In ’83, the active live music scene in Sydney provided an opportunity for a keen young audiophile to worm her way into the biz, unloading trucks, and learning to rig, patch and tune PA systems.
There was a fair few detractors (“I tell ya, there’s no room for a chick on the road…unless she’s on her back” or “Nah, leave that for the boys, love. You take this snare drum, and put it on stage.”), but an astonishing amount of support and acceptance – Yogi, Michael Orland, Jeff Stewart, Arthur Allaylius, Kim Hasanik, were early mentors, but there were many more.
What a wonderful job – hours 2pm-2am, plus commute, 4 – 5 days a week, each day leading up to the thrill of the band stepping on stage and breathing fiery life into the day’s labours. There were scary stints with established bands – Kevin Borich, where the gaps in her ability were sometimes patently obvious to the artist, and even the punters (she had to learn, quickly, the mysteries of tuning foldback). She worked with many up-and-coming indie bands, and a bunch of lost-in-time acts you’ve probably never even heard of.
Exciting times. How cool to be paid to do this for a living!
In between gigs, she joined crews of hired muscles, unpacking semis for big touring acts. A punishing pace, but she loved it, proud to be gaining acceptance as a female on the crew.
In the early ‘90s she got a “proper job” as sound hire staff of Grafton’s Sound, eventually becoming Hire Manager, still assembling and loading PAs, but with a home-life too.
Eventually, as the live scene shrank, she scored a job in the sound department of the Sydney Opera House and stayed for 10 years, discovering all manner of non-rock-n-roll performance. She learned to mic orchestras, tap-dancers on bubble-wrap and once, even the spines of a cactus for a plinkety-plink cactus solo with the Sydney Spring Ensemble during the opening of the Studio.
The march of time and demands of parenthood meant her working life morphed to operation at a bunch of annual regional music festivals, supplemented with local community gigs.
After about seven years of spending each January in Tassie operating the popular Cygnet Folk Festival, she made the move to live in that beautiful part of the world and six years further on, on April Fools Day 2021, ran – SPLAT – into the back of an 18 tonne truck, embedding her lower body into the front of her trusty HiAce.
Life can change in a split second.
Now, with the bulk of her legs and pelvis having been patched back together by some jolly clever surgeons, she’s trying to wrangle through the post-accident paperwork from her hospital bed, occasionally stopping to delight in the sight of one set of toes wiggling on demand at the end of the bed.
She is on the long slow healing process, managing, mostly, to keep a positive outlook.
“I will walk again, maybe even by the end of the year. Gratitude #1.
Gratitude #2 – No one was in the passenger seat. That side of my van is so pushed in that a passenger would mean that this whole story would include a fatality, and it DOESN’T, so YAAAY!
Gratitude #3 – the skilled crews who cut me free, choppered me to the hospital, and those surgeons who, over three days of induced coma, worked long hours to patch together the worst of the damage.
Gratitude #4 – for the care and kindness shown to me since by the frontline nursing staff. These legends should be running the country; they’d be way more competent than those posturing pillocks on Parliament Hill.
Gratitude # 5 – You guys! The outpourings of concern have been numerous, and from all phases of my life. I’ve had great convos with colleagues from the whole length of my career. Thank you!”
Short-term, all she can do is lie in bed, and wiggle the toes of one foot, and – excitingly, her hips, just a little bit (new development, that).
A wheelchair has just appeared in the corner of her room and she looks forward to one day swinging into it, and…wheeee!
Before the crash, she was ¾ thru the building of a tiny house, using a skilled carpenter, and second-hand building materials sourced, over four years, from the recycling yard at which she now works. Well, DID work.
She would never have imagined that on the morning of the crash she would not return home for three months, and then, in a wheelchair, but the property is not ready for that.
We want Kathy to come home to a place she can comfortably spend the rest of her recovery in. We think she deserves at least that much.
All donations will go toward preparing a more liveable space in her property, for when she leaves the hospital, and for any preparations to help with rehabilitation for when she learns to walk again.
Please donate to Kathy O’Hara’s “Get This Old Rock Chook Back On Her Feet!”
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