Tony Hillier

Hillier's Hotline

Issue #16 January 2012: Val-In-Time


To cite Bill Lawry’s clichéd cricket catchline: It’s all happening! After the usual post-Christmas/New Year torpor, it’s all systems go again as Cairns and environs gears up for what promises to be a huge year.

The local music scene is certainly looking up, with an exciting new venue about to be launched in the wake of the ‘can do’ attitude engendered by the Regional Council’s vote to proceed with the Entertainment Precinct.

There are those who would put a halt to the development of arts and culture in the region, which brings us to the looming 2012 council election.

Consensus of opinion among those locals with a special interest in music — and that, of course, includes you, fellow Entertainment Cairns habitué — is that the sector will be best served by Val Schier getting a second term as mayor.

Certainly, the incumbent’s three rivals in the 2012 mayoral contest (Bob Manning, Ian Thomas and Margaret Cochrane) have all expressed opposition to the Entertainment Precinct, even though the outgoing Cairns Regional Council has voted in favour of the project.

Val has invested a considerable amount of time and energy in the Precinct and it is her vision and drive that has primarily helped the project get over the line. She has been an outstanding advocate for the arts in general and music in particular in the region.

If you subscribe to the point of view that a vote for Val is the way to go, perhaps you might consider lending hands-on assistance in her re-election campaign, which will, of course, culminate on local council election day.

Brynn Mathews, the Volunteer Coordinator, is organising a duty roster. He can be contacted at or on 40313607 (H) or 0413 112 719  (mob).

However, there is another way you can help, and that is to support the Val-in-Time fundraiser, set down for the back bar of the Cape York Hotel on Friday February 10th (from 7:30pm) — just a few days before St Valentine’s Day.

The Woodbine & Ivy BandJohno’s Blues Band

Most of the local musicians that I have talked to support Val and that is why some of Cairns’ best-known acts were only too happy to volunteer their services for a benefit concert when approached.

All proceeds from Val-in-Time will go to the mayor’s election campaign fund. Tickets ($20) will be available on the door.

Three of far north Queensland’s longest-running bands are among those donating their services.

Johno’s Blues Band, Snake Gully and Mangrove Jack, whose roots extend back to the early and mid 1980s, will head a fabulous fundraising bill that’ll also include gun guitarist Dave Breeze’s band the Raconteurs and singer-songwriter Chris Wighton.

A short set from the Montgomery Brothers, who have been turning heads around town of late, will precede Johno’s Blues Band finale.

The evening will also feature a display of photos shot by David Anthony during the last few days of that much-missed venue, Johno’s Blues Bar.

A 2.5 metre x 0.5 metre painting of Johno’s by acclaimed local artist Julie McEnerny, entitled Tonight Was Tomorrow Night Last Night, will be auctioned during the evening, along with a bundle of recently released CDs.

The painting was originally exhibited at the Cairns Regional Gallery as part of an Upholstery exhibition and subsequently a touring exhibition.

Tonight Was Tomorrow Night Last Night

The closure of Johno’s Blues Bar in June 2007, after 18 years’ uninterrupted provision of live entertainment, was a massive body blow to the Cairns gig scene, and one that it is still recovering from.

Two new venues in the CBD that came on line during 2011 helped fill the void — and they will shortly be joined by an exciting new enterprise, which I alluded to earlier in this Hotline.

It’s gratifying to see both Havana Music Café at 113 Lake Street and Bernie's Jazz & Piano Café at 92 Abbott Street doing good trade. Both establishments promote the very best in local musicianship.

The aforementioned Montgomery Brothers hold court at Havana’s on Thursday nights, and the supremely talented Torres Strait Islands soul singer/guitarist Dave Dow can be seen most weekends when he’s in town. Bernie's, which hosts live music seven days a week, encourages visiting musos to sit in. But be advised: from what I’ve seen and heard the standard of musicianship is fairly high. The house provides a white baby grand piano, double bass, guitar, drum kit, amps and in-house PA, including all microphones.;-piano-cafe.html

Now, ladies and gentlemen … rolls of drums, blast of brass … a spanking new venue is preparing to open for business. As the name suggests, the Voodoo Cajun Kitchen, a 70-75 seater located at the Abbott Street end of Spence Street, puts the accent firmly on New Orleans’ music and cuisine.

The man behind the Cajun Kitchen will be very well known to patrons of the Reef Hotel Casino. Drummer-singer extraordinaire Jason Smith and his band, the Swinging Alley Catz, have held court at the Vertigo Bar for more than a decade.

Before moving on to their own venue, the Catz will have a farewell fling at the Casino on Saturday January 28th, with past and present members united in what promises to be a memorable night.

Live music is planned seven nights a week at Voodoo Cajun Kitchen, with Jason performing solo on several weeknights and with the band at weekends. The affable Mr Smith also promises a zydeco group and regular sets from the likes of Belinda Butler, who is as familiar with the New Orleans music scene as the host.;-lounge-the-reef-hotel-casino.html


For the latest information on what’s happening on the local music scene and beyond, and to listen to relevant tracks, tune in to Tony Hillier’s World Of Music on ABC Far North on Friday afternoons between 4:45pm and 5:00pm.


Tony Hillier