Europe Blog #8: Red-Eyed Road Trips

If I didn’t have such a dogged commitment to gritty realism in my blogging, I definitely would have ended the previous blog with “and after a nice gig at the Shaw Playhouse 2, the Perchies went back to their comfortable hotel room nearby, where they had a long and deep sleep.” – I was aching to write those words, but unfortunately, while I am permitted to stretch the truth a little, I can’t tell outright lies. What really happened was we had to hit the road straight after the show and drive south, staying at a roadside Travelodge for a very short sleep before our blaring alarms forced us to continue the road slog to get down to the Chatham River Festival. It was very hard to get up that morning, but I’m not sure it was quite hard enough to justify the act I witnessed that morning. Camilla was making herself a cup of motel tea (innocent enough so far), but after a quick scan of the room with a bloodshot eye to check that no-one was watching (my bloggers eye is always watching), she proceeded to tear open a packet of instant coffee and a sugar sachet, discreetly tipping both in to the already brewed cup of tea, thus creating a whole new concept in caffeinated beverages! It may be have been a sacrilegious act, but hey, who am I to judge another human being for doing whatever they need to get them through the day? My job is simply to report the facts, people.

We’ve done a lot of dinky gigs in our time and the Chatham River Festival was up there with the best of them. The food was atrocious but they did have a kick-ass fire engine boat that sprayed water like nothing we’d ever seen!

Also rocking the River Festival were our good friends Mike and Katie from Kansas (aka Truckstop Honeymoon) and it was good to catch up with them and their ever growing army of ankle biters. Usually when musos bump into each other at festivals or whatever, the first thing they do is start bragging about how well their career is going and which boutique festivals they have booked. However, such conversations simply do not work when you are both on the bill for the Chatham River Festival, so our conversation cut straight to less superficial matters, which was nice.

Most of you will be familiar with the lyrics of the AC/DC song “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll)”, or at least a basic understanding of the sentiments expressed. There’s a lot of truth in that song, but there are one or two things it overlooks. The song warns of getting robbed, beaten up and ripped off as a touring band, but it fails to make any mention of the havoc that can be caused by a pack of pesky, pint sized, bratty Brits backstage.

20140729-233007-84607502.jpgLear practising his disciplinary voice on these two little buggers who wouldn’t stop bashing his drums while we were trying to set up.

The gig was pretty tough in the baking heat – I know we are meant to be rough, tough Aussies from a sunburnt land, able to withstand all the UV rays the sun can throw at us, hardly breaking a sweat when temperatures soar into the 40s, but the truth is, we were really suffering under the hot summer sun.

The moment we played our last note the race was on to get to our next gig on time – at The Lighthouse, in Deal.

The Lighthouse, while not actually a lighthouse at all, was right by the sea and the sea breeze helped create the illusion that we were feeling fresh. Staving off exhaustion with tall pints of local lagers and ales we took to the stage and put on a good show. The crowd must have been staving off ailments of their own with similar methods, as they seemed pretty loose by the end of it. Someone told us we were “really pukkas” – I wasn’t sure whether to be offended or not, but I smiled anyway.

We only had one tiny problem – we had booked accommodation in London – approx 1hr 40mins drive away (don’t ask) and it was past midnight and we were totally exhausted. When no-one seemed to be looking, the celebrated rock stars sheepishly fished their sleeping gear out if the trailer and headed off to the pebbly beach to sleep rough. It was actually incredibly pleasant to sleep with the gentle breeze and that special sound you only get when waves crash onto pebble beaches.

We were awoken by a gentle sprinkling in the morning and hopped back into the Prev for another bleary eyed drive – this time to London for a gig on the Hampstead Heath bandstand performing to a crowd of leisurely picnickers.

We had the next couple of days off, and the exhaustion really caught up on us. I got a cold, which has happened to me every single time I’ve been to London (4 times now). We spent our days off moping around our air B&B house in Greenwhich, catching up on washing and wondering what the future holds for wretched road dogs abroad. Camilla managed to drag me up to Greenwich Park, which was incredibly beautiful – even if you are sick and miserable.

We pulled ourselves together for a sold out show at The Green Note in Camden which improved our moods considerably, such that next day we managed to get off our butts and split up to pursue our own London adventures. Camilla and I went back to Hampstead Heath for a swim at the public bathing ponds there, which was incredibly nice and a great thing to do on a hot London day. Christi, who had spent our entire time in London watching movies on his computer, finally plucked up enough adventurous spirit to leave the house to go to see a movie in an actual cinema – nothing like a change of scenery, huh? That night, while Camilla, cousin Bobbie and I where watching a B grade musical on West End (give me a Murwillumbah High production any day), Rob and Eileen where having the experience of a lifetime. After Rob’s gig at a groovy little folk venue, the pair went off to have a look at the famous Abbey Road Studios – just to gaze upon the exterior and fantasise about being inside the building that produced all those Beatles’ records and so much more. They couldn’t believe their eyes when the front door opened and out stepped Tim, a good friend from Melbourne and member of The Basics, who invited Rob and Eileen inside to have a look around and preview The Basics’ brand new recordings. For those of you who aren’t music geeks, let me explain that this place is the absolute holy grail for musicians and music fans. Eileen got to play the actual piano used by The Beatles on Lady Madonna and Rob played the piano from A Day In The Life. Neither has washed their hands since. Eileen also got to touch the mixing desk used by George Martin to produce all those classic Beatles hits. You can’t buy this stuff!!

20140726-163057-59457317.jpg“I wonder what this red button does…”

The next morning it was back to reality, which meant a 5 and a half hour drive in blazing sun through horrible traffic (poor us!) to a little town in Dorset called Bloxworth. Luckily our hosts Trevor and Cathy cooked up the most amazing feast we’ve enjoyed so far. The gig was very cute and we played under a big Aussie flag, made especially for the occasion. The support act was none other than our very own Bob Harrow, whose presence in the tour van has influenced everyone, including the ever observant Matilda, who now greets any group of people with an ultra laid back “Hey, dudes!”.

20140726-151556-54956464.jpgEileen and Bob harmonising on a stirring rendition of “Advance Australia Fair “.

The next morning we awoke to a dramatic tropical thunderstorm in Dorset (take that, climate change deniers), the noise of which helped us to hop out of bed and back on the highway to the Isle Of Wight for a return to Rhythmtree festival. The gig was OK despite sound engineers who would rather play on their phones than eliminate loud feedback, and who considered harmony vocals a gimmick to be seen and not heard. Despite the bad food, warm beer and absence of showers, Camilla and I at least managed to enjoy ourselves catching up with some friends from the sunny country, Bel and Freya. We also caught a great band called Tankus The Henge, who, apart from playing great music, wowed us with their pyrotechnics, confetti canons and smoke machines that blasted high pressure jets of smoke the likes of which I had never seen. When we get back to Melbourne I know what I will be ordering on eBay with the band card…

Another painfully early start and a hundred miles later we found ourselves on stage at Larmer Tree Festival, back in Dorset.

Larmer Tree turned out to be an awesome festival in an incredibly beautiful setting – an old wealthy estate with woods, manicured gardens, old buildings and lush fields. The entertainment was well curated (they booked us, didn’t they!) with great stalls and friendly punters. Our first gig there was at the incredibly beautiful Garden Stage which was an artwork unto itself.

20140726-113407-41647542.jpgThe Garden stage in the 19th Century.

20140726-112951-41391391.jpgThe Garden Stage in the 21st Century.

Our good friend Olivia, who we met on our last UK tour, got herself a summer job travelling around to different festivals selling bunny shaped balloons and other trinkets – a lifestyle not unlike our own, except that she presumably generates some income… By happy coincidence, her work and ours brought us all to Larmer Tree where we had a good old catch up session. After feeling somewhat friendless in London (Pip and Ali left a gaping hole) it was nice to get to hang out with someone we knew and loved. Aww!

After the festival, we would be heading back to Olivia’s place to chill out for a couple of days, which would prove to be splendiferous – but you can read all about that in The Next Exciting Episode!

5 thoughts on “Europe Blog #8: Red-Eyed Road Trips”

  1. Wow…..I mean gee…..what can I say ? Mind bogelling !!!! Just keep up the good work. A famous Aussie boxer (Jeff Fenech) once shouted to the crowd “we love yous all !” and thats what I feel like shoutin’ after reading your blog.

  2. Why is there no mention of the lunch time gig in Cardiff? I know it was sparsely attended but some of us are really good fans!!!!!!!!!

    1. Hi Chris, the blog writing is always a little slow – the reason Cardiff didn’t get a mention is because the blog episode finishes before we got there. I’m writing the next episode at the moment and Cardiff certainly gets a mention! Thanks for reading!!

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