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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.