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Off the beaten track

Friday, 2nd April, 2021

By Neil Pigot

 

What would happen if you stuck

10 artists on a rock and roll tour bus

during a pandemic and drove them in

to the middle of the desert?

That’s exactly what writer producer Julien

Poulson wondered while he was sitting out

last year’s lockdown. And so he decided to

find out.

“We were offered a bus, the luxurious

type Stevie Nicks might travel in and the

plan sort of evolved to head inland and see

what happened.

“So in September last year that’s what we

did.”

The passengers included visual artists,

writers, performance artists and photographers

along with Australian musician and

songwriter Steve Kilbey, front man of

the seminal Australian alt rock band The

Church.

But getting Kilbey along for the ride

wasn’t easy.

He initially didn’t want to go. “The desert?

Why would I want to go out there?”

But Poulson convinced him that it would

be an opportunity for renewal, a chance

to go out into the emptiness of outback

Australia following the great legends of

Australia’s mythical inland sea. And luckily,

“something clicked.”

What has emerged is “The Road To

Tibooburra”, a brand new Australian rock

and roll musical featuring 12 songs by the

same man that gave us “Under The Milky

Way Tonight” and “Unguarded Moment”,

two tunes that have, over time, become

iconic parts of the Australian rock music

soundtrack.

The play, also written by Kilbey, takes

its inspiration from the strange and still

unsolved disappearance of musician James

Jaeger near Rockhampton in 1999. It’s a

play Poulson likens to “a cross somewhere

between Priscilla and Wake in Fright”.

“It’s a rock concert with a story to tell.

A broken family drama playing out in the

Australian desert in the time of COVID-19.”

And it was Jaeger’s story that brought the

creative odyssey to Broken Hill as part of

the journey.

The only child to parents James and

Elizabeth Jaeger who migrated to Australia

from England shortly after World War II,

Jaeger was born in Broken Hill in 1960.

A gifted pianist, he was sent to Sydney

Grammar in his high school years, discovered

the guitar and started playing in the

band The Disciples shortly after.

Aka Laud Jim, Jaeger transformed himself

into an enigmatic psych-blues minstrel

who in recent times has been positively

compared to the equally enigmatic English

singer songwriter Nick Drake.

Having started a road trip from Sydney to

Townsville in March 1999, he was last seen

in Rockhampton before his abandoned car

was found parked at an isolated beach later

that month, complete with his much loved

12 string guitar.

Questions about his disappearance still

plague his family and in February, American

independent record label “Light in the Attic”

reissued Jaegers self-titled album “Laud

Jim”, along with a collection of previously

unreleased demos, titled “The Morning of

The Night Before,” to critical acclaim. All of

which serves to deepen what Poulson calls

Jaegers “eerie, essential strangeness.”

The play which features, amongst other

things, an appearance by the ghost of Stevie

Wright, the now departed lead singer of the

Easybeats, had its first public airing with a

series of ‘proof of concept’ performances in

Newcastle last week and the response was

overwhelmingly positive.

Meanwhile, the show’s house band, The

Broken Hillbillies, are stepping into the

recording studio to lay down the 12-song

soundtrack.

And Poulson is keen to continue developing

the work with a series workshops and

shows in Broken Hill later this year as part

of the Mundi Mundi bash. Of course, a few

gigs from the Broken Hillbillies will be part

of the deal.

“It’s one hot band.” he said.

 

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