Melbourne and the Hills

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10/21 - 11/2 Melbourne, The Hills
We decided to stay in Belgrave with Michael, Heike and their son Magnus for 10 days to get work done, enjoy the company of wonderful people, and explore the Melbourne music scene, and it was a great decision. We have to balance the need to learn more about Permaculture with the need to explore, and figure out how to make this traveling musician thing work to put more money into our pockets than it's taking out. We're getting a better sense for how to do that.

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I went busking on the hip little main street in Belgrave on Saturday and Sunday, which Heike told us often has a lot of tourists and shoppers out.

I made about $50 for about 3-4 hours of busking, which almost paid for our food for the week. Unlike Canberra you must get a permit for busking in Melbourne CBD (Central Business District), and I missed the chance to get a permit the day after we came back to the area, but Heike called the local council in Belgrave and they said they welcome buskers as vital to the local culture.

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I got my Melbourne permit the following week. I was able to pay for some of our expenses with a few days worth of busking, but quickly realized that with the 2 hours and $15 of transport to and from central Melbourne, it doesn't quite add up to a great per hour wage. What was worth it was people-watching and experiencing Melbourne's vibrant downtown, with its mix of modern and century old architecture, it's massive multiculturalism, and the occasional mental person to add the element of surprise to the day. One guy in tattered clothes walked up and screamed at me, “You cain't play on the street! You cain't play music on the street!”

It turns out that there's an amazing music community up in the eastern hills of Melbourne and they welcomed us right in. We went to an open mic at a wonderfully atmospheric Belgrave venue on Sunday called Sooki Lounge and met several of the local 'musos'. They welcomed us right in. Stewart Kohinga, a sweet-voiced singer and tasteful guitar player who can play any style with wonderfully bluesy overtones was hosting, along with Neesy Smith, who has one of the most soulful voices you can imagine -comparable to Janice Joplin or Amy Winehouse and is a local radio presenter. They were joined by another great singer and rhythm player named Luke Sassafras who I hope to hear more from in the future. There was also a singer-songwriter named Richard Ross with a swing, blues, roots sound who at times reminded me of Andrew Bird. Those were the people I got to know better than others, but there are a slew of great players up there and the community is tight knit and well represented by ladies, and they embraced me right away. I got several comments that my style has elements of gypsy and cabaret. We spent a couple more evenings with them and we celebrated Halloween at a winery even further out in the middle of the forest. That was a blast. I can't wait to make it back there in April, and will have a mini-tour of the area as well as a spot on Radio 3MDR 97.1.

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We also explored the hills as tourists with Michael and Heike, and had a great time. We went to an elementary school spring 'fete' (festival) complete with a great fireworks display, beer and wine for the grownups and live music. Not bad for a village 30km from the city!

We went to a one-of-a-kind sculpture garden, William Ricketts Sanctuary and we got a great view of the city from afar. To give a sense of how large the Melbourne area is, we were over 40km from the city, but still in Melbourne. 

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Samantha Chappell