Tag Archives: harry

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.

On the Attack Week Five

Taking to the skies, blasting eight light-minutes into the sun and flying feet-first in reverse orbit a few times, stopping off for a bite at the nearest servo, and finally heading back down to Earth, the On the Attack Tour Diary once again catches up with our heroes in the land of Sydney.

Based on how little of our time in Sydney I covered last week, I figured the intro had to involve time travel of some sort. After the Yallah gig we headed north again, hopped past the airport, skipped through Maroubra, and jumped into Coogee Bay. The Coogee Bay Hotel (or CBH, for the abbreviati) was host to our pre-Europe Sydney gig in May, and we could all remember how ridiculously co-operative the crowd was back then. We started with Wandering, and even in the intro the crowd were going bananas. Those fancy bananas with the red wax on one end. Who would have thought a bar of 15/8 would entice people to dance so hard? Our first show at CBH had me wondering yet again why I spent so much time complaining about the heat at our other gigs. The sheen of moisture on the stage was mystifying; it could have been our own sweat dripping everywhere until it covered the entire surface area and mixed with whatever had previously been stuck to the stage, becoming gigmud. I like to think that the stage ITSELF was sweating. Either we gave it a serious detox that night or the air conditioning stepped up to the plate for the second night. Our footprints were a lot less muddy on the second night, but still bloody ridiculously hot. Walking directly off stage outside into 10-ish degrees was not at all good for our health. Sadly Julie O’Hara’s voice was not a happening thing for the CBH shows. Ben once again stepped in for a short-notice fill-in, this time singing all the Skaddabox vocals without Julie. The cross-band sit-ins were in full swing by the time we hit Sydney, with Ollie, Jumps, Ross and Carlo joining in for bits of Skaddabox, and Julie and Novak joining in for some of our set.

Riders. They are a funny thing. For the uninitiated, a rider is whatever the venue supplies for bands backstage. You’ve probably heard about Mick Jagger’s 80 metre running track and Britney’s Coca Cola (she actually has a Pepsi endorsement) and Wheatus’ 40 pairs of white socks. We ask for a pretty simple list: a few things to eat, a few things to drink. Riders often attract intruders, and ridersluts. There was an intruder at our Tasmania show who found her way backstage and started drinking tequila, which is the only thing we are MENTAL about. There is an adamant Cuervo Only policy. Anything less than that and it’s a waste of time. When asked what she was doing, she found it HILARIOUS and wastedly made her way back out to the crowd. Ten minutes later she was back. All this DURING our gig. The riderslut, however, is easily spotted as they start a get-to-know-you conversation while opening three beers and edging back out the door. Anyhow. At the CBH gigs we had so many sandwiches backstage that we seriously didn’t know what to do with them. During our last song, How to Explain, Harry passed them out into the crowd. For the record, the sandwich goodwill was my brilliant, sexy, witty (she’s watching over my shoulder) girlfriend’s idea. It was good for the soul to look out into a crowd that was really getting into the music and see happy, enthusiastic, appreciatively chewing faces. The plate made it all the way back to Rhodesy at the mixing desk – truly an indication of how big this plate of sangers was.

Next week, I might finish telling you what happened in Sydney.

Europe Week Nine

The following background material will be required in order for this week’s entry to make any sense whatsoever:

  • In our past two years’ visits to the Edinburgh Fringe, we have often visited a Moroccan restaurant called “Taste of Casablanca”.
  • “Taste of Casablanca” is run by a quirky Moroccan man, who is happy if we call him “Mohammed”. This is not actually his name.
  • Whenever we ate at “Taste of Casablanca” it was clear that Mohammed was the only person working there. He would greet you at the door, show to you your table, take your orders for drinks and food, cook everything, serve it to you, and then clean up afterwards. The food was bloody amazing.
  • It is general knowledge that Mohammed also runs a junk shop somewhere else in the city. He worked there until 5pm every day, and then worked at the restaurant all night.
  • Last year Mohammed told us that, sadly, he would have to close down the restaurant before the 2004 Fringe came around. His partner in crime at the restaurant had to leave to pursue other job opportunities. This, in conjunction with slow business, meant it was hard to keep both shops running.

Okay, the background’s out of the way now. Here’s the story.

When we arrived in Edinburgh we dropped our bags at our accomodation, and then met everyone outside to head down to the Spiegeltent. While waiting for everyone to get their collective shit together, I noticed a shop across the street called “Le Chariot Express”. We have a song called “The Chariot”. I said to the others, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the Casablanca guy worked there?” This was greeted with expressions of doubt, queries as to how I could leap to such a wild conclusion, and maybe even a little derision on the side. We continued waiting.

But it was killing me. I had to know.

But…no way. That would be too much of a coincidence, especially considering I had been reading a book on coincidences at the time. The feeling boiled up inside until I couldn’t hold it down anymore and it burst out with a “Nyaaaaaah!” and I ran across the road, Frogger-ing around various vehicles on the way.

I stepped in, past the old shoes and statues of snakes, and made my way up the stairs to the counter. Guess who was sitting there.

YEEEEAAAAHHH!! This actually came out loud. Mohammed must have wondered why I felt so victorious in finding his shop. But he didn’t flinch. I managed to put together, amid the excitment, the words, “We’re the band from Australia…?” A huge smile suddenly broke out across his face, and straight away he asked, “Is the girl with you?” He was talking about our manager, Correne. She was always the favourite. I nodded, ran outside, nearly tripping on a fifteen-quid plastic Foosball table, and returned, agape, to the rest of the band.

Their initial annoyance that I was holding up the procession quickly subsided. Ollie bought an old Selmer speaker box, and Harry was tempted by a singing lobster.

Next week: our most fringe experience at the Fringe.

Europe Week Five

Maybe Paris doesn’t like me. On day one, I got lost for a few hours after trying to take a detour back to our hotel. Day two saw my credit card devoured by a Metro ticket machine, and a two hour wait for someone with the right spanner to open the machine. After a few days off, we returned to Paris for our gig at L’Europeen. At the end of the night Harry’s trumpet was missing, along with Correne’s camera and phone. Adding to our strange run of luck with tour managers, Stefan’s Discman went missing also. Stefan won’t be around for our last few days in Europe, which takes our tour manager tally for this trip to a grand total of four.

But it wasn’t all bad. We got to see the Louvre, the Arc d’Triomphe, and all things typically Parisian. There was some pretty nuts rollerblading going on outside Notre Dame Cathedral. The bar Harry and Ollie stayed at had its fair share of characters, including the Sly Stallone look-alike Algerian kung fu champion bartender, the 17th century bookstore owner philosophising in the corner, and the backpacking English couple who correctly assumed Ollie was in The Cat Empire just because he is a muso from Melbourne. Everyone who went to the police to report Harry’s trumpet stolen got a huge laugh out of the constable’s three-hour attempt to fix his stapler with a pair of scissors, and returning to the bus to find Ollie wearing a Paris sweatband, nursing a half-full bottle of Cuervo.

The Three Elephants Festival in Lassay Les Chateaux had the same vibe as the Woodford Festival, but concentrated. Picture the same amount of dreadlocks distributed amongst fewer people. Staunchly anti-Euro, the organisers have a system whereby food and drink are purchased with the festival’s local currency: the Elephant. Hanging around outside our accomodation for the night, we met the exiled Duke of Reading. Tragically driven from his homeland by his own hatred of its people, we didn’t immediately take to his way of communicating. Those of us who were game enough to enter his house were given these chilling words of advice: “Your hostess will be heartbroken if you get the urge to do something bizarre, and if something does happen, don’t be afraid to use any means necessary to remedy it.” Harry argued that our music has roots far older than his bel canto chamber music, to which the Duke replied, “I’ve already had a swim today. Good luck with the festival.”

Our one and only gig in Germany was in Karlsruhe, which is so close to the french border it’s barely in Germany. The highlight of the night has to be the old guy with the enormous beard up the front. After spraying something onto the soles of his shoes, he proceeded to spin in circles on one foot for seemingly impossible lengths of time. A retired speaker designer, he believed he got the best sound at gigs by spinning around. Huge thanks go out to whoever passed that VB on stage – my wish from last week’s diary was granted – which brings us to this week’s challenge:

BARBECUE SHAPES.

Two days of driving took us back to Spain. The first two Spaniards we saw were roadworkers. One was sitting in the shade eating a sandwich. The other was taking a leak on the side of the road in full view of eight lanes of traffic. Will Smith’s new movie is called “Yo, Robot”. Microsoft Notepad is called Bloc de Notas. Shopkeepers take a five hour siesta every day, and now that it’s the holidays, many of them don’t return to work after the siesta. Above all, though, we are impressed by Spain’s attitude towards the mullet. It is one that is constantly looking forward and dedicated to innovating this often misunderstood but universally respected hairstyle, while maintaining respect for its past. The rat-tail is also well represented around Barcelona, but not as accepted as the Spanish mullet, or Spullet.

More about Barcelona and the fate of Felix’s moped next week.

Europe Week Four

The history of bassplayer-related accidents is a largely under-reported, occasionally amusing, but often painful one. I wasn’t there, but apparently part of Nick Seymour’s thumb once flew into the audience. My personal favourite, however, is the story of Prince’s current bassist Rhonda Smith. Apparently one night she was playing with Sheila E and they were funkin’ out so damn hard that her eyeball popped out. There’s photos of it on her website if you don’t believe me.

We had a bit of an ‘incident’ at our Lucerne Blue Balls Festival (don’t laugh) gig in Switzerland. Anyone who has seen us live will know what happens in the middle of The Chariot. Harry points at me, we turn the bass up, and we try to get everyone’s pant legs a-flappin’. Nobody was really concerned about the SVT blasting its guts out on stage, because about two bars in a large-ish section of the 15th-ish century roof had just given way and landed on the bar.

I really didn’t want to say this next line…but…it’s inevitable… WE REALLY BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN.

Apart from that, it was a really fun gig. It coincided with three buses of Aussie Contiki tourers arriving in Lucerne, so we had plenty of crazy kids up the front singing along, disgusting the locals with their behaviour. We couldn’t play on after the roof incident, and a few more drinks saw Ollie take to the piano in the foyer of our hotel. A few security guards took note and started to gather around. Some guy who looked like Celeborn started trying to kick Ollie off the piano. A few more security guards joined the fray. Celeborn jumped sides and started bringing Ollie cognacs. Even more security turned up. They came in from everywhere – it was like that bit in Matrix 2 where about 8000 Agent Smiths come running in.

Our second Blue Balls gig ran a little more smoothly thanks to the elaborate network of scaffolding holding up the roof. The third and final Swiss gig was the Paleo Festival in Nyon, also attended by Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Horace Andy, and other scary dudes from all over the world. We played the final set of the festival early in the morning of the 26th, and I was pretty amazed at the Happy Birthday I got from the crowd after our gig. Big thanks to whoever threw that Aussie flag stubby holder on stage. A slab of VB is definitely on my wish list for next year.

We had a great time with our Borat look-a-like temporary tour manager this week, after our previous tour manager had to leave for reasons you would not believe if I told you.

We are now trackydacking around in Tours, with Paris next on the list.

News of The City of Impossible Roundabouts and tour manager number three next week.

Europe Week Three

THE CAT EMPIRE TO THE DIARY ROOM.

“Hi Big Brother.”

“Hello.”

There was an awkward silence, later to be edited out of the conversation. But we didn’t know that yet, so the gap made me feel a little uncomfortable. I may have even looked a little uncomfortable. Big Brother may have looked a little uncomfortable too – if a booming omnipresent voice with no physical form can look like anything. Big Brother is a lot like Sauron in that way: feared by all, but never seen. People used to see Sauron every day 2000 years ago, but you don’t hear about it happening these days. Sauron and Jesus have that much in common. Maybe by the end of the Third Age all the Shire tabloids were running stories about crazy hobbits seeing Sauron’s face in potatoes or turnips, stories quickly dismissed as cases of too much Longbottom Leaf.

But I digress. Big Brother broke the silence.

“Well what have you guys been up to since the last diary room?”

The answer to BB’s question is this: there were 4 days in a row without a gig, but somehow it seems like we had a busy week. On our way from Austria down to Spain,the first stop was a town in Italy called Soave, near Verona. It wasn’t really planned, we just liked the look of this town with old city walls going up the hill to a castle at the top, with grape vines filling all the gaps. We missed the turnoff to Soave and spent about an hour backtracking thanks to the unforgiving no u-turn motorway, and the unavoidable confusion of driving on the “wrong” side of the road. The highlight of Soave for everyone would have to be the food. Incredible pizza followed by lemon gelato served INSIDE a lemon. Italy also taught us that “Ciao bella” can sound very similar to “ciambella”, which means “donuts”.

Two days of hard driving took us to Spain. Ah, Spain. One of the last places in the world where you can say “adios amigo” with no risk of looking like a bit of a tool. Our gig was in Tarragona, in a region called Catalunya, which is regarded by the locals as being separate from the rest of Spain. The amount of pro-independence graffiti around town made this abundantly clear. Our first observation was that we were staying in, without a doubt, the furthest hotel from the beach. But the walk to the beach was well worth it, once we negotiated our way around the train lines. You can stand not 200 metres as-the-crow-flies from the beach, but still walk at least a kilometre to get down the cliff and over the tracks.

Our gig was at the Kesse World Music Festival, on a stage set up in front of the huge cathedral that overlooks the old part of town. The crowd took a while to warm up, but before long they really got into it. We were pretty surprised again to hear Aussie accents yelling out between songs. We also played at the Croma festival in Viladecans. It’s nice to know that somebody in these small-ish towns is willing to organise live music in public places throughout the summer. Seeing those festivals in action really gives you one of those faith-in-the-music-industry feelings.

The next leg of the trip took us north, back to France. We’re staying in a one-horse town near Mont de Marsan at the moment. Harry just annihilated his sister at tennis. We got another tour van, opting for the Iveco Daily HPI over the regular Iveco Daily. We’re taking it easy until our gig tonight at some sort of bullfighting festival. More news on that next week.

(note: I was afraid to mention it at the time, but in Mont de Marsan we got more than just a new van. We also got a new tour manager, after we realised the old one had stolen thousands of Euros from us. But we did learn a few things from her, including the fact that French people routinely mail cheese to each other.)

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.)