Madness descended on the band last night. It was the second gig of the tour and we were scheduled to perform in the university precinct, naturally this was a lot cooler than the jazz precinct we performed at the previous evening. We were doing a double act with local Korean Ska superstars Kingston Rudi Ska including a number together which would involve putting 20 musicians onstage hopefully overcoming cultural and language barriers (Musical language as well as the normal use of that word) to successfully belt out a cover originally composed by a patois speaking Jamaican.
The Korean band performed a version of Ska which could only be described as Asian including there well known love for all things kitch, colorful and bright, moving into areas that the Western mind can only find psychedelic. The crowd was full of young women screaming at every move of the lead singer as he ran his fingers through his hair and crooned the crowd with his falsesetto. But the group was lead by the trombonist who had all the makings of a trombonist the no mater what country your from or what patois you mumble. He was defiantly left of center, in fact center had become a foreign concept to him (as is the case for most trombone players). As all twenty members got onstage for our preshow rehearsal he grabbed the mike and with the only English words he knew he yelled WELCOME TO OZRALIA KOREA SKA YOUR VELY WELCOME….TONIGHT WE DIE
And we almost did.
Both Sets went to plan many encores were given (Koreans love calling for an encore) the gig finished and the bar emptied quickly, in very Korean style and we were left with Just the bands and a few hangers on.. And thats whenthings started to get interesting. Knowinghow the struggle for successfully dialogue was going to pan out I took it uponmyself to get our trombone playing friend back on stage and peforming. Little encouragement was needed and soon most musos were back up performing the regulatory trance like broken rhythms and jilted bass lines matched with wailing banchee like vocals that can only occur late at night when all musicians have been plied with alcohol and decide to perform on instruments that they aren’t familiar with. I’ve always wanted to be a drummer and nows the time. At some stage of the night a tatoo artist was summoned and mistakes were made. When a post gig session starts this way and is to proceed for many more hours you know death is immanent.
Here’s some video footage from the show last night.
Well things seem to be progressing smoothly not discounting the usual hiccups that occur when you are touring with 11 other only slightly familiar males in a foreign country where hardly any English is spoken. At this stage no rival factions have been formed within the core elements of the band a fact I presumed might have occurred owing to both the large size of the ensemble as well as the lack of any female presence. Seoul itself is an unusually well organized and compartmentalized city. Structures appear to be very important in this place. Every city appears to be divided into zoning regions with the zones consisting of a common theme. Eg, block 1 is allocated to shops selling kitchen sinks, block to is allocated to shops selling light fittings block 3 is allocated to some other home appliance. Block 458 was allocated to bars and it took a little while to find.
I’m presuming tonight’s gig is allocated to bars dedicated to early ska music but we will see.
Yesterday we rehearsed in a venue we play at later in the week. For our rehearsal we were given a full back line (drums bass amps guitar amps) a grand piano full percussion set, music stands, stage, food, drinks, a sound technician who sound checked the band pulling a perfect sound onstage and off, when the keyboardist leads were playing up and electrician showed up to make him new ones…..you get the idea and all at no expense to the band. Melbourne a city that boasts of its love for music has a little to learn in regards to how to treat musicians as well as professional attitudes to presentation….without me launching into a rave about free trolleys at the airport.
Regardless it is a privileged life musicians lead. To constantly find yourself in new environments with new people. To be able to move rapidly over the banality of introductions to strong creative outputs in constantly new environments is an excitement that is addictive.
Playing in a Jamaican Ska band full of Australians to an audience full of Koreans. I couldn’t think of anything better to be doing with my days and nights.
Today kicks off an 8 day tour with the band Skazz I have successfully managed to negotiated getting the king size bed while my room mate had to settle for the single bed. Always a stressful but important task to be handled with much care when touring. If handled incorrectly you can create an enemy for yourself for the rest of your stay in that particular hotel. My tactic was to surround the bed with my luggage thus claiming my territory, while still allowing him access to the bed by not actually placing a bag on it. While it would take a brave soul to actually do that they are still left with the feeling that they had some choice in the matter.
There will be many tales which I will tell using the means of this blog but to give you an idea of what this very cool band is about here is a video
Toowoomba is a place famed for murder. A town about 2 hours drive out from Brisbane. Driving to it you become very aware of the fact that you are in Queensland and Queensland has its own inherent eeriness, strangeness. Huge tracks of green open hills, with cows scattered sparsely over them. Tabletop mountains on the horizon. And built into the hills are these huge villa like Queensland castles where who knows what goes on behind the protection of the palm trees in front of them.
The boogie shack was where we were playing for the night, in a town that had multiple double letters in it’s name. The place has been set up in the style of a 1950s American Happy Days Dinner. Set up by a mad woman who is obviously great at collecting things but not so great at collecting anything of interest. Instead the diner is crammed with old coke bottles, ash trays with pin up girls splashed across them , old parts off a hundred drum kits hanging from the ceiling, half mannequins with the ugliest of 1950s clothes draped on them, the metal parts of a babies bassinette, Hawaiian carvings and hula dolls everywhere, four poster tables, horrifying murals of 1950s swing dancers plastered to the walls, diner style menus filled with dust that was also from the 1950s, the stench of cat urine filling your lungs with every breath, a waiting staff taken from two spectrums of life. They either looked like life had relentlessly wore them down or had the fear in their eyes brought on by ones first paid employment. The joint was packed with rockers, bootscooters, swing dancers, Goths, costumed cowboys and every other social group that stakes a claim in the 1950s American adorance of Fonzie. And the longer the set and night went the more they took to their cartoon like characters, cornering me against the bar to inform me of the movies that they want to one day act in, how they sustained their arm injury by chopping wand then polishing wood, what sort of guitar they play and why, informing me of the absolute ineptness of the four people who were gyrating on the dance floor, girl number one doesn’t move her feet enough, girl number 2 moves them to much.
They were all very assured and defiant in their place in small town Queensland.
I dared to order the only thing on the menu a hamburger, although the hamburger could be ordered in a number of different ways, as a JFK as a Big bopper etc. and I immediately regretted it. I seem to have no ability to not attempt to fully immerse myself into whatever scene I’m currently in despite the obvious harmful drawbacks , and this hamburger was harmful.
The DJ for the night, playing before and after us was an elderly gentleman well into his 70s who’s quiff stood higher than a crack addict. His suit was jet black his shoes shiny. The flyer informed me that he was “very popular” . “I likes to play music that sets a scene.” He slurred at me. I’m not sure what his version of a scene was but Big Mumma Thornton is defiantly in it. The mad woman stormed around. Moving things. Dust took over my lungs making me sneeze. I had a headache.
The mad woman’s husband and part owner of the place asked us to sign the “superstars wall” a wall left for textad autographs crammed in between the million other trinkets. This wall never gets washed, he proudly announced, I showed no sign of surprise..
Unusual things have gone on in this place and this town and this state. Bad things maybe.
The venue seemed to have rubbed off on the band who played one of the better, looser, stranger sets of our tour filled with greater improvisation , humour, lies and purpose . We roamed around the stage like madmen intent on some form of destruction. If we escaped fast enough it might not be our own.
I loved our gig at the Enmore.
I loved the size of the room, the beauty of the room. The feeling of age and history. I loved the feeling that you were playing at a venue that made you feel like you had achieved some level of success. I love playing in Sydney. Driving in to Sydney always makes me feel like I’m getting into a big city, a city with more possibilities for trouble, a city that has more levels and each level goes slightly deeper. Even the shallow levels go to a deeper place; the trash is better, cheaper, filthier.
There’s a greater energy in a big city. There’s a greater energy when you play on a big stage. All of sudden there is a larger amount of space in between you and the other members; you have more room to establish as your own. There’s also a greater space in the sound. It comes back at you different. It leaves you differently.
The backstage is bigger, almost like a house, your hotel room is bigger, still not like a house.
The rider is larger and the meat platter is fresher.
The energy of the band is way higher. There’s more people and more possibilities.
I love playing to Sydney people, they’re focused, they sing in all the right spots.
I loved that the venue had way to many over enthusiastic security guard all Indian of course. If ever a nationality has conquered a profession this one has.
I loved the fact that when in our last song an over enthusiastic audience member climbed onto stage there wasn’t a security guard in sight, in fact so hopeless where they in getting him down he didn’t know what to do with himself so he broke into an Arabian style snake dance that went to places dance should always go. Finally an Indian gentleman was seen politely asking him to please stop and come off the stage.
I attended the AMP awards the other day in Sydney. An event that was bathed in strangeness, desperation, and a need to be loved, well maybe just liked, by all in attendance and further afield despite the lack of substantial qualities that lend themselves to liking or love. AMP stands for Australian Music Prize giving off the deception that it is a reflection of what is to be regarded as good in Australian music. Instead it is an example of what can be done when a good publicist jumps into bed with media, industry, washed up rock starts pretending to be holders of some sort of knowledge and keen to be washed up rock stars all glittering and shiny in their rap around Ray Bans or T Shirts with designs from a previous decade emblazoned over them, and a tiny sample of talent.
The ceremony conveniently took place at the corporate offices of one of the major sponsors, an energy drink company that not only provided slabs of their gum decaying ridiculous ideas of a drink but also provided the gold colored girls wearing air hostess uniforms resembling an era long since past where to be an air hostess was to be sexy even if slightly plastic. It was there job to hand out the free slabs of Red Bull on offer and then wonder aloud “why isn’t anyone taking the drink” . Everyone instead had made there way up to the corporate nightclub, past the corporate basketball court, skate ramp and whatever other retarded idea some corporate designer thought would be appropriate to put in the offices of a corporation keen to represent energy and youthfulness as well as ensuring their employees had the BEST DAMN TIME at work.
The nightclub quickly filled with people, aromas and blazing afternoon sun pounding through the windows. Mixing in with the aromatic delightful musk of media types was the rotting sweat of young rockers together with the bland aroma of advertising people. The Presets were up for the award, not because they were likely to win it as they have gotten to large for something like this, no a decision would have been made in some small office by those who are running this award in conjunction with the major sponsors to ask them to be on the shortlist, maybe even pay them some money to be on it and show up. This would further legitimize these awards making it even more attractive to sponsors.
So many people with simultaneously so much to gain and lose in this room. So much in their own eyes so little in everyone elses.
A media type who had been at our gig the night before was gushing in his praise of our band and how sympathetically we played. I burst out laughing then realizing the inappropriateness of that action and how much of an uncomfortable situation it had paradoxically caused I excused myself and went to the bar and ordered a drink of the boutique beer company owned by one of the Industry types in attendance.
I was starting to feel a stickiness all over my skin and a claustrophobia not helped when a shrieking young representative /presenter from Channel V started squawking in the microphone espousing the greatness of her employer and her all round excitement at presenting this life changing award (that’s $30000 to change a life). Here was a girl who had entered the workforce to early in life therefore depriving her of the ability to compare it with any other from of reality, she seemed to truly love her company. Her shrieking was only matched by Renee Geyers loud and forceful attempts to speak for everyone while successfully speaking for no one screeching at the young presenter to Shut the F..k up and get on with it. Now didn’t that cause some confusion.
A performance by a clichéd riddled band with a confused front singer not old enough to know how to be the embodiment of cool from such a bygone era he was imitating was followed by the announcement of the winner. The confusion of all my senses was growing evermore extreme and the idea of violence had a soft fluffy type feeling to it. It was time to go. When the arts gets involved in money making, back slapping self deception it always makes for an intolerably boring occasion and subsequently an intolerably boring story. I apologize.
Perth, we were booked to play a show at the Octagon theatre but due to some administrative complications, which often happens when you have to get the many layers of the self justifying “Music Industry” involved to accomplish Music Industry things like putting on a gig, our gig had to be moved at the very last minute.
That was fine except that it was moved to a venue with no alcohol, food lamingtons or refreshments of any sort what soever.
People don’t take kindly to this, it doesn’t matter who you are, and many a grumble could be heard.
In act more than grumblings down right dissent was streaming forth from various sober mouths.
While it would be incorrect to assume that panic hit the band, we were previously made aware of the situation and had prepared ourselves accordingly, there was a level of panic coming from the Music Industry members of our small party. They were the ones in the direct firing line (they were assigned to the door).
At this stage our illustrious leader, realizing the responsibilities that come with that title grabbed the bull by the horns and assigning my good self and fellow ship mate the task of manning the big wheel and steering our cruising yacht down to the nearest refreshment house to stock up with supplies. On our return arms was handed out to the poor suffering thirsty patrons (despite the protestations of the Music Industry specialists present under the guise of us becoming lawbreakers) and boy did the mood lift.
Sometimes it’s not only the music that is required to have a good show.
Here is a cartoon drawn by a member of the crowd that night and here is a link to his blog about that gig, Its always interesting to read the perspective of an event from someone else and his is fabulous. And his pictures are likewise fabulous