The afternoon breeze blended a unique aroma of mangroves, wild fennel and market garden herbs with car exhaust, fresh cut lawns and aviation fuel. I wheeled my way along the Cooks River cycle path, camera dangling around my neck, humming a tune I heard just moments before in a tunnel by a concrete drain beneath one of the main roads to Kingsford Smith International airport. I was song-riding, and I was loving it.
“A lot of a city is hidden in plain sight...Like the fact you can cycle from the Inner West of Sydney to the ocean in half an hour.” says Andy Calvert of the 30km Cooks River cyclepath that runs from Ryde in Sydneys west to Botany Bay, in the southeast. “Like the fact there are amazing bands and songwriters playing every week in a supposedly ‘dying live music scene’”. Andy is the brains behind the wonderfully simple idea that is Songriders - a bike ride with a musical incentive to keep pedalling to the next destination to be treated to more music, a beer and a swim.
Armed with a small travel guitar, our Songriders caravan set out to ride along the Cooks River cycleway, past parks, community and commercial gardens, wetlands and tributaries of the Cooks River towards the beaches of Botany Bay, whilst in between stopping at locations to play and listen to authentic and original songs by some of the best the Sydney independent music scene has to offer including Paul Andrews (Family Fold), Bruno Brayovic (Buddy Glass, Peabody), Laetitia Shepherd (Peachfield) and Andy himself (Wifey).
The idea came to Andy on what is a regular but very casual Saturday ride with mates. A passionate musician who is always looking for places to play, Andy noticed that not only did the underpasses beneath some of the major arterial roads that criss cross the Cooks River provide a reprieve from the heat of a midday ride, but they also had great acoustics.
“Songriders is about taking the eerie, beauty of a silent tunnel under these 6 lane arterial roads, and filling it with music“ writes Andy on the groups fledgling event page on Facebook. Also there was beer available at stops before, during and after the ride, so that pretty much sealed the deal.
Songriders was born, as a group of about 15 riders set out from Concordia Club in Tempe on Saturday with a mission. Ride. Play music. Repeat. The trip included an opportunistic stop at an abandoned pier beside the fascinating market gardens tucked away between the back streets of Rockdale, and the muddy mangroves that shade the banks of the Cooks River.
The day was a complete success and culminated in a cooling swim and refreshing bevvies, conversation and comraderie along the shores of Botany Bay. There is no doubt that when word spreads of the next musical caravan, there will barely be room to move beneath those eerie, music filled tunnels, free for all to enjoy and ride along. I’ll be tagging along again next time for sure!
Below are some pics from the day, all shot with the Sony A7III, Canon 24-70 f/2.8 ii with a Sigma adapter.