This page has not been updated for a considerable period. We are prepared to accept full responsibility for this descent into lassitude and ambivalence but there is at least one mitigating factor. In the weeks since our last installment we haven't done anything.
While an occasional documentation of the every day minutiae of our dull lives can prove mildly diverting, it has no merit whatsoever as an ongoing project. Thus we deemed it more prudent to wait until we had something to report. Although a weekend in Geelong, Echuca and Griffith is not exactly the sold out world stadium tour we were hoping for, it will have it suffice, at least until those last few dates in the Black Sea resort towns of the Crimea get locked in.
Like nomadic hunter-gatherers in a time of drought, we have been forced to travel ever further in search of sustenance. Students of natural history will note that the elder males of many species are forced out of the breeding circle once supplanted by younger, more virile conquerors. While the capital cities consume themselves with acts ever younger and cooler, we rustle around for some road maps and plan sorties into those regional areas still sufficiently removed from the urban sprawl as to be unaware of how out of vogue we are.
The weekend began on a Thursday as we completed the next installment of our Building Bridges program. Under the auspices of this initiative we revisit towns that we'd previously written off and publicly disparaged. No city could be a worthier beneficiary of this bold scheme than Geelong and we made our second visit in a matter of weeks to Victoria's plucky second city.
The program is obviously paying off. Our measures received the ringing endorsement of a full three paying customers more than the previous show. The backstage area was abuzz with excitement as a satisfied promoter handed over the proceeds. A quick count of the cash and some primary school-level mathematics revealed that the evening had been graced by the presence 70 loyal devotees. A few further calculations revealed that, subsequent to expenses, we would each pocket around $18 for the venture. No mathematics was required in coming to the conclusion that we would next visit Geelong some time after the next ice age.
We eschewed the commodious lodgings at the National hotel that had nursed us in such style last time and decamped to our separate residences before leaving for Echuca. This historical riparian town is one of the few that have remained unvisited by us across many years of touring. My only personal memories of Echuca involve blubbering inconsolably on a family holiday after dropping a plastic tomahawk from the bows of a stately paddle steamer into the turbid waters below. Six months since that tragedy and the incident remains as fresh in my mind as the day it occurred. We entered the city limits and I determined to give the place another chance.
While the rest of the state was baking, God seemed to decide to do Echuca quicker and throw it straight on the barbeque. Loading equipment from the scorching street into the air-conditioned interior of the Red Dogg Saloon involved passing through a temperature differential so extreme that a small electrical storm had broken out under the doorway. Soundcheck was performed in front of a small audience of post-work drinkers keen to escape the heat. They quickly decided that escaping us was a more urgent imperative and rushed outside into the sanctuary of the 41 degree afternoon.
With showtime scheduled for 1 am we were afforded ample opportunity to trawl the town in search of its most salubrious eating houses. To a doorfront we found them shut, closed down or displaying the large neon signs of multinational fast food corporations. Acting on an anonymous tip off, we drove frantically across town trying to locate the bridge that would take us over the border into NSW. The neighbouring city of Moama was reputedly serving Mexican food until late. A powerful symbology immediately presented itself and we staved off our hunger with images of white washed adobes, men under sombreros and rangy dogs prowling deserted streets: all good crossing-the-border imagery. Obviously our location in the Southern Hemisphere meant that a trip north equated symmetrically with the classic journey down from the US into Mexico. The Murray was our Rio Grande and a hearty meal of spiced bean dishes would be our reward.
A quick stop for directions firmly established the route. On a more deflating note, however, it also established that the place in question was in fact a kebab house and would be closed by 10.30 at the latest. We ordered some pizzas that couldn't be eaten until some preliminary scientific analysis established that they weren't in fact plastic Frisbees, and retired to the motel to watch tennis and argue heatedly across a wide range of controversial topics.
We left our return to the saloon until the latest possible juncture. "They turn up late here" we'd been told. Apparently so late that they'd decided to leave it until another night. Thirty or forty patrons milled around in a desultory fashion, looking as though they had intended on having a good time before discovering the disconcerting news that live bands were booked to perform. A hospitality area had been set aside for us in an upstairs area of the nightclub that was superfluous to the requirements of catering to a crowd of such a diminutive nature. Relaxing there proved to be impossible after a young man who was no doubt astoundingly stupid when sober, let alone in his current condition, entered and proceeded to spend half an hour reassuring us that he had our album (all one of them) but couldn't remember its name. The gentleman's proud disclosure that he'd told half the town about the show provided a succinct summation of his appeal when cast against the miserable roll up.
It's hard to remember a Fauves show going down worse but then that's exactly why we had crucial sections of our brains lobotomised late last year. Song after song disappeared into the audience like a castaway's bottled messages into an unforgiving ocean. Even our most popular numbers met a blank wall of inscrutability. That was at least until I realised halfway through the set that I had actually mistaken a wall bordering the stage for the audience and hastily refocused my perspective. Henceforth there was no improvement. We ended up with 7 or 8 mildly distracted patrons milling uneasily around the perimeters of the viewing area and another 20 or so focussing their full attentions on either the bar, the pool table or a couple of interesting drink stains on the carpet. Towards the end of the set we axed a couple of songs, pulled a few more up short and, to wit, got the fuck off.
In my experience these kind of shows fall primarily into one of two categories. Category number one contains those nights that we deem too peripheral to the public consciousness to matter. Primarily they take place in out of the way venues or non-traditional establishments that are unlikely to be frequented by the tastemakers and loyal followers whose opinions matter to the ongoing maintenance of a career. Inevitably the small crowd size/poor response is rationalised away as the result of a show played purely for money before an audience of halfwits. The joke is on them.
Category two is a far more serious matter and is reserved for that extensive volley of important evenings that we still manage to balls up. Special occasions; big crowds; shows with the potential to pay off further down the track - these are the nights when failing to deliver means a whole lot more than a red face and shuffling feet when trying to collect the cheque. Often followed by vicious screaming matches, bitter recriminations and wholesale reevaluation segueing into tearful apologies and orgies of self pity, these nights the joke can be characterised in three words.
It's on us.
Friday the 17th of January at the Red Dogg did not fall readily into either basket. Superficially it appeared a ready candidate for category one but its aftermath left an uneasy feeling, an augury of ill fortune, a portent of doom. Quite simply, as the number of these type of shows increases, it becomes ever more difficult to avoid facing the nagging question.
How much longer can this go on?
Regardless of the finer points of categorisation, we brushed the night off like a speck of dust on a suit jacket and concentrated on enjoying the few hours remaining to us in Echuca. This involved standing pointlessly at the bar for half an hour or so, being shouted a round of Sambucas, and using a complex series of facial tics to communicate with each other a shared belief in our total and utter superiority over everyone else in the room. Thereafter we retreated to the sanctuary of the motel and attempted to dissect each other's psyches with a series of deeply personal inquiries to which we already knew the answers.
I did fight a winning battle in the interim, however, after fending off a persistent audience member whose avid pursuit of my T-shirt bordered on the intrusive. She wanted to give it to her boyfriend, apparently an EMI record company representative currently based in London. "Do you have a demo CD?" she asked disingenuously. "If you give me the shirt I'll pass it on to him". At 2 in the morning it was difficult to rouse the energy to aver that we already had a record deal and, considering the current state of our FIFTEEN year old career, if were to lose it any time soon we wouldn't be getting signed if we were a biker chick's pair of tits at a texta convention.
Saturday dawned even hotter than Friday so we fried some eggs on the footpath and saved valuable breakfast money. The trip to Griffith was a sobering journey through the semi arid zones of both the mind and the landscape. In few places can the environmental folly of white man's agricultural incursions into the dry interiors be so concisely illustrated than along the road to Griffith. Square kilometre after hectare rushed by our vehicle's windows in a desolate vista of dessicated paddocks, wind borne dust flurries and emaciated stock. Close to Griffith the hubris of man's attempts to conquer and master his environment took on a surreal edge. We moved through rice growing country and passed a series of irrigation channels that suck our inland rivers dry and then neatly present huge volumes of water to the pitiless sun for evaporation. Griffith was greener than an Irish meadow amidst the surrounding devastation. Everywhere sprinklers rotated happily as unconcerned residents took the opportunity of the 42 degree temperatures to water their lawns in the middle of the day.
Doctor, Terry and I removed our broiling bodies from the motel rooms while they were still medium-rare and set out for the Municipal swimming pool. We were soon distracted by road signs pointing to a nearby lake and, seduced by visions of a cool oasis set amongst verdant foliage, swinging ropes and rustic old pontoons, changed course. The reality, inevitably, was rather more prosaic. A man made ditch, choppy with a 40 knot northerly, shimmered like a mirage on the dry outskirts of town. The place was deserted save for a lone swimmer, a suspicious looking cove covered in more ink than a daily broadsheet and affecting all the bonhomie of a recently escaped felon. An unconvincing walk down to the water's edge revealed the shallows to be pockmarked with sharp rocks and shards of what appeared to be broken ceramic pipes. We'd seen enough and repaired immediately back to the air-conditioned cocoon of the van. Half-heartedly we continued our quest, only to abandon the entire farce after discovering that the local pool was indoors and doubling that day as a giant sauna.
In contrast with the previous night the Griffith Hotel was well patronised by the time we began our performance. From various conversational snatches overheard outside, however, it would be safe to say that many were not counting our presence among their reasons for parting with the cover charge. These inadvertent vox pops revealed a general uncertainty on the part of many as to who the Fauves were and whether or not they were any good. Thankfully this haze of ambiguity did not manifest itself in the crowd's response to our efforts. On the whole they were generous and good-natured and we left stage with our faith restored. This illustrates the pathetic fragility and tenuous hold on self-belief exhibited by so many of us in the performing professions. The accumulated negativity from months of bad performances and poor receptions can be erased with one Ok night. It's self delusional but a tribute to the restorative capacities of the human brain; a blessed organ that can enable even the most pessimistic and defeatist of us to find a green blade of grass amongst a charred landscape.
The drive home was one of the quietest on record as though after 15 years our conversational faculties had, like the apocryphal Grandfather clock, stopped dead, never to start again. The prolonged silence was due in no small part to Terry's ongoing battle with a severely rotten tooth. The troublesome molar flares up periodically affording the stoic bass player several days of excruciating pain. A profound distrust of modern medicine steers Ted well away from the dentist's chair, leading him instead to the nearest chemist where he self prescribes an extraordinary amount of over the counter pharmaceuticals in an endeavour to ride out the agony. Like a dog made lame after a car chasing accident he soon forgets the source of his ailment and carries on as before once the pain has subsided. For months the tooth lies dormant and forgotten, untreated and neglected but always there, waiting to once more inflict its terrible toll. As Terry always says, however, cure is better than prevention!