So we left of Tuesday November 12th. 5 hours to LA, 12 hours to Auckland, and 3 hours to Brisbane. Somewhere in the midst of "Men in Black 2" and staring over the pure darkness of the Pacific, it was Thursday the 14th. What the hell happened to my Wednesday? I want it back! '
We arrive in Brisbane without the necessary work permits and a suitcase full of t-shirts, CD's, buttons, gee-gaws and yo-yos for the kids, all of which should be taxed heavily if the Australian Uncle Sam had his way. Mick, lead singer, alpha male, feeds the feds some bullshit story of us being on a "promotional" tour and that we were giving all of this stuff away. To quote the late great Ferris Bueller "they bought it". Suckers.
We met up with our tour manager/soundman/superhero Tim, and were off. We all fit snugly in the Toyota Tarago, which is Australian for "snugly". We ended up filling out paperwork so that we could get our work visas, driving to a drug store to take pictures for our work visas, and then eating at a nice outdoor restaurant that evening. The bathrooms in this country are kinda creepy. Most of them have boxes for people to dispose of their used needles. Heroin is fairly easy to get here, but I'm more of a Kit-Kat man myself, so no track marks here. Spent the rest of the night avoiding Kate and Leopold on the TV and reading the latest issue of McSweeney's.
Woke up ungodly early, 5:30 am or so. Started watching The Royal Tenenbaums at 6. What a brilliant movie. Got Elliot Smith's "Needle in the Hay" stuck in my head for the next few days because of it. The toilets here are interesting as well. They have two buttons on them, one a half-darkened circle, and one fully darkened circle, for a half-flush or a full flush, an idea that our country could benefit greatly from. Took a ferry to the downtown area and drifted around there.
Went to a record store and the guy behind the counter recognized us...too strange. I was overjoyed to buy a suave pair of zipper boots that are impossible to find in the states. Ordered a hamburger at a mall food court-type place and it came with a fried egg, a beet and a cucumber on it. I was thoroughly disgusted. We did a quick radio interview before heading to the club in Brisbane, the Arena, which holds about 1900. It was sold out.
The band we're opening for, You Am I, are huge in Australia, so we're lucky to be playing for such crowds. We're spoiled down here. When we tour in the states, we don't have a tour manager, we don't have our own soundman, and we don't have all of our equipment set up when we arrive at the club. We can usually be found lugging impossibly heavy equipment or tending to infrequently selling merchandise. We don't have to do any of that this tour. It almost feels wrong. I sleep after the sound check and wake up a few minutes before we go on. The crowd seemed to like it and we had fun on stage, so I went back to sleeping backstage. Yeah, I know, I need to curb back on the rock star excess.
Next day's show was in Nambour at an RSL hall, the Australian equivalent to a VFW hall. The drive is 2 hours and it rains for a bit. The show wasn't too packed, but we enjoyed ourselves and left soon after our performance.
Sunday would be all driving...12 hours straight. Sucks for Tim, but I had a fun time sitting in the back and even managed to catch a glimpse of a kangaroo that no one else was fortunate to see. So far, those marsupials are pretty scarce round these parts. Pulled into Sydney around 12 last night, got to our hotel...more posh than I can handle, and watched The Don King Story. Fascinating. What an articulate man he is...only in America!
Spent this morning staring at Sydney opera house and walking up and down Bondi beach. Tops there are optional and Jim, the bass player was ecstatic, whispering to me "I just saw her booby," and following that up a few seconds later with "I think there's going to be an international incident in my pants." Quite the gentleman Jim is. We have no show tonight, Monday, but spend the next few days here in Sydney.
A good doner kebab is better than sex. Not that I've ever had sex, I'm just assuming here, but the sliced meat (I think it's beef, maybe lamb?) with garlic sauce and cheese and onions slathered all over the place is terribly non-existent in our country so I must indulge here while I can. Wednesday found me at Egg records spending $150 Australian on a Guns 'n' Roses bootleg double LP, a Victims compilation (in my mind the best punk band ever) and an official White Stripes clock housed in it's original pizza box packaging. I'm a sucker.
Our show that night was in Carringbah and the crowd was slightly less comatose. They seemed somewhat amused when I jumped off of my drums onto the lighting rig overhead and swung around like a curious George who's more mischievous than curious. Tim Rogers, the lead singer of You Am I told me when I got off stage "I was worried about you, young man."
Thursday I got caught in the mind-numbing grasp of cricket. What a way to waste 3 hours. But on the positive side, I think I finally understand the game. Just try and stump me on what a googily is. We got to spend time in downtown Sydney and do more record shopping. I only spent $65 Australian at Red Eye Records, but I got two Scientists 45's, a Sonic Youth Australia-only EP, two back issues of the Detroit magazine Motorbooty and the latest 45 from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
On the walk downtown I passed the Sydney city hall. Now I'm "supposed" to find an Australian government meeting to attend so I can keep up in my public affairs reporting class, but then again I'm "supposed" to eat vegetables, "supposed" to drive the speed limit and "supposed" to bathe regularly. Our show in Sydney was probably the best yet, the crowd slowly got into dancing and shaking and all the stuff that was considered lascivious in Elvis' time. After our set, I ate alone at McDonalds. Nothing is more depressing than eating alone at McDonalds. Avoid it at all costs.
The rest of this is a list of the differences between Australia and the United States that I've slowly been working on
-some Burger Kings here are called Hungry Jacks, some are called Burger King. It depends on which province you're in.
-Ford Falcons are still produced here
-if you think you see a child or a dog driving a car, relax, the steering wheel is on the right side of cars
-the drains drain clockwise...what haven't the Simpson's taught us?
-slot machines are called pokies. So if someone asks if you wanna go for a pokie, rest assured it's not a sexual advance.
-Fosters, you know, Australian for beer, is non-existent on this continent. Having been here a little over a week and having spent most of my time in bars, I haven't seen a single person drink one.
-American chocolate sucks. Evil corporations like M&M/Mars might as well just admit that they're selling the American public wax in candy bar form. Go anywhere outside the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and buy yourself a Kit-Kat. It is the most perfect specimen of chocoholic withdrawal suppressant known to man. But the recipe for America might as well include fecal matter.
-they use the metric system here. But living in Detroit, I've become familiar with the metric terms myself like gram and kilo.
-the electric outlets here are different. That means I'm too dumb to spend $7 on an adapter for my electric razor and instead learn firsthand the fun of shaving cream, razor burn, and bleeding necks.
-the design in Australia is amazing. Everything from bathroom door handles to the skyscraper architecture is so much more colorful, more whimsical, more visually pleasing. Imagine an entire continent furnished by Ikea. It makes America seem like a gulag.
-the money here is much more interesting. Never mind that an American dollar is about $1.50 here, meaning you can buy more and more records, but all the bills are different color. They even have clever little nicknames. The $10 is the blue swimmer, the $20 is the red lobster, and the $50 is a pineapple. And you thought "benjamins" was cool? On top of that, all of their bills have a little 1/4 inch spot that's totally transparent, to help foil counterfeiters. There's something for everyone to enjoy.
-the serving sizes of food over here is much more practical than in America (I believe coca-cola just introduced a 3-gallon container at home). At the Australian McDonalds, there's no such thing as a supersize. It's pick a size, small, medium or large. And the large isn't something that requires a bathroom break in the middle of its consumption either. It's reasonable. On top of that, a large value meal here in Australia will run you about $5.99, which comes out to about $3 American after you do the conversion. The burgers and fries are approximately the same size, so how come the mark-up on 20 more ounces of soda is $2 in America?
-we get per diems of $30. Per diem is Latin for "not enough to go record shopping."
-Australians really like to over-use the letter "z". To look at something is a "squizzy", their nickname for the country is "OZ" (pronounced "ozzy" with devil horns in the air a must) and sleeping is referred to as "catching z's". That's totally weird.