I begin this blog entry in the Byron Easy Bus to Brisbane feeling a bit sick to my stomach due to too many jalapeños in last night's 2am lamb kebab. It's a beautiful day to be on the road as the sun is beaming very strongly through the hole in the ozone layer above our heads. I'm already enjoying this bus ride much more than the one that brought me into Byron Bay, cuz this bus driver ain't pretending he's in Fast and the Furious. Slow and steady wins the race.
Fast and Furious. This sorta sums up the experience we Franklins just had in Byron Bay. Shotgunned into a Club Med for hippies, we just spent 4 nights at the Arts Factory Lodge. A hostel on the edge of town complete with no A/C, no bar, no clean bathrooms and plenty of millennials in search of free food and drugs of any kind. I did fully enjoy the pool though. I was in that thing first thing every morning!
But hold on... I apologize, I need to rewind things a bit. Since my last post, we've flown around this beautiful sunny continent and played shows in Adelaide and Melbourne. We have now begun our stretch of this Oz tour with Melbourne based Pop/folk trio Woodlock.
Jan 20th we flew into Adelaide and proceeded to hit up the Dumpling King restaurant after checking into our YHA Adelaide hostel. Dumpling King lived up to it's name, setting me up straight into a food coma and a nap.
We rocked out at the Jive Bar that night in front of a good size crowd. Jive Bar reminded me of Montreal's Café Campus, except they don't have 10$ pitchers... but we did get a good dose of Tequila into us for some reason.
Next gig.. Jan 21st we fly directly to Melbourne and get setup at the Howler bar. This venue was packed, and I felt we played a great show. Again, something about the mild hangover vibe that makes for a good rip of a show. Woodlock's hometown crowd was in a great mood, and me too...I was in a great mood. We had a few bevvies before getting up onstage too which can never be a bad thing. Get loose and let it out. The Melbourne crowd was loving Woodlock, and especially Bowen, they're super smiley drummer. Love this guy. Plays a bass drum standing up with a mallet! (sorry, photo to come)
I did get a chance also to walk the downtown area a bit on this trip. It's a busy city, the downtown is packed w people and tons of shopping and the chinatown is pretty great too. I think I ate dumpling three times. #savetheperds
Our next stop, the feature presentation of the tour - Byron Bay. Everyone we met on the trip kept mentioning how amazing Byron was going to be. Alright, let's hit it. We were all pretty excited to get there, after our flight through Brisbane and a 2 hour bus trip (...Mom, are we there yet?). We travel pretty tight on this trip, and we've got it pretty much down to a science at this point. Lots of gear, lotsa bags and 7 guys all crammed into a hostel dorm room. That's how we've been rollin'. Jon always makes fun of me that I like to hang up all my clothes when we get to our rooms and setup my little "home" vibe. Haha, well none of that here. We're ruffing it this week. You should see us try to coordinate 7 guys showering with one bathroom haha!
So we get to Byron, check in to the Arts Factory Lodge and absorb the hippy, bring your own alcohol vibe. What? A hostel in the middle of the woods with no bar? Ya. Sorry. And no alcohol after 1am. Rules, Rules, Rules.. Australia loves their rules. So we're a bit stranded on this first night with no drinks. Luckily next door there is a restaurant and bar, in fact it's the Byron Bay brewery. Good times! So we proceed to order some tasty mugs and setup a giant sized game of Jenga on the patio. This was pretty hilarious. I love Jenga and I like good beer, so our night got started off pretty well. note: Adam (our soundman) gets credit for breaking the Jenga. Later that night we ventured into town and paid a visit to the Beach Hotel venue which we were about to play later on in the week. Good thing I had my passport, otherwise the bouncers wouldn't have let me in. I also managed to slip my way into sitting in with the band that was playing that night for a version of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone". I was starving for some drums!!!
The next few days in Byron were spent alternating between the beach and the hostel (with some Gin involved). We had a pretty hilarious time here, meeting all kinds of people from all over the world, and observing the many free activities that are narrated by the "lifer" staff member who seemed always a bit stoned and jaded about his whole experience working at the hostel.
On Australia day, we visited Watego's bay which is a bit further south of the main beach in Byron. This place is a beautiful. All the beaches we saw around Byron were beautiful. Later that afternoon we hiked up to the Lighthouse, situated at the most eastern point of Australia. Kinda cool to think that out there across the ocean is the Americas. And then, WHAM!...caught in a torrential tropical rainstorm. I was soaked head to toe while I ate my pizza dinner that night. Everyone parties hard in Byron, but not in a way that makes me wanna join in. It's rowdy, drink-your-face-off "don't care about tomorrow" kinda partying, complete with fights in the street and people just passing out in public. Real debauchery. As I ate my dinner that night (6pm), I literally watched a drunk guy fall face first in a pile of parked bikes and then roll out onto the street. After a few seconds, he got up and just continued across the street, nearly missing being hit by a car. Whoa. Happy Australia Day!!
So the night vibe in Byron was not my thing so much. Beautiful beaches and friendly people in the daytime, but at night I felt like I was in a scene from Girls Gone Wild. Note to self: next time in Byron, rent a car and check out the rainforest, and many of the neighbouring sights. Nature in this part of Australia is very tropical and I would have loved to see more of it. Lizards at your doorstep!
We played to a packed house Friday night at the Beach Hotel. Free entry, so everybody in town was there. And it was hot!! This had to be the sweatiest gig I've played in a long time. It felt so great to play music after a few days off. Happy to be here, even if it's a bit crazy.
Next gig... Jan 28. For the second time on this trip, we travel to Brisbane for a show. This time at the Woolly Mammoth Alehouse, again with the Woodlock boys. Today is Chinese new year too, so as we ventured out into the city to find dinner before the gig, we found ourselves in another crazy city vibe. The night got even wilder and wilder as this whole area of the city just turned into another version of the Byron Bay party scene. It is here that it was evident, Australia has a drinking problem. After the show was over (which was a good one too) we found ourselves having to load out through a mob of drunk people out the back door of the venue. Stick your head down, grab some gear and don't get beat up. Go! All in all, a good day.
. . . . .
9am wakeup call and we're out the door on our way back to the outskirts of Sydney for a few days of rest before some more shows in Cronella, Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.
I conclude this entry after having taken a little dip in the ocean at Gordon's Bay in Sydney today. Yet another beautiful spot for snorkeling and swimming. It's just the kind of thing I wish I had seen in Byron. Ah bon, pas grave. Looking forward to a few chill days and smashing some more drums.
Peace and Love in this crazy time
Happy New Year!
It's been a while since I logged my journeys out on the road. I have a lot to be thankful for in this new year, an I'm very happy that 2017 is off to a fresh start with this tour in Australia.
Just as the tour was getting underway though I was hit with some bad news back home. On the morning of Jan 12th I got a message saying that my friend and guitarist Tom Eliosoff had passed away in his apartment from a drug overdose. I remember reading the message in the baggage lineup at the Melbourne airport, shocked with disbelief. What?!? I was shaking. Tom was the telecaster shredding, blazing front man in my band "East West Project", a hilarious character and a truly loving guy. I knew Tom had some problems with substance abuse, but I never thought it would get to this. The East West Project band that we had together hadn't played a show since the summer of 2015 and I hadn't really heard from Tom since then. All of us in the band are busy sidemen, so I'm sure we just finished our last show and everyone went on with their lives thinking another gig would come up, or that we would run into each other somewhere. Well that never happened. It's a sad and bizarre reality to think that I'll never get to play that music with him ever again. Tom was a gifted musician. He played his heart out every time, and I'll never forget him.
If you have never the music that me and Tom recorded, check it out:
It is now Jan 17th, exactly 10 days after we have left the freezing landscape of Montreal for the full blown summer heat here in Australia. We have completed the first 3 shows of the tour, where we performed in opening slots for Half Moon Run. We had a day off to recuperate from our 24 hour travel time from Montreal before this first gig in Brisbane, which for me was essential. The 360 degree time change, 50 degree increase in temperature, blazing sun, airplane food and lack of sleep had me on the verge of a cold. Only today do I really feel like I've become accustomed to the huge change of traveling this far. Thanks vitamin C.
So, Brisbane is a super clean, modern city. Didn't see a lot of hippies here. Lots of cute families, middle aged joggers in fresh Nike's and the occasional Asian tourist taking a selfie in front of one of their many bridges. Pretty funky town though. The S shaped river that runs through it, although brown-ish in color, makes walking the city all that more interesting, especially when crossing from South bank over to downtown led us into the botanical garden next to the university where a few giant Bunyan Fig trees reigned (photo above). Aside from a casual walk one afternoon and a quick dip in the public pool (more like a kid-friendly Club Med vibe) complete with a Sandy beach, I didn't do any of the "must do's" in Brisbane. Apparently there is a Koala sanctuary not far which would have been cool to see, but the Koalas will have to wait 'til next time.
alright, back why I'm on the other side of the planet.... THE MUSIC:
One of the many challenges of being the opening act is that you often get little or no time to soundcheck. This was a challenge at all three of our opening act slots with HMR, and we were definitely up for it. On this first gig, by the time we had everything setup and plugged in, we had only 15 minutes to get comfortable with the sound before doors opened at 8. Downbeat @ 8:25! We had a quick run-through, the I had an instant coffee (Moccona brand here...not bad...) and then back on stage to perform our new songs to the "Ozzies". Franklin's 2nd album "Blue Ceilings" was just released earlier this month in Oz (Feb 24 for the rest of the world) and so this is our first stretch of gigs playing the new record. A bit nervous, a bit frazzled by the last minute foggy stage sound, but the 7 song gig went well and the crowd was great, attentive and enthusiastic.
You can pre-order and get 2 songs off the new album here:
After Brisbane, we flew to Melbourne for another 10 minute soundcheck, 10 minute break and then DOWNBEAT! This second show felt more under control. The sound was better and the onstage crew was much more helpful. Attitude goes a long way, tsé! I was kinda laughing backstage with Jon before we went on as the urgent soundcheck really puts you in a tense vibe. Then when the downbeat comes, playing music is the easy part and all the tension that has built up over the day gets out. In this case I think it made for a better show.
Saturday night's show in Sydney featured another opening band before us, Betty & Oswald. I didn't have much time to check out their set, although these guys (and girl) were sporting some pretty hipster outfits and I could hear some pretty hipster sounds coming up into the backstage area...Mac Demarco anyone...? We had a 9 song set this time, which allowed for a bit more room to breath and a chance to get the crowd warmed up for HMR. We were performing at the Metro Theatre which is a great venue in Sydney. The angled floor allows everyone in the place with a decent view of the show and the sound out front is great. It was really fun to watch HMR rip through their set from up on the balcony, and not squished amongst 700 other people. A special night! Thanks to Half Moon Run for having us on this tour!
Here's a few pics from our show:
HMR onstage in Sydney (below)
For the last 5 days, the Franklin crew and I have been getting some R&R in a suburb of Sydney called Cronella. It's about a 30 minute drive south of the city. We're lucky to have some free accomodations here, complete with a kitchen, skateboards, studio to jam in, and a pool to keep cool in. Not too much has been happening besides taking it easy on the beach, drinking "Goon" or locally made boxed wine (20$ for 2x4Litres!), and hanging with the locals... oh, and a few hours of practice here and there too.
That's all she wrote for now folks! One more day off at the beach and then back on the road, next stop Geelong.