As our audience numbers diminish with frightening haste, the past increasingly becomes a more comforting place to inhabit. Recently, we drove home from a poorly attended show in St. Andrews on Melbourne’s northern fringes and began to address the question of how many shows we had played across 18 years. Doctor felt sure that it was no more than 500 while I maintained that it could hardly be less than nearly twice that figure. Resolution was not to be had in that darkened cabin as we cruised the deserted streets. By next morning, however, I had started on an exhaustive inventory of my archives in search of a figure.
Over the majority of our career my bookkeeping has been impeccable and my commitment to archiving faultless. The earliest years of our group, however, were not documented with such attention to detail. An historical legacy was far from our minds as we struggled simply to learn how to play and convince publicans thereof. I kept such newspaper clippings as appeared, though these were few and often undated. Memory became the overarching resource.
Over a week’s assiduous research, combing every resource at my disposal, I eventually arrived at a definitive figure. Below are some of the results of that search.
We have made 67 separate trips to Sydney to play shows. This does not include promo visits, trips to the ARIA’s or recording and mixing. In 1996 we made the trip 9 times, closely followed by ’97 when we visited on 8 occasions. The Annandale Hotel, Annandale is our second-most visited venue in the country. We have played 31 shows there.
Number one most visited was the Punters Club in Fitzroy. We performed there 42 times, the last of these being on Doctor’s birthday, the first of November 1999. This date is also significant because it was the last show Ted played with us while officially our sound engineer. His full time tenure began on the 1st of January 2000.
The Evelyn, also in Fitzroy, scores a podium finish by having hosted us 24 times. Very much the poor cousin while the Punters Club was in existence; it reached pre-eminence in later years. In stark contrast, the Tote, which came in 4th with 22 gigs, did not host us again after the Dress Ups launch on the 30th of October 1992.
While we have visited Sydney itself 67 times, we have made other trips not involving the capital city, pushing total visits to NSW over 70. The state second most visited is South Australia (34 times) followed by Queensland (28) and Western Australia (15).
The most shows we have played in a completed calendar year were 131 in 1998. We played 104 in ’97, 93 in 1996 and 88 in 1995. On reflection even the most demanding A&R person would have to aver that we worked hard while under the Polydor aegis. Since leaving the major label the numbers have declined dramatically. 2000 clung on gamely on the strength of memories and some JJJ airplay for Thousand Yard Stare, allowing us to complete 71 shows. Thereafter there was a real big fucking drop off. The nadir was in 2003 and 2005 – the numbers are a little confusing at first – fffffourteen (In 2003 two of these were as Elite Republican Guard). 2006, with 26, rounds out the axis of evil, though a late flurry of bookings may still take it beyond 2004 (29). Of course 1988 was officially our quietest year but it did not start for us until the 23rd of July at the Mt. Eliza Football Club.
The records for 1988 and 1989 can never be more than very well informed estimates. Official bookkeeping did not begin until late 1989 and even then it was notoriously unreliable at recording exact dates and venues. Memory, newspaper clippings and flyers are all that we have to go on for roughly the first 15 months. The Fauves’ bank account was opened very early but statements only exist from the 6th of February 1991 onwards so it is impossible to match deposits to gigs for any dates earlier than that.
Three venues in particular present the most problems - the Punters Club, The Royal Artillery (North Melbourne) and the Richmond Club. The latter two in particular may have had their numbers underestimated. Memories of these shows often hinge on the spur of a defining moment. One Richmond Club performance, for instance, lives on solely via the memory of Doctor melting down backstage as a superior trumpeter warmed up in the wings. Another centres on our first meeting of the man who was to become our A&R representative at Polydor. There may have been 8 or 9 gigs there. The official record, however, says 6.
The Royal Artillery (later the Arthouse) was the stage for several of our earliest city performances. A mid-week residency is remembered chiefly for an hour-long screaming match on the ride home after which Jack quit, only to rejoin the next day. The exact number of shows we played at that lonely hotel in North Melbourne is impossible to state with certainty. Still, it can be confidently claimed that it played host to more potential career-ending performances than any other venue in history.
Who can remember how many times we played the Empress of India in Carlton? Not many but surely more than one. Unfortunately, given that we can know only that we played there at least once, it would be unprofessional to ascribe any more numbers to the grimy little venue.
So, the list is open to revision. History is a moveable feast. Who knows what archaeological dig may uncover another show hitherto long forgotten? While I cannot claim this catalogue to be definitive, I feel confident in stating that the total number of shows claimed is not out by more than 10. If the figure is wrong is it almost certain that I have underestimated, as I have only included gigs that I can definitely verify took place. Sometimes I have only a suburb or a city – exact venues have been lost to history in this case. Elsewhere a date and a small cash injection in an account book testify that a performance took place, the venue of which is sadly nowhere recorded.
The task of compiling a complete inventory of every Fauves show ever played, required defining the concept of what constitutes a gig itself. This question has particular relevance to the early months of the band when the opportunity to play was inevitably grasped eagerly, irrespective of the venue. I decided that a performance could only qualify as a gig if it exhibited what I call a ‘commercial imperative’, that is it was either a paying concern or played specifically to further our prospects. Thus landmark performances in the backyard at friend’s houses or on the decking at Doctor’s were not counted. A 21st birthday we played at a hall in Tyabb, (Vic), however, was deemed admissible.
Further, a show could only be counted if more than 50% of the band were present at its performance. Thus, the acoustic endeavours of Doctor and Cox were ineligible. One show that didn’t fulfil this criterion and was still counted, however, was a performance at the Baxter Cricket club where both Doctor and Jack were absent and Andrew’s brother Shaun played bass. Given that Doug and Cox gave the Fauves a 66% portion of the line up it was admitted to the list. Baxter highlights the overwhelming enthusiasm to perform that informed the early days, given that it was played in front of 50 ambivalent surfers and required a rigourous rehearsal without half of the regular band.
Performances for radio and TV were tricky. Ultimately I discounted appearances on Recovery, Take 40 and Hey Hey It’s Saturday, feeling that they didn’t quite qualify. Likewise I ditched all radio performances except our first Live at the Wireless which was gig length and did in fact run live to air, and our 2000 LATW gig at Southbank which was in front of an audience and fulfilled other necessary criteria. Instore performances were counted.
Of course the total number of shows played as The Fauves is not the same as that played by each individual. Founding member Jack played 754 shows, missing 10 during that time (Baxter, Blue Moon Café, Baden Powell Club, Annandale supporting Snout, 2 in Adelaide and 3 at Punters). Ted played 6 shows while still our mixer (Annandale, 2 in Adelaide, 3 Punters) and 230 thereafter (missed Attic nightclub, Hamilton after a drunken cycling injury) for a total of 234. At the rate of shows per annum we have played since Ted joined, it will take him another 14 years to overtake Jack’s total. As a sideline, two of The Fauves lesser shows re: bottom end definition, occurred when Cox played bass (Monash Gippsland, Hamilton).
Doctor has a reasonable attendance record, having been present for 99.67% of the shows. He missed the Baxter Cricket Club show – an early hint of his trademark bluff ambivalence – due to a pre-planned holiday. Neither was he present at Bairnsdale in 1997 having been given paternity leave a week after the birth of his first child. New Years Eve 2004 was also fulfilled without his valuable contribution. The small crowd at Ruby’s had to make do with a 3 piece while Doctor sunned himself on the sandy shores of Mallacoota. Only Doug and Cox have been there for every show.
Of minor note is that the archives record Ted’s first gig mixing The Fauves was at the Golden Vine, Bendigo on the 14th of September 1994, coincidentally Doug’s birthday. The 14th of Sept 2006 thus marked the 12th anniversary of our glorious association.
The length of an average Fauves show has been roughly consistent. The mid-nineties were the support years and we duly became the best set up-play 45 minutes – pack up band in the country. Thereafter we settled comfortably into the ’60 minutes plus encore if prompted’ formula. History, however, records that there has often been a large disparity been minutes played and remuneration received. The greatest extremes probably lie in some of the early Bridge Mall, Ballarat shows where we played 3 sets for about $100 and Newcastle uni in 1999 where we played 6 songs at a beach party for $5000 before being canned off. Slingshot, a WA festival that never happened, represents easily the best return for effort. On a projected fee of $10,000 we took a 5 grand advance and duly kept it once the ill-fated concert folded.
Of course this is all about the total number of shows played, sparked by the debate referred to above. Exhaustive research and consultation, combined with a week of memory straining, has arrived at the figure of 996.