Smokey's Blog

we gonna do the damn thing or what

Tag: jane tyrrell

The Afterglow (of a great tour)

A short video recap of the Second Heartbeat Tour and some context underneath.

I’m writing in the afterglow of one of the best tours I’ve ever had the fortune of participating in. The tour poster had my name on it but there were a lot of people who made it a success, and you were one of them, so thank you. I can staple words together but I don’t find it easy summing up exactly how profound it was to me. This time last year I genuinely doubted whether I would/could do another proper tour! Even with mid-level success the financial rewards in music make a low but steady income seem like big pimpin’. This new album was difficult, it took a lot of soul-searching, the indicators weren’t good – the kinda shit that spooks you. I couldn’t mentally envisage what shape my live show would take even if things went well – all I knew was that Jane wouldn’t be part of it.

IMG_9665(Pic by Yaya Stempler)

A couple of years earlier I had a heart to heart with Jane Tyrrell where she let me know that she could no longer perform in my show; she needed to focus on her solo music career and other professional work. It was a bittersweet conversation, made slightly better by the fact we both felt it was the right thing to do. Years before that, I’d had a similar conversation with Elgusto, and we parted ways on great terms after an awesome decade playing live together. Each of their departures brought its fair share of anxiety and uncertainty: I can easily perform my songs but how fun could it be without such important ‘family’ by my side? Touring is not just about being on stage: it’s the ins and outs of building relationships, often from scratch, in a transient lifestyle characterised by endless “dead time”. It works when there’s a sense of camaraderie and love and respect but that takes a while to establish.

IMG_9962
Pic by Yaya Stempler

That uncertainty and the decisions that had to be made are the context for my current elation. Over the course of the last 6 weeks alongside Jayteehazard on turntables, Ev Jones, Meklit Kibret and Claire Nakazawa on vocals, and Todd Dixon doing the tour managing and sound, I felt like we were flying. The crowd response was, at worst, appreciative and loudly respectful; at best, the wildest crowds I’ve ever played to. I spent a lot of time at the merch desk taking a gazillion photos but ended each night wide-eyed about how much we were selling. The music I’d agonised over during the last few years was making people cough up at the merch desk in numbers I hadn’t seen for a while (we had great designs thanks Dale Harrison, Sarah McCloskey and Allara Uota). Physically and mentally it was a healthy tour and I took a lot of heart from the connections and relationships that developed between the tour party over the duration. It’s early days but I’ve loved playing live with this team.

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(Pic by Cole Bennetts)

It was at the second Sydney show that I looked around on stage and saw myself and 4 guys, outnumbered by 8 uniquely talented women. I think this is the first time in my career where the ratio of women to men on stage was like that. It wasn’t a statement, it was merely the album’s guests doing cameos, but it underlined that there was something really special taking place. We had Kira Puru, Bertie Blackman, Jane Tyrrell, Montaigne and B Wise all stealing the show sharing the spotlight. With L-FRESH The LION, Mirrah, DJ MK-1 and OKENYO, we also had a tour that reflected the changing face of local hip hop in as good a way as I’ve seen. Night after night, the atmosphere was electric and people sung and yelled and danced and went home joyous. We (mostly) woke up without hangovers.

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(Pic by Cole Bennetts)

I remember so clearly how low I felt wondering about the future in 2015, but as tickets started selling in 2016, I made a commitment to myself not to take any success for granted. We sold out the entire tour, bar a handful of tickets in Canberra, and that’s an amazing feeling. It’s one of the reasons I decided to donate every cent I earned from merch sales to charity. The total after paying manufacturing back was $4923.14 (this will be split between Grandmothers Against Removals, Tranby Aboriginal College and the Healing Foundation). I don’t want to front like I’m all G financially, but I’m very lucky, and don’t want to forget that.

After all that soul-searching, the album is going brilliantly, and this tour was all time – that’s no exaggeration. On to the next one.

Thanks.

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.