Tag Archives: kieran

Edmonton via Calgary

Asleep on the bus. Ricky walks past the bunk and says it’s 6.30am. Time to get up. We have to be on TV soon. Fish around for yesterday’s t-shirt. Sniff. Meh, good enough for TV. Open the curtain. Ricky is walking up and down the bus trying to wake everybody up. Put jeans on while still in the bunk. Degree of difficulty: high. Hours slept: five. Songs to play: one. Estimated time until you can go back to sleep: two hours. Swing legs out of bunk, realise you’re sleeping on the third level, and it’s a long way down. Almost land on Ricky in the confusion. Realise that the ground-floor bunk in your quadrant (front-left) hasn’t been slept in, and could have been used as a junk bunk. Realise that you could have kept your suitcase in there and didn’t need to sacrifice all that leg room in your own bunk. Damn.

Bus kitchen. Tip some Corn Flakes into a cup: we don’t have any bowls. Tip some skim milk into the cup: we don’t have any full-fat milk left. We don’t have any spoons: to make things worse, we also don’t have any forks. Attempt to drink cornflakes. Degree of difficulty: high. Beyond a certain flake-to-milk ratio, which I have exceeded on this occasion, the flakes really want to form an immovable puck at the bottom of the cup which, when it eventually decides to move after much cup-upturning and cup-tapping, will land on your face.

Stand in the street for longer than expected, waiting to be picked up to go to the TV studio. The guy went to the wrong hotel. Finally get picked up. Be confused at the route we’re taking: I thought this place was only two blocks away? The car takes six left-hand turns. There must be a lot of one-way streets, and the driver must be allergic to U-turns.

Inside. The show is called Breakfast Television. When Ricky said we were “playing on breakfast television” and I wondered if he could be more specific, I didn’t realise he actually meant we were “playing on Breakfast Television”, with capital letters. Somebody’s been to Tim Horton’s. Thank you. The host of the show has read the tour diary, and liked The Umbrella Story. Nobody else in the band knows what she’s talking about. I could write anything about those dumbasses and they wouldn’t read it. Just kidding. Hi guys. Coffee, maple dip, play Call Me Home. Get driven back to the bus, the from-journey being much quicker than the to-journey: yes, we really were two blocks away. Bus. Sleep. Wake up in Edmonton. Happy birthday, Kieran. Drink VB (found some at a bottle shop two blocks away) and listen to Cold Chisel. Run back to the hotel to get on Skype. The rain decides to bucket down. Borrow an umbrella from reception – a much less embarrassing one than the one in The Umbrella Story. Gig.

Damn. Forgot the camera again.

Kieran smuggles beer out of the venue inside the umbrella. Return the umbrella to the hotel. Sleep. Wake up in Calgary. Farewell, bus. Hotel. Sleep. Next: Calgary Folk Festival.

On the Attack Week Four

Man, that trip Byron to Sydney was awesome. We’ve done that drive many times, in both directions, but never get sick of it. While we’re on the topic of “sick”, I forgot to mention this last week: trombonist Kieran Conrau’s glandular fever seemed to have some sort of relapse last week, and after an inspiringly heroic and Aussie-battlin’ gig at the Arena, had to return to Melbourne. Much kudos goes out to Skaddabox’s Ben Gillespie for filling in on trombone with scarcely hours’ notice. Somehow, most of us are still kind of sick even now. It’s just getting really goddam annoying. It’s like the virus attacks us all, working its way around the group, and with each new person it arrives at, it learns more about the human body. And so with this new information in hand it makes its way back through the group again, showering us in new symptoms, before return to its underground lair in Antarctica to build up more energy, and possibly cackle at our misfortune.

In spite of the Virus Overlord following our every move, the shows were bloody energetic this week. We arrived in Newcastle half-arsed-coughing-and-a-bit-fatigued and played a gig at Newcastle Panthers, which is an enormous stage in an enormous rugby-affiliated room. We were a bit sceptical about the inexorable rugbiness of it all, but it was a bloody fun show, and kind of interesting to play in such a newly-built venue: the band rooms were called “artist rooms”. Heading south from Newcastle and skewing around Sydney’s myth-inspiring traffic as best we could, we headed past Wollongong to the Yallah Woolshed.

Allow me to reminisce about our last gig at the Woolshed, in May. Towards the end of the set Felix thanked the audience, and so the lighting guy hit the “light up the audience” button. This shone a light on a bloke who was sitting in the rafters, front and center, getting a good ol’ superbox view of the whole gig. He might have been up there the whole night, but we didn’t notice until those crowd lights came on. The security guards, in an instant, got BUSY. One guard made his way through the crowd and tried to coax the bloke down from the roof. Unsuccessful, he slinked back off into the crowd, and returned with a ladder in tow. We, still playing, busted into a spontaneous “Peter Gunn Theme”. Thrilled that he had a soundtrack to this episode of the drama, the security guard climbed up and tried to pull the guy down from the rafters. Adamant that he had the best view in the house and wasn’t going to give it up no matter how much he disrupted the show, the bloke refused to budge. The rest of the room, ourselves included, generally agreed he was pushing shit up a hill, and we responded by segueing into “Mission Impossible”. My only regret is that we couldn’t all agree on which version of the theme from “The Bill” to bust into: the hip 80’s 7/4 version, or the new-school sanitised-for-your-protection 4/4 watered-down-but-easier-to-quote-in-the-middle-of-any-song version.

With that as a template for Yallah gigs, we had a lot to live up to this time around. Nobody climbed into the rafters, but we were advised by security to stop playing if it happened again. They must have been offended by our less-than-smooth transition into 5/4 for “Mission Impossible”. It’s always a great atmosphere at the Woolshed gigs, mostly due to the fact that it is one of the few venues we do that is all ages. After the gig we signed a postcard for John Howard’s chef. Novak gave me the card and the pen and said that paying out Johnny was totally okay. I ran with it and spouted some manner of shite about “wacky shit you can put in your client’s food.” Whatever. It can be read two ways. Have a laugh. Anyway. I later actually spoke to the chef himself and was a little shocked to find that the signing was for THE P.M J.H HIMSELF. I kind of wondered why all the other guys seemed to mask their contempt more than I did! What’s more, they scowled and winced a bit when they read what I wrote. Apparently John Howard is actually a good bloke with a great sense of humour, which kind of puts a whole new spin on things. He wanted us all to sign something, fully expecting an explosion of pent-up lefty rage as part of the bargain. Thankfully he isn’t living in fear as a result. He looked well-nutritioned on Lateline with Kerry O’Brien.

A lot happened this week. I’ll write about the rest some other time. Next week: the fat lady sings.

On the Attack Week One

We’re off again! With scarcely enough time to recognise we were back in Melbourne, we packed up again to head out on the road for another tour. Rendezvousing at Melbourne Airport, we were all shaking off the last-minute-packing-induced sleep deprivation as we realised how cool it was to be on tour around Australia again. With so many cities unvisited in the last six months, it was going to be a hell of a lot of fun to get back out there and show everyone what we’d been up to during our long Australian gig hiatus.


The Cat Empire – You know them by now.

The Empire Horns – Ross, Kieran and Carlo. You know them too.

Correne – Manager. You may know her by now.

Hoss – Tour Manager for On the Attack. The Best of the Best. Once wrestled a hire car desk attendant with his bare hands.

Adam – FOH Sound engineer, and all-round top bloke. We’ve worked with him for live shows a few times, and he also mixed our brand new DVD, “On the Attack”. Leaps tall foldback feedback in a single bound.

Dimitri – Lighting. We met him at the now-legendary Adelaide Fringe `02, where he was lighting Les Arts Sauts: an amazing French circus suspended from the roof of a dome-shaped inflatable tent. Cool. The light at the end of the smoky rock venue tunnel.

Sarah – Merch, extreme or otherwise. Also Will’s girlfriend. Can sell anything. Once sold the discarded gaffa tape that held down Ollie’s melodica.

Skaddabox – Julie, Ben, Novak and Ivan. The band that starts the show every night. You don’t know them yet. But you will if you’re coming to one of the shows. You may remember Julie from some of our gigs, and you’ll recognise all of them if you see much live music in Melbourne. These guys are sounding downright SCARY good, especially considering this is their first tour. And Launceston was their first GIG. Check `em out.

With a record number of people, and therefore a record amount of luggage, we headed down to Tasmania for the first gigs. First off the rank was the Saloon in Launceston. The room had satisfyingly country-and-western/bogan décor and atmosphere, the on-stage sound was “interesting” due to the tin shed roof over our heads, and we had a good first-show show. Our jaws literally dropped when Skaddabox started their set. The fattest bass-less band ever. I was sure they had a bass player hidden backstage, somehow. Post-gig we hung out with some local Wilderness Society kids at their offices two doors away from our gig, as Ross and Kieran sampled some of the local produce. Hobart was another INSANE show at the TUU bar at Hobart University. The place is quickly getting a reputation for having relentlessly enthusiastic crowds, and our night there was no exception.

Two flights later, we were in Adelaide. My “Save Tassie’s Rainforests” sticker, sadly, didn’t go the distance. The night we played at the Thebarton Theatre, Port Adelaide had just won the Grand Final. All two thousand people in the room, diehard Port fans and bandwagon-jumpers alike, were ready to party. And party they did. It was one of those unquestioningly participating crowds. The hands-in-the-air in “In My Pocket” went all the way back to the stalls. Ahh yeah. Not a bad crowd at all for Skaddabox’s third gig. Knowing I wouldn’t have many opportunities for such a direct comparison, I downed a Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee, flew to Perth, and bought a Master’s Iced Coffee straight away. The winner, I’m afraid, is Master’s. That’s good news, though, considering how long we’ll be in WA for. Browne’s Coffee Chill doesn’t even come close, but I’ve yet to try Browne’s IC Chill. Kieran did some research on the Geraldton website: apparently the area is famous for it’s proximity to the Abrolhos Islands, the site of the infamous Batavia Mutiny.

“I bet everything in town will be named after that,” he predicted.

We were pretty excited when we rolled into town to see the Batavia Motor Inn, the Batavia Motor Inne, and Batavia Furniture Importers.

Next week you’ll hear all about the WA gigs. Stay tuned to the small screen for some more Ron Jeffreys action very soon…