Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brooksy's First Gig

Our 80s covers band, Space Invaders had been working up a version of one of my favourite pop songs: "Counting The Beat" by The Swingers. For sheer joyous, knee knocking, angular rickenbacker guitar pop abandon you just can't beat it. 

We'd never played in Caboolture, but we'd heard about it. Years later I was lucky enough to work with a brilliant session drummer from LA called Pete Macneal (he played on our Fatty Gets A Stylist record.) When he was touring once he landed in Australia and was whisked straight to Caboolture. The first thing he saw upon arriving there was a giant billboard with somebody's mangled face, telling people not to glass each other whilst at the pub. "Where am I?" he asked himself.

Pete MacNeal (from Mike Doughty's blog)

Later, Pete went out for a walk and within no time was followed by three angry young drunks with bottles. They announced that he was going to get the fuck punched out of him.
Now, Pete Macneal is from LA.  LA doesn't have a reputation for being the friendliest or most crime free place in the world. But Pete Macneal had never encountered a situation like this.  

Not knowing what to do, he turned around, looked the alpha of the three males squarely in the eye and said firmly, "Where I come from, when someone wants to fight you with a bottle it means they want to kill you. So while I am not the biggest or strongest guy in the world , if we're going to fight, I'm going to fight you to the death."

The Caboolturans were suitably impressed by Pete's balls and the situation was disarmed.

So Space Invaders were booked to play the Caboolture RSL. Backstage before we went on the director of security said, "Any trouble I'm right here." Both reassuring and somehow unsettling.  There were about eighty people in a wooden room that could probably fit 800 people at a Noiseworks reunion show.

Wickety Wack kill it at the Caboolture RSL

We took to the stage and the DJ faded the break music. A couple of people made sounds of disappointment at their Pearl Jam being removed.  Most people just kept talking.

A giant lumberjack looking man near the front stood up, arms folded. His head was huge, red, hairy and scowling.

We decided to open with our freshly prepared rendition of "Counting The Beat." Halfway through the song I could feel us riding along on top of the music. With the repeat of the outro the whole band sang the tune joyously as one: "La Da-Di Dah! La Da-Di Dah! "
We sounded huge. We peaked, yelling the tune."LA DA-DI DAH! LA DA-DI DAH!! " We hit the final, tight power chord stab we'd rehearsed to end the song. Pow! Take that, audience! 


"Faggots!" someone yelled from the back. 

Then, the sound of three polite people clapping. Then silence again. The lumberjack was furious.

There is a running joke among bands that audience members will call out "Play Khe Sanh!" or "Play some Barnsey!" the same way people in the U.S. call out "Play Freebird!"  But in all the years I'd been playing I'd never heard anyone actually yell that (unless they were being ironic.) Not so in Caboolture.

Lumberjack man, literally, I mean he literally shook his fist and screamed "Play fucking Cold Chisel! You fucking play some fucking Cold Chisel NOW!"  His face went from red to maroon. He looked as if something might prolapse. "You hear me? You fucking hear me? Play some FUCKING COLD CHISEL!!!"

I couldn't see the security guy anywhere. We had to play something, just to drown him out. We tentatively went into our version of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy"

"Here's a little song I wrote, you might like to sing it note for note, Don't Worry, Be Happy"

The man continued yelling something. Luckily the stage was about one and a half metres off the ground and that would slow him down if he tried to come after us.

It was then I saw movement from the other side of the room. A woman of 40 or so, wearing a tiny little dress was shuffling slowly towards us across the huge empty dance floor. Her skin was so tanned and dry she looked as if she had been embalmed.

She shuffled the way a little kid playing dress up walks in high heels. This was because she was so drunk she could barely walk at all. Her lips were moving and she was shaking her head and making "cut" gestures with her hands.

"Landlord says your rent is late..and he might have to litigate..."

Over the next minute or so she slowly made it to the front of the room. She was close enough now that we could hear what she was saying: "No! No! Stop it! Stop that!" 

She shuffled right up to the stage. She threw one leg up over the edge of the stage, all the time saying "Stop it! Enough!"  She clambered onto the stage, climbed onto all fours and stood up shakily. 
"Stop it! Enough! Stop!"
She shuffled up to Scotty and pressed her hands over the strings on his bass trying to make the music sounds stop. A choked noise came out.

Scotty without an embalmed woman disrupting his work.

We played on: "Don't Worry, Be Happy Woo-ooh..oohh"

The security guard had arrived was reaching up from the dance floor and trying to pull the woman away from Scotty. Scotty, the true professional just kept trying to play the song. The woman kept saying "No! No! Stop it!"

After some wrestling back and forth, the security guy managed to pull her toward him, but she lost her balance and fell forward. He half caught her as she tumbled head first of the stage and they both tumbled onto the empty dance floor.

The guy had landed on his back and was dazed for a moment.  She tried to escape. She stood for a moment, swayed and then toppled onto her knees, her head on the floor like a praying Muslim. Her skirt flew up over her shoulders. A barely concealed set of genitals peered out at us from behind the grill of a shiny black g-string. The bouncer regained his composure and rolled over to be confronted with a graphic close up.

Later while having a cigarette, he told me that image would be burned on his retinas for the rest of his life.

And that was Brooksy's first gig.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The MySpace Revolution

It must be about 2004 or so. My band Transport is booked to play in Port Macquarie. We are broke, demoralised and tired.

But there's hope - this new MySpace thing. It's incredible. You can get a million friends and then get signed just like the Arctic Monkeys did! We believe it.

Scotty even found someone in Port Macquarie through our MySpace site and she has offered to come down and man our merchandise stall. This MySPace thing is brilliant!

MySpace Girl turns up at our soundcheck and seems nice. We thank her profusely for helping out and we set up the merch desk, pinning t-shirts to the notice board behind it, displaying CDs. After half an hour it's ready to go.

We start our soundcheck and she hangs around to listen. I'm thinking we sound pretty good, but then I look up and see MySpace girl. All the pleasure has drained from her face. She looks...confused or even constipated. Maybe she's thinking about some trouble she's having at home or something - it's not us is it? It's not our music doing this to her face? Is it? She knows it's a soundcheck right?

After sound check she smiles weakly and says she'll see us again at when the doors open at 7.

She doesn't turn up at all. In fact, nobody turns up.

When I say nobody, literally not a single person from the public turns up. Oh, there is a guy playing acoustic guitar as the opening act, and his girlfriend shows up, so I guess you could count her.

We sit at a table in the cavernous, empty venue and we look at each other. We've done so many gigs like this now we don't even need to have the conversation. We have disappointment fatigue.

Before we were disappointed...

Anyway, when we take to the stage, we do it with determination. The support guy and his girlfriend have been kind enough to hang around and watch us. Well, we'll give them the show of their lives! We'll play our fucking hearts out! By the end of this night we'll have at least two new fans!

We play as if the house is full. Our high volume, high energy rock bounces of the empty walls and back in our faces. We jump around, we lose ourselves in the music.

The guy and his girlfriend really seem to like it.

Then, just as we are nearing the end of our set : hope. A group of five or so girls tumble into the venue and all start dancing to our music. Even though there are only five of them, by contrast to before it feels like a sold out show.

They scream and cheer for us after each song. During one song, one of the girls goes over to the unmanned merch desk. She  peels off her shirt, and swaps it for one of our t-shirts and returns to the dance floor. Not only do we have fans, we just sold a t-shirt! Who needs that fucking MySpace bitch!

This is actually a photo of 8 Ball Aitken playing in Port MacQuarie,

Dripping with sweat and catching my breath I announce that this will be our last song.
The group of girls run off the dance floor, through the room and out the back door. They take our $40 T-shirt with them.

The guy and his girlfriend look expectantly at us.

Afterwards we get drunk. Very drunk. On the walk home I spot the bin where I threw out my half eaten Chinese dinner before the show. I fish it out and eat it.  Later, back at our room, I vomit.