The Chess Set - Live at The Merry Muse Folk Club Canberra - Review

Autumn 2005 Monaro Musings

Pat Drummond At The Merry Muse.

Craig Dawson

Singer - songwriters are an interesting, unique, often moody yet highly creative breed. What is bizarre is a
desire within sectors of the public to pigeon hole them as 'Australia' s answer to ...' or ' He/She sounds like (insert famous name)' or 'He/She is the (insert famous name from the past) of our generation'. It is a process of labelling which helps us to understand our environment by constructing limitations within the safety of familiarity. It happens in other areas of the arts and I have heard it time and time again with Pat Drummond. The trouble is, each songwriter is unique and often impossible to pigeon hole.

I first saw Pat perform solo at the Imperial Hotel in Tamworth at the Country Music Festival in January of 1989. What struck me was hearing his dynamic fingerstyle guitar playing which back then was loud and aggressive just like his stage presence, and vocal delivery. I came back and saw him the next day with the intention of listening closely to his lyrics. Suddenly I was hooked! That was it for me. Within the next year I had quit the band, sold my electric and I had gone back to the business of concentrating on fingerstyle techniques and songwriting. I met Pat not long after and we have been friends ever since.

I have seen Pat perform many concerts over the last 15 years. I have watched him perform as a journalist and story teller, a jokerman and a rock 'n' roller. I have seen his softer side of songwriting and performing with duo partner Karen Lynne and even watched him in awe as he composed songs such as 'David's Watch' and 'Robbie's Got A Gun' without a pen and paper. (He just writes them in his head!!!) I was present, (and an intoxicated participant), the night that inspired the song 'Conversation as a Bloodsport' so I knew Pat had 'the gravel in the guts' and the 'spit in the eye' back then, that he demonstrated on stage at The Merry Muse last week.

This performance was unlike anything he had done before and defies description. Dressed in a shirt that was half white and half black and sporting a 'half moustache', Pat had 3 microphones set up for a one man show. The microphone on stage left was the dark, angry, left wing knight, the right was the white, conservative, 'maintain the current status quo' knight and the middle, when needed, was the mediator between the two. Whatever microphone he used was dependent upon the sermon and subsequent song that was being delivered. Occasionally the mediator would jump in for a badly needed break between the sermons if not to try and bring some common ground to what literally becamea battle field between the two Pats. It was a war between the two sides of politics and cranky idealism vs acceptance. Accusations were hurled, each knight trying to make the other guilty for the faults of the world using the baby boomer generation as the ball. There were no saccharine pop songs here. There was no room for escape. It was a mirror and suddenly it was being held up in our faces whether we liked it or not.

We had no choice but to have a good long hard look at ourselves as Australians and the reflection we saw was not pretty. Though, in saying that, it was by no means the look of death. In fact, far from it.

Pat was singing songs from his new double CD package 'The Chess Set.' The names of the two CDs pretty much sums up the flavour of the night - 'The Descent of Age' and 'The Age of Dissent.' In addition to merely performing all new material he managed to include someold favourites into the show including 'Working For The RTA,' 'Flicker of An Eye' and 'The Sao Song.' The audience were given a paper and pen to answer questions throughout the show and at one stage, a friend of Pat's handed out Sao biscuits to theaudience in a challenge to fit a Sao into their gob in one go. Drummond proved he could fit three!!! I left the show thankful it was the Pat of 2005 rather than the one of the 80s and early 90s which may well have had us running for cover.

So what box does this fit into? Throw in a bit of Ralph McTell's guitar playing and mix Harry Chapin's dynamic vocals and narrative style songwriting with Bob Dylan's early protest songs and you still don't come close. There is no pigeon holing Pat Drummond. He is not an answer to any domestic or overseas act and never will be. He answers to no one but the identity of Australians and how we live and accommodate ourselves in an uncertain and too often perilous environment.

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