Slept well over the Pacific with REM's Automatic for the People on the iPod.
Watched Anton Corbjin's Control, the Ian Curtis biopic. The whole thing was pretty unmoving, but it delivered the Joy Division songs in a way/context that I'd never really been exposed to them and left me with a newfound appreciation. Usually I just hear the bass lines at soundcheck, independent of any of the other musical cues. So there was a lot of me going "So that's the bass line Troy's been playing this whole time"
Land at Auckland Airport, go straight back through security and kill time. Flight from Auckland to Melbourne was cake…I watched American Gangster and thought the whole thing was unimpressive. The story was vaguely compelling in the same way Blow had been before it, but the viewer is ultimately left unsympathetic towards Denzel Washington's portrayal of Frank Lucas and Russell Crowe as NYC's lone good cop is not the least bit charming of the kind of guy you'd find yourself rooting for. The film was a decent time killer at best, but I'm also left wondering how much artistic liberty was taken with the story.
Melbourne Airport was quick and easy. Passport control was a perfunctory rubber-stamping, baggage wasn't terribly slow to burp out onto the conveyor belt and customs felt no desire to rifle through any of our shit.
Our tour promoters Daniel and Johanna escorted us to the parking garage and had a Spinal Tap moment as they were unable to remember where they'd parked the rental van. It took 20 minutes or so before we finally crammed all seven of us and all of our luggage into what sizes up to be a regular minivan.
This would be the first time we failed to stay in the St. Kilda neighborhood while lodging in Melbourne. Instead, we're closer to downtown, near some museums, the zoo, the uni and lots of other bullshit within walking distance.
Once in the hotel room I begin the completely muddled Billy Childish novel Notebooks of a Naked Youth, a book I bought at Powell's in Portland back in 2001 and am just now making my first attempt at reading. For some reason I always feel bad about buying a book and not reading it immediately. It's part of a long running personal tradition I have of feeling bad for inanimate objects…like dropping a glass and then getting depressed that it will never hold my morning orange juice again.
I feel asleep reading Notebook and when I awoke I ventured out on my own into the wilds of Melbourne city. Walking through and exploring urban centers is one of my favorite things to do on tour…especially when alone, it's empty time for my thoughts to drift, to follow my own mental map of how the city is laid out, no schedule to keep, seeing a city on foot always exposes the smallest and most interesting peculiarities that truly reveal its character.
There were plenty of cool shops…a nice old antique store, an intriguing Japanese grocer complete with an entire aisle dedicated to ramen, a few pawn shoppes and most importantly, record stores. I'd found the old location of the Au-Go-Go record store, now housing a completely forgettable DJ place called In And Out. My record radar (a term I must give credit to Matt Smith for coining) was heightened and I eventually made my way over to Missing Link Records. While I'd visited there back in 2004, I had no clear memories of what specifically they stocked or whether I even bought anything.
This trip would be far different. I made my way immediately to the 7" section and I was duly impressed. While the selection was terribly huge, it was of impeccable quality. To see the Tyvek 2x7" or selections from the X! Records catalog a world away (not to mention Cass shit, as I'm still amazed any time I see it in a store) fills me with a warm feeling that certain things are right in the world. I told the people at the store and I will repeat is here: Missing Link has the best section of new 7"s in the world. Better than Rough Trade. Better than any of the Amoebas. Better than Rockit Scientist or Goner or Academy.
Spent time talking with Scotti Campbell, one of the brilliant staff at Missing Link. He's a big Dirtbombs fan from way back and hipped me to some stuff…pre-Victims Perth punk from the Geeks, the Venomous Concept 7" with sleeve made out of human skin, and a plethora of Coloured Balls CD reissues. I've made a conscious vow to myself to try and only buy records that I know will be hard to find anywhere but Australia and actually left the store without purchasing anything…but remembering fully that we'll be back on Monday with the entire day off.
Slowly back to the hotel to enjoy the cricket match between the Australian team and Sri Lanka. Cricket is such a relaxing, lazy and overall wonderful sport to watch. Our first trip over in 2002 found an entire day off spent watching a test match with tour manager Tim Carton fully explaining all the peculiar rules and strategies and lingo. It was a beautiful summer day, spent sipping Gatorade after Gatorade shirtless, preserved perfectly crystalline in my mind. So any chance to revisit the game is a welcome treat for me…a chance encounter this summer during a Sunday afternoon on Belle Isle, trying to explain to Malissa the rules of the game (still somewhat uncertain of them myself) and also in awe that there's somewhere in the Detroit area where people play cricket.
I explained the rules to Pantano, myself remembering more and more as we watched the match and he eventually admitted to having a grasp of them.
Johanna drove us to the Tote for soundcheck. The entire evening would be a constant stream of people I hadn't seen in years and some people I'd even forgot were in Melbourne. Mark from the Stabs (and Saucerlike Recordings) and Mikey from the Eddy Current Supression Ring (as well as an ace recording/pressing plant engineer) were both good for shop talk as far as the intricacies of pressing vinyl as well as just other general band/music shit.
Bruce Milne, Australian national tastemaker, owner of the Tote, Dirtbombs Australian record label head was there as well. Johanna had very accurately described him as one of the few genuinely honest and nice people in the music business. We immediately started talking record collecting nerd stories. The Dirtbombs are clearly a better band with people like Bruce and Larry Hardy of In the Red Records on our side. I feel lucky just to know those men.
The rider backstage was nice…chips and salsa, a variety of Gatorade flavors and a tray of cheeses/fruit/veggies/dip/gummi snacks that was much-appreeshed by everyone.
Backstage we found copies of our Aussie tour single (delivered by Mikey) with a scant three copies on colored vinyl. Guess which three band members scooped those up? Soundcheck was quick and painless, Troy had some issues with his bass amp that seemed to be resolved before we played. I was privileged to play a sweet old Ludwig black pearloid kit from the Sixties. Pat was bummed that I called "dibs" and that he was left with the generic black Pearl kit with power toms. But he got his precious taller hi-hat stand, so it worked out for both of us in the end.
After check we stuffed the singles in their sleeves, peeped the tour posters, Dirtbombs pins, t-shirts and watched as Kate (formerly of Au-Go-Go Records) styled us with a completely professional merch set-up.
Bruce took Mick and I upstairs to lay some current In-Fidelity releases. I'm quite excited about the new King Brothers record. He also showed me his Australian Astor pressing of the Stooges "1969" single, one which I ogled on our last visit into his sanctum four years ago.
We nixed the idea of going out for dinner and instead ordered in for some pizzas. Bruce then snuck up on me and handed me his copy of the Stooges single and said "You owe me something really cool for this" to which I momentarily shocked into disbelief. I promised him I would completely hook him up while not being able to believe my eyes.
It's hard to be a record collector, cognizant of pressing variations and release years and the rarity thereof, without coming off as overly materialistic. But I've been viewing the hobby as an extension of my historical passion of late. So while I know that the "1969" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" pressed by Astor has little-to-no difference from the US Elektra issue, it's the fact that such a fringe record by a totally unknown band was actually seen fit (by who I'd LOVE to know) to be manufactured by these Australian licensees in a year/era where someone like the Iggy Pop would most likely be deported from the Draconian commonwealth.
Basically, I'm sting there, holding this record, thinking "There no fucking reason in the world while this should have existed in 1969, let alone have survived all these years and no be sitting in my hands."
Plus, the Stooges are the greatest rock and roll band of all time.
The Stabs were violently loud, calling to mind mid-Nineties caterwaul like Cows. Guitar tone was sharp and piercing and played with all the deft charm of a psycho with a scalpel. It was also the first time I ever got to see them live, pretty weird since I put out a record of theirs a couple of years ago.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring was impressive from the little I watched, but must admit that I retired to the dressing room and fell victim to some much-needed sleep for most of their set.
Our set was strong considering we'd landed in town that day after 20+ hours of flying. We started the set with a couple of new songs and it kinda left me wanting more…"Start the Party" is such a perfect, dangerous opening song and when we don't start with it I feel like I'm not giving my all.
We encored twice and can't remember where we did the INXS covers, but they were clearly met with equal amounts of adoration and revulsion. A quote was relayed to me along the lines of "Why would you do that?" I think it's fucking hilarious. Dudes wrote solid, timeless songs, that's why.
Saw two guys trading punches in the bar later. Literally, trading. As in "Punch me in the gut as hard as you can and after I regain my composure it will then be my turn to punch you in the solarplexus my drunken bogan companion."
Back to the hotel to fall asleep reading pointless Billy Childish ramble that cruelly fails to reward the reader with the simple joy of chapter demarcations. Notebooks of a Naked Youth has become a grudge read now, merely trudging through the language so I can get the shit out of my perspective.