I drive the car to the studio where the band’s equipment is stored. The man at the counter politely asks, “Where’s my money, motherfucker?”
I politely respond, “Do you take other people’s money?” as I pass my credit card to him and let him have $100 of what I owe him for storage.
We’ve been doing this for 21 years. We both have expressed sympathy for the passing of his dog and my cats over these years. He is my friend. He knows I am a tragic figure at 37 years of age – a member of six bands, none popular enough to make me fiscally secure, despite containing some of the best musicians this town has to offer.
He also knows that I’m happy…happy and flawed.
The game of Tetris begins. Guitar amp, bass cabinet and bass head, three bass guitars, two electric guitars, kick drum, floor tom, rack tom, snare, cymbals, stands, kick pedal and a bag of assorted leads, microphones and effects pedals. All packed with idiot savant precision into the Toyota Echo.
You learn three things in a band.
How to drive without a rear-view mirror.
How to lift heavy things without hurting your back (most of the time).
How to dry-swallow painkillers on an empty stomach.
The venue smells of sweat, vomit and stale beer. I start to miss being able to smoke inside. Smoking inside at this part of the day means that you can’t smell the “aftermath” smell in a public bar. It also covers up the stench with an old-man’s-coat style of incense. I understand that smoking is bad for you but so is sicking up your burrito every time you walk into a room that smells like durian mixed with burnt dog hair and urine.
Do people really go to pubs to improve their health?
If they do…we’re truly doomed…
Then…the lifting begins again…from the car to the stage to the car to the stage to the car to the hospital to the car to the stage…collapse for 20 minutes on a bench.
The sound guy arrives, we talk shit for a minute until I just say, “Guitar, bass, drums and one vocal…mix the bass higher than you normally would.”
The other musicians arrive. I’m allowed light beer all night, which is okay because it’s served in a plastic glass which stops me from ritualistically glassing myself for being the designated driver and doing something as gastronomically atrocious as drinking light “beer”.
Anyways, a light “beer” is “enjoyed” with my band mates and whichever other musicians get in the way of my highly-caffeinated social skills.
We’re hitting 7:30pm and doors open, and the FLOOD of people comes careening through the gates.
(This is a lie…)
A good night at the right place and you’re playing to 150, or up to possibly even 500 people – in the RIGHT place.
Most of the time you’re hoping it’s more than 20.
I’ve spent the last four weeks putting up posters, telling the internet, having the internet tell me that it’s got a thing on and it’ll try to make it after because you’re not on till 10pm, right?
The internet DOES want to come…the internet is your friend…your really, truly bestie…but the internet doesn’t have time management skills and the internet had some pot when the internet’s not really used to it and kinda lost track of time and there was this really interesting human Earth animal that liked the same telly shows and showed me this really amazing picture of a cat doing something funny on the internet (the concentric internet within an internet used by an internet) and well we’re kind of an item now. LOVE YOU!!! When are you playing NEXT?
So…20 people come, “inundating” the venue to the point where there’s a roughly 60-40 crowd-musician split, and, being careful not to get too close to the stage, the extravaganza begins!!!
The thing I love AND hate (but mostly love) about Sydney is that it’s hard to get a gig and it’s hard to get a crowd to come to that gig. If not jaded, musicians in this town play every show like it’s their last show. I fucking LOVE it! They play as if they’re trying to impress a parent or potential sex thing wot will have lots of sex with them. They play as if their songs will cure cancer. They play as if their set will keep them alive forever and rock and roll will make the world perfect, and if they don’t play with EVERY fibre of their soul then the world will split in two and catch fire and get pelted with meteors and only people who refer to the “works” of Nikki Minaj and the second season of Two and a half men as art forms will survive to form a church that will practice knocking on the scorched skulls of the dead to try to signal God with morse code, so they’d better play a super awesome show so that doesn’t eventuate.
They play as if they’re getting paid.
So, I play my set to the people there, FOR the people there and play like my life depends on it because THEY made the effort to come to hear. They supported something that is coughing on its own blood to survive, looks like it won’t survive but has to survive because its practitioners have no choice but to make it survive.
And it’s better for us than meth.
This is not about people turning up to shows. This is not about people not turning up to shows. Well it is a little bit about both of these issues but it’s more about that musician you know. You know, the one that gets drunk on school nights and looks like they have liver disease? Those dudes who wear black jeans to your wedding and teach your kids swear words? The ones who struggle, and you wonder why they don’t have a career or direction.
They do…they just don’t get very much money for it, and they’ll keep doing it regardless of whether you turn up or not (but they’d love it if you did).
This is about a day in their life.
Anyways…everybody leaves and stage to car to stage to car to stage to car to toilet to stage to car and home…happy…content…