"Witness: Live in Australia 2005" (DVD): Part 8

Witness, Live in Australia 2005

Now, when counting my releases, I usually separate out the DVD since it’s so different from an audio recording. In this blog series, however, I decided to write about it separately. Since I combined the stories of “The Wage Is The Stage” and “Snapshots” (2000), I’m giving the DVD “Witness: Live in Australia, 2005” its own day for a blog. After all, it was its own process!

By this point, we had toured in Australia five times and had amassed a strong following there. We were represented by an Australian distributor, publicist and agent and our yearly tours to Oz were becoming an essential part of our annual business plan.

This DVD was shot when we were definitely at our prime in Australia. The rooms were packed and full of joy and dancing and support. We were in demand within the festival circuit. We were riding a serious wave.

I’m not sure how I met Max Bourke of Pigfish Productions, but somehow he circled into my life during the 2004 Australia tour and we started talking about filming a formal project with him on our spring tour in 2005. Before we knew it, it was actually happening.

This was the first project that was overseen by my then new management out of Montreal, Richard Dermer (Ram Management). Richard had expressed an interest in working with me after having seen the packaging and promotional kit associated with “Disarming” and investigating my career path to date. He was (and is) a strong businessperson and wanted to help me develop my business into more lucrative territory. Richard is also a lawyer and so it was certainly refreshing to work with someone who could draft contracts and negotiate terms with people like Max, the filmmaker.

We chose three shows to record on that tour, as well as some road footage and interview footage. The shows were in Sydney at the venue called @ Newtown, Tilley’s in Canberra, and The Northcote Social Club in Melbourne. The interviews were all filmed in the green room at The Northcote Social Club and the road footage was filmed between Sydney and Canberra, I believe.  Finally, we also did some filming of a night off when we went to a local girl bar event and hung out with friends in Melbourne.

Tacked at the end of the DVD is a section called “Talking Politics.” This was filmed the previous year in Katoomba, NSW by Blackmoon Media to augment a network pilot pitch for a potential TV series. Unfortunately, that TV series didn’t get picked up, but the footage still remained so I asked for permission to use it for this project. They readily agreed. After all, the topic of water, something very important to me, was the point of the interview and my release, “Disarming,” featured the song “H2O,” a song that borrowed from the 1999 “Water is the Cure-All” and built it further into what I believe to be one of my strongest political songs to date. (Posted here.)

There was a lot going on during this tour that was hard to navigate around cameras. Lyndell was falling in love with a woman there in Australia (see this blog for more details on that) and I was falling apart about it. On that tour, however, I simultaneously became friends with that woman’s partner at the time (who, by the way, was also struggling with her partner’s relationship with Lyndell) and while her influence in my life was brief, it was extremely powerful.

She was studying Chinese medicine and asked me about certain Chinese characters and certain aspects of Chinese culture. My studies were so rusty at the time that I embarrassingly admitted that I had abandoned my dreams, in a way. She balked at me, encouraging me to pick them up again. I knew she was right. When I returned home from that tour, I dusted off my Chinese textbooks and started dreaming again. Even though it was still two years before I’d finally go to China, I credit her with inspiring me to reconsider the rashness with which I had set aside my goal to become fluent in Mandarin and visit this country.

The other hard part of that 2005 tour in Australia was the (accurate) feeling that we were cresting a popularity wave in Australia. It’s true that waves all eventually crash into the sand and, though I tried as hard as I could, I was having a hard time not stressing out about that inevitable crash and just enjoying the view from that crest! I must say, though, that I’m really glad we captured that phase of our Australian adventures. It was the perfect time to film. Vibe caught at its zenith.

Brenley MaEachern and Lisa MacIsaac of Madison Violet opened a few of our shows on that tour, including the one in Melbourne. We invited them to be our guests on stage during “Some Fine Day” at the Canberra show and their extra vocals really helped that song come alive.

Mel Watson, of the band Fruit and her own solo project, was also a guest with us on trumpet during our show in Melbourne with the song “Reinforced Concrete.” During the outro, you can see how I’m blissing out to the jam between Lyndell and Mel, like I’ve forgotten that I’m even on the stage. Her musical ears have always blown me away. A truly gifted musician.

Some additional notes about the DVD:

* The first few songs were recorded in Sydney on the same day that we arrived in Australia. I’m amazed as I watch the show that we didn’t collapse of jet lag and exhaustion. Adrenaline is powerful, but those days of jumping off the plane and jumping onto a stage are long over, I’m afraid!

* “Listen” – This is the first song showcased on the DVD and it never got formally recorded beyond this. It’s not a bad song after all, but it was one of the casualties in the studio during the next recording project. (Click on song title for ripped version on Soundcloud.)

* Transitions – As I spoke about in the last blog, this DVD features those transitions that we worked so hard on and included in those ‘negative tracks’ on the Disarming album. It really works in a DVD format, for sure!

* Adam’s Drum Pads & our other various effects – This DVD is an excellent example of the ways that we employed other sounds through digital drum triggers, vocal effects, looping, etc. We were only a trio, so we needed some alternate sounds here and there. It was fun to watch this interplay of organic and digital and be reminded of those extra sounds so specific to that particular trio.

* “Include My Food” – I used to go off on food at my shows during this song and this is the only recording that showcases that whole speech about food, including the “say no to spray-on cheese” portion! Of course, that makes it a super long song, but that’s the reality of live performance!

* “Pek” – Until “11:11” this was the most popular recorded version of this song. It’s powerful to see the song in action, especially witnessing Lyndell bowing the acoustic guitar.

All in all, I’m glad we did this project. We did expect that it would be more successful than it was, however. It didn’t sell quickly and I found that people weren’t as interested in purchasing a DVD as they were in purchasing a CD. Funny enough, one of the most common questions that I was asked was, “Can I put it in my car stereo and still hear the audio?” When I told them they’d have to rip the audio through a special program and burn it on a separate CD first, they invariably chose to skip the DVD and purchase something they could pop into their car stereo as they drove away from the concert. After all, people buy albums at concerts to represent a souvenir of their experience. They listen to it right away to elongate that experience. What’s more, an audio product allows them to maintain their own visuals.

The DVD was designed by Liane Blad and features one of my dreadlock “buns” on the cover. That was “dreadie” season watching this DVD made me miss them! The back cover features an image of the three of us that was taken at the 2005 Toronto Pride festival just before we released the DVD in September. All photos were taken by Desdemona Burgin.

The last thing that I’ll say about this project is that we were TIGHT!  I am so impressed with the sharpness of our playing and it truly makes me want that again with a band. It was precision at its finest. I’m really impressed with us! Since it’s been six and a half years since this project was filmed, I feel I can write that with enough distance that it doesn’t feel cocky or arrogant. It’s just fact. We were tight, tight, TIGHT!

Go band!


"The Dirty Pulse": Part 9
"Disarming": Part 7

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