Whenever big bands from overseas hit Australia, there’s the inevitable chorus of “what about us” from Perth, Adelaide, and the other forgotten capitals. It’s a perfectly rational, economic thing; if a band needs to pull ten thousand people to make their show worth it, they’re probably not going to go for the Wagga Wagga community centre. I live in Adelaide, so I have a bit of an idea of what it’s like. So then, imagine living in a place like Albury, Wollongong, Toowoomba, or Dunsborough. It’s just a hard fact that you’re going to have to travel for hours to see any major headliner, and probably even for the smaller bands.
So when they DO hit your town, you really want to make them remember it. If you’re a punter, you’re going to let loose in the most orgiastic way possible. If you’re a support band, you’re going to play harder than ever. If you’re a promoter or venue, you’re probably going to do the best you can to make sure the bands have a good time and get paid ok, so they spread the word to other bands, and most importantly, so they want to come back. That’s what makes regional shows often some of the most memorable.
Grenadiers have done a fair bit of touring, and a decent whack of it has been what you’d probably term “regional”. While some of these experiences sucked hard (playing to literally the other bands in Newcastle one night, springs to mind), a lot of them have been some of the most fun we’ve had on the road. What capital city venue’s owner/booker gets his mum to cook up a big batch of homemade spag bol for the bands? That’s what we got at the Spotted Cow in Toowoomba when we played there. It’s run by absolute legends – what they supply as the green room upstairs is literally their living room (they live at the venue). So we’re hanging out watching TV with the kids and bonding with Phil (the owner) over our shared love of The Replacements. Often in places like Pt. Lincoln, Albury and others, the venue will give you a room for each member for free. It helps when you’re down to your last 20 bucks and hungry.
One night pretty recently, we hit Bunbury in WA. Got to the Prince of Wales, started loading in and having a pint when all of a sudden the power went out. Turns out some fuckwit up the street had driven into a stobie pole and taken out the whole block. The power wasn’t coming back on any time soon, so one of the dudes from one of the bands we were playing with (I reckon it might have been Ocean Drive) took us back to his house for a party. He had a rehearsal shed out back, so about 30 people turned up to that and we played an impromptu show on borrowed gear, to mostly people that we didn’t know. It was a shitload of fun, and the venue even gave us a carton of beer to take to the party for our trouble.
Sometimes, the regional experiences are just bizarre. We did a Freeza show in Bairnsdale once. Freeza is a Victorian government initiative to put on all ages events in rural areas, and basically, we ended up playing a Halloween party for a bunch of 16-year-olds. The show was fun and some kids seemed to get into it, but while it might be ok for The Amity Affliction or whatever, hanging out on a Friday night exclusively with children made us feel like an even bigger bunch of weirdos than we already are. It was kind of uncomfortable, but hey, it was memorable enough that I’m writing about it here.
Occasionally though, the bizarre can transition pretty seamlessly into the magical. We were slated to play a show in Darwin, which we were excited enough about as it was until someone offered to fly us about 45 mins east in a light aircraft to do a show in Arnhem Land, the proper “Never Never”.
It’s a short flight but takes about 18 hours if you were to drive there, it’s so isolated by terrain and lack of infrastructure. So we went and played a place called Nhulunbuy (aka Gove). I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful it is out there, and some very friendly locals showed us an awesome time. The lovely people at the venue (The Arnhem Club) not only gave us more rider than we could ever possibly drink in the backstage area but an expense card with which we got two massive meals and cheekily shouted a couple of rounds to some locals. One of the pub guys even gave us some petty cash in case we wanted to catch a cab or something. The opening band was an all-Indigenous reggae band called Barra, who played for two hours and were so tight and passionate, it was pretty spectacular.
We played to about 50-70 people of varying tastes and backgrounds. Obviously, we’re not the world’s most widely palatable band so we were a bit nervous about how we would go down, but people took it for what it was and had a great time. We partied well into the night with whoever would drink with us. It didn’t feel like any other show I’ve ever done. On one hand, it felt like another country, another world, but on the other, I felt like I’d been missing out on the real Australia up until that moment.
Anyway, all you take with you are your experiences, so if you’re in a band, get out and play different places. It’s a kind of post-modern camping trip, a social and musical experiment that can go horrifically wrong but, sometimes, they go astoundingly right.
Grenadiers will kick off a handful of tour dates this month. Head here for details.