February-March 2004: The Big Blue Tour - Ben Grounds
Drummers drama hit us before we even leave Sydney – Nick (BHS, Centipede) missed his flight, and Simon (BBK) had his mobile phone stolen from the metal detector conveyor belt after being questioned about trying to take scissors onto the plane.
It’s kin to one big school excursion this time around, with 13 people making up the tour party. It starts off hot too, and luckily we are where we can swim, so we go swimming when we get to Mooloolaba, and then again at 2am after the show. We had a good time and I think we all realised how much fun it will be for the next few weeks.
After a quick visit to Noosa, we drove to the world famous Gold Coast. It was incredibly hot, so we went swimming. Again and again.
Something amazing happened on the Gold Coast. Wesley Crusher bought a pair of boardshorts, and not only came swimming in the sea with us, but got right into body surfing. The show was quite interesting too. Our favourite Gold Coast venue, the Traccadero, contained within is walls a BBK performance like no other on this night. We finished with Gangsterland, and Jamie abandoned his guitar, joined me in the crowd, and tried to pick up a big guy and spin him around. When Jamie discovered he had bitten off more than he could chew, the other fellow returned the favour, picked up Jamie above his head, and spun and spun. Gangsterland was still hurtling away with Simon and I when Ben finished improv-ing Moon River and he and Jamie had a call-and-response screaming outro.
After spending the whole morning at the beach (Wesley was the last one out of the water, and only then with great hesitation) we left the Goldy for Brisbane.
After Trumpy flipped out and smashed a window at the accomm, we loaded in, and almost everybody had their shirt off. It was the hottest day ever in the history of the earth, and we looked like an all-male review (excepting of course Tan and Caroline). And something spectacular happened. It was so hot onstage that by the time we got to the encore, we ALL had our shirts off. It has never happened before, and it will never happen again. No doubt it will be a story told down through the generations.
Although it is barely 3 days later I can’t remember anything terribly exciting happening in Geelong. I‘m sure exciting stuff happened- I just wasn’t present at the time. The crowd was quite decent, and of different demographic characteristic than the unruly mob that had earlier invaded the National, on a uni o-week pub crawl. Those uni-students can’t really hold their drink, can they?
This was to be an exciting show, as anticipated by everybody. Managers, record labels- everybody came to Melbourne. Everybody’s having lots of fun and the company we’re keeping is only amplifying the fun. All bands are really starting to hit their strides, and I am really digging watching both Centipede and Big Heavy Stuff, and particularly enjoying air drumming to BHS.
Before the show the bands partake in some socialising with other music industry people. The socialising is lubricated by an open bar, though Ben informs me later that only having met one of the guys from Heligoland probably means I wasn’t pulling my socialising weight.
The Corner treated us very well, and combined with the aforementioned open bar, this left some of our camp feeling the next morning like they hadn’t been treated at all well during the previous night.
Not having to load out after our Corner show was definitely desirable, although this morning, up and ready to load and leave to get on the road, we could get to neither our van nor our gear, and waited a long time to be able to achieve these things. Eventually we made it to Ballarat a little late for the instore, but things went relatively smoothly from there.
Our venue in Ballarat was actually pretty cool: a big hall type thing with artworks hung around the outer walls. Despite a member of the crowd asking that we play some songs (after we had played some), the show here was good, if uneventful, apart from Simon and I jamming on Gangsterland for about 15 minutes after Jamie and Ben had left the stage to their feedback and delay loops.
This morning we woke at 5am. We had to. We had 37 pieces of luggage. Most of us slept in the plane, some of us didn’t, or couldn’t.
3/03/04 Western Australia
The flight over here was no more enjoyable than any other time, and getting up at 5 am to catch that flight was as bad as it seems. Combined with 3 extra waking hours when we got here, and no proper sleep, I felt pretty rotten by the end of today.
The show was fine (we finished with Gangsterland, whose ending is sprawling more and more, and was described by Nick as a ‘mini-revolution’). Driving home (well, driving anywhere, really) in the 12-seater is a lot like a school excursion – lots of very excitable passengers, and a lot of singing bad songs at tops of voices (and beyond) has been happening.
Our lunchtime show at uni wasn’t shaping up well. Soundcheck was scheduled for 11.30, but when we got there at 10.30 there was no PA, and that hadn’t changed by 11.30. The we learned that before the three of us, there was a due AND another band to play. Things were running so far behind time that the duo played just one song. The following band had turned up to play without amps. Luckily they could borrow ours. They were also sponsored by a particular brand of energy drink. They all wore t-shirts advertising this drink, and had a crew outnumbering band members selling esky-fulls of the stuff. Well, trying to sell it. The only person I saw drinking it was a pooped Jamie, who was showing early signs of gaurauna addiction.
Meanwhile, Simon had rounded up Nick, Greg and myself for a couple of games of table soccer. The three of us were basically novices, spinning our little men with whirlwind fury. Simon, however, wasted no time in showing us the mystical heights of skill achievable with the game. By the end of the second game we began to believe he was an unfeeling table soccer robot, programmed to control the ball and score goals with clinical precision. Fortunately I was on his team.
The local beer and the local sunshine were treating us a little too well, but this allowed us to enjoy this outdoor lunchtime show more than might otherwise have been possible. Then we drove to Bunbury.
The close quarters of the 12-seater had done things other than make us feel like we’re on a school excursion. It has created a special bond between a special few. Nick, Trumpy and Ben, when in close proximity to each other, spontaneously begin belting out acapella versions of songs old enough for me not to be familiar with them. One of them will start out of the blue, and within a quarter of a second the other two will have joined in falsetto gusto acapella. It is truly amazing stuff.
Down in Bunbury, Mitch treated us with unprecedented hospitality, and we eat, drink and sleep free of charge. Unfortunately the venue’s wager on payers for the night is 6 times higher than any of our wagers, and does lead to some disappointment.
Disappointment stems, too, from the learning of the truth for a young Bunbury man from a wise Sydney man. This fellow (lets call him Jacob for the sake of the story) thought he had a mutual acquaintance with Jamie. Jacob’s ex girlfriend used to (allegedly) exchange emails with Jamie. She used to let Jacob know, when talking to him by phone, that the person in the background on her end of the line was (allegedly) Jamie, just around at her house to hang out, or possible to write songs with her, because, of course, Letters Never Sent was actually (allegedly) written entirely by her. In fact, the whole Fear of Girls album was (allegedly) co-written by her – and that would place her at 14 years old at the time! This young fellow tonight learned that his ex-girlfriend was not telling the truth, the whole truth, or anything remotely resembling the truth.
Jamie learned that when you have had a delusional girl obsessing over you from the other side of the country for 7 years, you are more famous than you think you are.
Another interesting thing happened today (and boy wasn’t it a long day!). When we were playing we encountered a couple of the usual drunk-meatheads-at-a-regional-show. They wanted us to play some “old school!” like “Sweet Home Alabama!”. They asked for these things not in a passive voice. They did, however, like the guitar solo at the end of crawling with ants. And then Jamie went on the offensive with them, asking them what they do in their spare time. They remained aggressive, and Ben, concerned at the rising tension of the situation, urged Jamie to cool it.
We later learned that the couple were from the local bikie gang, had forcibly crashed the door, and (allegedly) previously physically persecuted lead singers of bands they didn’t like with weapons they carried around for just that purpose. Although the Crawling with Ants solo may have saved our skin, we lay low for the remainder of the night.
The school bus left Bunbury and arrived in Perth without remark. The day, too, continues through load in and soundcheck without remark (except for the exposure of a particular not oft-seen body part caught on video camera).
Caroline was in charge of the lights for us tonight, and that included working the smoke machine. I don’t think she truly figured it out though – she seemed to have no trouble turning it on, but some trouble turning it off…
…And Gangsterland ended tonight with Simon being wrenched off his drumkit, and his drumkit being violently deconstructed, and then with Fletcher unsuccessfully trying to crash tackle me, resulting in him aboard my shoulder, shouting something into the microphone, until Caroline killed al the lights except the strobe, and I started spinning around and around with Ben on top…
The crowd was positively raucous here – before the last song Jamie said “this is our last song” and half the crowd yelled back “No it’s not!” It all went well, very loudly, and culminated in Nick beating out Gangsterland on the floor tom (with Simon still doing the same on the snare), and it sounded amazing. Centipede joined us for a dance onstage, too, with Tanith seeking an able waltz partner – without any success. Yaniv was noodling, Ben had climbed and was perched precariously on the PA speaker stack, Nick got a cramp, and then something Trumpy told me…the only question remaining unanswered was where to from here?
Launceston’s saloon bar reminded me a little too much of Wagga’s old saloon bar. There may as well have been no-one there except for the 4 energetic guys dancing like they’d lost control of their limbs, including the one guy writhing on the floor to a the quieter moments of BHS’ Maximum Sincere. Nick was inspired to play air guitar on his leg to BBK.
The pub we played in Hobart is a pretty cool venue, with wonderful meals. Easily the best meals all tour. The place was packed like sardines by the time Centipede had finished their set, but it only tool a couple of horrendously mixed BBK songs to thin the crowd. Tonight wasn’t the best show of our tour.
The next night was much better.
Jamie and I played a solo set each the night after that, at a small pub in a small town called Lewisham, where there were no fewer (and no more) than 3 people applauding at any time.