for a shower and change, after which  my leave-pass came in to effect, and I was on my own. Had chatted briefly with playwright Simon Bedak on Farcebook before the trip, so I knew there were some plans afoot to catch up for a cleansing ale or two beforehand,  but never did nail down the exact venue. Fortunately there were only a couple of pubs on Petrie Tce – tried the Prince Alfred, dead as a dead dingos – so that only left the infamous Normandy.

Didn’t recognise any faces at first, but the beers were cold, and my home team,the mighty Crusaders were ahead on the live screen, so the night was starting out well. And before my first beer had even finished hitting-the-side, a dark haired fellow approached the bar wearing a Felafel t-shirt. “Simon ?” I asked, recognising him straight from previous profile photos, albeit with shorter hair. Funny how having never actually met someone before, you can have an instant cameraderie, stemming from purely internet-based communication, in this case, going back a couple of years or so. But, I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted here…

Simon was as I’d come to expect, charming, congenial, a true gentleman with a larrikin touch. Even in spite of the fact he must have been nervous as hell on the opening night of his latest masterpiece! Straight away he took me over to meet the others on his table, including his lovely wife, Woody, and also straight from Burger-land, Beeso (resplendent in the infamous Hey, hey, we’re the drunkees’ Tee) and Beeso’s wife. Others soon joined us, and we all enjoyed catching up over more beers and a light dinner.

The night was winding up to be a good one. Next to arrive, unannounced, was the jugger-author himself, John Birmingham.  Now, I’ve been a fan of  JB’s work for a few years now, ever since I first picked up Weapons of Choice at Adelaide Airport back in Jan 2006. Progressed from there to his back catalogue via his blog, Cheeseburger Gothic, which in turn has lead to numerous online friendships and interactions over the years with a variety of fine folks – chances are, including anyone reading this now!

So you can imagine, it was an absolute pleasure to finally meet the man himself. JB projects sometimes in his blogs like Blunty an image of one of those people who come across as  loud and possiblyunreasonably opinionated- in person, nothing could be further from truth – he was friendly,urbane, couteous and happy to share his time with all of us there, a growing ensemble that now even included the redoubtable Hughesy and her other half, among others.

We all walked down to the Theatre together, a five minute  stroll on a perfect Brisbane autumn eve, to the world premiere of The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco.

The crowd was already growing as we arrived, a palpable sense of expectancy in the air. JB pointed out another burger I hadn’t met, Mayhem, and her son, who it was great to also meet. Nat, the always-Fabulous Girl Clumsy was queen of the night, all in white, looking, well, as Fabulous as ever. I said a quick hello, surprised but happy she even recognised me from our one meeting a year ago at Felafel given how busy she was.

And then, it was curtain time.  Others have already reviewed the play far better than I could ever hope to. For one of the best, check out Hughesys:

Suffice to say, I loved the play. Although my memories of Felafel were somewhat hazy – no surprise if you read my last-years write up on it – Tassie Babes seemed to retain all the very best elements of its prequel, namely hilarious script, awesome cast and acting, while introducing new and timely elements : plot for one. I seem to be in a minority who enjoyed TBF the novel more than Felafel, and for me, Simons script, although subtlely different to the book (and sometimes not so) bore this out well. There was a return of some of the great characters from the first, including another stand-out performance by Shaun King as “JB”. Sorry, don’t know all the names,(gotta get me a program) but the bloke  playing the decoy again was great, the new characters, especially the “villain” were awesome, and I was rapt to see the return of my favourite Felafel actress Amy Currie as “housemother” Stacey. Even more rapt to actually meet her and others in the cast after the show. Hell, they were all awesome, and they all, and JB, Nat and Simon can only be commended for one wicked performance.

Afterwards, the feeling appeared to be pretty much universal, everyone I spoke to absolutely loved the show. Being opening night, there was supper and drinks aplenty to be had with above all, great company. Finished the evening with Simon, Woody and reviewer David Jackmanson at an African themed bar on nearby Caxton St, before retiring tired but happy around 2am.

Spent the rest of the week with the family down Byron Bay way – we’d never been before, and all had a great time chilling out and enjoying the mild weather. Then it was back to Brissie for 2 nights to catch up with my mate Dodgy, before flying home Saturday just gone and straight back to work. Had an absolute ball, best week of the year by far so far, and look forward to catching up with some of the crew, and others who didn’t make it this time, in the future.


Happy New Year 2010

2 01 2010

The year we make contact, at least according to Arthur C Clarke.

Yes, it has been a while, but ‘twould be remiss of me not to wish all the very best for 2010, and to thank all who’ve visited these pages over the last year for your time and comments. All much appreciated – I’m just lucky so many of you are far more industrious than I on the wordage front!

2009 was a fun year for the drej household – early highlights included an overdue trip back home, holidaying on the Gold Coast and Brisbane and even briefly meeting 3 of the ‘burgers finally in the flesh, Girlclumsy, Moko & Uamada at the excellent ‘Felafel stage play.

Plenty of  mid year guests and visitors kept us busy entertaining over the dry season, and after years of telling my mate J to come out from the UK for flying work, he finally did, and has just landed full time work with one of the local airlines.

And it all culminated in that grand Broome seasonal tradition, preparing for an imminent cyclone, named  Lawrence this time around, which passed fortunately a little way down the coast but brought us our first deluge of the season days before Christmas.

First rain of the wet season

Yep, that’d be our back lawn under half a foot of water, as it sat for the couple of days when Lawrence was in the area.

Then before you know it, Christmas Day- spent this year relaxing  at home, big roast lunch and some relaxing ales with the family and J in the afternoon, finished off watching my new Star Trek blu-rays, present from the kids to the biggest kid.

New Years eve was spent with friends on the deck at home, filled the spa with cold water for the girls to play in, enjoyed a few cleansing ales and a BBQ – thankfully many of the neighbours were away as the better half decided to demonstrate to all and sundry her favourite Iron Maiden tracks some time after midnight before we all called it a night around 2am.

Having to work the next morning – not so good – leading to my first NY’s resolution to not drink any more this year excepting actual  “social” occasions at least. Seem to remember promising something vaguely similar last year, but with the big (shhh) 4-0 coming up end of this year, its a case of now-or-never I suspect.

So hears to you all, hope to catch up with more of you more regularly, maybe even meet (come to Broome!!)  and hope 2010’s a great one for all.

Fush n’Chups trumps Sex n’ Seedny

12 10 2009

Knew it all along of course, but now its official, the enzed (NZ) accent has been voted as “the most attractive and prestigious” form of the English language, outside of the UK in a BBC survey.

Thats right, a whole six points ahead of the Aussies, one ahead of even the Queens own version, and 8 ahead of the yanks dismal effort.

Of course, we kiwis (even us ex-pat ones) have known all along that our refined dulcet tones, if not right up there with the best, were at least well ahead of our antipodean cuzzies, but its certainly nice to see in print confirmation of our high status in the ranks of “social aceptability” and prestige 🙂


28 09 2009

School holidays are here, though I should be working most of them while the better half gets the pool time with the kids. Whats wrong with this picture… ?

Although, we do have 2 nights booked  this week at Eco Beach resort, about 100km  out of town, where we have a villa right on the beach.  My plan is to do very little at all : still reading Alastair Reynolds’ “Zima Blue” short story anthology, maybe book in a massage and some time at the bar…

Still on the touristy stuff, last week checked out Broomes sole mention in the Aussie WWII listings, the Catalinas, flying boats sunk by  Japanese zeros, right here in Broome town, our very own One Day War.

The Catalinas were people-carriers, on this day transporting Indonesian refugees from the war. They were due to lift off from Town Beach here at 9am. At 8am, the Japanese attacked. Most of the Catalinas were destroyed in the first run. One managed to take off, and was cut down straight away.

The remains are now visible only at extreme low tides, a handful of times a year. Walked out with my mate J a couple of weeks ago across the mudlflats, about 1km out and checked them out.  The 70 odd years have not been kind to them, although the engines and a fair bit of the airframes on a couple are still fairly well recogniseable.


This next one a different craft, a Dornier.

Actual numbers killed are unknown , most estimates close to 80 as the Cats were all fully loaded, many with woman & children, when they were mown down.


Heading home across the mud,  came across this solitary turtle, calmly awaiting the incoming tide. 


Random Women of Rock II

1 09 2009

RWoR #1 was one of the more fun posts I put up back in the good ‘ol Journalspace days, and well received too.

Yankeedogs post today reminded me that I’d been meaning to post a follow up for a while now, featuring perhaps not so much the eclectic mix as before ( Lita Ford, Tarja Turunen & Wendy O Williams) but more of what I’ve had playing in the trusty Hilux of late.

Some call it goth rock, others symphonic or female-fronted rock or metal – whatever, its different, theres definitely talent involved (the musical kind!) and it sounds awesome up loud. With my music, I tend to favour musicians,composers and singers with a modicum of ability over todays instant-popstar generation.

And don’t ask me why, but the Europeans seem to have this little segment all sown up, with these 3 young ladies in fact all from Holland. And I thought the only good things from the Netherlands were Heinekens and coffee shops!

First up, Floor Jansen, yep, thats her name. The band, After Forever, have now gone their seperate ways, but apparently shes working on another project giving hope to the chance of seeing her peform live again.

This song, Energize Me, one of their more commercial tracks is one of the few official videos of theirs to be found. Floor wrote most of the bands music and lyrics on the later albums which featured a number of styles ranging from classical to hard rock.

With her soaring soprano range and, at over 6 ft tall, imposing stage presence, I reckon we haven’t heard the last from Ms Jansen.

Within Tempatations’ Sharon den Adel makes up # 2 on this list. Sharon and her partner Robert Westerholt, the bald rhythm guitarist in the clip, eaily take out the drej award for”coolest parents imaginable”, Sharon  having recently given birth to their 2nd child. Can you imagine the “what my parents do” session at school when both your parents front a mainline (in Holland anyway) rock band?

Sharons voice has a smoky sense on some of their tracks that adds even more to the classical dynamic. Not overly taken with this Underworld inspired video, but it does give a nice overview of her talent.

And before anyone says “Evanescence”, be aware WT were around many years before  Amy Lee and co broke into the scene.

Last but by no means least, the mighty Epica, and singing sensation Simone Simons. Epicas’ songs are mostly written by Mark Jansen, the original founder of After Forever. When he moved on(read : was sacked)  from them in 2002, he formed Epica, who’ve gone onto become one of Hollands bigger acts in their own right. Their live performances are stand-out, featuring where possible complete symphony orchestras and backup choirs to belt out not just their own brand of rock but such crowd pleasers as the Star Wars’ Imperial March and the best version I’ve yet to hear of the theme to Pirates of the Caribbean.

Simones amazing vocals prove the perfect accompanyment to both the full on big-band sound of the orchestra and moments of full on rock nirvana. Sublime, and a match made in heaven.

In this next clip, filmed when she was only 19, Simone leads the band in one of their early classics, Cry to the Moon.

Funny watching the backup singers’  faces when Mark starts in with the Death Grunts. I figure they’re thinking, ” all our years of classical training, and here we are on stage playing backup to this ??”