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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Audience Participation, Yea or Nay?

Hi there,

I had a dream recently that I was on a tropical island. It was my birthday, my mother was there, and I was watching a male strip show. One of them dances off the stage and comes my way. As I try to shrink behind Mum, he goes to grab my hand to pull me onstage...then...wait a minute! None of that was a dream! Yes this really happened, and since this was Noumea I frantically repeated: 'Non Merci! Non Merci!' until the Chippendales wannabe targetted another hapless soul instead. So now you're probably wondering what I was doing at a strip show with my Mum in Noumea? Well that might have to remain a mystery because my actual topic for today is audience participation.
Awkward Stripper Photo courtesy of

I make my living onstage and it is one of my favourite places to be - but only when I feel I belong there (and being the object of a stripper's gyrations is more my idea of wrong place, wrong time). I often try to incorporate an element that includes the audience, whether it is encouraging clapping along, asking a question or two, or in some cases getting someone to join me onstage. I am all for breaking through the fourth wall - I think it is a music performer's job to engage the audience. But let's get back to the strippers...apart from a two minute sloppily choreographed opening sequence, every single part of their show consisted of dragging at least one audience member up to the stage to share the bump and grinding duties. They decimated the fourth wall with one kick from their underdressed quadriceps. If I have spent the time and money to experience professional entertainment I want to be entertained by the professionals, not drunken hens' party escapees.

I work in some bands where audience participation is considered on par with karaoke, far too 'cabaret' (said with a sneer) for some but I don't mind a bit of cheesy goodness as long as it is not the only ingredient on offer. What do you think?


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An Only Child #!t&c*h! Chick Singer

Hi there,

My hackles heighten when I hear Only Children described as 'Spoilt!' 'Wrapped in cotton wool!' 'Entitled!'. Surely this is a form of minority discrimination? Yes I am an Only Child and while I can be contented in my own company for days on end, I adore hanging out with other people in the universe I live in - the one that I know I'm not the centre of, thank you very much. 

And it seems I am doubly afflicted. I am also a chick singer, OMG! 'Demanding Diva!' 'Bitch!' 'High Maintenance!'. In most of the gigs I do, I am the only female in a band full of male musicians, and I have a great time with the blokes. But, there is something about singing and working with other female singers that I love - we understand each other and we can talk about hair-related issues for hours. More importantly, when female voices combine in harmony, it can be nothing less than transportive. 

Some of the best musical working experiences I've ever had have been with other female singers. AND I should know - looking back over my career I have lost count of how many musical projects I have done with other chicks. My very first foray was an original rap/pop project with two other girls (and Hugh Jackman was our backing dancer for a while there, true story!). 

Tomorrow I will be performing in intertwining brass-like harmony with two wonderful singers as The Andrews Sisters' Nieces. I'm currently in a show with two other fabulous girls in the First Ladies of Soul and have recently put my own show together with three up front, called The Swell Sisters. I ran a showcase for female-fronted original music acts, called PopTarts, for almost 10 years, came across hundreds of female singers and barely a bitch in sight. 

Singing with other women feels like belonging to something where the whole surpasses the sum of its parts. Maybe that's what it's like to be a part of a large family. That I'll never know, but instead, let me be the low A to your B and D (the heavenly harmony stack at the very end of 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' - it's a corker!),


Check out my Swell Sisters: