Tag Archives: festival


Hold on. Before we move on to Montréal, let’s backtrack a few destinations. We’ve had some, er, confusing feedback from Toronto:


Hi Rene, thanks for writing in. To answer your question, I guess the best place to start is here:
We didn’t have a bus in Toronto.

We really didn’t. I could come up with more excuses, but I think that one is conclusive enough. With that out of the way, let’s get back to the story.


This is the first time we’ve ever seen a US airport with no queue. We were early, but not ridiculously early. The “this shows how many people in New York want to go to Canada!” jokes were inevitable. The flight time was fairly short in the scheme of possible flight times, and the time in the immigration queue seemed like an awfully long time to have to stand in a queue, though they were probably about equal. We drove straight out to the festival site (another island festival – no coyote warnings in sight though) from the airport, and realised we had quite a lot more time indeed to wait around before our set started. We were shown to our trailer (more of a compartment, really), and we dumped our luggage out of the vans. This took up all available couch space and two layers of floor space in the trailer, and we quickly realised there was no room for anybody to stand or sit in the trailer. We would have to find other places to sleep, or find ways to stay awake. Luckily, Ricky dished out meal tickets, drink tickets, some sort of VIP pass that would get us free sunglasses, and pointed out the catering area. Check out the salad situation:


Not only can they turn any of those ingredients into a salad (you have to be the sort of person who gets excited about the very idea of asparagus to be impressed by this) but they were also okay with giving you NO DRESSING. After four weeks on a continent of dressing-heavy salads, this was a godsend. Nobody else seemed as excited as me about the salad situation. But hey, each to their own. Some of the other guys were excited by the juice situation, which is something I don’t really get into. Aside from these, there was also a coffee situation, a taco situation, a poutine situation, and even an oyster situation to come to grips with. Situation-wise, this festival had it all. The drink ticket situation was less godsendy, only redeemable for those weird aluminium bottles that you only ever see at big festivals. Presumably they are preferable to glass bottles, which people can bottle other people with. But consider this: if you bottle someone with an aluminium bottle, it won’t smash. You can just bottle them again. Ouch.

In what must have been a scheduling error, The Black Keys played before us, on the same stage. Once we got out there, our lack of sleep didn’t seem to matter. Hello Montréal:


Crikey. We spent the rest of the day watching Snoop Dogg (amazing drummer, and blinged-out microphone), Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (who made everybody else look pretty amateurish), Sonic Youth (I missed their set, but each member of the band seemed to have a series of files and rasps to, presumably, attack their guitars with – very 20th century), Devo (who didn’t let you forget for one second that you were watching Devo – it was the Devo-est hour of music you could imagine), and Weezer. Well, I didn’t hear much Weezer. We were pretty ready to leave by then, and were on our way out of the festival during their set.

RYAN: Man, I hope they don’t start playing something I want to hear right now.
WEEZER begin playing Say It Ain’t So
RYAN: Maaaaaan!
ROSS: You shouldn’t have said it!

Harry, Ross, Kieran and I took Steph’s advice and took the train home. Predictably, the trains were full of people from that festival. A few people asked Harry for a photo, and he took the opportunity to ask them for directions in return. Yes, having one French speaker in the band does come in pretty handy. I got a bit worried when I looked at the map after our first train-change, as it seemed we were heading away from where we needed to go.

“I thought you said we were going to Place-des-Arts?”
“No, I got it wrong, it’s Place-d’Armes.”
“Oh. But there is also a Place-des-Arts on the map.”
“Really?” He took a look. “Oh, I guess we’ll just walk. It looks pretty close.”

Gulp. “It looks close on the train map, it must be close on foot,” have been many travellers’ famous last words. Luckily Montréal is one of those cities designed with winter in mind: you can get around the city pretty easily without having to go outside. We may have gotten off at the wrong station, but it didn’t feel like it. We just followed the signs to Place-des-Arts and found the hotel without incident, other than Kieran smashing a fluorescent light after kicking the footy in a confined space (who knew?!). And remember the luggage we left in the trailer? It was all in storage at the hotel. Wow. That’s the Ricky difference.

Next: Australia! More specifically: Darwin.

Calgary Folk Festival

Oh. I’ve done it again. It’s the end of the tour but there’s still ten days of stuff I haven’t told you about yet. Damn. Let’s start with the coyotes.

Calgary Folk Festival was located on Prince’s Island, in the middle of Bow River. I checked, and it’s not the Bow River that’s mentioned in the Cold Chisel song of the same name. The island is right next to the city (or amongst it, really) but it still feels pretty remote when you get out there, and I sure wasn’t glad to see this sign on the bridge:


There are only three bridges to that island. If the coyotes took the bridges, we’d be done for! That made me a little nervous. Leash pets for their safety?! What about the humans? I wasn’t really sure of what coyotes were capable of: I have no real world coyote experience, and only really know about them through Wile E. Coyote, Coyote Ugly, and the ones in Red Dead Redemption. They can mess you up if you’re not careful.

That reminds me: something that seems to be happening a lot on this tour is the confusion that results from walking into a conversation and not realising it’s a conversation about something that happened in a video game.

“Yeah man, I was out in the desert and all of a sudden I was surrounded by wolves, and they killed my horse and then I had to run to the next town which took like ten minutes.”

“Hang on, you’re talking about a video game, right?”

It sounds pretty bad if you think they’re talking about real life.

“I got on the train again, and I got further than last time, but I kept getting shot at by the guys on the roof. I never know when they’re coming.”

Anyway, back to the story. Coyotes. No, we covered that. Where were we? Oh yeah. Calgary Folk Festival. Another folk festival with those workshop things that only happen at folk festivals.


That’s us with Etran Finatawa. Coolooloosh were on stage too but, honestly, I found it pretty hard to take a photo that included all three bands. Ollie probably did a much better job: when he’s awake and not playing keyboards, he’s usually taking photos.

Next: Toronto.

Europe Week One

First stop, Amsterdam. As much fries-with-mayo, canals, windmills, “coffee” shops, soccer fanaticism, clogs and bicyclists as you can handle. Felix made the first purchase of the tour – a powered bike, which has since been stashed in the back of our tour van, released regularly for the introductory ‘cruise’ in each new town. This could explain why all of our clothes, instruments and everything we own now smells like fuel.

Our first show of the tour (Amsterdam) had us billed as The Cat Empire from France. We were a bit put out about this, until we spoke with the other band playing, billed “from Argentina”, actually from Mexico. Confusion reigns…

After two shows in the Netherlands, we made our way across land to France. One of our first shows in France was a slot between Blonde Redhead and Belle and Sebastian at the Eurockeenes festival, followed by Groove Armada – with Korn and Slipknot on the other stage. With a crowd of 10 000+ watching us, we’re still pinching ourselves over having that opportunity so early in our foray into Europe. It was one of those awesome European festivals we’d heard so much about – three days on an island in the middle of a lake out in the country with EVERY band you can think of, and very little law being enforced.

We are now in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and I’m starting to think we have been magically transported into the movie Ronin. All these narrow cobblestone streets with clotheslines hanging overhead make me think an Audi S8 is about to tear around the corner sending fruit stands flying.

It’s been surprising to see so many faces we know in the crowd. We have met people at every show who have seen us before on some corner of the world. Interestingly, most people seem to have seen us in Byron Bay! They are pulling out cds from 3 years ago, and arrive at the gigs wearing the t-shirts. One French guy managed to get 2 of our songs on French radio station Couleur 3 in the past 6 months – which was how we got billed for Paleo Festival in Switzerland in a couple of weeks.

Fortunately for us “music is the language of us all”. Holland was easy, it’s one of those countries where everyone speaks English. (Everyone except maybe a handful of windmill technicians out in the country somewhere). Harry is damn good at French, and the people in the crowd love him for it. Will is picking up as many vulgar phrases from our French tour manager as he can, and got some strange looks today at the supermarket when he was standing in front of the cheese cabinet practising to himself! It will be kind of interesting once we get to a country where none of us speak a word. But considering I bought some deodorant just by gesticulating at my armpit and screwing up my nose, we should be okay.

Another show in France tomorrow night, then it’s off to Austria for some Schnitzel and whatever else Austria has to offer. Felix speaks German, so we should get by for at least another week.

Back next week with more.

(note: I think it’s fair to say I only wrote about half of this one. Our manager finished it for me so at least we could post it, and added a few facts and stats too to let people know the sort of opportunities we were getting on our first Euro tour ever. Practical and informative, yes, but a long way from my “never mention any of the gigs” format that emerged on the tour diary years later.)