When the week began, I was in my studio, mixing Richie Parson’s album. I knew that I’d be doing some of these mixes offline while traveling, so, each day I would do the overdubs that I thought a particular song might need, since I couldn’t easily record on the road; then I’d do the overdubs on the song I was mixing that day. Definitely hard work, but these overdubs made a huge difference in the number of options I had for more making each song sound more complete when it came time to mix. I had everything set up so I could bounce from task to task quickly–my guitar amp was mic’d, there was a mic for tambourine playing, a vocal mic for backing vocals, and I had my keyboard set up for keyboard overdubs. If I needed to do an acoustic guitar track, I’d put the vocal mic in figure 8 pattern, switch out the dark tambourine mic for a Neuman KM 184 on the same mic line/input channel, and record the acoustic in a ‘mid-side’ pattern. By Tuesday evening I felt all the overdubs were done for all the songs, I could mix the last few songs on the road with confidence. If I really worked hard on the mixes, I’d merely have to, upon my return to Paris, assign outputs to various tracks and let the mix run thru my analog summing stage, and the mix would be done.
On Wedsnesday, I was up early and out the door by 8, to head to Australia. I was dropped off at the terminal and patiently worked my way forward in the Etihad check in in terminal 2C. Got to the front of the line, at 9am, for my 11am flight to Abu Dhabi. The woman checking me in frowned in the direction of her monitor, and apologized…I was actually booked on the evening flight. Oh dear. Well, my bad for not reading what the travel agent sent me, tho I could have sworn I explicitly selected the morning flight–I’d written down flight numbers corresponding correctly to a morning itinerary, and had been planning to arrive in Sydney the following evening. No such! The thing is, all I needed to do is work, so I parked myself in a corner table at a brasserie in the terminal, that had a power outlet next to it, and at this table I not only edited and mixed a Richie Parsons song (and started on another), I also had breakfast, lunch and dinner over the course of the next 11 hours. I checked in to the night flight none the worse for wear and in fact feeling rather caught up on my work. The travel to Australia is so long, that Thursday barely existed–just a couple hours spent in the Abu Dhabi terminal, where I pretty much finished up the mix of another Richie song. I arrived to Sydney Friday morning, having had time to not only sleep at least 8 hours, but watch three films, and do some writing besides. From Abu Dhabi to Sydney, the longer leg of the journey, I had a bank of two seats to myself, so I could stretch out my getaway sticks and snooze like the proverbial deceased.
We landed just a touch behind schedule, and I breezed thru customs and immigration. I declared the merch I brought, which interested the customs folk not one bit, but it earned me a pass thru the beagle-equipped sniffing station, which resulted in no net change in the outcome. Upon exiting, my promoter in Australia, Adam, was waiting with two just-arrived musicians from Britain, a folk duo called the Bad Shepherds — whom I was glad to meet, as I’d wondered if their moniker was a reference to the bad ass hero of Aussie music, Brad Shepherd of the Hoodoo Gurus. Nope. It was a folk thing. They were lovely gents, and we had a good giggle on the way in to town as Adam dropped me in Marrickville, at the home of Matt & Leah, my hosts. Being that it was quite early, they were getting ready for work, but fixed me a cup of tea and made me feel most welcome. They went out the door and I had a couple hours to freshen up, and being a dutiful fellow, I hooked up my laptop to their stereo, listened to Richie’s mixes in progress, declared the good to go. Then I listened to the sequence of Nicole Bianchet’s album, fiddled with an alternative sequence of my own; decided hers was superior, and told her so. Then I showered up and via telemetry with my record company promo fella, Marshall, got a cab delivered to my address and zoomed in to town. First stop was a live radio performance and interview on 2SER, which you can listen to here. I was feeling pretty fresh considering the sitch, some 36 hours of travel just behind me. I played a decent version of “110 or 220V” and then the host played “You’re the Gold” from my album, which I dedicated to my son Kenny, who was turning 28 this very day.
Then Marshall and I had a little time to kill, so we went back to his office, dropped my gear, and he took me to his local espresso place, Fragrance. Recently opened, Fragrance has rapidly gained a stellar reputation, with a line down the block if you head there in the early morning. But by this time, midday, it was calm and we had a seat inside–there’s maybe seating for half a dozen people. I have to say, my macchiato was nearly as good as I’ve encountered, I’d have to go to Tim Wendlboe in Oslo to have a superior one, I think. Nutty, soft, and gorgeous to both the palate and the eye…this gentleman, a young fellow, needs to give Cuptasters a go; he’d really have a chance at accolades there. After juicing up here, Marshall and I had sushi for lunch, then I had another macchiato at Fragance with my buddy Craig, who was our driver and so much more during Sydney Festival earlier this year. Then, I knocked out a radio phoner from Marshall’s office, and headed back to Matt & Leah’s to putter about. Leah gave me a lift to soundcheck, Petersham being not far from Marrickville so no great hardship for her. Matt had his own gig that night, playing guitar for the former singer of Died Pretty’s new outfit, just up the street from their house.
As for myself, I was back at the Petersham Bowling Club, where my previous tour had wrapped, with such marvelous result, back in February. In point of fact, that very show Feb. 1, which was nearly sold out, and was studded with guest appearances from the likes of Mike Mills, Chris Stamey & Skylar Gudazs was going to be impossible to top. So, I had to accept the fact that this show merely distinguish itself by offering some variety, making it a kind of encore to the February show. Many people said, even before the show, that I could have just played exactly the same set list as the previous one and they’d be happy as, but I felt we had a chance to stretch out a bit. Of course, many factors conspired to make that other show a sellout, and tonite’s show was not as crowded–but, having said that, attendance was very good, it’s just that this night’s audience was going to be able to see and hear me clearly from front to back/side to side. I had a full band opening for me this evening, Mezko; Kat, the guitarist, was my duet partner. They play a very intense, drone-y, serious kind of Krautrock. People loved them. I myself love when the bill is musically diverse…many a promoter has underestimated an audience’s ability to live with contrast. When they finished, I made a big show of taking my gear off the stage, and dragging it up to the first row of tables, so that the audience wasn’t obligated to come up to the edge of the stage and have to stand all night. So, I had my groovy digital keyboard set to a Wurlizter sound, and I had Kat’s Laney amp still onstage but accommodated by my extra long cables. No mics. And off we went. It was a marvelous vibe, and once again, the audience was in no way shape or form going to let me out of there early. There were tons of requests, and in the end, some fun to be had with guests–I had to pee at some point, and I handed the guitar to a fellow from the audience, who got up and played a Mississippi-style folk blues tune, which I made it back in time to accompany on the piano. And, when I did a version, by request, of “Thirteen” by Big Star, he (Lee he was named) was called back up to the stage and then two of his friends also hopped up and suddenly we had vocal harmonies going, it was so sweet. Kat’s duet with me was done in the middle of the audience, she was spectacular, too. Had some friends out, and some of the greatest fans ever. A couple folks brought in a mad amount of Posies/Big Star/KS albums to sign. I am blessed. After the show I helped sell merch; in fact, Matt, my host, ‘s grown daughter Hannah was the door person, she’s just a sweetheart, and a calm presence. All was organized, and my man Craig Gee, who had hopped up and gone into action whenever my cables were entangled, gave me a lift back to Matt & Leah’s. Hannah went with friends to her dad’s gig; Leah came back from it after a bit and just as I thought to go to bed she opened the wine and got out the cheese–and this man was missing France more than a bit so it was lovely.
And I was up probably 4 hours later. Hannah had come back at some point and was zzzzing on the sofa (I was told this sofa is a killer for naps; I was strongly tempted, but managed to get thru my arrival day without succumbing, so I’d have a hope in not being ravaged by the effects of eastward-travel’s lethal jet lag). By 8am I was in the air, bound for Melbourne, and sleeping the whole way. On my flight to Hobart, I had two seats in an exit row all to my self, so again I could stretch and sleep. Landing in Hobart’s petite airport, I was greeted by John from the college radio station. My flight was in late so we scurried over to the station, which he’d left on automatic pilot, and we did a quick interview and I played a song or two. Then he zipped me over to the big national radio/TV station station, where a lovely gent named Joel taped an interview and performance with me. And, from here, James, aka J. Robert Youngtown, picked me up and drove me to the Homestead Hotel, where tonite’s gig was to take place. James was doing the support tonite; he used to live in Hobart, work took him to Launceston on the north side of Tasmania, but he was glad to zip down and do this gig. In fact, he’s worked with Jon Auer on I believe two albums, Jon mixed his latest effort for example. He’s gentle fellow whose calm demeanor barely covers a mischievous edge.
We rolled up to the venue, and the young lady at the bar gave us keys to one of the rooms that we’d be staying in. My goodness, but the upstairs where the rooms were, was in a state indeed. It looked like the set of a film set in post-apocalyptic Albania. Cigarette filters and, oddly, two not-yet decomposed pats of butter were part of the room’s decor, which was lit by naked bulbs protruding from the walls at questionable placements. We shuddered collectively and headed up the road to lunch at the Republic Bar, which in fact is where I had a very rowdy show in 2005, with Melbourne band Even. I supported solo, and then at the end of Even’s full band set, we did a super-encore of Posies, Big Star, and other related material. My solo set was barely audible above the Saturday night din, but we got thru it. In the day, the place was genteel, and I was presented with filets of wallaby, succulent and delightful, and a glass of Tasmanian dry riesling. Then, it was nap time. We went back to the Homestead and I flopped on the presumably previously slept-in bed, on top of the covers fully clothed, hoping for the best. I got about an hour in before soundcheck, which was merely enough to fuck me up royally. I stumbled down to the venue completely unable to perform the simplest functions, but somehow directed the soundcheck to its completion. I took dinner in the venue, and then…more nap time, this time in my actual, and pleasantly tidy, room. Got another hour or so in, before it was time to head back down and meet my duet partner, Ella Fence, a lovely singer from Brisbane who had played the venue two nights prior and was still in town. We did a run thru of the song, and soon James was up onstage performing his set– I could see that it was going to be night not as challenging as the Republic but still there was a lot of ambient chatter and the occasional shouts/guffaws. The stage is set into a little cozy nook separated from the venue as a whole by a proscenium, so this is already an advantage. When James was done, I wasted no time in getting going, and I took the mic down into the crowd and did my set amongst the faithful, of which I would say there were at any time about 30 inside the arch and intently listening. The piano was stuck onstage, tho, so I had to return to the stage to make use of it, but by the time I got around to doing so, I’d made the level of my commitment to the audience and performance clear, and had the people on my side. And it wasn’t long before the crowd noise from the bar at large was not much of an issue and I was having a ball. Two hours later, I retired from the stage to sell merch. Now, during the show, I took requests, such as one fellow’s call for “You’re the Beautiful One”. And once again, I had to pee at some point; at this time I had Ella come up onstage and plug in her Martin (I made a convincing argument that Australia’s main guitar brand, Maton, was brought about my simply pronouncing Martin in a distinctly Aussie fashion) and do a song of hers, which I was delighted to here the last minute or so of, with her wild, feral swooping voice. Then I politely borrowed her acoustic and we did “Doesn’t It Remind You of Something”, and she was, of course, brilliant. You have to love a gal who calls herself Ella Fence, and travels with a lanky, warm-hearted poet named Adonis. At the show were quite a few interesting folks, including a gent named Michael who was from Seattle, and had been living now in Tasmania for 17 years; he’d seen the Posies back in the day, and was delighted to see I’d come to town; he now works as a ship captain, and was happy to oblige my geeky questions about the ship he’s soon to be commanding–things about fuel consumption and such.
So, after I stashed my gear in my room, got paid, and sucked down some more shiraz, James and I walked over to another venue, the Brisbane Hotel. On the way, as I walked by a tree, something moved in the edge of my vision, and I looked up to find myself staring into the eyes of a possum, of the Aussie variety–a pudgy, fuzzy critter with a darling face; evidently, tho, they are nasty if approached. At the Brisbane, we found quite a number of people engaged in karaoke– A DJ spun the instrumentals, and the singer was to get onstage and deliver, while the crowd yelled, danced, and generally acted like drunken idiots in a rather endearing way. I gulped down wine and made chitchat, and then James & I sauntered back and I got not nearly enough sleep.
Up at 8, with a quick shower and such, James dropped me at the airport and headed off on his 2-hour journey home, and I headed to Melbourne for the next show, to be blog-tinued next week.
Virgin Australia flight 1321 to MEL