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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An Alchemy Tattoo Way Down Under: A Neil Young Fan Story

2013 Alchemy Tour: Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Thanks Lee "Astrolee" B.!
(Click photo to enlarge)
One of the best things about running a Neil Young fan site is that you meet up with folks who are more into Neil than we are! Imagine that?!

Lots of fantastic stories from the 2013 Australia/New Zealand Tour of Neil Young and Crazy Horse and here's a very cool Neil story.

Rustie extraordinaire Lee "Astrolee" B., in preparation for the Alchemy Tour, got herself a tattoo for the roadtrip. Lee had her first tattoo done in 2009 when she was 53. On her back she has a large Moon/Sun/Stars layout as they have had a special significant role in her life hence her "handle" name of "astrololee". Underneath the symbols are some words from songs she likes that reflected her life at that stage.

So now the Neil Young and Crazy Horse tattoo has become her 2nd tattoo. Lee "Astrolee" wrote us:
I was so excited that NY&CH were coming down under. Our Aussie Rustie group had all contributed to designing a t-shirt to wear to the shows and I liked the design so much I decided to have a permanent reminder of the occasion.

I only received my T-shirt on the Monday the 25th Feb and on the Tuesday the full moon and the date of Neil and the guys arrival into Australia I went down to "The Tattoo Shop" in Bundoora Victoria to get it done that night after work! (Neil does his best work on the full moon) so that's when I wanted it done as well but arrrrgh, Britt (young lady 30yo) couldn't do it then, so l had to wait until the 27th...only 3 days before the first Oz gig in Perth. It took only 1 1/2 hrs to stencil, outline and colour.

Wooohoooo It was a breeze, NO it did not hurt!
Now here's Lee's report from the Neil Young and Crazy Horse Australia leg where she made all of the continent's concerts.
As part of the privileged group of Oz Rusties, 8 of us graced the front row at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre "looking for a good time" for the 2nd gig of Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Alchemy Tour - Australia and New Zealand leg, and certainly a good time is what we got, only it was so much more than we all imagined it would or could be!

I have always held the notion... "Have no expectations in life and the unexpected will definitely happen". On the other hand one of my friends has an opposing view with the idea of, "If you have no expectations then you will get nothing", so I can now tell you, she is sooooo totally wrong lol!

After waiting on the western side of the venue for GA to open, the day was hot enough to get badly sunburnt and when the venue finally let us in, there was no time to grab water as taking up pole position was the far greater priority! Phew made it to the front front frail...stare down anyone coming within two inches of OUR personal space and you are going to cop it!! Yep, us Aussies are brutal but after all this was, NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE!

Precisely at 7.30pm the support act "Husky" an Indie band from Melbourne came on and we all politely listened through "Husky's" melodically harmonised acoustic setlist which included the songs "Tidal Wave, Fake Moustache and The Woods". At times some of the words sung by Husky Gawenda, the bands' lead vocalist, were a little short on fluid diction however the use of their instruments and the bands harmonisation more than made up for the little nuance of not quite hearing all the words! Husky are the discovery of FM radio Triple JJJ with the band winning the "unearthed" title in 2011. They are currently working on their 2nd album after releasing their first album "Forever So" to critical acclaim in July 2012, which they backed up with a short tour last Sept/Oct 2012 to the Netherlands, France and United States. During Husky's setlist they played 3 new tunes, "Wolfman, Weary Soldier & Years Gone By", whether these 3 songs make it to the next album will remain to be seen, as they are still works in progress.
On The Aussie Rail w/ Lee "Astrolee", Stringman & Kaz
(Click photo to enlarge)
As 7 of the 8 of us on the rails, had previously attended the Perth gig 3 days before, we all knew that we would be thoroughly entertained with the antics of the crazy mad scientists reminiscent of "Rust" days whom ran around frantically tuning the oversized amps and generally ensuring that the stage was correctly set to precise measurements as well as ensuring the oversized mike would be lowered in place and correctly positioned with a little help and adjustment from a "digeridoo", which is a wooded wind instrument created by the original aboriginal inhabitants of Australia, consisting of naturally shaped timber, internally bored out and ceremoniously painted and played by using circular breathing techniques in order to produce a haunting sound.

We also basically knew that the setlist would be roughly the same...however we also, all know "that it's only real in the way Neil feels from day to having no thoughts, preconceived or otherwise, about how the gig might progress, we waited and then waited some more, for the lights to dim with the familiar strains of the "Beatles" intro "Day In The Life" whilst the crazy scientists (roadies) stood erect in their white lab coats; as Neil and the guys casually walked on stage to the strains of "Advance Australian Fair", thankfully shortened this time to one verse! The Perth gig included our lesser known and not usually sung 2nd & 3rd verse causing much hilarity amongst Neil's camp when we didn't sing along, so thankfully it was dropped off at the Adelaide gig after much jestering from our end that we dont usually sing it!! One Rustie with the "handle" of "The Old Laughing Lady" remarked that we all probably knew the "Star Spangled Banner" anthem better than our own...haha what sacrilege, and we all bet that Neil would have known the Canadian anthem backwards lol!

Anyway with all that over, Neil slapped Ralph on the back as he headed to the drum riser and then nodded knowingly to Poncho and Billy that it was time to Rock, Loud, Gloriously Loud and with that first strum on the chords, "Love and Only Love" exploded with an unleashed force into the venue, so much more powerful than even the previous Perth gig, 3 days earlier. Maybe it was the smaller intimate venue that made it more vibrant, I'm not sure however from that moment on, we all knew they were all on fire and Neil was gonna show all the whingers, whom only wanted his Greatest Hits repeated, how it's done with The Horse! On hearing that first power chord from Old Black, from the rails, we all went nuts!!!

And so the night progressed with long joyous guitar jams between Neil and Poncho; thunderous feedback distortion fed directly back into those huge amps by Neil and Billy especially during "Walk Like A Giant". Some of songs were interlaced with little side riffs, duals between Poncho and Neil too, as well as borrowed tunes within the tunes, especially when they did "F@#kin Up" which was hilarious! Neil especially added to Poncho's antics of being given the finger and kicked up the bum by refraining in a high falsetto voice, repeating the words " Feels So Good"! It was a brilliant display of the commaradrie between the two with Ralphie and Billy grinning along. Ralph throughout the night gave both his arms and the drumkit an absolute workout with some well timed, powerful drum strokes, in the purest tone, no fancy, artsy fartsy shit that rock drummers today seem to engage in, just for show. This was just tremendous pounding that was a force to be reckoned with which was perfectly executed, the years of experience showed as Ralph made it look like a cakewalk! It was a joy to watch!

Oh Yeah, have I mentioned about some of the best harmony to date, from Billy and Ralph during all songs but especially on Ramada lnn, which was truly epic, and always makes me cry..shit we have all experienced a Ramada Inn situation in our lives, and getting old and reflecting back is an essential part of life's process!

Billy's Bass was truly beautiful in this song, needless to say the bass created the mood and feeling for all the songs, the bass always tells its own distinct story and is often overlooked especially in light of the brilliant guitar work from Poncho complimenting Neil's brilliantly worked lead. If at times you have been guilty of ignoring the essential requirement of adding mood and emotion to a band, like I often had, then try taking the Bass out of this band and you've have nothing but a raucous mess lol!

And now to Neil ....he was amazing, mesmerizing, totally into it, the music he created that night consumed and impassioned him, he was on fire, completely encapsulated by its power to be completely taken to his own private head space and I know us fans revelled in those moments where we were sucked into that vortex and were taken along with him for the was so Fckn Extraordinary that I know I did not ever want the songs to stop! One of our mob even yelled out to Neil after finishing Ramada Inn, "Do it again"....Hahahahahaha but this night was never gonna be a repeat of Neil's "Tonight The Night"!

Now we all know that Neil can really rock it with The Horse, real loud but they also have their quieter moments. The acoustic songs numbered to only three. "Twisted Road" from PP as well as a newie named, "Hole in the Sky" and then the usual singalong from the crowd for "Heart of Gold". Then the unreleased "Singer Without a Song" was tunefully played by Neil on the piano whilst a "un-named" person sauntered wistfully across the stage with a guitar case in hand, to visually display the content and forlorness of the song!

The setlist numbering in the low teens was a mix through the decades with Mr Soul and Cinnamon Girl from the 60's, Hey Hey, My My & Like a Hurricane from the 70's, Love and Only Love from the 90s.

The night of course went too quickly and one the biggest highlights for our mob came at the end of the show when Neil embraced by his mates to do their final bow; that was when Ralph pointed out our "WooHoo" sign to Neil, Poncho and Billy to which they responded by all shouting back to us, several "WooHoo's" It was a real hoot and we loved it!
Other highs for the night were of course ...

"Fuckin Up", "Walk Like A Giant" "Ramada Inn" and the encore "Like A Hurricane". Yep the night was memorable even psychedelic without consuming any "pill" to induce euphoria as the magic came from the thrill of seeing and hearing Neil and Crazy Horse in full flight!
Lee "Astrolee" concludes with this:
I love getting tattooed...feels pleasant and soothing, you can just zone out...key to success just talk to the other guys in the shop...yep thats easy, l can talk heaps.. about music..even easier.....and bingo you're!

Folks reactions - hahahahahahhahaahahahahahha....ranged from:-
KEWL (Nephew)
AMAZING (Best friend)
OUCH (Friend)
DON'T GET "IT" (Friend)

and my reaction
"The Tattoo Shop" provided a professional and hygienic experience. All staff were a treasure and l will go there again.
Lee "Astrolee" B. at "The Tattoo Shop"
(Click photo to enlarge)
Thanks Lee "Astrolee"! What a terrific Neil story. Thanks for sharing with all of us.


At 3/27/2013 08:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee, thanks so much for the story. I've been to Australia, as that was one of my life's dreams and I loved it so much and very much hope to go back again in a couple of years. So much there in your story, but I will add that I really liked your tribute to bass players and the way you explained their importance which, as you point out, is often overlooked and underestimated.
For those who didn't pick up on it (am I right about this, Lee?), also on the Australian Alchemy logo, behind the Horse and in front of the moon, I believe is Ayers Rock, which for those of you who don't know about, can check out here:

At 3/27/2013 09:40:00 AM, Blogger astrololee said...

Anon:8.32am.... Yes you are correct!
The symbolism chosen for the T-shirt evolved over several weeks and eventually we decided the full moon would represent Neil because of the importance to him as he likes to work under it's influence. Of course the Crazy Horse logo is for Frankie, Ralphie and Billie and Uluru is recognizable around the world as being part of our Australian Heritage. The implementation of the initial design goes to "Old Man Emu" and finalization and printing goes to our rmember - "Little Reggie" with changes, positioning and colouring all contributed by other "downunder" Rusties!
As to Bass players, as l say they certainly add to the mood and feel, as drummers add the heartbeat, the rhythm provides the blood flow and the lead the passion and excitement to live! Where would we all be without music!!!

At 3/27/2013 12:07:00 PM, Anonymous KenSA said...

Thats dedication guys!
Good to put a face to the name Stringman, definitely owe ya a shout for your superb efforts! Was right behind you in adelaide. I know a few folks were pissed at paying the front half floor prices, only to see that the barrier wasn't used coz the crowd wasnt big enough (too many events in adelaide in march with the festivals and all) - but I would have gladly paid twice as much.
Good onyas

At 3/27/2013 02:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Need help how do i get a north american 2012 baseball tour shirt. they were sold out of my size at Toronto show, hoping he does a second run through North america. Awesome show but would love to see some reactor live. Was lucky saw randy bachman w/ the sadies at that show. Was hoping they do Porter & main at the end, would of been fitting end for two great guitarist.

Any help on the T's will be greatly appreciated thanks

At 3/27/2013 04:02:00 PM, Anonymous Soldier Steve said...

Try Here For Tour Shirts,Etc.

At 3/27/2013 07:30:00 PM, Blogger Phill said...

Great write up Astrololee and congrats on making every Oz show. That's some effort. I made my own t-shirt too but not as elaborate as yours. Mine was just the words from the "Tonight's the Night" album cover stenciled onto a black t-shirt.

You can't have been too far from me at the Adelaide gig, I was close to the rail, stage left.

True story: As Neil starts playing the acoustic set, I wandered over to the low fence that ran at right angles to the stage over on the side. I wanted some air and to get a photo of the very cool TV screens. So I'm leaning against the fence lost in the beauty of "Singer without a Song" and I see someone come wandering from back stage and stand right next to me looking up at the TV screen.

Bugger me; it's Elliot Roberts! When the song finishes I turn and say: "Hi, you're Elliot Roberts aren't you?"

Elliot says "Hi" and shakes my hand. I say something about SWaS being a beautiful song and that Neil should release it. Elliot nods and says; "I hope he does." He then says; "Enjoy yourself" and wanders backstage again.

I saw him again, right after the encore. I give him the thumbs up and he smiles and gives me a thumbs up back.

Fucking surreal.

At 3/27/2013 07:35:00 PM, Blogger Phill said...

Astrololee; Do the Oz Rusties have a website or a home. Love to be involved.

At 3/28/2013 06:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Soldier Steve

Thanks for the info Friend


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