Almanac Music: Tamworth 2020 – From Little Things Big Things Grow

About two-thirds through his support gig as part of Cold Chisel’s Blood Moon Tour, Paul Kelly sits down on a stool, front of stage. He’s wearing a crimson suit, plain grey shirt. Acoustic guitar across his chest, harmonica under his chin. The sun beats down on his bald head.


He squints at the audience spread beneath and before him on the rugby league ground at Wests. Most of the manicured turf – one of the last green patches of drought-brown Tamworth – is covered in fold-out chairs and blankets. To his left, on the hill, young bucks in RM Williams shirts are making mountains out of their empties, while to the right, the grandstand provides the only shade.


‘Ah…um…it’s Kev Carmody’, Kelly says as Kev walks heavily on stage and sits beside him. Kev is a big man. A whale of a man. Impressive to look at. Once a rugby player, there’s still strength and presence in his shoulders. Pride stretches across his jaw line.


He’s wearing a black headband which gives him the look of a warrior.


Together, they ease into the song they co-wrote under the stars, around a fire, outback Queensland.


Gather round people, I’ll tell you a story
An eight-year long story of power and pride




This story started in 1966 when Gurindji workers, led by Vincent Lingiari, protested for equal pay on Wave Hill Station, Northern Territory. The movement grew into a battle for land rights, culminating in Labor PM, Gough Whitlam, handing over the deeds and pouring soil into Vincent’s hands in a symbolic gesture of ownership. Gough acknowledged how far we still had to go to repair the damage to Indigenous Australian culture.


As From Little Things Big Things Grow gently meanders along, Troy Cassar-Daley and Kasey Chambers, who played their gigs earlier, Linda and Vika Bull, Kelly’s back-up singers, and Jimmy Barnes, walk on unannounced holding hands and stand beside Kelly and Kev. They join in each time the chorus comes along.


From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow


This is an intriguing rendition of song in how it is delivered – reassuring and soothing, not loud or anthemic. And pertinent at this place and time when climate change and drought are not only threatening the festival’s future, also rural New South Wales. They’re telling the crowd to hang in, things will get better.


Kasey sheds a tear.


This is another Tamworth moment worth bottling.


Defa’s looking at me through the crowd with his goofy Warracknabeal grin. The same grin that would accompany a shake of the head after pulling me out of trouble again when we shared a house on Grattan St, Carlton, during Uni days, nearly thirty years ago.


He’s sitting about twenty metres from the stage in the $6 fold-out seats we bought earlier in the day from A-Mart. He lifts his can and nods.


I’m up the front, barefooted, cowboy hat on, dripping in sweat and sunscreen, arms outstretched in incredulity. What the….?!


Around me everyone is smiling, shaking their heads in disbelief at what we’re witnessing. Some capture the occasion on their phones. I close my eyes and let it float over me.


Later, as the sun sets, Chisel take over. Barnesy prowls and snarls. His voice is shot but his honesty and work rate are still incredible. I hope it fucking rains tomorrow, he says. Mossy and Don Walker hold the show together.


Afterwards, Defa and I follow the streetlights back into town while dry lightning splits the black sky.




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  1. Wish I was there. Thank you for posting. Poignant moments are never forgotten.

  2. An incredible song, that has not lost any lustre since first I heard it, but this sounds like a version to take straight to the pool room. I can imagine how powerful it would be to let it wash over you. All that pain and all that hope.


  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Sounds absolutely incredible, well told, what an experience!

    Saw PK and Chisel at Mt Duneed near Geelong a few weeks back, what a memorable night of music.

  4. That sure sounds like a magic moment, Starkers.

  5. Magic. Thanks for sharing AS. The older we get the less little things matter. And the more we hope for big things to grow.

  6. Great work Starks. Would have been something to see.

  7. Beautiful.
    Stories and value and meaning and the whole box &dice.
    Thanks A Starkie.

  8. John Butler says

    Nice one Starkers. Lucky bastard. :)

  9. Lucky indeed. I love how you get up to Tamworth most years. Would love to do it too (if my hearing wasn’t shot). I love how Chisel timed the concert to coincide with the festival – Don Walker has written some great songs for Slim Dusty ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’, ‘Charleville”, and ‘Get Along’ and has also co-written some beauties with Troy Cassar-Daley.
    Did you manage to catch any of the Adam Harvey sets up there? I love that man.

  10. Many years since i saw Kev Carmody. Royal Derby , Brunswick st Fitzroy, circa late 1991.

    I thought for many moons about getting to Tamworth but it went off the radar a while back.

    Maryanne and i’s regular winter jaunt to the Echuca Winter Blues Festival is our big rural music event.

    Hmmmm, as i’ve not seen Paul Kelly for many moons it would be good if he popped up at Echuca one year; like 2020.


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