Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rivers and Roses

Other than having friends and/or acquaintances in damn near every city in Australia, my friend Haydn was also looking after us in the local tour manager respect. We did a festival together many years ago, followed by a Wilco tour in the states and an Interpol tour in Australia. Here we are yet again. Haydn has sobered up a bit as a result of marriage, weak knees and the general malaise of mid life, but he's still what I would classify as a raving lunatic from time to time. I suppose that's a good enough primer for this little fiasco here:

Then again, maybe not....

The Sydney show was a corker. I saw some pals who work at triple J, the local radio station. They were fresh off the Big Day Out tour which is usually a big old communal fiesta of bands from all over who travel together, stay in the same hotel, and are generally cajoled into liking each other one way or another after 3 weeks. Unfortunately it would seem that this year Rage Against the Machine was headlining ensuring a sea of backwards baseball cap-wearing date rapists as far as the eye could see in the crowd. The Arcade Fire and Bjork were also on the bill, so be sure that a fair number of moody, contemplative indie kids had their American Apparel T's and wayfarer shades handed to them in ruins by the end of the day. So, the story goes that Rage Against the Machine is largely absent from the festivities this year, turning up just before they are to be on stage, and pulling into their compound of portable dressing rooms in a series of black vans. Their hulking security guards proceed to inform, nay demand (as I heard it) that each of the bands enter their dressing rooms and shut the doors behind them as the headliners are to be paraded through the dressing room area, and everyone knows that eye contact with an opening band is a sure mojo-killer. So the bands, more confused than abiding, close the dressing room doors behind them as 'The Rage' is walked through. Just as they pass the Arcade Fire dressing room someone (not pointing fingers here) throws the door open and shouts 'fuck you I won't do what you tell me.' The very words spoken by the man being funneled, secret service-style through their fellow artists dressing rooms. Well done, and good show, I say.

Pals came out to Sydney as well. Chrissie, Paul and Megan who was in the thralls of celebrating 'birthday month,' which was, I learned, an excuse to drink lots of beer and berate everyone within earshot for not wishing her happy birthday. Good folk.

I escaped the unholy wrath of Qantas this time around. Some of us weren't so lucky. I would almost rather have no suitcase at all rather than see a lone handle, luggage tag still attached, rolling slowly towards me on the carousel.

And cue three days off in Melbourne for no good reason at all. Not that I am in a position to complain. We were put up in apartment-style rooms with living rooms overlooking downtown and with full kitchens and laundry. I promptly threw in a load of laundry and went out to stock the kitchen with bread, eggs and such.

I tried, also, to avoid the roving bands of drunken douches that plague the downtown area after dark. I managed pretty well the first night, but on the second got wrapped up in some sort of madness the ended with me witnessing a man, I believe, trying to drink a beer with a neck brace on, but I can't be too sure. Indeed.

I always think of Melbourne as a business-oriented city, which I suppose it partially is, but it's  flanked by a bunch of incredible neighborhoods. Ally and I wandered around Fitzroy, which is like a little East Berlin full of amazing restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores.  I got obsessed with two things before I even left the states. One was the Melbourne food and wine festival which was going on throughout our stay, and the other was the Nick Cave exhibit at The Arts Centre. 

It was really pretty amazing and inspiring, and also hard to put into words. I managed to get a ninja shot of the handwritten lyrics to 'The Mercy Seat,' but for the most part the fascists who run the arts center were dead on anyone taking photos. That said, I spent almost two hours there soaking it all in, and left feeling strangely happy from having just experienced so much personal misery and chaos almost as an aside to his creativity. The stories and artifacts (I guess you could call them) were really humanizing and deifying at the same time, if you know what I mean. I keep recalling a story about Nick Cave deciding one day that he wants to erect a statue in his own honor in the town of  Warracknabeal, not far from Melbourne, where he was born. He took painstaking measures to render the statue himself, before tracking down the artist who crafted the Princess Di memorial (which is, in itself,  humorous). Nick Cave was very specific about how he should be portrayed, and nothing less then bare-chested on horseback with a flaming torch in one hand would do. Also, were the horse not rearing back on its hind legs the entire project should be scrapped. He decided that once it was completed he would simply drop it off in town, and if they decided that they didn't want the unsolicited work of art, that he would drive it into the desert and leave it there. Genius/Madness? I highly recommend it all the same, and hope that it makes it to the states some day.

Afterwards I discovered a bit of the food and wine fair along the Yarra River. It was basically a circus of free samples and cheap booze. I came away with a massive cheese plate and some homemade ginger beer for a few bucks.

The following day Bob, Ally and I went down to St. Kilda, the other cool neighborhoody spot by the beach where lots of cool kids hang out. It was not nearly as much fun as I remembered it, as it has been largely commercialized since my last trip. We still managed a decent meal at a little cafe just off the boardwalk and, although they were playing The Red Hot Chili Peppers (that 'hey-o, listen what I say-o' song) through a single shredded speaker, we had a really nice time. We also stumbled past Luna Park, the creepy, until recently disused, amusement park on the beach.

My old pal Rosco, who looked after a large, unruly group of us during the Death Cab tour came and picked me up at my hotel and dragged me his happening side of town called Brunswick. There was a bit of a street festival going on, it being summer and also a weekend, so we weathered the crowds and what seemed like endless Men at Work and Midnight Oil cover bands and found a set at a bar for a few VBs. I was already full of food and getting a bit sunburnt, and I abhor the urine-like taste of Australia's national beer so I abstained (or only had one or two). Rosco proceeded to get slightly rowdy, or as my good friend Haydn might say: 'he had his wobbly boots on.' He put in some good work towards the growing beeramid beside him.

And then we decided that it would be a superb idea to buy 3 ukuleles, one for me, one for Rosco, and one for Lina, Rosco's girlfriend and serenade an extremely unappreciative crowd of revelers.

I made it back to the hotel just in time for our first communal affair as band in crew in what seems like, and possibly has been, years. Someone was kind enough to point the way to the hotel's pool area. I mean what's the point if you're not proud, right?

We all had our doubts that anyone would show up at all. I picked up a giant cheesecake earlier in the day, and had visions of it sitting out in the hot sun all afternoon, uneaten. As it so happened almost every member of the touring party came out. It was good times. Harley showed everyone up with a seafood salad and bruschetta, both of which he managed in his hotel room, as well as a variety of meats and such that others dragged out. 

Our old pal Scheid came out as well. He was across town with Broken Social Scene for some festival, but he knew where the good times were.

And just like that...

 was night.

Procedure For Healthy Hands