Emlyn Johnson, in a backyard with no electricity Wednesday 15 October 2014
Well, hello friend. I hope you’re well. Today I’m telling you about last night and the things that happened.
Sometimes it’s a little bit sad to think that part of playing all our shows is a little bit about things we don’t care about so much, and that is, selling beers. Beers are fine, sometimes dragging your flannellette shirt in the spilled wheat juice on an outside bench sitting next to some friends is nice, but sometimes it’s better to be in a field listening to wind in the bamboo, with clean clothes on and all your money in your pockets.
Know what I mean? So, that’s one of the pleasures of shows in backyards.
Anyway, Emlyn is here and we’ve been listening to him play in our loungerooms and back porches and heard him whistling in the shower and he and Peter Bibby making up words in word games that to me is all part of practicing for making songs. So many songs, so many great songs. Everyone I know likes Emlyn’s so many great songs.
So he was playing in this backyard. The house was all dark because someone at that house forgot to pay the electricity bill, but they remembered better things, like to plant tomatoes at the right time, and to prepare the soil really well so Tom could say “They’re growing like weeds, I can give you some if you like.” Emlyn showed me a picture of his grandma a few days before, and she looked like Tom. What a world.
So the tomato plants were healthy as weeds, and there were biggest grape vines from old thick roots coming up from the ground and winding round to make a ring of green and fruit potential all around us. Many roots coming up from the ground, not just one. And the sky was going very amazing. Perth sky is special, even the people who lived here and then come back for a visit notice it. It’s the clearest air, like the clearest aqua ocean water.
Well, we looked up into the sky, at least me and Cam whose face was tilted upwards sitting next to me, looking at those clouds. The clouds were all the way across, but in patterns and in each tiny break between clouds there was just one star. The sky was getting darker but still blue, and the blue and the one tiny star shone out between each glowing cloud.
Emlyn sung two sets, and in the middle everyone talked in the dark, around the outside table drinking their beers. Ollie was lying on the grass and I lay down with my flannellette shirt to protect me from the prickles and we told each other about our days.
Emlyn’s songs are like this: whether the song has one word or a hundred words in it that song carries a lot of feelings. Because his music is beloved, everyone was requesting songs to play and he played all the requests. I don’t know anyone else with this many perfect songs. His voice is deep and sweet and rough and trilly, his guitar playing is mellifluous and jarring and sure and silly. The songs are from our country in a nice way, and the whistling to me is connected to “Australia” but there is no nationalism to feel bad about.
Well, anyway, each person in the yard was in their own world but connected by a love of the songs and by the grape vines winding round us and the sky looking its immense face down on us. Very, very immense.