Traveller Tip: In Asia they have breakfast, but not as you know it. If there is ever milk, it’s long life. Bread is sweet and toast isn’t a big thing. Cereal and butter is rare unless it’s a distinctly western orientated place. If you’re not prepared to experiment, buy your own 2 minute noodles from a 7-11 the night before. Continue reading
Traveller Tip: If there are a group of you travelling, it may be worthwhile investing in local SIMs. This way you can contact each other without incurring the cost of a message going via your home country. You will probably need the help of a local to understand and activate the SIMs.
Our biggest and best show to date last night at the Temple Bar, but we still haven’t moved any merch. This is the first time we’ve made a serious effort to sell CD’s and T-shirts, and so far it’s 0/3. Partly it’s because we are (mostly me, cos I’m on the mike) new at doing it in a way that doesn’t feel crass to us but still gets the message across. If any of you have had experience of this and have some tips, I’m all ears! What I’ll try at the next gig is to make a big deal of the one giveaway T-shirt and casually mention they are available after the show, and also mention when songs we play are on the CD we have (which, btw, is on sale after the show) or will be on the new one.
As to the show itself, Temple Bar is a fairly funky Live-House with the best sound system we’ve had so far. By the time we started, there was a sizable crowd who were already warmed up with a support band (The Rotten 5, I think) who did a creditable job with popular 90’s rock covers and some jazzy fusion jams. As we were having a support band, the management asked that we do 1×60 minute set instead of the 2×45’s we thought we were going to do. So I rewrote the set and refined it with some of the guys. A new staple in the set list is a song of mine, ‘I know a girl’, which goes over really well as a ballad. One other of our new songs, “Wake up call” has a great crowd participation moment; I put this second last after a couple of near-ska dance songs and by the time we got to it, the crowd was primed. I got them all singing along and having a great time. So the gig went down well, but we still didn’t move any merch.
After a late-ish night last night (home about 1:30am) we had an early start to catch a train to ShiJiazhuang. Well, ‘catch a train’ is a little simplified. It was a whole lot more involved and I’m learning a lesson about my packing skills, or lack thereof. Out of the entire band, I think I have the biggest and heaviest case; remembering that some of them have more musical accessories than me. I’m actually feeling a bit embarrassed about being a princess at the moment.
Anyway, the above was just to let you know we’re all carrying heavy cases. And it’s peak time on the subway (Sunday doesn’t seem to make a difference here). From Sanlitun we walked about a kilometre to Dong Shitao subway, down several flights of steps and caught the train one station, where we had to change lines. At this point we lost John, Heidi (John’s daughter), Patrick and Cameron. Heidi had gone with SouYi to collect the tickets, so we were fairly confident she knew where to go. SouYi gave her a call anyway to say not to wait for us and meet us at the train station. So now there were 6 of us.
So we changed lines at Yonghegong (Lama Temple) and caught line 5 for about 10 stations to the Military Museum station. Each time we got on a new subway train, it was already jam packed and on a different floor, so we had to lug the…
THAT’s why they call it luggage! OMG!
… lug the cases up or down two flights of stairs, spread ourselves along the platform and squeeze into the already shoulder to shoulder carriages with a variety of instruments and cases. I’m sure if I was paying attention I would have learned some Chinese swear words. Then again, the people here do seem to have a ‘me first’ attitude at the same time as being very tolerant of others with that same attitude.
We get to the Military Museum station and need to transfer to another line (more stairs, new train, more pushing) to travel for one station to Beijing West; the ‘real’ train station, not the subway). We negotiate 3 floors to get to the outside of the station and join the equivalent of a crowd at the footy wanting to do the same thing we were, though with less luggage and an ability to read the signs. Time for a quick bite to eat and we traverse the slightly more official process of getting on the train from Beijing.
Last time we travelled in China we were on the super fast trains, all sleek, quiet and very modern with lots of space. This one isn’t quite as plush, hard bench seats with overhead luggage racks. Did I mention what we were carrying? Now I’m a couple of hours down on this trip and my arse is starting to hurt. And there’s a baby across theseat from me – he must be about a year old but with no nappy. The front and the back are slits in the pants letting the breeze blow where it may. I’m justy waiting to see how the inevitable leakage is handled. We eventually arrived at Shijiazhuan and made our way to the pickup area. There was a light rain but no real wind and so we were able to stay reasonably dry under the high roof of the concourse. Someone from the first night’s gig was supposed to pick us up but we eventually found out (when we finally managed to get in contact with them) that they had the day wrong.
Band-mother-duck, SuoYi, came to the rescue once again and magicked up a mini bus to ferry us all to the hotel. I came up with the ‘Mother Duck’ tag because it’s exactly like a mother duck leading her brood around so they don’t get lost. We need to keep her, or at least the next duckling in line, in view. In fact, as we all proceed off trains to the correct exit, or cross subway lines, or out to the carpark, I’ve taken to doing little quacks. It’s hilarious when some of the other guys take it up – there’s this slightly built Chinese lady walking with 8 or 9 western men at varying stages of age and beefiness following her with subdued “quack, quack, quack”.
As soon as we arrived and checked in, some of the boys mentioned that they were really hungry. We saw this place across the road called “Little Sheep Hotpot Restaurant” [picture] and so agreed to meet in half an hour to give it a try.
I was a bit dubious about the cleanliness of this place at first, though so far no ill after-effects. And omigod, the food was awesome. As a result we all ate more than we should have and as the pace of consumption slowed down and our bodies started dealing with the food we’d just supplied it, our brains also reminded us that we had not had much sleep lately. Cast your mind back to those massive Christmas dinners you had as a kid where you stuffed yourself full of turkey etc., and then realised there was Christmas Pudding and Brandy Sauce to come. Of course, you couldn’t say no, so you ate it. And then you got veeeeeeeeerrrryyy sleeeeeeeeppy.
As it was still only about 6pm I decided to try and walk it off instead, and so set about giving Ingress a try near the hotel. I found two portals, captured them and then went and did some more exploring on my own.
27/09/2014 Traveller Tip: In these countries, Facebook (including Messenger), Twitter, Youtube and Google (including the play store, Google Drive, Gmail, Hangouts) are likely to be unreachable until you get your VPN working. Don’t rely on these to hold any important travel information, and let people at home know that contact may be difficult until you get it sorted.
Traveller Tip: If you are visiting a ‘closed’ country like Vietnam or China, get some VPN software on your phone/tablet before leaving.
We rehearsed for 6 hours on the 24th and another 5 on the 25th before our first gig that night. That first gig at Beer Mania was 2x 60 minute sets. Given the hectic schedule we have for this tour (10 cities, 15 gigs in 24 days), I really really need to look after myself and my voice. So I turned in early for that first night while some of the others went out and we took it fairly easy for the second days rehearsal.
My main concern with my voice isn’t so much the schedule though; my voice is strong and I sing properly, so as long as I don’t have too many beers beforehand and remember to not overdo it when singing and avoid talking in loud settings outside of the gig, I should be able to do this every day. By ‘properly’, I mean that singing isn’t like shouting; the effort and strain is really closer to talking. No, the main concern is the pollution in Beijing…
…and getting sick from the travel. The Hong Kong -> Beijing plane sounded like a cross between a piggery and a hospital with the snorting and coughing going on. Coughing is the main voice killer for me.
What this means is that my downtime, at least in Beijing, isn’t doing the tourist-y stuff. I did a bit of that last visit seeing the Great Wall, Tianamin Square etc. This time my downtime is sitting in a cafe next to the hostel eating a salad with way too much sauce/dressing and writing this.
OK peeps, gotta shoot. We’re playing tonight at a venue we had to cancel on last year because it was torrential rain and the roof was leaking onto the stage. Oh, and it’s raining outside now – hopefully they’ve fixed the roof!
It was a long day getting here, leaving Adelaide at 10am and not hitting the Beijing bed until 6am the next day. The Melbourne to Honkers leg was really good considering it was 9 hours. Hong Kong to Beijing was only 4 hours but a lot more cramped and stressful.
When I landed, it was a typical torrential Beijing downpour. As a result, my baggage arrived soaked, meaning some of the contents were a bit damp too. Add a mixed up booking at the hostel and a broken handle on the suitcase, the crankypants were almost ready to be donned.
Luckily things were sorted in time to avoid a right royal (princessly) foot stamping and I managed to grab a few hours nap, go down for breakfast and meet the guys, and then return for a few hours coma.
By the time I woke, the others had already left for practice and so I found my way there solo on the Beijing subway with some help of a scrawled note from Peter and a vague memory from 2 years ago.
Traveller Tip: If you are staying in a foreign city for any length of time and they have a subway system, get familiar with it. It is amazing how much easier life is when you don’t have to find taxis.
In the ‘off-season’ between tours, I undertook a course with Cari Cole all about how to turn musicianship into a profession. There were some great technical and artist developmental tips, as well as an introduction to other artists at all levels and ages, but the most value I got from the course was the slap-in-the-face common sense approach that if you want to make money as an artist, you need to treat it as a business. Continue reading
Saturday 28th July – Festival
Pub rock cover bands are probably the hardest format to play to get encouragement for the developing artist. As you are in the company of every bedroom guitarist in the audience who has listened to the songs you play, every audience contains Continue reading
We’re on the road again! This time the PlanB Juggernaut is taking on China. Why China? We don’t have any following here and few contacts, but we figure that if we can engage even a tiny portion of the 1.3 billion population, we’re doing well.
So the next few blogs will be a day by day summary of the stuff we’re doing, both musically and not.
Day 1 – Sunday 15 July Continue reading
Funding and Managing
So, let’s pick up from the end of the last tour. We spent a week in Saigon at Continue reading
plus: Trying to get some noise ahead of our tour; finding gigs
It goes without saying that if we can create any buzz about the band before we get there, it will have a dramatic impact on our shows. If we get some people along who are already excited about seeing “PlanB” before they get there rather than just going to a venue to measure us against the best band they’ve ever seen there, then we’re a lot closer to converting them to fans.