"The Next 20 Minutes Of My Life Changed Me": Gigs That Inspired Dyson Stringer Cloher To Rock

4 October 2019 | 11:02 am | Artist Submission

On Dyson Stringer Cloher's lead single 'Falling Clouds', Jen Cloher recalls sneaking into a Falling Joys and The Clouds gig in 1991, a performance that propelled her towards music. Inspired by the track, we asked the band to share the shows that changed their lives.

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In Falling Clouds, the lead song off Dyson Stringer Cloher's self-titled debut album, a young Jen Cloher back in '91 sneaks into a "killer double bill" - Falling Joys and The Clouds. 

It was a gig that changed her life - "Never heard guitar so loud/Suzie Higgie, Jodi Phillis, Trish Young/Turned things upside down." You can't be what you can't see, and Cloher credits the women shredding on stage for kicking "the door wide open so I could walk onto that stage", like Cloher herself has done for so many young artists since.

Hearing the track made us curious what other life-changing shows had sent Cloher, Liz Stringer and Mia Dyson down the path of rock - so we asked them.

Jen Cloher

I grew up in Adelaide which is one of those strange in-between cities. It has a strong arts scene but you can also feel the heat blowing in from the desert. Is it a city or is it a country town?

When I was 16 some friends and I snuck my parents old Volvo out of the drive and took a ride into town to see The Clouds and The Falling Joys. I wasn’t driving so I decided to drink a few cans of UDL instead. Nice. By the time we got to the show I was feeling confident. Armed with our fake IDs we sailed past the bouncers. Adelaide was well known for being a hotbed for underage clubbing.

"I have often asked myself, where is our Patti Smith, Nina Simone or Marianne Faithful?"

The Clouds were already on stage so I ran to the front to get amongst it. To be honest I didn’t know much about them or any of their songs, I was just excited to be seeing live music. The next 20 minutes of my life changed me. I’d never seen women playing electric guitars on stage before. This was the late '80s early '90s where bands like The Breeders and L7 were just starting to release music. This wasn’t glam rock. These were women just being themselves, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. Suddenly it seemed like music was real. It was something I could do.

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What struck me was the confidence of Jodi Phillis and Trish Young. They were owning the stage and their guitars were LOUD. There was nothing polite or apologetic about their sound. It was electrifying!

Even though it took a few more years before I picked up my first guitar and started to teach myself some basic chords, that night stayed with me. There are a lot of women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond that didn’t become as well known or successful as they should have become in this country. I have often asked myself, where is our Patti Smith, Nina Simone or Marianne Faithfull? It feels odd that we don’t have an equivalent Paul Kelly or Nick Cave. Where is our woman or GNC artist who commands the same amount of respect and money? Things are changing but I hope we continue to remember the artists that came before us and give them the respect that they deserve.

Jen Cloher, circa 1990.

Mia Dyson

I’m going to be a bit cheeky and pick a video concert instead of a live concert. Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense (God, I wish I could have seen it live!) was super influential in me becoming a musician. 

My dad bought the VHS(!) for my mum for her birthday when I was about eight years old and I would watch it over and over again for several years. Seeing David Byrne start out by himself with a guitar and boom box and then gradually add musicians was thrilling. I was seeing in one concert just how many ways music can be played and transmitted. 

"It spoke to me that music can make all these statements without words."

And of course the second musician to come out was Tina Weymouth on bass - this incredibly understated, cool woman on bass who held her own with the guys. It was so clear that she was respected and equal to the men on stage. It was nourishing to my music soul to see Tina kicking it, and also the joy and passion of all the musicians - especially the backing singers and the keyboard player. And then there’s the weird subversive performance of David Byrne himself, playing with the stereotype of the businessman in a suit, twisting it and turning it upside down. 

It spoke to me that music can make all these statements without words. That it can affect people deeply without knowing exactly how or why or being able to name it. And a single group, like Talking Heads, can make me feel so many different things in one concert. All of this made being a musician so appealing to me!

Liz Stringer

The first really big gig I went to was the Melbourne 1997 Big Day Out. It was a stinking hot day out at the Showgrounds. I was 16. It's all a bit of a blur, to be honest. But I have an enduring memory of being sardined into an indoor stage (I don't know what it was - the cow stables?), everyone dripping with sweat, watching Frenzal Rhomb.

"There was something in the energy of that era."

The mid-'90s was a seminal time for my music tastes, I can see now, and that BDO I got to see Soundgarden (it was meant to be their farewell tour), You Am I, The Superjesus, The Mavis's, and Supergrass to name some memorable ones. There was something in the energy of that era and that festival at that point in its evolution that made an indelible impression on me as a young punter and when I think about the experience of that January day now, I'm struck by an incredibly strong nostalgia for the Melbourne of 20 years ago and all of the pubs and venues that are no longer around. 

I'm very sentimental about Melbourne. I grew up here and had all of my formative experiences here. And the Big Day Out was a Big One.

Liz Stringer, circa 1999.