It was August 26, 2000, and the venue was the famed Esplanade Hotel in the once stately suburb of St Kilda.
The night sky was completely devoid of pheasants for good reason - the 'Pheasant Pluckers,' were inside closing a fund raising crisis concert for Nu Country FM.
Nu Country's humble hi-tech studios at Beer Can Hill in the inner northern suburb of Northcote burned down at 9.49 p m on June 26 - first day of the maverick station's 28th broadcast. So when the 'Pheasant Pluckers' closed a star studded concert headlined by singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman they had no idea they were sewing the seeds for the birth of Nu Country TV.
The benefit, featuring three stages, raised almost $6,000 and enabled the maverick station to rise from the ashes and enjoy three more highly successful broadcasts at Harley House at the Paris, Texas, end, of Collins St.
That cash flow paid the station's bills until its insurance claim was belatedly settled.
So it's fitting that the 'Pheasant Pluckers' are headlining the Nu Country TV launch at the Bush Inn, West Toorak, on Saturday September 20.
Also on the concert are the show's on air host Paul Hicks - a popular Nu Country DJ - and his band 'Broken Spoke' who have recorded an EP.
Fellow Nu Country DJ Red Smith is also bassist for 'Broken Spoke' which features Nu Country technician Rodger Delfos of Dead Livers fame.
Third band on the bill is Melbourne quintet 'Roadhouse' - one of a select group of combos to have their sound enriched by embryonic Nu Country members and pedal steel guitarist Gerard Rowan.
The Pheasant Pluckers have never, except in the metaphorical or metaphysical sense, plucked a pheasant or even a peasant.
Guitarist, singer-songwriter and co-founder Matt Campbell may have come close to plucking a dingo in his forays into the outback.
But, in a decade on the lost highway, the lads have closed a Nu Country FM show for singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman and Little Jewford.
They have also shared stages with 'The Waifs,' 'Bushwhackers' and colourful former Collingwood rover Ronnie Wearmouth.
The lads performed with Wearmouth at one of his rustic Port Fairy hotels during the famed folk festival.But it was not a 5 am session at the 'Star Of The West' which inspired a song of the same name by veteran outlaw band 'The Dead Livers.'
"Oh yeah he sang with us, with a little child's toy policeman's helmet on as I recall, complete with tinted visor 'Chips' style,' Campbell told Nu Country TV.
The Pluckers will have all three CDS on sale including their newest disc, 'Take Me There,' which they launched at the Dan O'Connell.
"When he sang, he pulled the visor down," Campbell recently revealed, "he also did that when he paid us. I think it hurt after all that free beer. We did many weekends at the Victoria in Port Fairy. One weekend we played about 14 hours of music all up. Talk about value for money!!"
Value is what you receive at marathon music matinees and nocturnal shows by a band now celebrating a decade in the saddle on a CD - nine original tunes and a country cut of 'REM' tune 'Drive 8.'
ANGELSEA - COUNTRY MUSIC MECCA
Their career began in the cold Camberwell bungalow of banjo and guitar player Mark South in mid 1993 and has taken them to mainland states and Van Diemens Land.
But the idyllic south west coast retreat of Angelsea was the scene of the rhyme.
And, it was there at the Parker Street corral that fiddler Paul Jonas wrote 'Angelsea Waltz' - the album finale."We recorded the album down there in a little beach house," Campbell revealed, "we wrote Anglesea Waltz while awaiting the other guys to come down. Paul came to do a few fiddle parts and we had a few drinks and finished it by 2 am. Angelsea lent itself to the name. I spent school holidays down there from 15 to 20 and learned to drink at the Rookery Nook.
"Holidays also inspired 'I'm Thinkin' Texas' - he wanted to go to Texas, she wanted to visit London.
TEXAS V LONDON
"The relationship is on the rocks when you have problems figuring where you want to go for a holiday," says Campbell who now enjoys the charms of a less geographically challenged partner - the source of 'I'm With You.'"
I wanted to go to Texas and check out the country music there and the southern U.S. and she wanted to go to London."
Campbell will wed the woman in 'I'm With You' - his loyal partner of three years - in October.
Jonas, upright bassist and vocalist Rod Boothroyd and Keith Ludekens on harmonica, mandolin, percussion and vocals keep the dingoes from their doors with physical day jobs.
Definitely not a cyber spawned band blown along by the ebb and flow of trends and chat groups.
WORKING CLASS PLUCKERS
Campbell, 33, runs a factory between Dandenong and Hallam of hydraulic machinery manufacturing plastic engineering parts and did his time in the outback and bush beer and wine mines.
So it's no surprise Pheasant Pluckers play an eclectic blend of bluegrass and country folk that is oft perceived as thrashgrass when their playing peaks.Although they cut a few covers on their first two discs it was originals such as 'Five Million Star Hotel', 'Two Days Of Driving,' 'Simon' and 'Where I Left Off' which ignited feedback on community radio.
'One Good Reason' was inspired by towns that Campbell visited in his days on the work road.
Campbell, born in Sandringham, lived in Perth for three years and worked in towns such as Kununurra on the north west shelf of W.A. and with his brother in the Gulf Of Carpenteria.
"I've driven through so many country towns where it's great to know you have open ended period of time," Campbell revealed, "you can stop and say I can stay here and work on this guy's farm for three weeks or so. I threw a relationship in and the couple bought a house in the song."
CAPTAIN KIRK BLEEPLESS
The Pheasant Pluckers owe their success to extensive exposure of their eclectic music at gigs and the support of fans and community radio - especially a hot gospel DJ.
Like a high noon Freudian flip by former Windsor Hotel doorman Neil Kirk after he back announced a 'Pleasant Fuckers' Nu Country FM double shot.
Stunning punning is second nature for the quartet who are supported by 'Merri Creek' at their launch.
Multi instrumentalist Ludeken, a road builder by day, wrote 'Song For Rosie' about his daughter but it's 'Cirrhosis Of The Lover' that gives him a liver start in song title of the year.
"It was just a song that came to me about alcohol and relationships," Keith says, "it was despite of, or as well as, because of, just the relationship of it.
It took a couple of days to finish. Maybe that turn of phrase was hopping around in my head for a while." Campbell believes the song is a little deeper than a modest Ludeken admits.
"When I first heard Keith playing it on the mandolin I nearly turned inside out," says Campbell, "I picked up on the pun and when I recorded and mixed it the song really grew on me.
It's quite a deep song."
Further info - www.pheasantpluckers.com.au
The Broken Spoke was an authentic honky tonk style kicker bar beer and wine mines just south of the 'Split Rail' on South Lamar in Texas capital Austin.You could buy beer and wine at the bar but if you wanted hard liquor you had to bring your own spirits and mix them with set ups of your choosing from the bar.
But that was 1978 and times and liquor laws have changed for mine host James White whose country oasis, born in 1964, advertises 'good country music and chicken fried steak.'White's venue inspired the careers of artists diverse as Shotgun Willie Nelson, Asleep At The Wheel, Gary P Nunn and 'The Sons of The Bunkhouse' and Alvin P Crowe & The Pleasant Valley Boys.'
These days the 'Split Rail' has gone to God and the Broken Spoke has a full liquor licence.
It has also given birth to fast rising Melbourne country band 'Broken Spoke.' Broken Spoke was formed from the ashes of The Hay Balers who were fronted by Nu Country DJS - Paul Hicks (vocals and guitar), bassist Red Smith and Hans Herdina (guitar) - and singer Connie Rose.
They debuted at a Nu Country showcase at the Bush Inn in the winter of 2002 and opened Wandong Country Music fest which was filmed by veteran drummer Geoff Cox's Nine Network show 'Postcards.'
A courageous bowel cancer battle by Herdina, who checked out of hospital when he was having chemotherapy to play Nu Country concerts, was a tonic for the veteran guitarist.Hans lost his battle on June 6 - just 15 days short of his 56th birthday and two days shy of his 40th wedding anniversary with wife Cheryl whom he wed when he was 15 and she was 14.
Broken Spoke now features singer Hicks, bassist Red Smith, Dead Livers guitarist Rodger Delfos and veteran expatriate Kiwi drummer Ron Mahoney.
Mahoney also performs with Brent Parlane and 'The Whiskey Dogs' featuring Steve Boyd. The quartet has recorded new original songs by Oxley born Hicks and will have an EP on sale at the Nu Country TV launch. Delfos played with the 'Wild Beaver Band,' 'One Armed Bandit, 'Vic State Opry,' 'E Cool' and 'Sons Of The Outback.' Subject:
Melbourne quintet Roadhouse describe their rootsy country music as 'Western swing-a-billy.'
The band, formed two years ago, prides itself on its good time original country music and has a fast growing enthusiastic following to verify that Roadhouse released an 11 track CD, 'Mile For Mile', in August and mainly plays north of the Yarra in Melbourne.
But on September 20, the band has been issued visas for a foray south of the Yarra into West Toorak.
Guitarist Jody Galvin wrote three of the tunes on the band's CD - 'Long Way From Home,' 'Freight Train' and 'No Damage Done.' The singer has also recorded two solo CDS in a career that has taken her overseas with forays into 15 countries.
Bassist Kerry Gilmartin has toured nationally with Archie Roach, Ruby Hunter and Judy Small and played on releases by Rose Bygraves and Tiddas.
Pianist Dave Buckley and drummer Dave Joseph have worked the local arts and music circuit for two decades.And pedal steel guitarist Gerard Rowan has done time with the 'Fallen Angels,' Lisa Miller, Tess McKenna, Doug Mansfield & 'The Dust Devils,' 'Aardvark Zillionaires', 'Moonee Valley Drifters' and many more.
Further info - www.roadhousetheband.net