Smokey's Blog

we gonna do the damn thing or what

Month: August, 2013

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.

Spring and Fall Tour Diary – Supporting Paul Kelly pt 2

ROCKHAMPTON Friday July 26th

 

The Pilby

The Pilby

Today we drove 9 hours from Townsville to Rockhampton for our show at the Pilbeam Theatre. Playing shows supporting Paul Kelly in regional spots like this is pretty far removed from the audiences I play to and I love the challenge. Still there’s nothing like wandering outside the venue before the show starts and feeling like I’m about to rap at a rodeo. Aussie Blokes with Aussie Guts under tucked-in show shirts, wander in alongside their wives dressed in Sunday Best. Immaculately attired old ladies carry handbags and smile warmly as they catch my confused glance like “don’t worry kid, you’ll be fine”. Either that or “are you my grandson?”

At worst, the shows have received polite applause at the end of each song; at best, fairly raucous yelling and some heartening support from an open-minded audience. Paul lurks side of stage like Mr Miyagi, welcoming us as we finish. This guy is unreal, the amount of times we peel off stage and see him nod approvingly is an honour I can’t process at the moment.

Each night the crowd awkwardly laugh during 'Someone New' which starts "I just want to sleep with someone new.."

Each night the crowd awkwardly laugh during ‘Someone New’ which starts “I just want to sleep with someone new..”

We fade out hard after the long drive and crash out. Jane has the original Jurassic Park – classic tour movie for a budget motel. It turns out to be one of the sequels and T-Rex is let loose on America. This movie needs more The Rock. I go to sleep.

Early leaving note

Early leaving note

 

BUNDABERG Saturday July 27th

 

We wake up and face down the make or break first world problem of the day: breakfast. We google recommended cafes and put our trust in an internet review by ‘Julie’ as well as an image of a meal this joint cooked once. The contentiousness begins if one of our party gets a bad vibe (it’s the little things), or if the café is full of senior citizens. I know it sounds like a flimsy premise for a generalisation, but the custom of older people at a café is a reliable tipoff that it’s subpar. Lovely old grandparents are sticklers for each meal of the day being served at an appropriate time: breakfast 7 – 9am, lunch 12 – 2 etc. Appropriate eating time is way off our radar and if you’re going to fire up the coffee machine and torture my long black no worries just don’t charge me $4.50. We’re haggard, wandering aimlessly around an unfamiliar town wiping sleep from our eyelids.

Bundaberg that night is the best show yet and the crowd were brilliant. Post show is the moment where everything aligns into a neatly wrapped zen tortilla – a good gig prompts smiles and hugs and a semi-private outpouring of relief.

Alex, Jane and Lozz

Alex, Jane and Lozz

About 20 minutes later Paul politely leads his troops side stage. Motioning to J Walker in a firm voice “Hey Greg, you go first, you’re on the other side of the stage” at which point they line up in a single file and walk onstage to excited applause.

There’s an air of joy backstage after the show and Paul insists we join him for a Bundy and Coke. It feels like something clicked tonight and the whole touring party became a little tighter. I gave Paul an Elefant Traks hoodie. He’s barely taken it off since.

New navy marle in medium - right up Paul's alley. 

MARYBOROUGH Saturday July 28

 

9am Sunday morning at Alexandra Park in Bundaberg kicking the Sherrin with Paul, Greg, Zoe and Bree. A true Crows fan, Paul semi-seriously runs drills and has a respectable kicking efficiency. I’m unfit and shank every second kick. I’m a Swans fan so neither of us brings up Tippett.

Dan and Bree backstage. These two are awesome.

Dan and Bree backstage. These two are awesome.

We’re starting to find our feet with Kelly’s audience; tonight felt great except for one heckler who yelled out “we don’t give a shit” during a self-deprecating story I was oversharing. I found out later the whole heckle was “you’re in Maryborough so we don’t give a shit” which roughly translated to friendly reassurance that I shouldn’t be embarrassed. As a committed mumbler I’m always in awe of direct communicators.

After the show I hit the merch desk and started chatting with a local punter. I asked him for a tip for a good café brekky in the morning. I assume I was unknowingly producing some kind of needy artist hormone because to my horror he pulls out his wallet and uncomfortably starts removing a few coins as if to tip me.

“Dude, no! Thank you but I didn’t mean that. I meant local knowledge of a good cafe!”

“Oh yeh” he says, “I thought that was weird.”

You, you, you.. you think the guy in the $6300 suit wants a tip? COME ON!

You, you, you.. you think the guy in the $6300 suit wants a tip? COME ON!

These kind of things remind us we’re definitely the support act. Tomorrow we head to the Gold Coast.

Spring and Fall Tour Diary – Supporting Paul Kelly

Day One – Cairns Tues July 23rd

 

Green Room

I still get excited by flights, or at least flights long enough to watch a movie. I boarded my flight from Sydney with every intention of studying the work docs our accountant gave me as homework, then proceeded to watch a movie with The Rock. Fuckin’ The Rock. I imagine a salon-tanned prune riding a garish speedboat around the canals of Surfers Paradise when I think of his acting career. Of all the places in the world where people are happy to suspend their disbelief to enjoy a shit movie it’s on a plane. Nope. Tried.

Content with having ignored important work, my mind wandered to this tour supporting one of the best songwriters Australia has ever produced and the looming possibility of my grand scale public humiliation. I was sitting next to Lozz Benson, our 22 year old drummer on her first proper tour, who compulsively says sorry. Will the audience responses on this tour cause me to pick up this habit?

Jane met us at Cairns, having moved back to Melbourne recently. She’s a great friend, an amazing singer and super important to our show so it was great to see her. The fourth piece of the puzzle is Alex Dawson who plays keys but his knowledge of audio engineering and tour managing make him a good guy to have around.

Lozz, Jane and I size up the headliner..

Lozz, Jane and I size up the headliner..

I look at this tour as a great challenge – our plan of attack is to give a little context for my songs and hopefully trick people into tolerating the show. Just as a hypnotist waves a pocket watch. We get out there and enjoy the gig; I think the spell worked.

Paul very kindly asked Jane and I to join him for a song so I madly try and memorise the lyrics between my set and his. It’s all for nothing though, as I find myself standing beside Paul in front of a full theatre and promptly forget almost every line apart from the first and the second last. You haven’t lived til you’ve painfully mumbled non-words beside a hero in front of a full house. I’m the best! Jane wisely opted out.

This shot caught me trying to write key lyrics on my hand as a backup. I couldn't read the faint red texta so it totally failed.

This shot caught me trying to write key lyrics on my hand as a backup. I couldn’t read the faint red texta so it totally failed.

All was momentarily forgotten when we piled into Paul’s dressing room drinking his very tidy whiskey, all a little relieved that show #1 was in the bag. 27 to go.

The early set at 7.30pm meant we skipped dinner so my last triumphant moment was staring blankly at a frozen pizza in a microwave at 2am. Bought it from a BP. It was The fuckin Blob.

TOWNSVILLE Wed July 24th

 

Early gigs, early crowds.

Early gigs, early crowds.

The drive from Cairns to Townsville is one of my favourite drives anywhere. The rainforest and sugarcane; the mountains that shoot up like South East Asia and the rusted old factories puffing plumes of smoke. Jane and I spent time working on her verse for the aforementioned song we were doing with Mr Kelly. Given last night’s events I probably should’ve been working on my verse.

One of the perks of a touring musician is winter in the top of Australia.

One of the perks of a touring musician is winter in the top of Australia.

At Townsville’s Civic theatre I caught up with my Japanese sister-in-law Yuki and her 1 yr old Ren. When we ventured outside she laughed guiltily at the older men and women milling about. I tried to explain that it wasn’t quite the entire audience, but secretly I opened up the possibility of an awkward gig, like a packet of chips in a cinema. Our set was great though – the audience laughed and clapped and we walked off stage and back to our dressing room.

Paul and Dan saunter in strumming acoustic guitars to go over the collab that I’d forgotten the night before. Last night I told him I wouldn’t forget the lyrics again and in his easy way, Paul just shrugged it off with a smile. But not so much so that he didn’t want to practice it a little more tonight. Jane and I spent most of his set pacing backstage trying to learn the lyrics – Jane was a bundle of nerves moving around with headphones and a laptop going over the song.

The Paul The Dan

The Paul The Dan

Then the time comes and the first notes of the song ring out. We walk onto the stage.

We didn’t forget our lyrics.

_____________________________

Next show is 750kms away in Rockhampton, followed by Bundaberg and Maryborough as we make our way down to Brisbane.