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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.

Toronto

Toronto. The Phoenix.

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Oh, er, right. That’s not really going to cut it. Let’s try again.

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That’s better, at least we can see some of the crowd. Clearly the lights were moving around a hell of a lot at the start of The Chariot. That’s Stéphane on the lights. He’s a Québecinite, and he’ll be in Australia for the tour there too. Anyway, let’s try again:

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Almost there…that flash is throwing it off a bit. One more:

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That’s the Phoenix! Thanks for coming down, everyone. While in town we also saw the Jays annihilate the Orioles, including two home runs from José Bautista and a lot of choppin’ but no chips flyin’ from Adam Lind. Will and I also saw Megadeth and Slayer on our night off after the gig. Adding themselves to the already enormous list of bands that are touring and playing in their entirety albums they released 20 years ago, Megadeth played Rust in Peace, and Slayer played Seasons in the Abyss. Ricky somehow got our names on the guest list, and we had passes to some sort of VIP bar side-of-stage too. It was like something from Wayne’s World. Thanks Ricky. Adding myself to the already enormous list of people who fall into the trap of comparing everything they see to something in Melbourne, I’ll say that Molson Amphitheatre was like Sidney Myer Music Bowl, but wider. And full of friendly Canadian metalheads.

Next: New York.