Monthly Archives: August 2011

The People of the Duwamish

So yesterday I went to the Duwamish river festival. At the entrance to the festival, they gave out T Shirts! I gots me a free one.
At the other entrance they gave out Hot Dogs! I gots me one a dem too!!

good festival!

The Duwamish river is part of this thing called a “Superfund” site. (See here: )
This a program of the government to clean up uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. The park where the festival was held was formerly an Asphalt manufacturing plant. They say you shouldn’t eat fish or shellfish from the Duwamish, or swim in it. But the park had the veneer of greenness and although it wasn’t a huge festival it was pretty lively, with a huge, fully kitted out Mariachi band, and lots of other people playing all kinds of really ethnically diverse stuff.

And I gots a T Shirt for like nuffink!

There was a heap of info regarding the local environment, clean up projects and so on. I spoke to one girl at the local Wilderness stand for a while about the comparisons between American and Australian fauna and invasive weeds and all that stuff.

Seattle and indeed the whole region has a massive issue with introduced Himalayan Blackberry bushes. They are simply everywhere. It’s actually a good time for it, because they’re in fruit. But for the rest of the year, it’s a real nuisance. As it happens, Washington had its own blackberry bush! Why they thought this invasive Himalayan variety was better is anybody’s guess. In our country our blackberry issue was bestowed to us by Von Mueller, the genius darling of the Melbourne Botanical society, who was so enamoured with the weed he took it upon himself to plant the bloody thing everywhere he travelled. There’s a huge mural of him at the front of the Melbourne Botanical Garden. They really love this guy. Idiots.

Anyway, the festival was a lively community event with kids running around, making stuff and lots of info.

Did I mention I got a T Shirt? It was from the Port of Seattle Authority. It was free!

After we went to the Duwamish river festival, we went down to the Duwamish Tribe’s Long House.

As most of the regular readers here will know, I’ve been madly trying track down info on the local indigenous people and history in the region. So I was really looking forward to this excursion.

We got there and the place was packed. They were having a wedding, and had rented the long part of the longhouse out to the wedding party. So we were kind of restricted to the foyer. The house was basically designed on the original Duwamish Aesthetic but it wasn’t a real long house. It was quite modern. I’m not even sure there was anything in the back of the longhouse, just a function room.

But in the foyer there was some good stuff. Lots of information and some great artifacts. There was lots of info on Chief Seattle, who had chartered the original treaty that allowed settlement of the Europeans here. In fact, his Great Great Grand Niece (might have been even Grand Daughter? Fact check me on that!) was there. I didn’t speak to her at all really, but she’s a well respected elder. But we did speak to a lovely woman called Linda.

All in all, the exhibits, much like at the Burke Museum, didn’t really go into all that much depth. There was however some great merchandise there, including a really good book on the local tribes and traditions. (I’m going to buy me a copy before I leave here, or get them to send me one.)

but Linda, however, proved to be a wealth of information on the history and current struggles of the Duwamish people.

She told us about some of the degradation that had happened to the Duwamish, and the 98% of its natural wetlands and vegetation had been destroyed, along with the ecosystem that went with that, including the salmon spawning. We told her we’d just been hearing about all that at the rRiver festival. I told her I’d gotten a T Shirt! For Free!

I pulled it out to show her, with pride.

“Oh” she said. “The Port of Seattle. Hmmm.”

As it turned out the Port of Seattle, despite their efforts at public relations, blinding people and smokescreening them with free T Shirts, were one of the biggest abusers of the Duwamish people ever.

Chief Seattle, of whom the town of Seattle is named, negotiated a treaty with the nascent Port Authority and Seattle founders. It was a good treaty. Long and detailed. There’s a copy of it on the wall. It listed in great detail fishing rights among other territorial rights and resources, for the lease of the land. Pretty much as soon as it was signed, it was dishonoured. (Duttigalla Treaty anyone?) The US Government, and the Port authority, won’t even recognise the Duwamish people as a people to this day, despite the city being named after a prominent member of this tribe.

Not so happy about my free T Shirt now. May have to do some…alterations….

The history of the Duwamish people is long, sad and proud. But they are great survivors and innovators, and adaptors. I won’t go into detail now. This is just my blog. It’s supposed to be about me and how good I am at music and stuff. But I’ll give you some links, if you’re interested, regarding the amazing history of this place.

Also this book is awesome:


The Dubsea Community Open Mic

Just a quick update!

After my revealing pilgrimage on the Seattle buses, and meeting Ken and his Possum, I went to the White Centre (Dub. Sea. See how that works?) Community fund raising Open Mic night.

The people of Dubsea are very friendly. It is a low economic part of Seattle, Like Footscray. The local town planners have been pretty innovative about urban design here, and there’s a neighbourhood there that has been built around an amphitheatre with a cafe right beside it.

In fact, the Cafe is the Dubsea Cafe and I’ll be playing there September 30th (see the LIVE section on this website…)

the place was packed. The whole neighbourhood turned out. There’s lots and lots of every different kind of ethnicity here, just like Footscray. But They all get along really well. The community is pretty integrated. Mostly like Footscray.

And they really welcomed me. Even though I was not from the USA.

The talent at this open mic was impressive. Poets and musicians and speakers. Speakers in the US are like philosophers. They say monologues, but it’s not poetry.

And there was a fantastic R&B band there. Three guys with vocal harmonies and a great band. We set up a mutual admiration society, even though I played DREADFULLY!! And hopefully, if I’m really lucky, they’ll invite me to jam on the electric banjo.

A lot of folks will think that Banjo is incongruous with new school R&B. Well, not the way I play it. And I’m really looking forward to getting into their stuff. The band – Drums, Bass, Keys, and Guitar, is everything I’m looking for for my own line up, and man they had some smooth chops.

Unfortunately I was dead on my feet after my initiation to the Seattle bus service and I went home early, and straight to bed.


The Serendipity Possum

Yesterday was quite an adventure. It is important, when in a foreign country, to embrace chaos and plan as little as possible, or you’ll miss out.

Yesterday was part 2 of the radio canvassing mission. I had to go out to Bellvue, and drop in some CD’s at the next community/college radio station on my list, KBCS.

Bellvue is across the other side of the Puget Sound to where I am at. It took 7 hours, on the buses.

Like all public transport systems in the English speaking world, the Seattle public transport system is esoteric. You can only understand its subtleties and symbology once you have been initiated. Initiations usually involve pain and sacrifice.

The bus drivers, although on the whole were pleasant (one lte me ride for free, and another guy took my cd and was stoked about it,) represent guru-like teachers. Consider the following exchange:

Me – Does this bus go to Bellvue?
Bus driver – It does, if you think it can.

And now this:
Me – Does this bus go to Bellvue?
BD – Where do you want to go?
Me – To Bellvue.
BD – Look inside yourself. Where do you really want to go?
Me – Bellvue. Bellvue College.
BD – Then you must go to Tukwilla.
Me – What? I need the 2-9-something? What did you say?
BD – I say to you, Tukwilla. Leave this bus, and your journey will truly begin.
Me – But this is the 550, it goes to Downtown Bellvue!

This last exchange actually happened. Not in so much detail, but indeed, for some mystical reason, the Bus Driver told me that I did not want to go to Bellvue College. I had to go to Tukwilla.

It was a test.


I got off this bus, the 550, and went and checked the maps and so on. Seattle PT maps are filled with colour and symbols, but lack two things – routes and a legend. They sure are pretty though. And Tukwilla to Bellvue is as Frankston is to Footscray. A long way in the wrong direction.

I waited for the next 550. It came, and took me where I needed to be.

Ah, I see, Sensei. I understand now.

From Bellvue I took the mystical changeling bus, the 271, to the College. To teach me about materialism, the bus driver took all my money and didn’t give me a ticket. This was after the last driver of the 550 who gave me a ride for free! Being foreign and all.

It’s all about the cosmic balance.

So I made it to my destination, Bellvue College and the KBCS studios. Being the holidays, the whole campus was deserted. The door to to KBCS was open, but unlike KEXP, it was not a hive of activity. It was empty. But I could hear voices…somewhere….

I proceeded going about my mission. I delivered my CD’s, then set off to find an ATM to get money for my next lesson. I mean, Bus ride.

As luck would have it, everything was closed, and the campus was devoid of humans. That was when I met Ken, the Possum man!

Eventually I came across him, the first person I’d seen here, and asked if he knew where the campus ATM was. He told me to go to the Student Union building, and that he was headed that way and I could accompany him. We struck up a conversation.

Ken was a gregarious older gentleman. He’d captured an American Possum, and was taking it down to the Bellvue sanctuary to release it. He had it in the back of the car, and apparently it smelled terrible.

Eventually we discovered the ATM, but it was out of order! So he offered to take me to the nearest bank.

We went back to his car and there, in the back, was a cage, and in that cage was a poor old possum, cranky, but seemingly resigned to his fate, understanding the futility of struggle. The poor guy smelled so bad that Ken had left his car all open. This was also the car remained cool for the little fella. He pulled out the cage and I was able to examine the possum extremely close up.

Ken advised me not to touch the possum, as many mammals in America carry rabies. American Possums are totally different to Australian Possums in many ways. they eat invertebrates. Ours do not! Well, most do not. They certainly don’t eat dog food. The American ones do. And they have a very different shape too. But both are marsupials.

Consider the following links:
The American one:

The Aussie one:

Ken took me to a bank, then I headed onward to the bus o mani padmi ohm.

I mentioned before the mystical 271 changeling bus? Well, it changes, on a whim. Sometimes 271 means it goes to the University district. Sometimes it does not. Same bus. In fact, many of Seattle’s bus routings have hidden meaning behind their titular route numbers. I asked numerous 271 drivers that manifested themselves at the bus stop if they went to the U District. Many said no. I thought this odd, as the day prior, at the U district, I had seen many 271’s going to and fro.

I had been given the wisdom by one of the Bus Guru Sensei guys that the bus I needed was the 554, express to Downtown Seattle. However, as I learned from my mystical lesson, one must not desire the bus to appear. One must release the desire for a bus to appear, and only then shall it appear.

The 554, which was scheduled to appear thrice within an hour, failed to appear.

Eventually, in humility, I asked a driver of one of the many, many 271’s that appeared – Do you go to the U district?

He looked at me and said – Yes, you are ready. I will go to the U district.

It took 7 hours to get to and from White Center to the Bellvue College, but I learnt much on the way.

You see grasshopper, it is not the destination, but the journey…..ahhhhh….

The Wonderful KEXP Radio station in Seattle!

Today I went looking for the legendary KEXP radio station. My mission – to hand in CD’s, and buy some ads for the upcoming gigs (Only two confirmed! the other places better hurry up and get back or they’ll miss out on the ad!!)

I like to get myself lost in new places. It’s really the only way to find yourself. So with trusty ol’ Plunky on my back, we set off through downtown Seattle, sleuthing the location of KEXP.

After some miles in the not too hot Seattle Summer sun, (weather here has been AWESOME, by the way,) I found the place.

It turns out I had walked past it. 3 TIMES.

It was in an unassuming cramped little building up the back of Downtown. So I fronted up and chatted to the receptions, barging my way in to the good graces.

I have to say, the folks down there were just superb. So helpful and happy to meet a sweaty stranger. They took all my CD’s that had been specially sorted for all the respective genres of their shows. Sadly I missed out on speaking to the person in charge of the “underwriting” again!! (Underwriting is what they call ads I guess. KEXP is the equivalent at home to RRR and PBS. They let poor people do ads for gigs on it!)

Nevertheless, there was a wonderful woman called Dean who was just delightful to chat with. And get this – she gave me a full guided tour of the station! I was really impressed. The space is incredibly cramped, but they use every square inch to absolute maximum effect. I was most impressed with the comprehensive library in the building. At home, PBS and RRR only have a fraction of a library this size, relying mostly on presenters’ collections. The KEXP library was like a Swiss army knife of vynil and CD’s. It unfolded!

So, I’d like to say thanks to all the folks at KEXP and I hope you guys get back to me soon for those ads!

Keep the music going, well done!


Check out KEXP!


Burke Museum, and the Holotrad Jazz band!

Yesterday was big day!

I went into the University of Washington District and checked out the Burke Museum. The museum is pretty cool. It’s $10 to get in if you are a normal. (Since I have been in the USA, I have been posing as a Normal. Quite a revealing experience, but I digress…)
The museum has two levels, one based on Palaeontology and geological history, the other indigenous archaeology.

I was going for the Archaeology bit, but I was seriously blown away with the geological stuff. they had some really cool fossils in their and great exhibits. It’s very simply explained, too, mostly I guess aimed at young kids. And there was a bunch of them in there digging the place. (Ha! That’s a palaeontological joke! GET IT?? See, coz, like, dig, you know? ah nevermind…)

So it goes through from Proterozoic right on through the ages. The big stars are of course quickly introduced with a great display of a Stegosaurus being harassed by an Allosaurus, all in bones. Then you keep heading around through this exhibit and you come into the Eocene period and into the recent ages. They have this really cool skeleton of a Mastodon, and it’s HUGE. You get a good idea of the scale of these things standing right in front of it as it trumpets at you. (It doesn’t actually trumpet at you, but, use your imagination!)

All the way through the exhibit are these little displays that ask “So, Where was Washington?” And it shows how the area was formed and what state it was in through the ages. The cool thing about Washington is that it is for the most part fairly new. The imposing presence of the mighty Mount Rainier, and opposite, the Olympics, are only a handful of thousands of years old. I am so used to ancient eroded mountains in my country. Yeah, so I dug that heaps.

Also they have a good collection of Clovis culture tools. That was kind of weird. Being so close to something so ancient, from a different reality, when people hunted the herds of Mammoth and Mastodon. Hard to imagine what life was like back then.

Well, after taking my time through this exhibit I was beat, so I popped into the cafe for a drink and to rest so I’d be ready to give my full attention to the next bit, that was the indigenous part.

This bit was ok, but I was a little disappointed. The exhibit focused more on the entire population of the Pacific Rim peoples. But it stretched it to include China and Vietnam. I figured that if they can be that liberal with their definition, where’s the exhibit for the Bundjalung people? Or the Eora? Or for that matter, since we’re stretching things around, the Kurnai? Huh? Huh? hmmmm……

Nevertheless it was a great exhibit, with some interesting models of tradition folk’s houses from this area. They also had some cool wood carvings and other arts. The native folks here did note escape the white fella’s douche baggery. They were severely oppressed but carried on their traditions in secret. The exhibit went to great lengths to show that these ancient traditions carry on into the present day and are very much alive. So I am heading out to a festival next weekend and hoping to hit the Duwamish river Long house, because frankly, the exhibit did not give me enough! I’m really looking forward to it.

So it was an exhausting day. But it wasn’t over yet.

While shamelessly slutting myself around town as a Banjo for hire or just a banjo for…whatever you got… I ran into a terrific pianist called Alex Guilbert. He invited me to sit in for a jam with Dave Holo’s Holotradband, at the New Orleans in Pioneer Square of Seattle.

These guys were awesome! So get this – it was Tuesday night. The place was PACKED. These guys raised the roof, and do so every Tuesday I am told! And not only that, but Seattle has all these swing dancers tucked away. They jumped about the place and went crazy. Man! It was such a great night.

If only Melbourne loved music like that!

So they got me up on old Plunky and was I peaking out. For the first few sets I just sat in the corner quietly trying to guess their changes and warm up. Anyway, when they pulled me up thank god they had lead sheets. It made a bit easier. Their drummer, Mike Daugherty was on it. He caught every synch I sunked, and was very generous and funny about it!

Anyway, I figured I could not have sucked too bad, because they kept throwing me solos! Quite a challenge to whip out a solo on 5 string in Ab. (That’s G# to you non-minory folks.)

I had an absolute ball, and it left me wishing that Melbourne’s Jazz scene had people like this in it, so open, and warm, and just full of great feel and awesome vibes. If you come to Seattle, reserve Tuesdays for this gig. It is so worth it!!

I went home exhausted but high as a kite. Today I was supposed to do another open mic, slut myself around some more, but decided to have instead a quiet night in, to catch up on some organising and book work and arse sitting.

Thank you Seattle!!!!

Check out the Holotradband:

Check out Burke Museum!

The Temple of Hendrix

Today I went to Down town Seattle and saw the Experience Music Project. It’s like this huge inter-active museum on music.
Seattle produced two really influential musicians that achieved immortality by dying young yet re-writing the book on contemporary music. One was Kurt Cobain, whom I’m sure was a nice guy but I never got into his stuff. There were punk bands in my own country vastly superior to Nirvana that never got signed or anything of the like. So when Nirvana hit the scene it was kind of a resentful thing. Who are these jerks? Call that punk?? Pfft!!

The other was Jimi Hendrix. Not many people realise this but Jimi was a huge fan and was massively influenced by Bob Dylan’s folkie stuff. One of his favourite albums was Highway 61 Revisited. In a strange way, as a banjo player, I am probably most influenced by Jimi Hendrix.

The museum was all about that, the interconnected-ness of all music, and how one style influences another and how all these bands are connected by the industry and the music itself.

At first it seemed a bit expensive to get in to the EMP, but there were some awesome exhibits, that would even be of interest to non-musicians, like the guitar evolution exhibit. But when I cam face to face, 6 inches away from the actual guitar Jimi had played on all those albums that as a kid turned me on to music, yeah, it got kind of weird. There was a palpable sense of the mystical, of the sacred and holy, and I stood there for hours just looking at the thing. And they had other personal reliquaries and even the original out-fits he’d worn. It was amazing special, and something I will never forget.

Seattle Gig Update!!!

Ok folks, just quickly – got confirmation of an intimate little show in Seattle today, so I’m blogging it here and will add to gig list later.
Here is the details:

Dubsea Coffee
9910 8th Ave SW

Starts at 6.30pm

Will be playing two whole sets, 80% originals, 20% standards, covers and interpretations.

Free. You’re welcome to tip. Also, cd’s available while stocks last.