2019 Barfly Top Ten: Tamara Bell

tammy 20191. Lookin’ 20p In the 10p Mix
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2. New Rock Syndicate
Masami Kawaguchi from Tokyo graced us with his stunning soul again this year. Please refer to everything Penny Ikinger said in her Top 10. This gentleman is the most startling, perfect and inspiring guitarist I have ever seen and a true darling of a human being. Eternally grateful to have met him. Look at anything he has done, please. You’re welcome.

3. The Kids Are Alright
You know when you’re 32 and you think rocknroll has probably hit its comfortable slippers and pipe phase, and will be unlikely to return to what you’ve felt it to be in your life. Then you get to 39 etc. and realise ashamedly that you were very wrong. About most things, pretty much everything - it is an experience that spans generations, and is one of the many joys of ageing.

So many “young people” (definition pending, vomit pooling in throat) made music that blew my tiny mind out of my ears this year. Please pay attention to a band called Cable Ties, and one called Stiff Richards. Important, incendiary, vital, nasty, gorgeous, respectful, clumsy, intricate, hot, cold and wild. You may select which adjective attaches to which band yourself - like a choose your own adventure! God, this one has been bloody ridiculous, I’m sorry and you’re welcome.

4. Gettin' There Is Half The Fun
Mr Jason Robert Stone and I were lucky enough to be in the States earlier in the year. While road tripping from Brooklyn to Canada (hungover, slightly terrified, eight hours) then on to Detroit then Chicago, we made a pilgrimage to Ann Arbor to try see if we could divine ghosts of the MC5 and Sonics Rendezvous Band wandering the streets. The main destination was the remnants of the Second Chance, Ann Arbor - yes, that Second Chance. It is a horrible nightclub now called The Nekto, but there is a tribute poster in the front of the building with the name of every band/artist that played there over the years, and when I touched the wall it felt amazing.

The venue has an incredible history (loving + excellent archive here) and of course home to probably my most beloved recording of all time, Sonics Rendezvous Band, live in 1978. Love can make the past seep through into the present, and vice versa, and seeing the Second Chance was one of those big nourishing life moments fo me - as close as I’d ever get to a time, people and music that feels as though it’s already part of me.

5. Heart Of Stone
A significant highlight of 2019 was not dying of heartbreak that I missed River Rocks this year. And no thanks, I resolutely do not want to hear how it was. Thanks.

6. Avenue A (or close enough)
While in New York City we were again very privileged to earn some physical difficulties for ourselves for the next day at Manitoba's Bar just before it shut its crusty doors around July 2019. Suuuuch a shit hole. Absolutely wonderful. A beer with a tequila shot was just $6. While it clearly hadn’t had the love of an attentive parent for some years, but the peeling walls and lumpy floor just seeped of love, energy and history.

Described by Handsome Dick as the “death of the extension of my living room, I daresay this was one of the last real dives lingering around Avenue A/B, and another crumbling building I am pleased to have touched this year. Excellent and beautiful words from Handsome Dick himself here.

7. Studio A
Holy goodness, if it is at all possible, please find a way to go to and see Detroit. O, Detroit! The blight. The heart. The history. The familiarity. I fell in love with this city right away, again it felt like a home. This romance was assisted in no small part by the discovery of the Motown Museum! Studio A is (yes, I know you know) where some of the most historic moments in Motown and popular musical history happened.

Berry Gordy’s story and the history of Motown is one of music history’s most important and incredible stories - an $800 loan from family started this history of Motown and some of the most iconic and amazing songs of our era - won’t spoil the ending for you, but they went alright. We were given a moment to sing in the studio, with all the original instruments were just a foot away! When I saw the scuffed holes carved out of the wooden floor in the engineer’s booth that had been dug into the floorboards by the heels of engineers slapping their feet to the music when the session was cooking, I admit I took a tear or two.

The AirBnB we stayed in is was a beautiful delapidated (Barman, spell check please) but renovated apartment building, one of a number bought by a German investor all on that one street. This investor reportedly fell in love with Detroit as well, and is in the process of purchasing properties to restore and employing local people to maintain them and return the space to the community, and growth to the city. He named his company Detroit Rock Solid. Maybe it was the language barrier, but I don’t think he quite believed/understood how cool I thought that was and why I wanted to buy one of his maintenance guy's work shirts.

8. Mark Lanegan at the Warsaw, Brooklyn
I can’t claim to be the most attentive Mark Lanegan fan - I know well(fish) only probably a handful of his albums. Seeing he was in Brooklyn at the same time we were we went to see him play at the stunning old Warsaw, accompanied by a bit of Australia in Simon Bonney and that lovely kooky lady he plays with (Tequila, sorry). Geez the band was cooking. Expecting to be bullshit mouthing along to all the songs I didn’t know, and that being most of them, I was bloody psycho as the setlist rolled on and every. single. song. was one of my favourite Mark Lanegan songs. It was a PERFECT gig - they don’t come round so often.

9. Dreams Of A Healthy Reitrement Out The Window: 15 Years Of The sHITS
This year HITS turned 15. We checked really carefully this time, unlike when we celebrated our 10th year in our 11th. It’s hard to even talk about HITS as a band or something external to me and what I do - being the longest voluntary relationship I’ve had in my life.

Little to say, but I wanted to mention what an honour it was to see 15 years out with my magical HITS. Getting into bands, touring, recording, etc.etc. - it gets harder and harder as each year passes (particularly when "breaking even" is the main goal for most of the tours taken across 15 years, and the "real job" never stops demanding from you), but the truths that buoy the magic of the experience never change at any level of it all: at best your beautiful band will gift you many things, but core to these are travel, kindred spirits/new family across the globe, and occasionally some mind blowing experiences unable to blow any other mind but yours. It’s personal. And it’s family. Both of these things are mushed together and play out in the starkest contrast to each other.

These 15 years were remarkable in the depth of love, the loyalty, the self realisation, the stupidity, the stubbornness, the eternal and short lived moments. I have gotten to play music with my best friends, with my heroes, with friends who become my heroes and with heroes who have become friends - what a gift. Thank you all

10. She Lives In a Time of Her Own
Number 10 starts again with an acknowledgement that due to dumb luck, a big mouth, and the existence of truly excellent people I am regularly privileged. This time the privilege was Richard (Evil Dick) Hunt and I being able to attend the Australian Women in Music Awards (AWMA) as representatives for a most stunning human being + woman who paved kilometres of bricks in the long and winding history of Sydney rocknroll that was very sadly lost to us this year - Sue Telfer. I am certain I am not the only one that still very much misses Sue.

God-drops like Michelle Nicol and Ken Gormly were part of a push to have Sue nominated for the Leadership in Music awards at the AWMA this year - held at the Powerhouse here in Brisbane. As we had the talent of being closest to that building, Richie and I were asked to pop along in case Sue won. Which she did - the first posthumous award of the AWMAs have presented I believe.

It was such an honour to even be there with her in mind, let alone forcing our way awkwardly on to the stage across laps, coats, drinks and bags from seats right up the back of the room, as unexpected "guests" (i.e. not in the run sheet) who just tumbled on stage with mouths full of hearts and hearts full of champagne and anxiety to blurt out words of where we came from and what Sue meant to us. When the silence was clearly awkward enough, we left the stage, legged it to the free wine, unsuspecting industry folk, and smoking area. We drank a few and we talked about life, music, us, love, and Sue. The award was not her first tribute, nor will it be her last.

Honourable mention: The Meatbeaters still exist.

Tamara Bell plays guitar for HITS.

Tags: sonics rendezvous band, stooges, mc5, Hits, sue telfer, tamara bell, michelle nichol, ken gormly, the second chance, manitoba's, mark lanergan

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