There is nothing like seeing your favourite artists perform live and in person, but there certainly is a special charm to seeing them at your local. Pubs filled to the brim with eager patrons getting in the thick of it, or sprawled out on lawns with deck chairs taking in the serenity and experiencing music as it was intended. We caught up with self-confessed musical fool, Karl S. Williams, to chat all things small town gigs and what he's looking forward to at Oasis Afternoon in St. George.
Where have you been in Outback Queensland?
I was very fortunate in 2022 to tour through Outback Queensland with the Festival of Small Halls. Up until that point, I’d mostly been along the coast, aside from one trip out to Carnarvon Gorge which was just mind-melting. After the Small Halls tour I can say I’ve been to some truly amazing parts of the state like Bollon, Begonia (in the St George Region) and Aramac - although these only touch the edge of the Outback so visiting them really gave me a greater appreciation for the vastness of Queensland.
What are some of your favourite things about performing in regional locations?
Performing in regional locations is always an adventure. It usually means a road-trip and I love to drive so that’s a big plus. I also love to camp and invariably there’s a national park or campground along the way. Of course the thing I love most about regional gigs is the people. Audiences in regional areas have a unique flavour and there’s a sensation of a community coming together to experience music. Furthermore the people running music venues in these places are invariably wonderful humans, champions of their region and I find that really inspiring.
"Of course the thing I love most about regional gigs is the people. Audiences in regional areas have a unique flavour and there’s a sensation of a community coming together to experience music."
How do they compare to city gigs?
Well I always say that the parking is a lot easier! There is a proximity to nature and a sense of community that is different to the city but really in many ways they are also very much alike and both are essential parts of touring. I grew up in small regional towns so I feel strongly about the importance of performing in those places. I know what it’s like to live in a place that is off the beaten track as far as touring artists go, to crave that experience and drive a long way to get it.
Do you have any pre-show or post-show rituals?
I don’t really have any rituals but the whole day of a gig tends to become a dedication to the show. Usually, this means finding some quietude just to think and strum a little. I think of it a bit like winding a spring - conserving energy so you can let it all out on stage.
Post-show I like to talk to people, for me that’s a critical part of the whole exchange. I suppose the pack-up part of the gig is a bit like a ritual. It’s a strangely meditative thing to coil leads and put everything back in its place. I do find that an important part of winding down after a gig.
What has been your most memorable small-town gig? What happened?
There have been so many good ones, it’s hard to choose a favourite. One that comes to mind was recently in Baralaba, Central QLD. It’s quite a small place so I was impressed to see a full house at the hall where we were playing. After the show we walked two doors down to the little pub where we were staying, expecting to find it all quiet but instead it was jumping! I guess when there’s only one place to go, that’s where everyone ends up.
The most memorable part of the gig was a local character, one of our hosts, named Polly. I believe she’s famous up that way, and rightly so - a quintessential larrikin of a bygone era (or maybe not so bygone). I aspire to her level of vivacity and joie de vivre. It was a privilege to share a few libations and soak up some of that energy, which propelled us further into the tour.
Your favourite place to visit in Queensland? Why?
Well I have an ancestral connection to K’gari so any time I’m up in that region feels pretty special, though I haven’t been to the island in forever. Another favourite is Girraween - the scenery is so striking and immense in scale. It is a harsh environment but something about it beckons you in. I was recently given a book of hikes which has a section on that park so I’m looking forward to venturing further into that landscape this year.
Where can we find you on the Outback Trail?
Come find me in St George on April 13 at Oasis Afternoon by the mighty Balonne River. I’m very honoured to be there with Jem Cassar-Daley and Hussy Hicks who are old friends of mine and artists that I admire very much. If I have a chance you might also see me hiding out at C.W. Stoneking in Charleville the week after… I think seeing him and his Primitive Horn Orchestra in an old WWII base would be too perfect!