The Melbourne Ukulele Festival is a favourite for Tyrone and Lesley, and the feeling must be mutual because they’ve often invited us over to play. Born of the Melbourne Ukulele Kollective, Australia’s first uke group (with Dean Denham at the rudder) it’s the product of enormous effort and enthusiasm from producers, players, punters and participants. 2019 is MUF’s 10th anniversary. We’ve played alongside some amazing artists from all over the world, written, played and recorded a lot of original music and learned a lot over that period, and within the brackets of this singular festival that not only invites, but encourages artistic experimentation, involvement and play. Time for us to look back at some snapshots and see how we’ve grown in that time
Tyrone & Lesley became a duo in 2000. For the next little while we played the songs of others, but reinvented them for theatre shows and rather stranger visual cabarets involving vintage slideshows. Gradually we discovered we could write songs together that didn’t seem to sound like anybody else. And that people in other cities wanted see us play them.
Tyrone toured a slide projector down to Melbourne for his first MUF appearance at Bar 303, mixing songs, vintage celluloid images and the sounds of a transistor radio. If there’s one festival open to these kinds of arty shenanigans, it’s MUF.
The 2011 Melbourne Ukulele Festival saw Tyrone, again solo at Northcote Social Club peppering the set with originals for the first time, here caught in the actual act of leaving them wanting more. Ukulele enthusiasts could check out the all-star front row.
The 2012 Melbourne Ukulele Festival was introduced to Lesley for the first time, and the audience went nuts for the Chicken Song at Bella Union, Trades Hall, Carlton.
Amazing performers like Azo Bell can even make their silences sing. If you were there you would know what this means. The 5th Melbourne Ukulele Festival in 2014 also included a surprise appearance from Amanda Palmer who blew the roof off the Northcote Town Hall. We were working on our third album Gentlemen Songsters and premiered a number of songs from it that night. MUF’s a good place to try that new song.
MUF 2015 was a very special show for us, playing the Thornbury Theatre, alongside The Nukes (NZ), Victoria Vox (US), Ralph Shaw (CAN/UK) freedom fighter/musicians The Black Orchid Stringband (VIC/West Papua), Ukulele Ladies (MEL) and the inimitable MUK.
Over this last ten years we’ve become a songwriting duo, performed alongside the best, recorded and released five albums, and made several theatre shows. Thanks Melbourne Ukulele Festival, for being a big part of that story, and for all the hard work that goes into making it so distinctive.
In Melbourne? Seize the chance to see what Tyrone and Lesley are up to at MUF 2019, on March 16 at the Northcote Social Club, alongside Icelanders Mr Silla
Thankyou to photographers Nick Pitsas, Kate Golding, Joyclyn Vincent