Tag Archives: flight

Australia week one

Adelaide to Perth. All electronic devices should now be switched off. Keep your tray tables in their upright and locked position. Push the metal ends together until they click. There’s a light and a whistle for attracting attention.

On the surface, being a flight attendant may seem like a glamorous job: you get paid to fly all over the world. If you dig a little deeper, it seems a lot more boring: you fly around the world and stand up in front of a few hundred people and say exactly the same thing you said yesterday to a few hundred different people. Read that last sentence back: it also serves as a pretty accurate description of what it’s like to be on tour in a band. We have a lot in common with the flyboys, but we have slightly cooler jargon. Gig. Soundcheck. Backstage. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Ollie is one row back and across the aisle from me, describing to Steph (the merch girl (or “merchant” if you prefer) on this tour, not to be confused with Stéph, the lighting guy on this tour) the various schools of thought on causality in relation to time travel. That is, whether doing stuff in the past should effect the future. Ollie assures us time travel is possible, though he always seems to skirt around the issues of what machinery is required to do it, and where one can get this machinery. Nevertheless, he gets nerd kudos for being able to explain it all without relating anything to events in Back to the Future or Back to the Future II. Also, his right arm is currently in a cast. It’s a futuristic gunmetal-grey cast. Last night I said it made him look like a professional ten-pin bowler, but now, in light of all his time travel discussion, he looks a lot more like a piano-playing android from the future. This may sound a bit far-fetched, but it has a lot more in common with the truth than my professional ten-pin bowler theory.

By now you might be wondering why Ollie’s arm is in a cast. If so, you obviously haven’t yet heard what happened on the day of the Canberra gig. If so, you obviously haven’t read about it on Twitter. Congratulations: you’re a credit to your species. In short…

Actually, bugger that. Twitter, with its 150-byte limit, is clearly the forum for “in short” accounts of things that took hours or days to unfold. This is not Twitter, so I’m going to give this story the elbow room it deserves. Let’s take it from the top.

Day one. And two. The Palace Theatre, Melbourne. The sign out the front says “Established 1912″. This is confusing for anybody who knows that
a) the place was called the Metro for a long, long, long time, and
b) there was another venue in St Kilda called The Palace until very, very, very recently.
If you can ignore both of these, you’ll feel the nostalgia settling on your shoulders as you walk in the front door of the building. Honestly though, this place is very far removed from the Metro. If you don’t like the idea of going to see your favourite band at the Metro, you really should give the Palace a chance. They’ve stripped out all the shiny Metro 90s nightclub decor, removed that bar downstairs that takes up the whole dancefloor, and best of all, that weird second balcony with the glass in front of it no longer has glass in front of it. It’s beautiful in there. With three balconies dripping with old-world charm, it’s a cavernous-yet-inviting room with a enormous PA.

Day three: fly to Canberra, drive for two-and-a-half hours to Jindabyne, check in to the accommodation that sleeps five-to-a-room. It’s freezing outside but you haven’t seen an ounce of snow. If you’re already thinking, “That sounds shithouse so far, I hope the gig was fun,” well you’ll be glad to hear that it was. The whole experience felt like being on school camp, but none of my school camps involved playing a gig to 1000 people, or smuggling the bottle of Jameson back to the room for a pre-gig Election Party. Come to think of it, school camp also never had a rider.

Day four: the Canberra gig. It turns out Ollie got up early and went snowboarding. Yes, there was snow up there somewhere, but clearly you had to know where to find it. Nobody thought snowboarding on the day of a show was a bad idea, except Harry, who urged Ollie to be careful. But you can only urge so much. It’s easy to say, “Be careful man, we’ve got a gig tonight,” but most people feel like they’re crossing a line if they say, “We’ve got a gig, don’t go snowboarding, this is going to end in tears.” Sure enough, we got a phone call somewhere between Jindabyne and Canberra. We could only hear Harry’s side of the conversation, but it didn’t sound good.
“Guys, Ollie fractured his right wrist. He’s still in the hospital.”
A few of us jumped to conclusions about cancelling that night’s gig and even some of the following week’s gigs, training up stunt keyboard players, or writing a less keyboard-intensive setlist. I wasn’t worried though: Ollie can do a lot of things with a keyboard. I always thought he could still play the whole set with one hand tied behind his back, and tonight we would get to find out for sure. Harry soon spoke to Ollie on the phone when he got out of the hospital, and he sounded similarly optimistic:
“Ollie said he’s really excited about the gig, and that he’s been thinking about this scenario for YEARS.”
Sure enough, at soundcheck we were pleasantly surprised. With a microphone stand holding up the cast to top-keyboard level and four fingers poking out of the cast, Ollie seemed to be able to do a pretty convincing job. The gig that night upgraded his status to “not just convincing, but playing stuff nobody’s ever heard before”. Also, it looked pretty bad-ass to walk on stage with an arm in a cast and then shred the hell out of two keyboards. Ollie proved true the old adage that “whatever doesn’t kill you can only make you play faster”.

Oh. That seems like a good length for this post, but I’m still six gigs behind. I’d better save them for later.

Next: Perth. But I’ll also say what happened in Brisbane, Byron, Coolangatta, Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.

Osheaga

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

buses

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.

P1000939

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:

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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:

P1000967

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.

New Zealand

I walked into the airport. Correne was the only one there so far. I started to prepare the relevant muscles to say “Hello”, but they all failed as they simultaneously morphed it into a different word:
“PASSPORT!”

So I missed the plane. New Zealand is a funny place really. It is so close to Melbourne, that catching a plane there doesn’t seem as big a deal as going to any other overseas country. There are plenty of domestic flights that take longer than Melbourne to Auckland. So I didn’t remember my passport. Neither did Ollie.

Six hours later, we were crossing the Bolte Bridge on our way back out to the airport again, when Ollie’s car decided it had something to say.
“Ehem…” coughed Ford.
“…so a rhodes, a hammond and a wurly go into a bar,” continued Ollie, undeterred.
“EHEM,” it interrupted again, swaying and spluttering to further emphasise the point.
“Mmm. It sure is windy up here today,” I thought to myself.
“Er…” Ollie clearly disagreed.
“Fzzzun!” My eyes widened as I caught a glimpse of the petrol guage.
“Ah.”
So we got off at the next exit.
Needless to say, if you saw Jesus at 3pm last Monday running along Footscray Rd in flares with a jerry can in tow, it was probably me.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us at the time, the other guys were having a strange little trip of their own. The plane that would take them to Christchurch had no air conditioning that day, so they waited around in Melbourne for a few hours and went to Wellington instead.

Ollie and I were still early to the airport. We had actually left home about two hours early, to account for whatever other bizarre crap could take place on the way to the airport. Lucky. The plan was to fly to Christchurch, and then on to Dunedin the next morning. The check-in staff had other ideas.
“The double bass won’t fit on the plane for the second flight. We’d better send you to Auckland instead.”

Yeesh. With the disastrous first day out of the way, we had a great tour. The upstairs smallish gig at Massey Uni in Wellington reminded us of the Late n Live days in Edinburgh in 2002: a room of people who were totally up for getting the hell on down until the end of the night. On a school night! The Palmerston North gig was an o-week toga party. That’s right. John Belushi. Louie Louie. Kegs. Jocks. Nerds. Some guy riding a motorcycle through the house. About half of the togas were, amusingly, made from the hostel-issue blue sheets. But these NZ kids know how to party.

Pump water is actually bottled spring water in New Zealand. Australia’s pump is “purified ozonated water”. We’re getting ripped off. Next week: the tour diary starts again for the Sly Tour, making its way around the country.

Europe Week Twelve

There is a rumour about commercial radio announcers that has almost reached urban legend status. Apparently they are required to say the name and slogan of the station something like 26 times an hour. Some think this is excessive, but I say, “Why the hell not?” What better way to promote one’s product or service than repeatedly bludgeoning the listeners in the head with it? And so in the spirit of The All New Triple M, I will endeavour to plug the brains out of our brand new DVD, “On the Attack” by using the phrase “On the Attack” no less than seven times in this article. That counts as the first one.

We had a great gig at WOMAD Eden, albeit a painful one for me as I tried to play a hired double bass from hell. Looking out over the sea of happy, smiling, environmentally-friendly faces, we were glad to be there. After another small, small-doored plane trip back up to Scotland, we had a few more days left in Edinburgh before the trek home. I will attempt to sum these up in a dot point list:

  • La Clique, the Spiegeltent’s late-night cabaret show, sold out for the entire week. Did someone say identical twin Polish acrobats?
  • La Clunk, a pisstake of La Clique starring Jimeoin and the Tiny Top staff, was performed for one night only to a capacity crowd of thirty-five in the Tiny Top. Years from now, everyone will claim that they were there. Just like Nirvana’s pre-Nevermind gigs.
  • Our last gig of the Edinburgh Fringe, and thus the whole tour, was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. There are six people in the band, and if we’re all switched “ON” at once, it gets pretty scary. It’s also great for that to happen on a stage you’ve played dozens of times before.
  • The water was switched off in our building the morning of our departure. Apparently everyone else checked out at 10am, leaving the accommodation ample time to start the WEEK-LONG PROCESS of flushing the pipes of the entire building. And so we had to board the plane still caked in stale gig sweat from the night before. Ugh.
  • The final act in the Spiegeltent involved Ursula Martinez pulling a metre-long “Viva La Clique” banner from somewhere I never thought I’d see a metre-long banner be pulled from.

Faring well once again to Edinburgh, my second-favourite city in the world, we began the 27-hour, two-breakfast, three-flight, HK$65 shower trip back to Melbourne. So look out for the Spiegeltent in Melbourne this year. The old girl is ready for one hell of a festival. Rumour has it that she will be sticking around for longer than usual, too.

Hitting the ground running, and slightly confused due to the rapid change of time zone, we put on some ill-fitting suits and took to the purple carpet at the Classic Cinema in Elsternwick for the premiere of our brand new DVD “On the Attack”. It was great to hang out with so many people we hadn’t seen for months, and then go and watch our brand new DVD, “On the Attack”. Some of the weirdo personal/muso nerd jokes translated pretty well to an audience other than ourselves. Kieran and Ross are a bit freaked out by the strawberry scene.

Our “On the Attack” tour kicked off in Cairns over the weekend. We played two shows at the Up Tempo World Music Festival, alongside gypscientists Monsieur Camembert, and bedreadlocked bluesician Ash Grunwald, all within the tranquil setting of the Tanks Arts Centre. The site is home to several enormous empty concrete tanks that began life as diesel storage during WWII, and are now used as a venue. We had a great, and kind of similar, crowd at both gigs, including a young Japanese couple we recognised from last time we were in Cairns. Check out the footage of them dancing onstage on our brand new DVD, “On the Attack.”

The increasingly-inaccurately-named “European Tour Diary” continues next week, as “On the Attack” (the tour) hits Tasmania and South Australia.

Ryan

Europe Week Eleven

WOMAD festivals consist of amazing bands – of a world music-ish bent – that you probably haven’t heard of, and interesting food. We’re huge fans of both of these. What’s more, WOMAD happens all over the world. So far we’ve played WOMAdelaide, WOMAD Singapore, and WOMAD Reading. Next on the list: WOMAD Eden.

The Eden Project in Cornwall (the pointy home of Cornish pasties in the southwest of England) is home to 140,000 plants, which represents more than half the species that can be found on Earth. So much of our society relies on resources that come from plants, and the Eden Project believes that if we help these plants to survive, rather than just trying to stay away from them, we’ll all be around for much longer. We’ve been half-assedly spreading the message that trees aren’t just for hippies, so it’s our kind of place. The two biodomes on the site, housing warm temperate and humid tropical climates, sure are a welcome change from the Cornish weather. It’s no wonder they’ve had over 5 million visitors in three years. It’s a great site for the WOMAD festival too: world music and ecological conservation seem to go hand in hand. On the bill this year were Susana Baca, ourselves, Asere, Laye Sow, Dreadzone Sound System, Charlie Gillett, and David Lowe’s Dreamcatcher project. We hadn’t heard of the others either.

We were in Edinburgh, and had to get to Eden, which is sort of near Newquay. We all shuddered at the memories of Newquay last year – our windowless accommodation smelt like pappadams and vomit, so we slept in the lanes of a bowling alley – but were still pretty excited about playing another WOMAD festival. The closest airport is Exeter. So we flew from Edinburgh to Exeter.

This is a fairly obscure route.

This meant we used a fairly obscure budget airline.

This meant they had a small plane.

This meant the small plane had small doors.

This meant the small, small-doored plane could not accommodate an enormous double bass.

I found this hard to believe. If I can fit my bass in a Ford Laser, and still take two passengers, I can fit it in anything. I once fitted it in a rented Mazda 121 in Byron Bay. You know, those mid-1990′s bubbly ones. The FlyBe staff were adamant, though. And so we set off, bassless, to Exeter.

It’s a bloody lot easier to travel without a double bass. Most of you know this, having never travelled WITH one. We’re used to seeing a certain look on the face of whoever’s manning the desk we decide to aim our luggage barrage at – it’s a simultaneous roll-of- and widening-of-the-eyes that yells, “I’ve never seen this before in all my years of luggage handling.” Not surprisingly, without the double bass, we must have looked like any other party of seven. There was something strange about FlyBe. The “Be” stands for British European. This is confusing enough. But I also noticed that the same girl who checked us in downstairs was also taking our boarding passes when we got on the plane. The speech mannerisms of the woman announcing flight information at the airport were nothing short of fascinating. I’d have called it monotonous, as this is a commonly accepted synonym for “repetitive”, but she seemed to be singing the same five notes for every announcement. We wrote a bassline inspired by the pentatonous announcement for our flight’s final call to kill some time.

Next week: farewell to Edinburgh, a short stay in Melbourne, some red carpet, and the start of another tour.