Brisbane Steel Club Annual Festival

Last year I attended the festival as a patron, this year I was a helper/performer.

Jeff Spencer, the organiser of the event approached me with the offer of playing bass in the house band. I immediately accepted. What an offer! This was some six months before the event. As time passed Jeff sent me some charts for Al Brisco a few weeks before the event and only two days before the event, Sam Comono's charts. Some wonderful ideas in there.

I had originally planned to drive and take my own gear but that became impossible for a number of unrelated issues, so I flew. Jeff kindly arranged for a bass rig and bass guitar for me to play on festival day and a Dobro to play on Sunday. I was well looked after.

The Players


Left to right, back row: John Mazur, Barry Phillips, Bob Alloway, Murray Arden, Ken Myers, Jim Priebe, Ivan Posa.
Front row: Paddy Long, Al Brisco, Warren Nielsen, Ian Kerr.


The House Band with one of the featured performers


Left to right: Kedron Taylor, Bill Turgin, me and Ivan Posa
Ken Myers on guitar is outside the picture on the right hand side.

The festival kicked off at 2:00 p.m. and went to around 11:00 p.m. and was held at the Geebung Zillmere R.S.L.

The club issues a Hall of Fame award and two were presented. One to Rob E. G. Wow! Rob will soon be touring, must try and catch one of his shows. The other to Bob Alloway.

Things moved fairly quickly on stage in a recurring basic routine, being:

  1. Set up a pedal steel on the stage.
  2. Hand out the music.
  3. Play the songs.
  4. Remove the pedal steel from the stage.
  5. Hand back the music.

Each performer used their own pedal steel guitar, amplifier and effects. This created some dead time between sets, but no one seemed to mind. The performers setup is unique to each instrument, hence the need for a change each set.

This year Jeff organised a bigger P.A. manned by a mixer man. Everyone agreed that the sound was better compared to previous years. Jeff also arranged for vocalists to be part of the festival, that broke up the sound between sets. Continuous improvement.

The two highlights of the festival were Al Brisco from Canada and Milton Quackenbush formerly from the U.S.A. but now residing in Queensland. Both world class performers. They both made performing look as easy as falling off a log. Milton also performed on piano and made that look easy too. You can just feel the energy emanating from these people. Good to be around them.

The Sunday monthly meet completed two days of performing. Al Brisco held a workshop where he installed a new set of strings and explained the pedals, cams and rods in a pedal steel guitar. The nut on a pedal steel guitar is a series of rollers, one for each string. Al stressed the correct way to install strings so there was no lateral force at the nut. The depth of Al's knowledge was deep and he could have gone on for days I'm sure.

Jeff organised for me to use an original 1920's Dobro. The owner reminded me many times "Don't scratch it!" I didn't. I played maybe six songs during the supper break. I was the odd one out in that I was the only one that sang. All the other players were strictly instrumentalists. That's ok, I had people singing along with me.

The highlight of the weekend was a friendly jam featuring Al and Paddy. They each took turns at a verse and my oh my there was some hot, tasty sounds coming out of those pedal steels, along with some good musical taunts and humour.

Last year I commented on the respect players give each other and this year was no exception. There were no ego's just players wanting to play and share.

I liked the way members and patrons alike would just walk up to you and strike up a conversation. Very friendly.

What a wonderful weekend at a wonderful club.

I'll be back in some capacity next year.