Doug and Doctor may have pulled out but I wasn't going to miss Jet. Mum and Dad had all their records when I was growing up and I was listening to those riffs from the time embryonic ears sprouted from the side of my head. I don't care what people say about them - I owe their music so much. Before Jet I'd never realised just how many more mobile phones, personal computing devices and white goods I needed in my life.
Still, I approached the upcoming date with no small degree of apprehension. In a front page article in the Melbourne Age several days prior to the show, the band was uncompromising in its ambivalence towards the retinue of celebrity backslappers that has queued at its dressing room doors the world over. "It's not about people on guest lists or actors or models," declaimed Bassist Mark Wilson with forthright honesty. "It's about the people who saved up for a month for a gig, like us when we were kids".
With these economics in mind, Jet linked their prices to the CPI, and were careful to calculate the ticket price at exactly one 12th of the average Australian annual wage. In the weeks leading up to the shows, punters held their breath as the Reserve Bank debated whether to increase interest rates, a move that would have precipitated an extra $10 impost on the average price of a ticket. Thankfully, fiscal prudence carried the day and entry could be gained for around the cost of a small dishwasher.
The Age article, however, left me shaken. My name was on the guest list for Jet's show at the Peninsula Lounge. Was I too now damned as one of those for whom the gig would not be about? No hard-earned coins had resolutely accumulated in piggy banks to secure my audience with the rock prodigies - I'd organised free admission thanks to Ted's immense influence as a working member of the support act's crew. In keeping with official Jet policy, it would not be about me.
But what, I worried, if the band was aware that I had also been a child actor of some note, starring in productions of both Oliver and The Wizard of Oz at primary school? Furthermore, even a casual glance at the photographic record is sufficient to determine that I could easily have been a model had not a career in popular music intervened. It was impossible to conceive of a show in all of rock's glorious history that could have been less about me.
I need not have worried. Both the security staff and the licensee greeted me amiably at the door, apparently unconcerned that my entrance would not trouble the door girl to open the cash register. Inside the building a second quote from the Age article sprang instantly to mind. "We prefer to play somewhere like Glasgow than London because people are spoilt for choices in big cities".
To the list of tiny outposts like Glasgow, an insignificant backwater where entertainment-starved Scots fall to their knees in gratitude at the stunning munificence of 4 Australian rock stars, could now be added the Peninsula Lounge, Moorooduc. I looked around the room. To a person the crowd looked positively anorexic with lack of choice. In the unswerving determinism of Jet's universe there was not, nor had there ever been, any doubt that every one of us in attendance would end up breathing the smoky air of the public bar while awaiting the band's onstage presence. No quantum fuzziness or random sub-atomic uncertainty had impinged on the macroscopic bodies pushing towards the front of the stage. Every chemical reaction, particle collision, exchange of energy and electromagnetic force in the universe's history had led inexorably to this moment.
Once the moment had passed, however, we were faced with the rest of the evening. I felt like a prostitute checking her watch, listening for the short cry of ecstasy from her 17 year old client that presages an embarrassed fumbling on the floor for his trousers. Stage moves that may well have ignited crowds in Glasgow and London were rendered faintly ludicrous before the credulous patrons of the Peninsula Lounge. The rock posturing had the balletic qualities of an Energizer bunny - lively enough but never straying beyond the strictly pre-ordained set of parameters built into its design. After a small cache of hits was explored early it was hard not to conclude that, like the aforementioned 17 year old, the band had blown their load too soon.
Still, there were contractual obligations to fulfill. The set continued on like a suburban train, stopping at all the scheduled stations. Working through the stolid, tired riffs and mechanical arrangements was like chewing week-old rye bread. I congratulated myself on having been too ambivalent to make it to the end of their record at home - it was much cooler to air my boredom in public.
Ted worked hard at enthusiasm though I could see he felt the absence of Doug and Doctor keenly. It was a test for his gregarious sociability to be saddled with The Fauves most boring member and, having left him briefly to watch from front of stage, I was not surprised to find him gone upon my return. An enquiring text message was met with a well-constructed excuse. Ted's ride was leaving and it was now or never if the dedicated homebody was to spend the night in the reassuring comfort of his own bed. Nevertheless, I felt glad for even the little time I'd managed with my esteemed colleague. Soon he would away for more shows on an interstate leg of the tour. It would only take a little faulty wiring on one of those notorious NSW mixing desks and the prodigal son might never return.
I made a small votive offering at the in-house shrine and was delighted to see my faith rewarded when the band mooched off stage not 45 minutes after they had started. It was a poor return for the investors and the futures market responded by knocking half the value off the brass razoo they'd be worth in a couple of years. Not being a shareholder myself, I took the news with considerably more sanguinity. I kept my celebrations muted, however, for fear that they may be misinterpreted as a call for an encore.
The encore, though unrequested by the majority of those on hand, eventually came, largely it seemed as a result of an angry deputation that visited dressing room door on behalf of the management. Jet may have been dreaming of Glasgow but the publican was looking at several kegs of unconsumed beer. Not for the first time in pop music history Commerce tackled Art across the marketplace's divided floor. Jet, following the debate intently on headphones, spoke Commerce perfectly but were reliant on a dodgy translator to hear Art's message. After a little coaxing, they duly returned to the stage.
The encore was a desultory coda to the dubious main act. Dentists took advantage of the pronounced yawning, roaming the floor and signing up patients whose teeth bore up poorly under a quick inspection. All around me patrons looked amazed as their unburdened wallets floated skywards like so many helium balloons.
Much of my reconnaissance of Jet's gig was by way of reacquainting myself with the feel of a live rock show. Such time has elapsed since we last played that its arcane rituals had become almost foreign to me. Now, as we prepare to release a new record, the prospect of live performance swings once more into focus. I noticed similarities to a Fauves show but some subtle though important differences. Where, for instance, Jet had employed a sound system designed to project their chart-topping rock above the screaming of an hysterical audience, we too would need to account for our particular requirements. Amplifying our music over a cacophony of wheezing air conditioning units, chirping crickets and pins dropping would present its own unique set of acoustic hurdles.
The job of putting together a tour has alone presented more hurdles than a heat of the 3000 metre steeplechase. Many of the venues we once burnt with impunity, accepting inflated fees to perform in near-empty rooms, have issued a polite 'Thanks but no thanks' when presented with the opportunity of once more staging a Fauves show. Still more had an abbreviated message -'No thanks' - they said. Most, however, simply said 'No'.
In acknowledgment of these logistical difficulties, we are working on a model pioneered by Mary and Joseph on their groundbreaking tour of the Holy Land 2000 years ago. The intrepid nomads likewise found many doors closed to them, in their case while searching Bethlehem for lodgings. To this end we have an advance party scouring the country for prospective mangers, preferably those with an in-house PA and a liquor licence.
Large scale touring is primarily a young man's game and if the resultant album tour ends up settling at the boutique end of the juggernaut scale then I should imagine none of us will mind overly. The world has moved on since we last tried to sweet talk 35 pieces of luggage into the hold of a budget airline. My penchant for selling steak knives to fellow passengers after the seatbelt demonstration is, for instance, unlikely to wash in the current climate. Moreover, touring costs have escalated dramatically. Transporting Ted's personal oxygen tent has become prohibitively expensive while the terms of Doug's parole clearly proscribe his involvement with any gig that pulls under 200 payers.
Further to the list of concerns are issues surrounding health and the impact of travel on our ailing bodies. Ted turns forty in July and, though he harbours a long-held dream to one day close a show surrounded by paramedics administering electro-resuscitation to his heart from the active pick ups on his Ibanez bass, such a scenario may well not be in his best interests. My own mortality has been rendered in stark relief following a recent cholesterol test that returned the astronomically high reading of 7.5. Despite an overarching vanity that compels me to exercise for at least 3 hours every day, my genetic proclivity for arteries of a hardened nature puts me in the high-risk category. Centrebet in Alice Springs has me installed at 3 to 1 favourite as the most likely Fauves member to undergo a coronary bypass some time in the next 12 months.
And what of Doctor and his 2 children? Already stung by the Federal Government's assertion that the only worthwhile parents are those hard-working men and women who seek marital union under the benevolent aegis of a white, male Anglican God, old Defacto Doc is now in serious danger of failing to provide an adequate male role model for his kids. While he gallivants around the country on a personal ego trip, his children slide ever closer to delinquency. Even as I write, Social Services are scouring the gig guides, ready to pounce the moment our rented Tarago pulls into his drive.
In summary we will, perforce, once more tread gingerly the rotten boards of so many creaky stages in support of our album. Free will subjugated to instinct, we will migrate again to the old nesting grounds without ever questioning why it must be so. The Jet concert reminded me how much I hate seeing live bands. It's smoky, uncomfortable, loud and expensive. More importantly it's boring.
To an extent these negatives are mitigated as a performer, particularly those breathing the rarified air of Mt. ChartTop. Acceptance from the public provides the very passport the star uses to leave that public behind. Chauffeured travel, well appointed dressing rooms and staff that cater to every whim, provide a cocoon from the dreary reality beyond the blinding circle of the stage lights. Conversely, the less successful artist returns ever closer to his origins as a punter. Hauling your own shit, then setting it up and killing time before the show in a disused toilet thoughtfully provided by the management is a profoundly unfulfilling experience. Later you chase a slimy promoter while he fobs you off for an hour before informing you that the guy who writes the cheques has gone home and he can't possibly pay you before some time early next year. Playing live at our level is more often than not humiliating, degrading and financially ruinous.
Look for me at the next Fauves show. I'll be the one pretending that the song I've just performed for the thousandth time remains as vital to me as the day I penned it. Marvel at the stiff rictus dividing my face in imitation of a smile as I am wrenched from the sanctuary of a backstage couch to perform that unexpected encore. Don't get me wrong. Fauves fans are the most loyal, warm-hearted and understanding audience a band could ever wish to perform to. It would just be a bit easier if there were a few more of them.