Tag Archives: vb

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.

Europe Week Eight

Wow!!! Everyone speaks English! In theory, I could quite easily approach anyone in the street and say something, with a high chance of them understanding me! That is, of course, unless my accent proves far too thick for them to be able to cut through in one swipe, which is enough swiping for anybody. I found that out when we got our first cab after landing in Edinburgh.

While loading my bass case into the car, the cabbie spat out some bizarre string of vowels, vaguely joined together with L’s and R’s and G’s. I can imagine I’d sound like that if my lips were stuck 5 mm apart, and for some reason avoided touching my teeth with my tongue. I managed to recognise the words “roof” and “car”. I kept the conversation going, noticing that my own accent sat at the opposite end of the spectrum.

“Aww nahh mate, yer roof’ll be foine, she’ll be roight.”

“Ogay bu’ watch th roof o’ m’ ca’.”

“Ah. Right.”

Either the cab drivers here have thicker accents, or they are the only locals I have spoken to in town. Considering how many Edinburnians rent their flat out at astronomical rates and go on holiday during every festival, the latter is probably the case.

What we did on our first day in London is TOP SECRET, so I’ll talk about food instead. Zahtar and hommous. We stayed in Marble Arch, in a street frequently clogged with locals pimping around in their Hummers and Bentleys. Some of the guys saw the shit get absolutely beaten out of a parking inspector outside our window. We stayed, conveniently, across the road from Green Valley. It’s not actually a valley, it’s more of a Lebanese supermarket – one which we all routinely visited at least three times a day. Hopefully this will clear up some of the confusion surrounding my abrupt “zahtar and hommous” outburst earlier in this paragraph.

Our two shows in London were at the Carling Islington Academy. Carling appears to have a stranglehold of Tooheys proportions on pubs and live music venues in the UK. Billboards aside, the two gigs were absolute killers. The crowds were either from, or have been to and thus are huge fans of, Melbourne, judging from the riotous applause whenever we mentioned our home town. One thing’s for sure: they got the hell on down. Our good friend Andy Baldwin was in town, and he took to the stage during “Wine Song” in a way that is hard to explain with words alone. Anyone who has witnessed this before will know exactly what I mean. Over the weekend we also celebrated Andy’s birthday, in a backyard-full-of-Aussies-with-a-BBQ-and-Vic-Bitter setting that took us back home for a night.

We flew on to Edinburgh, which is not only the last destination of this tour, but also a kind of home-away-from-home for us. This is the third Edinburgh Festival in a row that we have played at, and we’re well and truly back into the nocturnal, drunken swing of things. We have played shows in The Famous Spiegeltent in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Edinburgh. Spiegeltent and Edinburgh is possibly the best combination of venue and city we could ask for in the last week of our tour. For those who don’t know, The Famous Spiegeltent is an old Belgian mirror tent that is fairly easy to transport around the world – given that you have access to two shipping containers and a team of large Belgians. It is one of our favourite venues, and has contributed a hell of a lot to the spirit of the band. We’re itching to hit that stage again.

We’ll let you know how it goes next week.

Email us with any tips on shipping a moped from Bordeaux to Melbourne.

Note: The top secret thing we did in London was record a few tracks with Jerry Boys, as a warmup for Cuba.

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.