STREET MUSIC: Dogtown performs at The Lismore Vintage and Handmade Market, with Kim McLean on the right.
STREET MUSIC: Dogtown performs at The Lismore Vintage and Handmade Market, with Kim McLean on the right. Yvonne Gardiner

Musician survives a major risk to busk another day

LISMORE musician Kim McLean knows how incredibly lucky he is, especially to live in a country with a really good level of health care.

The member of Lismore music groups' Black Train and Dogtown, known also by his stage name The Reverend, has recovered completely from injuries suffered in a road accident in June 2015 at Ballina.

His motorbike had collided with a 4WD and Kim had been thrown through the windscreen of the vehicle.

"I thought I'd come away almost unharmed, however I had a very small bleed on the brain which wasn't spotted in scans immediately afterwards," he said.

"Four to five weeks later, I was getting 'migraines', nausea and vomiting. I thought most likely my neck was out of line.

"However it was a brain haemorrhage which had been building since the initial impact.

"I drove to Lismore Base Hospital one day but they sent me away without any scans."

Kim woke up one morning soon after, seeing double and disoriented, and friends took him to hospital for emergency brain surgery.

"I'd been hoping to make it to Splendour (in the Grass music festival) to play in an event there, however I ended up cruising past the festival on my way to Gold Coast Hospital," he said.

Three years later, Kim's recovery is now complete.

"Since my accident I've just continued without a hitch," he said.

"I remember walking towards the Mecca cafe - where we often busk - a week after the incident and finding it quite hard to walk, but I wanted to prove to myself I was at least capable of that, and I found I could sing and play as well as ever.

"So essentially there's been no change ... business as usual.

"However I'm very aware that for many people there are all sorts of challenges to deal with after similar injuries."

While Kim and his band Dogtown don't go hunting for gigs, they just come their way.

"I'm pretty easygoing and I always want it to be fun for the members, and to give something to the listener that will stay with them in a positive way," he said.

Dogtown are regulars at The Lismore Vintage and Handmade Market, playing purely acoustic music.

"Dogtown's musical style is generally an up-tempo string band," Kim said.

"We like to play hard-driving songs with a folk feel. When we're trying out a new song, it has to deliver the goods on the street - the lyrics have to be powerful or meaningful and the music has to be really working.

"Because we are mostly not amplified, it has to be fairly unsophisticated, easily picked up and rhythmic ... and mean something to someone's life.

"And it doesn't let the singer indulge themselves in narcissism. It has to be something worth sharing, helpful in some way to others.

"The band shares some of the Black Train repertoire but has old blues, and our string band versions of some Led Zeppelin numbers, some Bob Dylan, Paul Kelly...

"It's way more eclectic than Black Train which is mostly old timey - early American folk, Appalachian and some old gospel."

Kim considers the music scene in Lismore "amazing".

"There are different strands happening simultaneously - a rock scene, touring acts in the bigger venues, some jazz, the Lismore Symphony, various choirs, an old timey session, the open mike at Eltham run by Phil Levy, and probably a lot more I don't know about because I actually don't go out much except when playing."

The Lismore Vintage and Handmade Market is held on the first Saturday of the month, from 10am to 2pm, in the grounds of the city's original high school, now The Conservatorium of Music, 152 Keen St. 

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