“Molesworth Musos” strike a chord

Spencer Fowler Steen

Staving off the COVID blues is what it’s all about for North Melbourne local Ash Voellner.

Throughout the pandemic, he’s regularly whipped out his guitar, donned loud, Hawaiian shirts and unashamedly fired up the vocal chords from his front porch, bringing joy to people’s lives during repeated lockdowns.

And recently, Mr Voellner’s partner Kate Bowshel has joined him on the microphone, with the duo singing catchy crowd pleasers to the delight of passers-by on Molesworth St.

Mr Voellner said while last year’s performances attracted between 20 to 30 socially distanced locals, now, up to 70 people were stopping by to watch while out walking.

“It’s made people’s day,” he said.

“I’ve received gifts in the mail from people I don’t know for easing the COVID blues.”

After one October performance, Mr Voeller even received a bottle of red from an appreciative audience member addressing him by the moniker “Molesworth Muso”.

Mr Voellner sadly lost his job in aged care at the beginning of the year.

Since then, he’s been doing handyperson jobs for people, building his reputation in the local community as a skilled worker who can fix things cheaply.

“If people need help, that’s what I’m there for. I’ve just put three screws into an elderly lady’s cabinet door, and I’ll charge her $40 or $50, as opposed to a couple of hundred she’d pay to a tradesperson,” Mr Voellner said.

And if it’s something he can fix quickly, Mr Voellner said he often turns down payment.

Asked why he decided to start singing and playing guitar for the local community, Mr Voellner said he took inspiration from a video of a violin player in San Francisco who lived across the road from an opera singer.

The duo arranged to perform together on their balconies in front of a crowd while in lockdown.

Keen to bring the same enjoyment to the local area through combining strings and vocals, Mr Voellner posted on the North Melbourne Good Karma Network Facebook page saying he would be performing music on the Molesworth St median strip.

“I’m not saying I’m any bloody good, but one thing I can do is sing and play guitar, and at the end of the day people appreciate anyone having the balls to do it,” he said.

“No one was breaking rules. The cops drove past, slowed down, gave me a wave and drove off.”

Both self-taught musicians, Mr Voellner and Ms Bowshel have forged unlikely friendships with people in the neighbourhood through their performances.

During breaks, the duo often chats with people over the fence thanking them for coming down.

“Then while out walking the dogs a couple of weeks later, you’ll bump into them and they’ll be like, ‘this is the guy that does the music, when’s your next one?’” Mr Voellner said.

One day during one of his performances, Mr Voellner’s said his neighbour from across the road, Josh, plugged in his electric guitar and started playing along to one of the songs.

“This guy was just incredible – in the break started playing The Entertainer and started off as normal, then went crazy! I was like, ‘oh my god you’re embarrassing me.’”

To strike a visual contrast between the front of their old, weatherboard house, Mr Voellner said he bought four of the “loudest” Hawaiian shirts he could find to match his “burnt orange” guitar while performing.

Ms Bowshel is also loving singing songs with her partner, belting out classics such as Space Oddity by David Bowie and Accidentally Kelly St by Frente!.

“It’s been really good to have that together and practice during the week,” he said.

During his first gig, Mr Voellner said he was struggling with nerves and wasn’t playing “that well”.

Sensing this, Ms Bowshel stepped in.

“She just looked at me and said, ‘play to me’, and it just went through the roof from there, I started playing really well,” Mr Voellner said.

Having just played his seventh performance over numerous lockdowns, Mr Voellner and his partner are showing no signs of slowing down.

Mr Voellner is currently in conversations with local “foodies” to gauge interest in a 10 per cent voucher for his performance attendees to spend at local businesses.

Although the homemade jar of olives he received as a gift from someone in the neighbourhood is going straight to Ms Bowshell, it’s the enjoyment of brightening people’s day which keeps him going.

“I’ve got big JBL speakers, so I hear people streets away clapping their hands to the music!” he said with a laugh.

To enquire about Mr Voellner’s services or to organise vouchers, contact him on 0401 585 729 •

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