I knew I probably should have pre-organised a meeting spot for Nick Luca on being swamped in the overcrowded departure lounge at Kingsford Smith. I’d failed to learn from my mistake last tour where we missed each other at the terminal and on his first visit to Australia he had to find his own way to my house at dawn and wake my flatmates with our alarm volume doorbell that holds an ipod worth of nursery rhyme tunes. But the seas parted and there he was, wheeling a tiny suitcase (he taught me the ancient art of rolling clothes to fit into a smaller space) and huge keyboard, and it was like he hadn’t left. I’m glad that he’d enjoyed the last tour enough to want to leave his native Tucson to come back to Australia. And after only two rehearsals in drummer Bree Van Reyks industrial practice room we found ourselves back in a hire van with only a wonky tape deck to keep us company for the next 5 weeks.
We were heading to Canberra and I was anxious at starting it all in such an intimate room as Tilleys, where it”s easy to see any of the early cracks that get covered over as the tour progresses. As usual in the beginnings I paced the carpark outside asking the stars if it’s really true, am I a singer and am I about to stand in front of an audience and sing? But when on stage and during the first song a pair of y-fronts landed at my feet all stage fright disappeared. Who could be nervous after that? I think the fact they”d been thrown by a man with a beard helped too.
As usual we’d chosen to take a gamble and play some out of the way towns we’d never visited scattered between the cities. Sometimes this can backfire severely.
-like the time I booked myself into a bar in Mackay, north QLD. It turned out that I was supporting a karaoke machine and it was rugby union night, when both teams come in for a post match session. ‘Falling Aeroplanes’ had just started getting a spin on JJJ and a mother had brought her children to see me. The rest of the crowd were walking no-necked nuggets whose tolerance for original sensitive pop music was zero. When the fullback came up mid song and breathed into my face, “if you don’t stop playing now the guys are gonna kill you”. I was open to his advice. I could have easily played covers to keep them happy but I kept thinking about the family who’d come to come to see me, I couldn’t let them down. Only one thing could save me. I nervously announced that for the rest of the set I’d be performing selections from the Cold Chisel back catalogue and a cheer went up. From then on they didn’t seem to notice that I was still playing all my own songs and the family went home happy. Phew, close call.
So luckily this time heading into the unknown paid off.
The community hall in Wauchope was like performing in a big cosy lounge room. The Exchange hotel Townsville was raucous mayhem with a blown fuse grand finale. And the walkabout hotel in Nhulunbuy on the Gove peninsula was the icing on the cake.
This one we’d booked knowing it was one of two hotels in town but without knowing the main attraction was it’s topless bar, and in a town full of bauxite miners this could prove disastrous. Luckily we were playing in the beer garden as the sun went down and the people up there were so nice to us, if only a little confused at why we were there in the first place. That was the last date of the tour and Nick Luca had left Bree and I in Darwin the day before to go back home and tour the States with Lucinda Williams, so it was just the two of us. It was a nice and surreal way to finish 5 weeks of chaos though: swimming in the clear surf while an appointed local monitored the beach for crocodiles, drinking vodka at a local touch football match, visiting the outlying Aboriginal communities, and just generally hanging out with Sharna and her posse of Christina, Nutrition Man and Ocean Boy.
Other highlights of the tour include:
– Climbing Hanging Rock with our Swedish support act Jens Lekmans bass player and hurry-up-erer, Terese, then making her sit through the movie about a famous picnic there when we got back to Sydney.
– Op shopping rivalry with Bree, who would even try to sneak out of the hotel rooms without waking us to grab the bargains first. My score of the tour would have to be a slightly faded navy ‘blue-light disco’ pullover made by the good people at GOTCHA, purchased in St Vincents, Tenterfield.
– Even though it wasn’t at the time, the whole touring party single filing across the railway bridge in Albury, bleary eyed as the sun came up to find the house of a fan we”d met the night before who swore black and blue he”d be awake to make us banana smoothies for our drive to Melbourne. A part of me always knew he wouldn’t.
– Even though it wasn’t at the time for some members of our touring party, the day we spent driving through rainforest in north Queensland searching for a cassowary, the large prehistoric chicken that our American travel buddies refused to believe existed. Nick Luca, who’s humour blueprint states that “if it didn’t work the first time, it should work in the next 57”, had decided the night before that everything we said from then on had to be in Dr Suess rhyme and spoken with playschool inflection eg, “A second wind? I’m on my third, we’ll never find this stupid bird.”
Nat our super hero tour manager finally snapped, “I really don’t want to have to spoil it, Let’s cut this crap. I need a toilet.” Writing all this it sounds like we’re the bloody famous five or something.
So that’s it, end of tour, end of story. Thanks to anyone who came to see the show. It wouldn’t have been the same without Jens Lekman and Terese, Nick Dalton, Holly Throsby, Sodastream, Grandview, the Zebras, the Eyes who all entertained with us. Also Crouchy, Danielle and Corbo who coordinated and merched it up. Natalie who filmed and tour managed and lastly Sandy Guillen who also came over from Tucson to help out and keep us all company.