Tiddas say farewell
By Anthony Benbow
FREMANTLE — It was standing room only at the Fly By Night Club on November 27. The lights went down. The background music stopped. The crowd hushed, then cheered as Tiddas strode onto the stage at their favourite venue to the tune of "The Final Countdown". What?
Amy Saunders hastened to explain: "We only got this tape yesterday at a truck stop. It's so daggy we had to play it because it's our final tour and all." Laughter gave way to more cheering as Tiddas launched into the powerful and soaring harmonies they are famous for.
For those who haven't encountered them (where have you been?), Tiddas are three highly talented women musicians: Sally Dastey, Lou Bennett and Amy Saunders.
Their name is an Aboriginal word meaning "sisters". Their ethos is best summed up in the title of their 1993 album: they sing about life. They draw on their Aboriginal heritage and their experiences as women and as ordinary people — struggling to have their voices and experiences recognised.
After performing and touring for 10 years (has it really been that long?), the trio have decided to "step off the stage and go our own ways".
This final performance was for me the best of many brilliant Tiddas gigs. Amy's repartee throughout the set kept everyone laughing, which was no mean feat given that many of us were close to tears at the thought this was the last time we would hear such music live.
And hear it we did, with the band going back to older songs like the wonderful "Inside my Kitchen" about friendship and familiar places, and "Burdens to Bear", which tells of the stories and the struggles of women.
Many songs from their new (and final) album, Show us ya Tiddas, also featured. "Sorry Song" is rousing and danceable, directed straight at John Howard (and others) who haven't the guts to apologise. The engaging "Little Girl" and "For a Short Time" (written by Mick Thomas of the late lamented Weddings Parties Anything) are about relationships and connections.
We were instructed to sing and reprimanded for not doing it well enough during the lullaby "Inanay". "Come on, make some noise! Stamp your feet!", said Lou, and as the walls shook, launched into "Anthem", one of the Tiddas' most powerful songs ("We are the lucky country/ where anyone can win/ if you belong to the right family/ and have the white-coloured skin").
"Sing About Life" was supposed to be the final song of the night, but as the cheers erupted Tiddas went straight into a version of "Wild Mountain Thyme"; the harmonies and Sally's vocal solos both lifted the roof and awed us into silence.
Tiddas left the stage for the final time to a thunderous standing ovation, and then very soon after were standing at the door, signing copies of their CD and talking to everybody on their way out. A more talented, funny, courageous, compassionate and human band would be hard to find.
If you live in WA, this was it: you've missed out. However, those east of the Nullarbor can take heart — Tiddas have until next May to complete their farewell tour. Keep an eye out for tour dates and don't miss out! The album Show us ya Tiddas is available at the gigs, (as are Sally and Lou's solo CDS), or contact the band at Box 2046, Fitzroy 3065; e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.