Saturday, December 01, 2007

Australia 2002 Print Tour Diary Part Two...

As promised, here's the second part of my tour diary of the Dirtbombs inaugural Australian visit in November 2002. I think I've over-compensated with the scans of ephemera, but at least it breaks up the text nicely. A link to part one can be found on the right-hand side of your screen. All writing originally appeared serialized in four parts in Wayne State University's student newspaper, the South End. I have no idea why they let me write this shit.

Friday in Sydney was spent returning to Egg Records and buying all the stuff I passed on two days prior. Rich, the cordial man behind the counter, gave me a bunch of records on the Citadel label, the premier Australian garage imprint of the 1980's. Hit a few other hip boutiques to buy presents for my mom and sister...because that's the kind of nice guy I am. Ate another doner kebab and could feel my arteries clogging.

Second show at the Metro in Sydney was exciting. I tackled fuzz player Tom during the last song whilst bassist Jim poured beer all over us. After our set I slept on the cigarette and beer soaked floor of the dressing room, only because of the lack of couch. Had two different people comment after the show that I had good hair. What a joke. I thought it was great because they didn't say anything about my drumming, which is nowhere near the "good" level of my hair.

Saturday morning I got a call from Jim telling me I had to check out the spider in his room. I arrive to see something the diameter of a White Castle hamburger. It was a huntsman spider, apparently because it hunts men. You've never seen a group of supposedly "grown" men scream, flinch and act so girly in your life. We ended up trapping it in a pot and throwing it off the 5th floor balcony, but only because he scared us so.

Show that night was the Wollongong RSL (see VFW). Slept on the floor of the main room, only because of the lack of a couch anywhere in the building…anywhere in the country for that matter. Tour manager Tim had the day off to attend a wedding (I'm pretty sure it wasn't his). I want to take this time to mention that Tim looks nothing like a Tim, but his timidity and good manners make him more Brian-like.

Stage tech Gareth took the driving/soundman duties while Andy from You Am I was cool enough to tune guitars like a smart stage tech would. With nothing better to do, I fell to the evil grasp of the pokies (see slot machines). It's hard to put to words the feeling of playing penny slots in Australia, realizing that each credit is less than one cent of good ole' American money, but I wasn't complaining when I walked away (as K. Rogers would say "know(ing) when to fold 'em") with $20. Fuzz Tom managed to make $250 that night off the pokies, but then again, I'm sure he drank just as much that night.

Wollongong is out in the sticks, so the crowd was filled with yobbos and bogans (see white trash). Best part was that they totally dug the show like a bunch of moles. I climbed on top of a 5-meter speaker column during our last song and started dancing. I think it was the twist, but it just as easily could've been Mickey's monkey, the jerk, or the hullabaloo. While perched in my funky dance nest, Tim from You Am I commandeered my drums and held down the beat until I jumped over the kit and scared him away. Signed my first drumstick ever that night...those things sure are cylindrical.

The drive back to Sydney was laugh-filled. I kindly asked Jim to moon a car as we were passing it and Gareth, who's been more silent than Calvin Coolidge on this tour responds with "he won't be able to fit it all in the window." The rest of the band was laughing like the Cosby kids.

Sunday was movie day for Ben. I watched "Jaws", "28 Days", "Say It Isn't So", and some made for TV drama explaining the horrors of teen gambling (I know, I know...but they were only penny slots). That's really all I did all day. What a waste. Monday was spent on the 10-hour drive from Sydney to Melbourne, so damn near nothing happened. Got to our hotel and met up with Bruce Milne, the man who released our latest album, Ultraglide in Black, here in Australia. I was quite impressed. He's done records with all my favorite bands...Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, the Gories...needless to say he was quite cool.

I awoke Tuesday morn to the loudest rain I'd ever heard. It would flood the Tote, the club we were set to play that night. I spent the morning exploring the Melbourne suburb of St. Kilda, with some record shops and vintage clothing stores. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm sick of these places. I didn't buy too much. Jim, a man quite partial to the Asian ladies had a plum of a time at a local Vietnamese restaurant. While staring at the beautiful young lady behind the counter, he wanted "prawn and pork rolls" but instead asked for "porn and pork rolls." Sigmund Freud is laughing somewhere in hell.

The Tote was a nice change of place. It being our first scheduled headlining gig, it was a much smaller venue and felt more like a show we'd do back home. As we walked into the club, some deep cut off of Ultraglide in Black was playing on the jukebox. This whole tour has been awkwardness after awkwardness of walking into a room while our record is playing, or on a more exciting level, hearing it on the radio. Which brings up another point...Australian radio is amazing. In the two weeks we've been here, I've heard the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Velvet Underground, Sleater-Kinney, the Dirtbombs (duh) and countless other artists who never get the joy of airtime in the states. Our country has lots that can be improved upon.

The Tote had carpenters reinforcing the stage because of the flood and huge heaters drying out the carpet. The show would end up being sold out at 350 heads. The first half of our set went off without a hitch. But as soon as Jim Diamond grabbed the guitar for his usual wanking on "Little Miss Chocolate Syrup" the amp took a shit. So Jim sat there holding a guitar that was making no noise and generally just looking like a dumbass. We did an impromptu version of ESG's "Moody" to keep things moving. Gareth to the rescue managed to borrow an amp from the opening band, and we then covered the Who's "Can't Explain" with relative ease, seeing as we'd never covered it before.

We destroyed our equipment during "I Want, Need, Love you" a song by Australian unknown band the Black Diamonds, and I scaled some cross beam in front of the stage and began screaming nonsense into the mike. Encored with Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" which finds me on lead vocals and Iggy Pop impersonations. I was dumb enough to pin Tom down on the ground and unbuckle his belt. As he wiggled away I was able to tug his trousers down just enough to expose his lilywhite ass to all of Melbourne. I was about this close (pinching air) to sticking the microphone up his butt. They ate it up like chocolate cake.

Having a stage tech is weird when you push your drums down, because when you come back out, they're all put together. That being the case, the fans wanted another encore and we gave them what they wanted.

Traveled to an animal sanctuary early Wednesday and scoped some of the native wildlife. Saw kangaroos (who incidentally do NOT wear boxing gloves), wombats, wallabies, duck-billed platypi, Tasmanian devils and hooded honeyeater (which pat claims he's been called). Wednesday night found us at Corduroy records recording a 45 direct to acetate (recordings are usually done to magnetic tape). Jim and Mick wrote the song "Pray for Pills" a few minutes before we recorded it and it came out ok. The flip was another ESG cover, this time their song "My Love For You". Yeah, it was all good.

After recording I got to see where they actually press records, the only place in all of Australia that does vinyl. Too cool. Had to wake at 8:30 am Thursday to record a live set for PBS radio. We were all too dead to know any better. Our performance was half-assed. Jim, Mick and I then rushed over to do a radio interview with RRR across town. Was "chuffed" as the locals say, to see that our album was their designated "album of the week". Too cool. Spent lots of money at Au-Go-Go records but am still sick of record stores.

What follows is a continuation of my differences list.
-Australians use the word "bloody" alot. Unfortunately, "ouchy", "gooey", and "milk-chocolaty" are used with less frequency.
-It is illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving in Australia unless you use one of those hands free headsets. Thing is, once your friends see you wearing it, they won't really want to talk to you anymore.
-XXX pornography is only available in the Australian capital city of Canberra. Lucky for you, lesbian kangaroo fisting videos are available everywhere.
-Australians can get by with one word sentences like "shocking" or "unlucky" while most American one word sentences are "fuck", "shit" or "bootylicious".
-Vegemite is great to relieve sunburns and remove stains from your tiles, but by no means is it to be used for human consumption.
-Do not mistake a Kiwi (New Zealander) for an Aussie. It's the equivalent of saying Detroit is really from Toledo.
-Forget everything you've heard. Dingoes do not eat babies. They eat vegemite.

Sound check on Thursday was a bummer. As I climbed onstage, my jeans got snagged on a loose nail and ripped…when earlier that day I was marveling at the fact that I'd maintained said jeans for so long. Shows me to marvel. So after we check, I scoot back to the hotel and change into a different pair of Levi's…because I had done my laundry earlier that week like a good boy.

On the way back to the club I grabbed Thanksgiving dinner. The ¼ pounder with cheese meal avoided the depression associated with eating alone at McDonald's because I chose to eat and walk to the club at the same time. My milkshake tasted kinda funny and I realized that people should be more vocal about even the slightest difference in taste about anything. Something along the lines of "Hey, if I die from some weird bacteria in a few days, that milkshake I had at McDonald's yesterday tasted funny…tell the feds to start there."

Opening band the Sailors had a "gimmick" in that they pretended they were gay. I use pretend loosely because I'd later find out two of my band mates would end up making out with two Sailors later in the night. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just saving myself for Pelle from the Hives. Our set that night was well received, the crowd with their head-bobbing and toe-tapping letting us know we were doing our job.

Early in the set I noticed a red blotch building on my left leg. Turned out that I'd cut the knuckle of my pinky finger and that every time I hit my hi-hat (which is on my left) my hand would land on my thigh and deposit like the Red Cross. Just great…two pairs of jeans ruined in one day. So after the show, I skip out on You Am I's set and walk back to our hotel. The houses in Melbourne are so pretty, like a hybrid between Key West gingerbread-style and New Orleans French terraces. Quite beautiful.

Once I returned to our hotel, I pulled out my mad laundering skills and soaked my jeans in cold water. With no detergent to speak of, I worked it out with a bar of soap. Presto chango…when pulled out of the dryer the next morning there would be no signs of blood. I know my mom is proud.

Woke up too early on Friday so we could sound check at the Cherry Bar. Owned by the drummer from Australian hard-rock stalwarts the Cosmic Psychos, this show was added to our agenda only a week earlier to replace a show that had been cancelled with You Am I. The unique part about the Cherry is that the owner's mother, Janet, is in charge of hospitality. So the whole time we sat and chatted with the sixtysomething transplanted Scottish woman who addressed me as "love". Would you believe that a boat ride from Scotland to Australia in the 1960's took five weeks?

The whole band ended up falling asleep at the Cherry waiting for the sound check, and once we were done there we headed out to dinner with You Am I and their road crew. Everyone in the band and crew were just as nice as possible and made the whole tour a delight. Went to the club after dinner and found the fellows from Corduroy Records putting together the "Pray for Pills" single that we'd just recorded two days earlier. They had cheap photocopied covers with pictures from the recording session and hand-stamped labels. It was a limited edition of 100 hand-numbered copies. The folding, numbering and bagging of the 45's was fun to do backstage. We probably gave away more than we sold, but that's usually how band merchandise works.

Russell, drummer for You Am I, gave me the records on his Illustrious Artists label, and even though I dislike their rendition of Outkast's "Miss Jackson", the Vines second 45, entitled "Hot Leather" is honestly good. Believe me because I'm the first person in line when it comes to trashing the Vines. In honor of the good folks who brought us down for the tour, all us Dirtbombs wore You Am I t-shirts for our last show with them. As soon as we exited the stage, we were quickly shuttled to our show at the Cherry Bar.
Ah yes…two shows in one night, just like the Beatles, even though they were known to play the much easier five shows a night. The Cherry show was just one big party. The club was sold out and we just messed around on stage, playing songs we'd never played live (Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up") and even letting Davey Lane from You Am I join us for a few songs. It felt like we were playing in a high school basement and that we could do no wrong.

We left the Cherry at 5 a.m. and were quickly driven to our hotel where we packed and showered. We'd left our hotel by 7 a.m. and had no trouble at the airport. Said our goodbye's to Tim and Gareth and even gave them hugs…but only because they're so cuddly. Our flight left at 10:45 a.m. Saturday. Auckland to Los Angeles was me sandwiched in the middle seat and sleeping a total two of 12 hours. Tortuous. But the worst part was that the cabin services director turned off "Stuart Little 2" in the middle of the big chase scene. You'd never seen a group of supposedly "grown" men act so disappointed. Arrived in Detroit at 7:30 p.m. Saturday to temps of 50 degrees less than what we'd left in Melbourne. In the end, I'd lost a Wednesday, but I'd gained a Saturday.

-Australia doesn't have MILFs. They're called yummy mummies.
-Fanny is not slang for your butt, but rather it's slang for the female genitalia
-People magazine in America contains all the relevant news about your favorite celebrities. People magazine in Australia also pertains to celebrities, but only if they're not wearing any clothes.
-Australia was started off as a penal colony for England. That being said, keep your belongings close to you at all times and speak slowly when telling a joke.
-A bottle of beer is called a stubby. The big seller at You Am I's merch table was stubby holders.
-Many Australians look down upon the episode of "The Simpsons" that takes place in Australia. This further cements the notion that they have no sense of humor.
-Netball is a sport played by women in Australia that's similar to basketball. The main differences are that the baskets have no backboards and that players are restricted to certain sides of the court according to their position. This is actually how basketball started for women in the United States, but we soon climbed out of the stone age and gave women the right to go anywhere on the court.
-They don't have bell peppers in Australia. They're called capsicums.
-Australian slang for Americans is "seppo cunts". Seppo comes from "septic". Cunt is just their idea of poetic license.
-Australian slang for English people is either "pom" or "pome". It's heavily debated whether is comes from uniforms worn by English prisoners originally sent to Australia (emblazoned with the words "Prisoner of Mother England") or whether it's short for pomegranate. I propose that they just call them "Queen-loving drunkards with corn teeth". You have to admit it has a ring to it.
-Australia has speed cameras on its freeways. They take a picture or something to that affect at one location and take another 50 miles (or so) later. They have a formula figured out that it should take you x minutes to travel that 50 miles, so if you arrive in less than x minutes, you receive a ticket in the mail.
-Sambo is Aussie slang for a sandwich. That being said, I propose pasta be nicknamed wop and that rice be called chink so that they piss off everyone equally.

captions (in order of which they fart down the screen)
1) the first time the Dirtbombs were ever graced with tour-encompassing backstage passes. I don't think we sincerely needed them once the entire tour. You Am I's laminates read "Sinner" while everyone else on the crew, opening band, etc. read "Saint."
2) a real live ticket for the Tote show. Thought to be extinct.
3) one of my better-timed photo captures. Mick hurtling down the stairs of Melbourne's Au-Go-Go records. I bought lots of shit there...bootleg Sonic Youth 7"s, an issue of Careless Talk Costs Lives...all the choice stuff was upstairs and I felt privileged to be allowed there, as it wasn't open to the public. (the same actually happened at Red Eye Records in Sydney, I now recall) But I got nothing as remotely as cool as an unnamed friend who, a few years prior, would grab copies #'d 1-7 of the Gories 7" on Giant Claw almost 10 years after its release Lucky.
4) scan from a physical copy of the December 9 2002 issue of the South End because the scan of the photo is long lost to the binary recesses of this archaic desktop. It's actually a photo of a poster for the shows at Prince of Wales
5) live photo from 2nd nite at Prince of Wales. I have no idea who took this pic, I just happened to find it in the aforementioned recesses.
6) posed photo from 2nd nite at POW with Dbombs all dorked-out in matching t-shirts. Rejected for inclusion to the booklet of our 2xCD singles compilation by the record label for "taking the 'if you don't already have a look' idea to its heterosexual limit."
7) live photo from the Cherry Bar show the same night. Photo taken by the same person who probably emailed these to me 5 years ago and I'm apologizing here for forgetting who they are and will give proper credit if you just let me know who you are.
8)a juicy treat for all y'all wondering how these crazy budgets work. I really dug the interview with Sean Astin in Rolling Stone where he openly talked about his finances. Whey everyone else gotta pussyfoot? The only dough we got for this tour was our per diems and maybe some minimal profits off the t-shirt sales (at this point, I don't remember exactly). Notice my mom's hand-written note that "Baker will see you in Melbourne" along with my personal reminder to guestlist Bob Bacic and some name Potter scribbled down at an airport.


Anonymous said...

Has anybody heard of Freer?

What are they like?

Anonymous said...

There actually not bad. I just gave them listen.

Becky Stark said...

Not bad = Not good

Anonymous said...

The "facts" of Australia are brilliant.

I really dig the speed camera "fact".


Anonymous said...

hey ben, i have another fact or whatever to add to your list of things you dont know about the white stripes.


can you help us out?



m. said...

aaaah! i love this sort of thing. fascinating, man.

but you've instilled a slight fear of australia in me. well. and of some australians i used to know. australians that i pissed off!

(oh yeah! not about freer or the stripes! +1 for me?)

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