Tag Archives: Maleny

Monday night at the Upfront Club


Lee Hardisty (on saxophone) jams with an impromptu ‘Blackboard Night’ band. Photo: Laurel Wilson

Driving into Maleny on a Monday night and this little country town in the hills of the Sunshine Coast hinterland is quiet. The Maleny Hotel has a few cars in the car park, the IGA Supermarket is host to a few late shoppers. Everything else on the main street is closed: except for a small cafe full of diners, light and noise, all of which spill out onto the footpath. It’s a strange contrast to the rest of the night. Drive for five minutes either way and the most activity you’ll see is cows sleeping in their paddocks.

What draws a lively crowd into this little cafe on a quiet Monday night?

Monday night is Blackboard night at the Upfront Club where musicians put their name down for a 15 minute appearance on a tiny stage and the diners are presented with a musical lucky dip. Professionals share the tiny stage with amateurs as the Club patrons dine, wine and applaud. Veterans of stage and tours alongside teenage debutants. The musicians’ efforts earn them a free meal and diners can put money in the hat that’s passed around to make a modest ‘prize’ for the best acts of the night.

As we arrive local guitarist Rob Longstaff is singing his song “Ghosts of the Chelsea Hotel”, before finishing his set with a raunchy, stomping number accompanied by his mate saxophone supremeo Lee Hardisty. Both of them have toured internationally and recorded; both call Maleny home.

Our meal tonight is a pumpkin and chickpea fritter, splashed with sour cream and served on a bed of green salad and beans. The menu is full of organic food and the display cabinet is full of amazing cakes. The staff, many of whom are volunteers, are kept busy taking meals out and bringing dirty plates back inside.

A harp and a large flute. Note the blackboard with time slots and musician's names.

A harp and a very large flute. Note the blackboard with time slots and musician’s names. Photo: Laurel Wilson

The musicians step up for 15 minutes of fame and the Club hums with music and conversation. Out the front on the footpath the tables are full as kids run around and adults stand and talk. Monday is the night many locals drop in to catch up and there is a lot of friendly chatter as the different acts come and go.

In less than two hours we’ve heard guitars, saxophone, trumpet, drums, harp, a Cittern and voices young and old singing everything from folk music to devotional mantras. Monday at the Upfront Club is the night to hear what an amazing musical community sounds like.

Pale headed rosella, late summer 2014

It was the yellow I saw first. A yellow-headed bird. He had his back to us, and his shoulders and the back of his head were this startling yellow. A bright butter yellow on this dull, wet morning. The night’s rain hadn’t exhausted the clouds, and they drifted around the trees and houses as mist, making everything subdued, flatter, slower. The moist air was chilly; almost startling after the heat of the last few days.

A typical Pale Headed Rosella from behind

We were out the back of the house we were sitting, sharing a cup of tea on the little garden bench under the eaves. The backyard fell away down the slope and the low, misty clouds flowed around the trees and over the lawns. Suddenly my partner pointed to this vividly coloured parrot perched a few metres away that neither one of us had noticed. He’d been there when we came out and only after we’d started to relax did he become apparent. A parrot with a yellow head and shoulders and a lower half of deep dark blue. Like someone had draped a silk hood of shimmering yellow over a jacket of dark blue feathers. We started talking about what sort of photo we could take. You wanted to include the lawn’s generous harvest of dandelions, the little yellow starbursts waving in a sea of grass leaves. I was keener on a good zoom lens shot.

As the conversation meandered we intermittently admired the parrot as he perched there on the fence, flamboyant and watchful. Suddenly there was a neat stretch of wing-feathers and we saw a flash of more colours. Then the parrot stretched his other wing; a smooth snap of feathers that happened in a blink. “Was there some red there?” my partner wondered.

Side view of the Pale Headed Rosella

Side view of the Pale Headed Rosella

The parrot abrubtly turned around, pirouetting in a moment. Before the small bird had been tantalising us, looking over his shoulder. Now, here he was in all his glory: his face was pale yellow, and his breast and waistcoat and outside wings were lapus lazuli, shot through with a royal dark blue. And behind his legs, the underside of hisĀ  tail was a dark red, unexpectedly vivid against the blue. “He’s got three colours!” we exclaimed, delighted at this splendid fellow’s display on this chilly Maleny morning. And he perched and watched and waited, as birds do on cold mornings, hoping for something other than wet and cold to appear.

Then he shifted and for a moment he was like a swimmer on the starting block, poised and intent. And then bang! the wings flare out, the legs straighten and this bundle of feathered colour leaps into a beautiful blurred arc that takes him to a higher perch in a nearby pine tree. We look up at him now, as he surveys and preens. Our conversation meanders on until at one point we notice he is gone. Now there’s just the fence and the countless yellow dandelions in the drizzle, and the houses across the small gully are disappearing behind the waves of mist.