Smokey's Blog

we gonna do the damn thing or what

Don’t Let It Go

When this happened I was bugged out that we were putting our big naval fleet up against asylum seekers in small boats. The language was militaristic, the information was tightly controlled: it seemed bloody obvious we were being taken for a ride at a hefty price. Even though offshore detention has been loudly criticised, I’m not sure a lot of people comprehended just how bad it could be. One centre is in Nauru, described as effectively a dictatorship. Another is Manus Island, with a population a bit smaller than Wagga Wagga. I don’t need to repeat what’s been written elsewhere but suffice to say that prospects for both asylum seekers and locals give little cause for hope.

I started writing to Jaytee’s remix of Sietta’s Let It Go without telling them, settling on a 16 bar verse and 16 bar chant-chorus. Then Manus Island happened and I scrapped the chant and wrote a second 16 bar verse, adding bridge/outro ideas.

I called my brother Matt for advice on getting a video done and we both brought up Dan Ilic’s name. Although I’ve never worked with Dan before, he was instantly on board and had access to footage he shot in Afghanistan. I asked him to drop by the studio where I was recording, partly to get him energised to actually follow through but little did I know he’d already done the bulk of the editing. He rocked up with a camera and jumped in the booth to record as I was putting down vocals. In the end he turned the whole thing around in little more than 48 hours. For free. Legend.

A little over 10 years ago The Herd released 77%, written by Ozi Batla. Nothing has changed. We’re riddled with xenophobia and it’s crippling our ability to produce a humane and sustainable policy around the arrival of people seeking asylum.

Follow Asher Wolf for the most bullshit free insight into what’s going on.

Lyrics

Treated like soft invading hordes
Part of a descending force
Nothing that the navy can’t sort
We don’t want to know about the
men and the women and the children on board
Don’t fix it block it that’s the logic
We watch with our hands in our pockets
Drop the access, stop the facts, get Morrison
To come in with a chopping axe head
That’s in our name now
Even though it’s really more of the same now
Here we are again don’t you think it’s funny how
What these ministers about when they choose to go the same route
Not our problem like fuck you world you solve em
International security is what we told em
The big grey warship towered the little boat
Big spend for the big vote yoyo
Put em on a one way trip to Manus
Throw a billion on the boatloads make em vanish
Wash the blood off our hands that inflict the damage
We can pretend we care when our hearts are savage
If they react and they riot
Even if they’re attacked in the dead of the night
Either way they’re the villain we don’t want em in sight
Too bad look the loss of a life
You’ll be sent nowhere and you might die
We don’t care about your back story don’t try
77% of us abide by being more brutal
We get what you want with a roaring approval
Act like that doesn’t leave a stain
What is being done in our name is inhumane
Says a lot about us and Australia’s shame
Fuck you if you don’t feel the same

This is how we let it go just turn your back
This is how we let it go when we don’t have your back

We’ve got a problem with some refugees
Better bring the military in
Operational, we can’t tell a soul
We’ve got a problem with some xenophobic fucks
Shake em down, wake em up
Take em down, pull em up

 

6 Things I Learned at Field Day 2014

1. My wife and I joined the hordes of topless buff blokes, and matching ladies sideboob & shortshorts. I learned that we would’ve fit in perfectly if not for our pram and baby.

Artist impression

Artist impression

2. Once an exclusive dance and electro event, I learned that Field Day is anything but in 2014. The final 4 acts on the main stage were: Hermitude, A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa and Flume. Hats off to Fuzzy for a caj atmosphere backstage and yet another huge NYD.

I googled field day photos. I dunno, maybe this was the first one Fuzzy did?

A lot has changed since the 1st Field Day in 1874

3. I learned that squillionaire Skrillex keeps it real by raiding artists’ riders backstage. Maybe he defaulted on his spaceship repayments?

4. Standing on your mate’s shoulder, pulling your pants down and wanking in the middle of a 10000 strong mainstage crowd is the new titty flash? I didn’t learn anything here.

Hermitude Field Day 1/1/14

Hermitude Field Day 1/1/14

5. Some of their peers have more fame, more sales and more fans but none of em want it with Hermitude‘s live show. I learnt that no one can fuck with em, still.

Took this back to the lab, added a filter and some photography technical stuff you probably don't know about.

Took this back to the lab, added a filter and some photography technical stuff. It’s complicated.

6. A$AP Rocky, due on stage, stops and comments on how “adorable” my baby Jetta is. I learnt there’s nothing like a baby to shake out the staunch.

Orphan Rocker – Live at The Recital Hall

Recorded during our support of Paul Kelly’s Spring and Fall Tour in 2013. We recorded our set at Sydney’s City Recital Hall in August and packaged it with a 20 page booklet containing my tour diary. It’s a beautiful limited edition CD – once it’s gone we won’t be repressing it – preorder here.

The 4 Stages of a Banksy Piece (NYC 2013)

Luckily there was an "abandoned" block in the densely populated lower east side of Manhattan

Luckily there was an abandoned block in the densely populated lower east side of Manhattan

Stage 1 involves the discovery of one of Banksy’s #banksyny series.

"I don't know art but I know what I like"

“I don’t know art but I know what I like”

Stage 2: A crowd gathers and takes photos. All day. A local cafe puts up a sign “Banksy drinks coffee here”.

Art lovers or auto wreckers looking for spare car parts?

Auto wrecking art lovers

Stage 3: Rip that shit off.

Like it never happened. Care and temporary wall mysteriously disappear.

Car + wall disappear revealing a private car park like the whole thing never happened.

Stage 4: Fortunately, someone efficiently disposes of everything as if the whole thing was meticulously organised – less than a week after it emerged. Local cafe changes sign to ‘Banksy is a fake’. Kinda like this.

Jimblah

I heard about Jimblah through a good mate BVA from Mnemonic Ascent years ago. For those who don’t know, BVA is a dope producer, rapper and lyricist who had a little studio in his house in Adelaide, while he cared for his grandmother in the attached granny flat. The Herd reluctantly toured Adelaide in those days because we’d be playing to 800 people in Sydney and Melbourne, only to scratch our heads as a trickle of Adelaide’s finest would make for a sparse venue. Hard to justify when you’re flying 10 people around. We did, however, look forward to hooking up with BVA for the odd studio session so there were never any regrets. Actually that’s a lie – we had band members who swore blind never to return to South Australia. We did though, many times.

BVA worked with Jimblah in a kind of mentoring role, and this is one of the first songs I heard that made me really take notice in 2006 or so.

The moment Jimblah stopped me in my tracks was with his debut album Face the Fire – it’s undeniably underrated, but it’s arguably a classic. I clearly remember driving around Adelaide airport dropping a hire car off after unloading the band to check-in, tears welling up in my eyes as I played the title track – and its heartbreaking outro. I was struck by how good it was. How on Earth was this record not being talked about, everywhere? That moment set off a chain of events that included Jimblah enthusiastically agreeing to join up with Elefant Traks; Pegz being magnanimous enough to allow us to sign him despite a contract with Obese Distribution in place; and us re-releasing Face the Fire. Here it is in full:

 
He’s been productive ever since. He brought that distinctive warm strained soul to Glimpses and On Your Shoulders on my most recent album Smokey’s Haunt.

 

Then took The Tongue to a new level with his part in the push and pull of Victory from his 2013 album Surrender to Victory.

 

After he signed off on the mixes of his album mid 2013 he flew to Sydney, dropping into triple j to cover Matt Corby‘s Resolution. By flipping some of the lyrics he completely recontextualised the song in a manner consistent with the single-minded focus and dedication he’s shown on his new album Phoenix.

The following month saw Horrorshow‘s third album King Amongst Many land at #2 on the national charts with a brilliant collection of songwriting and production. One of the most memorable songs on the album is Own Backyard, the collaboration with Jimblah – a stunning match of mood and lyrics with a showstopping verse from Solo and a heartfelt chorus from Jimblah that knocks it out of the park. A future classic.

 

And at last, the follow-up to that incredible debut album is almost upon us, with this beautiful video and haunting introduction to Phoenix.

I know I write more words than is maybe necessary. Sometimes I find it hard to encapsulate just how much this music means to me. It feels so important not just as works of art, but in the insights it provides as we seek to understand ourselves. His posts on his facebook page are an accurate reflection of the way optimism and turmoil have to slug it out. It’s honest, like his music. The entire world should pull up the handbrake and stop to listen to artists like Jimblah. But if that’s unfeasible, then at least you should.

Jimblah’s album Phoenix comes out October 11 through Elefant Traks.

True Tears of Joy

Sometime in late 2012 I happily received a call from Paul asking if I’d produce a song he’d been asked to do for the upcoming Hunters and Collectors tribute compilation. I said yes before the soundwave had properly entered my ear canal. The straggling second half of his question was still weaving past the wax on my eardrum after I’d started making plans.

The song was True Tears of Joy and he had Emma Donovan in mind as a collaborator. I knew it’d be better if Jimblah joined in too.

Jimblah. Pic by Dave Stefanoff

Jimblah. Pic by Dave Stefanoff

My only condition was that it wasn’t going to be anything like a Paul Kelly song, which I suspect is what he wanted to hear.

The first call I made was to one of my favourite cohorts Elgusto, producer of half of my solo albums and better known as one half of Hermitude. We had a preliminary session with Paul at the Elefant Mansion coinciding with his visit to help induct Yothu Yindi into the ARIA Hall of Fame. After playing a few electronic artists on youtube it was agreed we’d work with textures that took it as far away from classic PK as possible – without losing the essence of True Tears.

There are multiple audiences here – Hunnas fans, Paul’s fans and our own ears. If we go all out electronic we might make Paul’s voice jarring and incongruent. If we stay safe and close to the original we risk being red brick bored at the pointlessness of it all.

Emma Donovan

Emma Donovan

Emma is an incredible vocalist and Gusto and I felt that she’d be perfect for a soulful treatment – her voice is layered and rich with character. Jimblah is like crackling smoke if there were such a thing, and his flow is endlessly listenable.

Then you have Paul Kelly.

Gusto and I hooked up to work on the beat and he manned the boards, programming and playing the melodies – the producer in a hip hop sense. I was steering the direction, overseeing all aspects – a producer in a more classic sense.

Finally the session went down. Vibes were great in The Cave, Hermitude’s studio above Parramatta Rd in Leichhardt. Jimblah wrote a new verse on the spot, did a few takes and nailed it. He perfectly complimented Emma’s verse in backing vocal duties. Emma was a joy to work with – she adlibbed a range of little grabs that we pitch-shifted and incorporated into the song (you can hear them throughout).

Song Selfie!

Song Selfie!

Originally Emma did two verses to Paul and Jimblah’s one but I was a little concerned about the pace and flow. We worked on the song a little more before I got the courage up to ask Paul if we could remove the third verse altogether. Lyrically I couldn’t make much sense of it so I wasn’t concerned about sacrilege of compromising Hunter’s artistic vision – but songs are weird, man. There may be a profound meaning I’m missing and anyway, who am I to deliberately break something so important on loan?

Paul took it on board, tentatively agreeing, and taking on the task of asking Mark Seymour. It turns out Mark had discarded that verse in his live shows long ago and was completely cool about us doing the same. Mind blown.

Were you there?

Were you there?

The final piece of the puzzle was Mitch Kenny mixing the damn thing. Our instructions were to reel the electronics back in and make it thump a little less. Yep, what the fuck indeed. During the course of retelling this song we had to keep coming back to our original goal of it making sense sonically. Nothing was going to change the vibe (especially when it comes after The Living End in the tracklist!) but the treatment of the kick and snare and the proximity of the vocals to the bass and synths were crucial in finding the right balance. I don’t know how Mitch did it. I was still uncertain when we sent it to him but I wasn’t when he sent it back. Dude is good.

We did it.

It’s worth a listen.

Paul Kelly and Emma Donovan featuring Jimblah – True Tears of Joy

Crucible came out Friday Sept 27 through Liberation. It features covers from Alpine, Cloud Control, The Rubens, Matt Corby, Missy Higgins and more.

Jimblah’s debut album Phoenix comes out October 11.

Spring & Fall Tour Diary Part 6: ADL-WA

ADELAIDE – TUESDAY AUGUST 20

 

Doing so many shows in such a short time has definitely pumped up the tyres and my confidence level is criminally high. It should go without saying that it’s all in my head of course. Drifting down my list of concerns is the junkie chase of validation and I find myself enjoying what I thought was an amusingly muted reception tonight. I visualise myself as the away team kicking goals in the face of a parochial home crowd. My in-ear monitoring only picks up crowd noise if it’s audible through stage microphones – or if it’s REALLY loud. Regardless we reefed the sail and charge blindly into the Adelaide headwinds and I was having a fucking ball. We know PK and band are going to nail this thing to the wall no matter what we do but I’ll be damned if I don’t take the piss, affectionately of course, in proportion with my feelings towards South Australia, out of an audience that doesn’t get me.

Repping Delta in front of the grandiose pipe organ of ADL Town Hall (Steve checks Zoe's dbl bass)

Repping Delta in front of the grandiose pipe organ of ADL Town Hall (Steve checks Zoe’s dbl bass)

I got a shock however, as I left the stage and removed my monitors, to hear a bloody LOUD applause, completely at odds with the muted feed that my ears were receiving. Was this gig actuals awesome the entire way through? I don’t know? I started to feel bad about teasing the crowd.

Jane Tyzzle planking Adelaide Town Hall

Jane Tyzzle planking Adelaide Town Hall

Paul invited us into his more spacious backstage green room while they were on stage and Dan had made a playlist of oldtime music that joyfully plays. Earlier that afternoon Dan had bought a painting for $7.50, perching it slanted on the dresser. At roughly 1.5 metres wide and a metre high, questions were already being asked of its transportation on tomorrow’s flight to Perth. It was doomed unless we could find a new home before the night was over.

Dan Kelly's acquisition

Dan Kelly’s acquisition + backstage mixtape

 

It just occurred to me I haven’t once mentioned my new album on stage this entire tour.
 

PERTH – THURSDAY and FRIDAY AUGUST 22 and 23

 

Our main accomplishment in Perth took place backstage

We accomplished great things in Perth

We’ve had the privilege of getting to know some of the crew that put each show together and it’s a big deal for us to be hanging around them. The idea that we’re the talent and they’re the grunts couldn’t be a more ridiculous proposition and it’s illuminating witnessing their professionalism and senses of humour. Dickie, in charge of monitors side of stage is a quick witted sports loving bloke who makes us feel welcome. Steve is the guitar tech and becomes the subject of crowd whispers each night as he moves on and off stage like a monotone ballet dancer tuning guitars during the show. Christian is the keyboard tech who used to be drummer for a band called Egg and at some point with Pinky Beecroft. He’s hilarious with an infectious laugh and an overly opinionated twitter account.

Crew

Dickie standing left, Steve kneeling, Christian far right. We couldn’t show you Greg Weaver’s face cos he’s too much of a boss.

Being the support act our budget was tight so our soundy for the first 18 shows was the guy who drove the truck. Luckily he was James Leydon, a career roadie and rock & roll loving engineer who took Lozz under his wings (introduced to Phil and band backstage at a Grinspoon gig while we were in Melbourne). On our monitors was Gordon ‘Gordo’ Wood who also recorded a few of our shows we’ll hopefully release later this year. A big thanks to these two guys.

Ping Pong in Perth with Zoe and PK

Ping Pong in Perth with Zoe and PK

In charge of everything is Greg Weaver – an enigma to us but a hero to the whole crew as he manages production and tour logistics as well as doing sound for Paul. There is not a single person who once mutters a bad word about him the entire tour. James matter of factly commented that “he’s always been a soundy but even when he started managing the whole production he never stopped doing the grunt work.” I recall in Newcastle watching him at the sound desk as he air-drummed Bree’s percussive fills and, unaware of anyone watching, subtly swung his arms as his fingers plucked a mean air-guitar solo. This is a guy who loves being part of the show. Loves the whole event and knows how to put it together. He always keeps an arms length from us, never getting too friendly, but crucially, never once making a mistake or missing a name from our doorlist. If we turned this tour into a feel-good movie, he’d be the school principal who the teachers love but the kids square off against, only to have an emotional farewell upon graduation. “You’re the best Mr Weaver!” *kids waving as the bus leaves*

Next week is the final leg of this incredible run. Two regional shows in Victoria and we close it out in Tasmania.

Spring and Fall Tour Diary – Part 5

SYDNEY – TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY AUGUST 13 and 14

 
Anyone who’s seen Paul play will recognise the stage prop placed beside him as he performs. It’s about yay height and so wide. I had wondered, as a fan watching him from the seats, what he kept in there, imagining all sorts of items ranging from his harmonicas (true) to hip flasks of whiskey (not true).

Really wanted to show you the contents but Kim Jong-Un Kelly wouldn't hear of it.

Really wanted to show you the contents but it’s like North Korea out here.

In truth, it’s much more. Masquerading as a modest stump, it actually resembles the inner console of a whiz bang technological stump. If Bond were a troubadour musician who sung about Donald Bradman and St Kilda this is the shit he’d put on his rider. The crew watch over it with the zeal of the Four Angels guarding the Ark of the Covenant. It has lights that pulse dull and bright; like a woo-ha gadget that seems incredible but is actually frustrating when you can’t find the ‘on’ button. I’ve seen Paul use it in countless gigs but it’s purpose is entirely unclear. As my finger curiously descended on it the panicked lunge of a crazy-eyed strongman crew member who understands who puts food on the table shooed it away.

What is it? I asked.
Nothing. Came the reply. Get back in your lane Levinson.

So that’s it then.

THIRROUL – FRIDAY AND SATURDAY AUGUST 16/17

 
Thirroul

Anita’s Theatre shares a common thread with half of the venues we’ve played on this tour; originally built to be a cinema – the King’s Theatre in 1925 – it converted into a roller skating rink in the mid 60s before closing in the mid 90s. Just quickly, by all means bring roller skating back but please no more rollerblades. Tonight was hectic, this show was added late so our tour drummer Lozz was unavailable. She’s been incredible and is now confidently smashing every show. Replacing her was our usual drummer, Lisa, but we had no time to rehearse, hence the hecticness bruz. She couldn’t do the tour for the standard reasons – being on call with Family Man for session work in Jamaica. Lisa Purmodh is one of the countless unsung musicians in Australia, deeply revered among peers but little known beyond the audiences lucky enough to see her. She drove 5 hours from the mid North Coast to do a 40 minute set. Then turned around and drove 5 hours back.

This is the life for career musicians, often for a hundred bucks. Disclaimer: not me of course; I paid her in gold bullion. It’d be understandable to point out the madness of it – but that’d be missing the point, it’s all part of the long slog. This is the passion. The job. We gamble defiantly, sometimes blind to our delusion; hoping some day it’ll pay off. It’s people like Lisa that make me feel like a fraud.

850kms for a 40 minute gig? Sure why not.

890 kilometre round trip for a 40 minute gig? Sure why not.

Jane and I have been guesting with Paul toward the end of his set and for two nights in a row he’s had to stop our song as he hits the wrong key in his harmonica part. It’s spectacular. I watch side of stage in awe at it happening for the second time, and his fallibility is a dart in the bullseye of my closet love of getting it wrong. The crowd laugh. There’s a trust there so they think he’s playing. And then they realise it’s just a fuck-up and the air gets warmer as he joins the rest of us as a mere mortal. In a flash he’s back. The brilliance is not in repeated precision night after night but the crafty navigation out of an unfamiliar mess. If you ever want a masterclass in performance don’t bow to those who nail every note, see how they dance out of a scrum, a slip or stumble – that’s the window into a pro’s genius. The crew shake their heads at both the mistake and the speed of recovery.

PK obliges Lozz' request for a harmonica lesson in 10 rare free minutes.

PK obliges Lozz’ request for a harmonica lesson in 10 rare free minutes.

When we reverse out of the carpark we narrowly miss some punters leaving the gig before driving up the winding road home.

CANBERRA – SUNDAY AUGUST 17

 
They come during Paul’s set, heads down dragging their feet through the loading dock. Decked out in old caps, flannies and big jackets, loaders are the godforsaken bastards that come out at midnight to help load the tonnes of gear into the truck. There’s no real chance to get to meet your average loader – they sit around forlorn on empty roadcases waiting to lift things. These fellas range from family blokes to zombies in Canberra Raiders gearnseys. I thought about asking for a photo to share here but I visualised violence so here’s another picture I found on the internet.

Loaders are actually good blokes.

Loaders are actually good blokes.

The loader is sadly ignored unless they’re an early loader; road crew hate the early loader. That’s the loader that rocks up early in order to see a free show. It struck me as a fair enough perk of a crap job to see a few songs in exchange for getting out of bed at 10pm in 4 degree Canberra cold but the road crew are on em in a flash.

Roadie 1: “We’ve got an early loader.”
Roadie 2: “Fuckin’ early loaders.”
Roadie 3: “Fuckin’ hell. I’ll sort it out.”

One day off tomorrow. I’ll drive back to Sydney and pretend to work by popping my head in our Marrickville office. Then it’s Adelaide on Tuesday, Sydney on Wednesday and Perth on Thursday.

Spring and Fall Tour Diary Pt 4

GEELONG – WEDNESDAY AUGUST 7

 
The facebook message reads: Is there any specific reason you’re not coming to Geelong? I think it’s quite rude.

Shhh

Originally I mixed up the dates and couldn’t do this show but it’s a genuine surprise to me that people would care so bless his dear soul for the passive aggressive note. Tonight was another cracker. You know when you’re walking on a footpath and clumsily trip over nothing but pretend it didn’t happen? That didn’t happen tonight. There was a parting of the wild seas of ambiguous stage banter leaving the crowd and your dear correspondent in perfect symmetry*.

*Probably complete bullshit
 

MELBOURNE – THURSDAY, FRIDAY AND SATURDAY AUGUST 8-10

 

There is a strange feeling in the air in the moments before I hit the stage on this tour, as if I’ve opened a door and wandered into a private moment between two people. There’s an intangible tenderness between them that regularly breaks out into elation, masking all but a faint smoke trail of tension floating around the theatre. It says something about the deep affection audience members feel for Paul, and the little ditties he’s given them. He keeps giving them. Watching from side of stage you catch the eyes and open-mouthed smiles from each seat and each row directed at him every song and every set. It’s more than a mere performance of pop songs; it’s an activation of sleeper cells buried in people’s memory. For some it’s close to the surface; they’ve seen him recently; for others, it seems like they’re returning home, at last, for one night.

PK

Music reveals a little of its essence when a story or melody abducts the ear, but its power is awe-inspiring when the song becomes synonymous with memory. They say that couples start to look like one another after years together – or more weirdly – owners start to look like their pets over time. Songs start to look and sound like memories, as if stuck like a barnacle on the hull of a ship, so that the song can’t be heard without being transported back to the intoxicating events they’re associated with. Hard to think of a better example than How to Make Gravy despite, I’m guessing, most of us never having actually done time.

And give my love to Angus and to Frank and Dolly
Tell em all I’m sorry I screwed up this time
And look after Rita, I’ll be thinking of her
Early Christmas morning
When I’m standing in line

That song has an added layer of immediacy for me now because it’s the tune they play before Jane and I join them on stage. The notes ring out and signal and end to our conversations or the quick mission from front of house to the side of stage.

Or the reflection felt in the lyrics to Careless:

I know
I’ve been
Careless
I’ve lost
My tenderness

Soundcheck

It strikes me how beautiful it is that someone else’s words can convey something so hard to express. There are some nights on this tour I get swept up in it. During a moment of weakness when I’m missing my lady, and knowing my baby Jetta is at home and I’m holed up in a concrete basement backstage thousands of kms away.

What if we get caught raiding Mr Kelly's rider dad?

What if we get caught raiding Mr Kelly’s rider dad?

Not tonight though: both these two are with me as we try and manage the long stints – plus combining our love of Melbourne by pretending 5 gigs in 5 days is our first family holiday.

One thing I’ve noticed with city crowds is a finely tuned knowledge of running times – consequently we play to a half empty room each night at Melbourne’s Recital Hall. The bitter, unspeakable pain of an unpleasant opening act proving too ghastly a memory to chance too early an arrival.

Fair enough.

Due to the DIY philosophy that’s brought me to this point in my career, I’ve ended up being in the headline slot for years so I find this dance with the scattered few oddly appealing. When you steel yourself to ignore an older lady blocking her ears, it really makes you treasure the cracks that slowly break into smiles on their faces. By the end of our set any awkwardness has subsided and we feel welcome. They’re still his best friend, but I don’t feel like I should leave the room.

I brought my baby JJ along to some of these shows and I have the unfamiliar experience of pacing the back halls putting her to sleep, eventually setting her down under the baby grand piano in our dressing room. This is the Everest of my rock & roll lifestyle to date. Someone barely important, somewhere, is snorting coke off a toilet seat backstage and aspiring to follow me up that mountain.

At the conclusion of the show, as I gently rock Jetta in the hallway, I hear “can I take her?” Paul had quietly walked up beside me, having changed out of his blue suit into black jumper and jeans. She was completely oblivious, arguably disrespectful, as Paul softly sung to her while a cacophony of noise spilled out of his green room. A dozen musician mates, ex-AFL players and numerous family celebrated the shows in a tiny room overlooking a construction site. Sitting down with him as he held Jetta was a beautiful moment I’ll remember and embellish in future years.

PK, JJ and UB

BALLARAT – SUNDAY AUGUST 11

 
Tonight we play in a cinema. We walk all our gear past people lining up for popcorn. Ballarat is one of those great Australian towns that hasn’t let its history slip through its fingertips. If I prick my ears up as we navigate our way down creaking timber staircases I swear I can hear the ghost of an old gold prospector. Tonight was fucking excellent. So nice to get back to a regional show where the house is full within 20 minutes of doors opening.

Tomorrow it’s back home for two shows in both Sydney and Thirroul, plus a date with Canberra.

Spring and Fall Tour Diary pt 3

GOLD COAST TUESDAY JULY 30

 

Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise

The apartment we stayed in overlooked the wild brutal ocean and she roared all day and night. It was mesmerising. There’s a sign downstairs spruiking an old café but now it’s all locked up, like a long forgotten theme park consumed by weeds. Either side of us lay half-empty apartments, roadworks and concrete, eroded sandbanks and a jaw-dropping coastline.

The dead towers lean over the sea

The dead towers lean over the sea

 

If you look at Surfers Paradise on a map it looks like intestines. Or brains.

If you look at Surfers Paradise on a map it looks like intestines. Or brains.

Tonight I asked the crowd if there were any hip hop fans and there must have been at least 10. Great gig. Paul plays, Paul slays. We stand side of stage as the band deliberate on an encore, it’s a moot point due to the standing ovation but still the band stand momentarily confused awaiting instruction. Paul catches Dickie’s eyes (monitors) and calls out the songs and their order. They walk on stage and the crowd roar.

LAKE KAWANA (Sunny Coast) WEDNESDAY JULY 31

 

Ok, lots of exclamation marks but I condone this particular instance.

Lots of exclamation marks but no more than necessary. We can condone in this instance.

We play at Lake Kawana’s Community Centre: a school hall of a venue with a stage at each end leaving me wondering if we’re having a Battle of the Bands tonight. In a particularly rambunctious moment late in Paul’s set, the Sunny Coast audience break out of the lifeless décor and invade the walkways filling the space in front of the stage. Security initially panic, barking at people to sit down. The merch seller Jamie reported later that one security guard ran into the foyer yelling that people were getting out of control. You know it’s a theatre show when a few people getting out of their seats to dance provoke fears of a riot. After a frantic 3 or 4 minutes it dawns on the security that these wild mavericks are for the most part middle aged women posing little threat other than stowing away in the palm of Paul’s hand.

It’s impossible not to smile.

Backstage in the Sunny Coast

Backstage in the Sunny Coast

BRISBANE – THURSDAY AUGUST 1

 
One of the fortunate perks of this tour is performing on stages in rooms like QPAC, a spectacular sounding concert hall. James, truck driver (and our engineer for the tour) tells a story of Reece Mastin performing here and the kids tearing apart the chairs. I’ve never spent any time with his music but I had thought he was a Wiggles spin-off so I was initially impressed. The beautiful setting gave way to a slightly stuffier vibe but the standing ovations for Paul’s set unequivocally cleared the air. This is the kind of room where it’s either a triumph or a failure and you can guess who was standing under the glitter cannon at the final siren. The Vine reported on the show here.

Photo has nothing to do with anything.

Photo has nothing to do with anything.

 

PORT MACQUARIE SATURDAY AUGUST 3

 
I’ve been away from my newborn baby Jetta for 10 days and she was a sight for sore, tired eyes as I walked through the arrivals door at Newcastle Airport.

This little dude is ridiculous.

Aww naww hell nawww


 

The following day we drove to Port Macquarie and surprisingly, one of the best shows yet. Tonight could’ve gone either way – the Glasshouse Theatre looks like a wall of corks and apart from Festival of the Sun I’ve never played shows here – but tonight was something else. It was great, dangerously so. Are we getting comfortable? Is that bad? This wasn’t supposed to happen.

NEWCASTLE MONDAY AUGUST 5

 
The text message comes from PK: there’s an oval near Nobby’s Beach perfect for a kick of the Sherrin. Paul is handy with both left and right boots and kicks with a consistency neither myself or the rest of the crew can manage. As usual, he goes about it without fanfare or obvious disappointment at our wayward shanks and failed attempts to mark the ball. For God knows what reason I agree on a swim in the crisp winter surf a stone’s throw away from where the Pasha Bulker ran aground. Newcastle’s beautiful Civic Theatre turns it on that night and my mother in law watches the show. Thinking ahead, I invested in some earplugs for her and it turns out they paid off – she stayed the whole night.

Continuing the family vibe, this is Jane and nan at soundcheck.

Continuing the family vibe, this is Jane and her nan at soundcheck.

Tomorrow we head to Geelong, Melbourne and Ballarat for 5 shows in 5 days.

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