Monday, October 22, 2012

Sydney & the Tempe Viiiibe

G’day. Long time no writey. This blog recounts one of my rougher experiences on this tour, but I’m sure it’ll prove vaguely amusing, and possibly useful to folks booking dates over here in the future. Two things:
a)    This blog has been heavily abridged. The original was a lot grumpier, but possibly not fit for public consumption on this blog.
b)   The Sydney show’s nuggety nature has definitely been the exception, and 99% of the venue folks, bands and audiences we’ve met have been absolutely amazing. You may as well hear about the 1% though, right?

So, we arrived in Sydney, caught up with Jock, and headed to our accom; an apartment that friends of his had just moved out of. Dropped our bedding, which Jock had kindly provided, and went in search of food. All kinds of exotic ideas were had – supermarkets, pizza’s, anythingbutmoreMacca’s… it was 11.30. We ended up back at Macca’s. Anywho, their free wifi was much appreciated, and Seddon and I pushed our luck staying there until booted out catching up on internet missions…

Back to the accom. Furious inflating of air mattresses. Bit of a buzzy vibe here, for various reasons, but we all got some shut-eye, and awoke the next morning to get back into the swing of another run of shows. Lunch at Ikea (god, those places are a nightmare to navigate, but their super-cheap food and weird Swedish vibe [do the Swedish tourism board pay them a commission?] is pretty hard to resist). We then headed to the venue.

We rolled in super-early to say hi and check the place out, as the promoter hadn’t given us much info. Met the duty-manager and in-house engineer, Greg. He moaned about the lack of info from the promoter, for which we apologised. When I introduced myself as the band’s engineer, he informed us on no uncertain terms that the venue has a strict ‘no visiting engineers’ policy. We tried to negotiate. By the end of our negotiation I was still politely asking if I could simply plug a delay unit in and run dubs, while he ‘mixed.’ He continued to inform us that “when the Black Seeds and Trinity Roots played here it was the same, man” (I don’t know when the BS’s last played Valve, but having done a few of shows with them recently, [on functional PA’s, in front of several thousand people per show], I’m gonna guess it was a decade or so ago). You know the kind of conversation you have with someone in a minor position of power, where they do all the talking, none of the listening, and keep repeating “it’ll be sweet,” in a way that makes you very, very sure that it won’t…? That kinda thing.

Anyway, we left to fill in some time before load in with the following things clear in our heads:
A)   This wasn’t really the venue’s fault. Apparently, somewhere in the us-> promoter -> venue chain, someone failed to read the very, very clear message that, “this band ALWAYS brings their own engineer. This is IMPORTANT.” Anyway, apparently we need to make that clearer, somehow. Or start attaching vouchers for basic literacy courses to all of our emails. Christ.
B)   Nonetheless, this guy was choosing to be unnecessarily difficult about even our attempts to come to a workable compromise….
C)    We needed some distraction. Off to Bondi!

Despite the nuggety times at the venue, we managed to enjoy a good walk along the beach, played some hack, had a paddle, and felt a lot better about life. Can’t wait to get up to Surfers’ and Byron now. Great to get some time outside of a vehicle / other peoples’ houses / venues with idiots in them…

So, back to Valve. Another chat with our new ‘friend.’ More politeness from me, asking to do the bare minimum required to keep the musical elements of the band’s sound happening, while letting him do whatever it was that was so crucial to keeping the fairly amusing 80’s PA running to his satisfaction.

Venue guy takes very aggressive attitude. Like an overgrown child, begins throwing toys out of the cot, threatens to cancel show, keeps ranting on in his own super-dictatorial fashion. In the end, I acquiesce, decide to play roady for the night, and hope that this guys can at least do a reasonable job of mixing the band I’ve done 12 NZ tours, 300+ shows, an album and some very expensive flights to Australia with. Go on then, I thought, if you’re master of this particular audio universe, impress me. Make me believe that your terrible attitude is somehow compensated for by your ability to mix.

Out o’ luck, Mike. So very, very out o’ luck.

Anyway, I’m going to attempt to hold my tongue one the audio quality of this show. I don’t want to re-live it, and I’m not sure there’s much point trying to relate how the whole affair sounded from my perspective. I will say, however, that at one point a member of one of the support bands asked “can I have some more monitor, and some reverb on my vocal?” Member of band then realised that ‘engineer’ was not in the same room(!) and was instead, back at the bar, pouring drinks. Hilarious, but…

Anywho, I struggled through the audio experience, and really enjoy the musical content of Rufflefeather’s set, eventually retiring to the van for some rather irritated sleep.


Sadly, I missed BonesBonesBones, who were apparently very, very cool – Callum describing them as ‘a breath of fresh air’ (whatever that means). I did catch some of Bloody Lovely Audrey’s set, which was pretty cool kinda Indie rock, with a solid as hell bass player, some very buzzy guitar work, and a female singer who impressed most of the LOR crew for a number of reasons.

 (Bones Bones Bones)

(Bloody Lovely Audrey)

Anywho, business time. I begin helping the band pile things on stage, suggest to the house guy that the drummer’ll need a vocal mic(!), and that he might want to DI the bass (the very beat up pg58 pointed at the tiny bass amp doing nothing to inspire confidence). “It’ll be sweet, mate,” is now his standard reply. Every time, he keeps missing the word “won’t” out of that sentence…

Band on stage, first note of first song. Things are not ideal. I make a bunch of suggestions, some of which are acted upon, things get slightly better, and I go about dealing with the fact that the fact that the cable on the ‘expertly’ mic’d bass amp was bugging out, and I can hear a huge crackling noise coming through the stacks. Winning. At least the vocals were clear enough, and the decent sized audience are enjoying the band’s solid playing and near note-perfect singing. Talk about knowing how to fight when you’re back’s against the wall. Basically 40 mins of me wanting to kill myself, the band managing to play out of their skins, and still impress an audience, some of whom I manage to hawk some merch to (might as well do something useful!). We pack the hell down, and head to Johnny’s, where we’re now entrenched in the middle of a sleepy morning.

Johnny (from Rufflefeather) absolutely rules. An ex-Dunedin cat, whose favourite band is the Biff Merchants, he’s very kindly putting us up and arranging the loan of some backline for a few shows. His girlfriend is a puppeteer who operates life-size dinosaur puppets(!), among other things. Super cool people, and it was really good to sit down at the end of a nuggety day with a cold beer and some good company.

Thanks to the folks that came, especially those that bought merch. You rule! You’re also the reason we’re doing this, and you more than make up for us having to deal with the odd egotistical teabag. Same goes for the other bands that played that night – always a highlight meeting new musical people, and hearing some bloody lovely music (see what I did there?).

So, there you have it. All in all, we got in, we got out, we met some lovely people (and one less-than-lovely chap), sold some merch, and headed off to Newcastle, where further bizarre (good-bizarre, this time) experiences awaited us.

If only people could just be nice to each other…


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