Saturday, February 18, 2012

Heron Island - Singles Table

A hostess greeted me at the entrance of the Heron Island restaurant.  She explained that they had assigned seating for the guests.  Since I was there by myself, I was assigned to the singles table.  I did not like this news, I’m kinda shy and like to just sit by myself.  I didn’t protest but I wasn’t comfortable.  She showed me to my table.  I don’t remember if I was the first there or not but soon there were four of us at the table.  A shy young Australian kid.  Lori, a girl from the US who had been on a semester abroad and was doing a little traveling before returning home, and Matt Zarb, a bald Australian man with big loop earrings that looked like Mr. Clean.  The shy kid didn't say much during the meal and neither did I.  We just listened to the conversation between the other two.  

Eventually the topic of guitars somehow came up.  That not only got my attention, it also got me talking.  Matt obviously played guitars.  The two of us were soon talking about guitars and our favorite music.  He told me about Paul Kelly and other Australian singer song writers.  I told him about Greg Brown, Lucy Kaplansky, Leo Kottke and others.  He was very interested in the music I was telling him about and wanted to know how I had heard of these artists.  He asked me if I had heard of Dakoda Blonde.  I had not.  He said a friend of his had sent him their CD.  They were from the US and did a great version of “Down Under” but they got some of the lyrics wrong.  We ended up staying there long after dinner talking about music.  Lori stayed too occasionally joining the conversation when she could get a word or two in.  Eventually, Lori asked Matt something about performing that night.  Matt was the entertainment for the resort and was going to be performing soon.  I didn’t realize I was talking to an artist of that level.  I thought he just loved music like I did.  

I went to the lounge for Matt’s performance that night.  There were only a few of us there but Matt played as if playing for a packed house.  He played a mix of his own songs and covers.  Between each song he took “A sip o’ me beer.”  He took request and seemed to know just about everything.  He played a fantastic version of “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”  He played most of that song scratching the strings with his pick and creating a fantastic rhythm.  He played “Down Under” to the delight of us foreigners.  
I looked forward to the singles table after that.  Matt was so much fun to be around.  He never acted like he was special because he was a talented performer.  He enjoyed hanging out with us as much as we enjoyed having him at the table.  He told us what it’s like trying to make a living as a musician.  Explained some Aussie slang.  I remember he swam around the island every morning to stay in shape.  He told me there were a bunch of sting rays and shovel rays that gathered just off the west side of the island in the late afternoon (this made for some nice snorkeling).  He told the funniest jokes I have ever heard.  Although it was his delivery with a jolly Australian accent that I enjoyed the most.  I hung out at the lounge each evening to listen to Matt play.  He’s seemed to always be having so much fun it was impossible not to enjoy his show.  
I got Matt’s address and later sent him a CD with my favorite songs from the artists I told him about.  I don’t know if he received it or not.  I searched for him on the internet but couldn’t find him.  A few years later I did find him on the internet.  He had recorded a few CD’s with his brother.  I was able to get them at CDBaby.  His song “Vincent Road” has become one of my favorites.  It’s about the home he grew up in and how he sometimes wishes he could go back there.  On his web site he once wrote that he did go back there and was disappointed.  It wasn’t the way he remembered and he said he doesn’t want to go back no more.  It is still a fantastic song.  I think we all have a “Vincent Road” somewhere.  
Matt spent some time in the US but he is back in Australia and performs often.  I hope I can catch one of his shows next time I am in Australia.  I really shouldn't be so shy about talking to people I don't know.  Especially when traveling.  

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