Yesterday, I returned home from the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
This was my second time attending Tamworth, with the last one being in 2011. This year’s festival was filled with its fair share of highs and lows but for the most part, I had an incredible time. I met countless amounts of new people and talented fellow-musicians who I am humbled to now call friends. I saw at least 2 gigs each day that left me both envious and excited for the incredible talent out there in the Australian Country and Alt-Country music scenes. Particular highlights for me were the Late Night Alt Country gigs on the second floor of the Tudor Hotel held over 3 nights from the Wednesday to the Friday. Finally, I was blown away by the generosity and genuine kindness as other performers who are much more organised than me invited – no, encouraged – me to share their stage and my songs. Special mention for this one goes out the Gretta Ziller, Andrew Swift, Ben Bunting, Katrina Burgoyne, and the Cruisin’ Deuces.
Polaroid with Fanny and Dan at the Faceless Men Gig – Photo by Nick Payne
Cruisin’ Sam Newton – Photo by Kristin Moore
This year was also the year where I decided that I would hit Peel St as a busker and play my music no matter how many Karaoke, Pop Princesses with pickups on cheap guitars, John Butler impersonators, or Bolivian Pan Flutes with overpowered backing tracks. I went out into the heat with my trolley of gear in one hand and guitar in the other. I played for blocks of 4-5 hours making as much as $100 or as little as $13.40. Peel St was heartbreaking but now I can say that I’ve done it. I can bitch and moan about the plight of busking in such a cacophony of noise where 80% of the buskers aren’t even performing country music at a country music festival. I have put my money where my mouth is. Unless certain measures are put into place in following years, or if I can convince a band to suffer alongside me, I don’t think I’ll be busking again.
My busking setup in Tamworth 2016 – Photo by Gillian Turner
Nick Payne joined me for a couple of songs – Photo by Ben Thomas.
We (attended with my partner in crime, Gilly) also camped this festival. Camping Tamworth is hard. Waking up with a hangover at 7am in 32deg heat is hard. But there is nobody to blame for this one except ourselves. Word of warning – if you decided to camp and can deal with the weather (in particular the humidity), bring expensive ear plugs. There is a strong possibility that you might be camping next door to a championship snorer. Word of warning for the wise.
The 2016 Tamworth Country Music Festival was a fantastic experience. The highs hugely outweighed the lows and I will be there next year with some proper gigs organised and bandmates to help perform my songs. See you there!
Towards the end of last year while I was overseas, my housemate sent me a message to notify me that he had brought his grandma’s record player home… I didn’t know how to react. While I was really exciting about the prospect of delving into the wonderful world of vinyl, I also knew that it would mean the beginnings of a very expensive and addictive hobby… No, not hobby. Passion. As expected, I returned home with an assortment of great records picked up at various Brooklyn flea markets. Vinyl records have been making a massive comeback over the past few years. The tangible, physical value of vinyl over CDs, in addition to the superior listening experience that a good home setup carries over digital audio is more than enough of a reason for this. In my trip to the USA, including New York, I was amazed to discover that many of the independent artists out there aren’t evening bothering to press CD’s anymore. What is becoming more and more apparent, is that a new release will be pressed to a limited run of vinyls, which include a digital voucher of the CD, as well as regular digital distribution. To me, this makes perfect sense except for the whole “recorded in digital, pressed to analog” thing. I’m curious whether the sound quality will be all that better.
Our HiFi Setup
So after working for a short time with my housemate’s grandma’s basic 90’s Kenwood vinyl setup, we both decided that it would be a sound investment to buy some more expensive gear and do this thing for real. So off we went to get a vinyl player. Pat (housemate) picked out a nice Sansui P-50 from Classic HiFi in Newtown up the road. Next, was a decent amp. My dad is an electrical engineer and he happens to have lots of nice gear just ‘lying around’. So he lent me his Sansui 555a on a permanent basis. Finally, Pat and I went back to Classic HiFi and picked out a pair of nice sounding Dali Speakers. All setup! …. Except for one thing. A few weeks later, the vinyl collection was getting a little out of hand.
After scouring the internet for worthwhile vinyl storage solutions, we decided to go basic and collect a bunch of plastic milk crates. We would spray paint black and it would all work out. Cheap and easy. However, it didn’t work out. The records did not fit into the crates with their protective plastic sleeves. Aargh. That was it. The final straw. So I proposed to Pat that if he bought the materials, I would make us some nice DIY vinyl storage. Another project and an opportunity to get my Handyman-Sam hat on. And so I am lead to writing this post. Here, I’ll put up all of the measurements that I came up with and detail the experience that I had in making this basic storage solution. I’ll warn you, I’m no expert. So I learnt a few lessons along the way. All of which I’ll share with you. If anyone else decides to make something similar, please let me know so I can see how it looks! Feel free to use my design in any way that you wish that isn’t aimed at commercial gain.
DIY vinyl storage
Plan of Attack
I wanted my design to be simple, stackable and sturdy. It is shaped like a cube, but a little wider to allow for more records + browsing space. On the back, it has to planks of ply that run over the top and bottom with the aim of added extra strength and squaring the box up to proper 90 degree angles. It uses 30mm pine wood with a walnut varnish and has 2 strips of wood on the bottom and one on the top to allow it to be stacked. All in all, very simple.
Things you’ll need
An electric or battery operated drill.
An assortment of drill bit sizes including a phillips head attachment.
Fine sandpaper. Use either 240 or 320 – no smaller than 240. It should look a grey sort of colour. I made a mistake and got some sandpaper that was too course. It ended up OK though because I was able to smooth out bit of wood that had splintered when it was cut.
Stain & Varnish – Pick a colour that you like. I used Walnut Satin.
8G x 50mm Timber Screws – 50 pack will be sufficient.
Sanding block. You’ll need this. Trust me. Better yet, get an electric sander.
Newspaper to put the wood on while varnish dries.
A slab that is a sufficient size for your project. Mine was 900x2100mm.
1. Pick out the type of wood that you want to use. As cheap as ply is, it warps fairly easily. And unless you get anything thicker than 16mm, it might not be sturdy enough. My own research has also lead me to the conclusion that varnish is no good on ply. So if it’s the woody-texture that you’re after, ply is no good. The big slab of ply that we picked out was $89 from Bunnings. In my opinion, that isn’t too bad at all. After all, this is the most important ingredient.
2. Cut the wood to size. For our two vinyl record boxes, here are the measurements:
Top and Bottom panels = 410x325mm (x4)
Side panels = 330x325mm (x4)
Back supports = 410×150 (x4)
Feet = 325×100 (x2, unless you want both boxes to have them – x4)
Top connector = 325×50 (x1, unless you want both boxes to have them – x2)
If you’re lucky, you’ll get all of the measurements cut to size and the friendly guy working at Bunnings won’t charge you for it. I don’t have a table saw, you see.
3. Time to get sanding! Whip out that sanding block that I mentioned earlier and sand up the wood until it is nice and smooth using either 240 or 320 grade paper. REMEMBER:SAND WITH THE GRAIN.
4. Paint your first layer of varnish. Make sure you stir the tin before you begin. Don’t layer the brush too thick, otherwise you’ll get too much drip going over the sides of the wood. Paint one side, let it dry and paint the other. This is the part where you have to be the most patient. When you set it up to dry, I would recommend against lying it flat on the newspaper like I did. It increases the possibility that the wet parts will stick to the newspaper which is a massive pain to peel off. Best set it up on an angle like you’ll see a bit lower.
5. After the first coat is all dry on both sides, time to get sanding again. This is also an opportunity to look over the job that you did and sand out any drip or remove brush hairs that you didn’t catch during the first layer.
6. Once you’ve sanded this layer back nice and smooth, get painting on another coat. Same drill as before, where you’ll be really careful with any drips and lose brush hairs. Slow and steady, my friends. Don’t rush it by slapping a whole bunch on the wood at a time. Here is where I decided to start laying the drying wood against the wall on an angle. Much recommended, so long as the base is on about 45degrees to the floor.
7. Guess what, time to sand again! If you’re doing a really good varnish job, your main goal here should be the smoothness factor. For me, I was happy with two layers of varnish. So after sanding, I commenced the fun part – puting it together!
8. Sitting the top or bottom panels above the sides, estimate some good spots to screw in and mark them with a pencil. Using a drill bit around the same size as the screw, drill in accordingly. I think the one that I used was about 3mm. After the pilot holes are all made, get a larger drill bit and drill into the wood just a little bit to be sure that the head of the screw won’t stick out at all. This is essential for a final, polished look.
9. Once the top and sides are all screwed in, attach the panel supports on the back. Don’t be shy about being forceful when squaring up the corners with the boards. This part will be necessary in making an equal box. Drill in screws as before and use as many as you feel you need.
10. The final part of this project is attaching the wood that will allow the boxes to lock together. I had a whole bunch of trouble with this part because my friendly Bunnings cutter didn’t do too good a job on the dimensions of my pieces of wood. Even still, do the best with what you have and be sure to use that tape measure with plenty of patience.
11. All finished! Carry your handy-work inside and set it up somewhere that all of your vinyl-collecting friends will be sure to see, and be jealous of. Well done!
Here is my finished product:
You know what they say… ‘If you want something done right, do it yourself.’ And so far, I’ve yet to find any DIY vinyl storage solutions that are simple, cheap and long-term. I’ve managed to make a set of quality boxes for less than $120 with less than a day’s solid work if you don’t count all of the time spent waiting for the varnish to dry. They also look great. Enjoy!
It’s always tricky writing a catch-up post after leaving it so long without any updates on this page. This must be mostly due to the pressure that I put on myself to include absolutely everything. Writing now, I have surrendered to the prospect that I will indeed miss out on a thing or two. But that’s OK! Also, apologies for the politically charged post that has remained on my front page for such a long period now. I think I’ve gotten my stance on that area clear enough now. Anyway… less waffle, more news.
In a sort of proof of life effort (you can call me George Clooney), I’ve posted up a preview mix of one of the tracks that will feature on my upcoming Debut Album (expect it early next year). It’s called Sleeping Spirits and you can listen to it via my Soundcloud:
In the past month and a bit, I’ve also played a whole bunch of shows. Two of these stood out to me when I booked them, and are worth a bit of a reflection.
Proper Music Social @ the Union Hotel (headliner) on 26th September – Played as a 4 piece band in the first show with drummer Tim Parsons. What a great gig. The current lineup of guys playing with me all know the songs pretty well and the sound is meshing really well. I’ll be sure to book some more band gigs in over the new year.
Folk Informal @ FBi Social on 17th October – My first time playing at this wonderful space. Performed as a solo act in a slightly shorter set than usual. It was really nice. Good environment to really sing out my lyrics and get some of my story songs across. Also a really great lineup on the night. The other artists were:
* Brendon Moon (sorry Brendon, couldn’t find a link)
* All Our Ex’s Live in Texas
* Lily So & the Bellows
Here’s a gallery that I’ve just put up with pics from the gig:
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be finishing up with my University degree! This means that I’ll be a full fledged High School Music Teacher which will be a perfect compliment for my career as a poor original singer/songwriter. It’s possible to have 2 careers at the same time, right? Of course it is.
To celebrate this, I’m heading off to the United States of America with my girlfriend for 5-6 weeks. There’ll be a few gigs along the way with a majority of our time spent in locations such as NYC, Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis and Chicago. As expected, I’m REALLY excited. 🙂