Appalachian ambassadors return home from Australia
Some local Pocahontas County musicians recently returned from a two week trip to Australia where they headlined in an old-time festival and got a chance to see some real Aussie culture.
"The Bing Brothers and Jake Krack" consists of Mike Bing on mandolin, Tim Bing on banjo, Jake Krack on fiddle, guitarist Bob Lieving, and bassist Tim Corbett.
Mike said this is actually his third trip to Australia, but this is the first time the whole band has gone together.
"We did a festival - the Yarra Junction Fiddler's Convention. It was the 30th anniversary so it was nice to be there for that. We were the headline from the United States, the main band. It went really good. There was some bluegrass there, but this was mainly old-time. We were there for one week, then we took off and traveled," laughed Bing.
Bing said they shared their knowledge of old-time music with their hosts, but the friendship has actually been a longstanding one.
"We all did workshops for them because this music, it's kind of new to them. But one of our hosts, Ken McMaster, he's Australian, he had started this years ago with the help of some other people. He was really into the music, and it's really developed since then," Bing said. "Two of the guys I know, Tony and Tom, they came out when I lived at Minnehaha in 1986. They wanted to go meet Sherman Hammons. They came out and had dinner with us, it goes that far back."
Bing said the Australian musicians they played with are trying to learn the Appalachian style for which West Virginia is famous.
"They're into old-time, they have more of an opinion of it than we do," joked Bing. "It's the same instruments, the same style. It loses some in translation, but they're trying to get the old West Virginia sound, that old mountain sound. They try to strive for that."
Bing said he enjoyed the Australian cuisine he came across.
"It was good, particularly their meat. Their beef, anything you had in the beef line was good. Seafood - pretty good, also," Bing commented.
Bing said he is already accustomed to vegemite, an Australian staple, from previous trips.
According to australianfood.about.com, "vegemite is a dark brown, savory spread and without a doubt the most famous Australian food. Vegemite is an acquired taste, probably best spread lightly. It's taste can be best described as salty. It is lightly spread on toast or crackers with some butter."
"I've had vegemite at my house for six or seven years," smiled Bing. "I'm a fan. People either absolutely love it, or they don't."
Bing said Coopers Ale is the best brew he sampled, and you don't want to get caught ordering a Fosters.
"You order a Fosters and they giggle at you," Bing said. "It's like ordering a Schmidt's Lite over here or something."
Bing said the Australian people were very hospitable though.
"Just wonderful. Nice, nice people," he said. "They come from similar beginnings we do, more or less. You tend to run into some of the same personalities, especially outside of the city."
Bing said they were in a rural part of the country, and they took the time to see some Australian wildlife.
"We were an hour or an hour-and-a-half outside of Melbourne. It's called Yarra Junction, it sits on the Yarra River. We were out in farm and wine country. Out there, if it's not a cattle farm or a sheep farm, it's a winery. A lot of big timber, too," said Bing. "We went up in the woods, just got out hiking. Some of the trees were ten, twelve feet 'round. We jumped up a red stag up there, probably about one-and-a-half times the size of the deer here. Really good size."
Bing said him and his buddies saw dingoes, emus, kangaroos, and wallabies.
"We went to a game preserve also and got to see a platypus and other things you wouldn't normally see. But the birds were the most amazing thing over there. Birds that cost $1,000 or $1,500 over here, they just land on your banister. People have to shoosh them away because they get in the garden," he said.
Bing said they had an interesting experience in their two rental cars after returning from a road trip to see friends.
"We went down by the Tasman Sea. We did some seaside stuff and had some good seafood. They got some good stuff to eat, lobster and crab and different things. Anyway, when we came back, they were having a grand prix race. They had a couple detours and we got a little lost and found ourselves on the track! I swear to goodness! They had the finish line set up, and we were running around the track," he said.
Bing said the 28 hour flight takes a lot out of him and it might be a while before he returns, but the trip reinforced the longstanding friendship with some of the international musicians he's met and played with over the years.
"Frank Murphy, one of the guys, he's an Irishman, he's lived in Australia for a long, long time," he said. "But he's gonna come and teach at [Allegheny] Echoes next year, 2013. He can play anything."
Bing said Murphy would likely teach tenor banjo.
To find out more about Allegheny Echoes, visit www.alleghenyechoes.com