Last Friday night I went down to The Rhythm Hut in Gosford to see Wes Carr’s sell-out show “Here Comes the Sun”, his tribute to the late, great George Harrison. It was an amazing experience from start to finish, beginning with the unique venue. I’ve attended the Hut a couple of times for drumming workshops, but this was the first time I’d been there for a show. Styling itself “the home of Central Coast drumming”, The Rhythm Hut is a not- for-profit organization and many of the staff are volunteers. They specialize in teaching Djembe and other percussion instruments, though there are also fitness classes and occasional drama workshops as well. Regular shows include musical performances, open mic session and the free monthly “5 Lands Experience”, which showcases visiting and local artists and begins with a communal drumming jam. More than just a venue, The Rhythm Hut is a community that loves to welcome new members and visitors alike.
The performance space is cosy and intimate, and I was there early enough to admire the earthy décor and Aboriginal artwork before grabbing myself a comfortable seat in one of the armchairs at the side. I’d already had dinner or I might have availed myself of some of the homemade food that was on offer. The veggie curry smelled delicious, and the apple pie and brownies were very tempting. The show opened with the support artists, Love Me Knot (local musicians, vocalist and guitarist, Zoe and Pablo) who entertained us with a mixture of original compositions, improvised songs, and better known numbers like “The Lion King” hit, “Hakuna Matata”, and Janice Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz”. The Rhythm Hut regularly invites the most popular acts from their open mic nights to support the professional guest artists, and I think this is a lovely way to give exposure to our local emerging talent.
After a short break for more yummies it was time to meet Wes Carr, winner of Australian Idol in 2008. After Idol, Wes’s number 1 hit single, “You”, went Platinum and his Gold selling album “The Way the World Looks” debuted at number 2 on the Aria chart. He won International Acoustic Music’s “Best Male Artist” award in 2013 and was runner up in the international song-writing competition with his song “Lost”, which he co-wrote with Don Walker from Cold Chisel. Since then he has been working on a new project, “Buffalo Tales”, that sees him return to his folk and alt-country roots. Wes has a deeply spiritual side that pervades his music and he credits the former Beatle, George Harrison, for inspiring him to take up transcendental meditation.
Harrison is best remembered as lead guitarist for the sixties musical phenomenon, The Beatles, but he was also a talented songwriter and music and film producer. Although, as a songwriter, he received less attention than the famous writing team of Lennon and McCartney, he was responsible for many of the group’s best loved songs, including “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something”. After The group’s break up he had a successful solo career, recording hits like “My Sweet Lord” and “Give Me Love”. In the late eighties he co-founded the platinum-selling supergroup, The Travelling Wilburys, along with Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 11th out of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”, and he was twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He died in 2001, aged 58, and his ashes were scattered, in accordance with Hindu tradition, in the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in India.*
His individual influence on twentieth-century music is probably under-appreciated, but his introduction of the sitar on the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” was the start of a movement that revolutionized Western music. His collaboration with Indian musician Ravi Shankar and his celebrated conversion to Hinduism and the Hare Krishna tradition not only transformed pop music, but also helped to popularize Indian philosophy in Western culture. As Wes Carr expresses it: “George was a spiritual leader in his own way, as he was a guiding light for so many. Through his music he questioned life and challenged modern day thought . . . I believe he became a vessel to expose the world to ancient traditions, spiritual practices and musical sensibilities that Westerners may not have come across otherwise. The times certainly were ‘a changing’ and George was at the forefront of a global shift that today still rings true for so many. I believe George’s music has more relevance now than it ever did – for all of these reasons, I knew I had to pay tribute to the life and work of George Harrison through a live show.”
He certainly did that. His performance showcased Harrison’s music, from the hits with the Beatles and his solo career to less well known album tracks, but it also paid homage to the man and the philosophy he espoused.
Carr is an extraordinarily talented young man: a gifted musician with an ethereal voice that George himself would have envied. The show was just one man on a stage with an acoustic guitar, yet Wes managed to sample the diverse range of Harrison’s music from haunting songs like “Within and Without You”, to the more rocking numbers such as “Tax Man”, occasionally recreating the weeping of an electric guitar and even the exotic strains of the sitar with his humble acoustic instrument. And the instrumental effects his guitar couldn’t manage, he reproduced with his voice. But the show was about more than the music: it was about the man and his beliefs. Carr cleverly wove the themes from the songs together with quotes and snippets of Harrison’s philosophy, delivered in a Liverpudlian accent which, if it wasn’t perfect, nevertheless evoked an authentic flavour of the man’s background and context, raising the musical performance to the level of bio-drama and, ultimately, spiritual journey. The effect was exhilarating, moving, haunting. Transcendental.
This wasn’t Wes Carr’s first appearance at the Hut and, judging from his reception, it won’t be his last. He received a unanimous standing ovation at the end of the performance. I went away clutching a copy of his “Buffalo Tales” CD album in my fingers, and very much looking forward to his return. His Australian tour continues with his next show – another sell out – in Cowra, but we hope he’ll be back this way again soon. If you’d like to know more about Wes and his music, visit http://www.wescarr.com.au He also has Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/wescarr and https://www.facebook.com/BuffaloTales
The Rhythm Hut also has more events coming up soon. The monthly “5 Lands Experience” on June 28th features special guests, Dubarry, and will be raising money for “GIVE ME 5 FOR KIDS”. The drum circle is at 5pm and the show starts at 6.30pm. Also, on Monday 29th June and Tuesday 14th July, the Hut will be holding free drumming open nights from 6,30pm. For more information on Rhythm Hut shows, workshops and other activities, visit http://therhythmhut.com.au
*Biographical detail courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=George_Harrison