Maybe I shouldn’t have packed the carpet bowls

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.

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Seats are sold and allocated, and then an extra 10-15 are sold for people willing to stand,. Which makes moving large cases around troublesome.

The concourse at Shizajiuan train station

The concourse at Shizajiuan train station

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.

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2014 – The Great Return

Only as I sat down did I realise I should have put more thought into my sock collection

Only as I sat down did I realise I should have put more thought into my sock collection

Welcome to the journal for the 2014 “Second Time Around” tour of China. The focus will be on relaying the adventure, drama and gigs we encounter and hopefully some stories about our growing Chinese fan base.
This tour is jam packed and due to my lack of annual leave, I’m working on Monday 22nd, flying on 23rd, having 2 days of prac from 24th. We’re then doing 15 gigs and 10 cities over the next 22 days before I fly back, arriving on the 19th Oct and back at work on the 20th. (If you’re talking to me on the 20th October and I’m a bit slow with my responses, it’s entirely possible I’m actually asleep).
Following the tour to Thailand over new years 2013/2014, we had a bit of a rest and since about May we’ve been practising reasonably regularly. Having most of the band now residing in Adelaide has meant that we’ve been able to work on our presentation more than for previous tours. I’m really excited to see if there’s a difference in the audience reactions.
This tour is also different for me personally as I’m not able to rely on my (now ex-)wife to double check we’ve got everything ready. I must admit I’m getting a little paranoid about what is ready and what needs doing. I’m going in a little less wide-eyed, having done Beijing and Shanghai in 2012, but this isn’t like a holiday at West Beach caravan Park – if I forget something, I can’t just pop back home and grab it.

From the last China tour I know that there’s going to be heaps of OMG moments as we visit new place, so please hop in to the band bus and enjoy the ride 🙂

One with the lot thanks!

 

Solo stuff

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

We Made It! Now what?

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

Back on the tour bus!

It’s been a while since my last instalment back in March 2011 when I was posting the last of the 2011 tour blogs. This intervening year and a half has been jam packed with Solo and PlanB goings on, so I’ll try to bring you up to speed as a lead-in to the next tour.

That’s right, the PlanB collection of Continue reading

Tequila Bob, Buddha, The End

Fri 14th Jan – Gullivers Travels. Show at Buddha

Aside: The way we interact with others is a very subtly learned skill. This came to me as I was walking along Bui Vien, the street our hotel was on, towards Stella’s. Even given the larger number of people, there seemed to be an unusually large number of times that I and the person walking towards me did the “this-way-that-way” dance. At first I thought it might be Continue reading

Recording, donations, and applause for finishing

Wed 12th Jan – 5th day recording. All but two songs down. Visit to the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation

I was in recording for a half day today as Karen, Kayla and I had arranged to deliver some things to the Christina Noble Foundation, a foundation set up for local children.  Kayla came with me to Continue reading

Tues 11th Jan – A wise old arse

It was always going to be a tough ask; ten songs in 8 hours. Four hours in we had just finished the first one (Give it Away) and were starting on the second (So Saigon). I put down the main vocals and we called Walter, John, Dave and Rob in to do the backup vocals. I needed a rest and so sat at the piano (behind them) and directed from there. Once we got a combination of harmonies that sounded good and was reasonably balanced, they just needed to record it several times.

During one of these sessions I gazed at the shiny black keyboard lid of the piano. I could see Continue reading

The film clip and No. 5 bar

Apart from the recording and gigging we’re doing over here, Patrick has also been collecting vision for some film clips for 3 of the album songs. One of those is called “So Saigon”. It was originally entitled “So Far Gone”, but with the practices in Adelaide, it morphed a bit and became more topical. I liked it because of the sense of metaphor; although being “So Saigon” didn’t really mean anything before, it does now! We’ve since found out that it translates quite well into Vietnames, too, the “So” prefix gives the subject (Saigon) a uniqueness or feeling of being special. This may well be beneficial if we decide to push the single into HCMC when it’s all set up. The songs we are recording are…

• Blueprint
• Too Late the Hero
• Maggies
• Give It Away
• Plan B
• I Don’t Mind
• Sandpaper Sally
• So Saigon
• Falling In Love (for the 1st Time)
• Images

All songs were written entirely by Peter Flierl, the bass player, with the exception of Sandpaper Sally, to which I contributed some lyrics. Blueprint, Too Late the Hero and I Don’t Mind were all written and performed in the 80’s version of the band, and Plan B was written and performed by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. The band in those days was heavily influenced by Dexy’s and so took their name from that song. Although we’ve always performed it, the idea of including it on the album was a strategic one; while the album is being prepared, Peter, Patrick and myself will seek out blogs and forums of Dexy’s fans and make our selves known there. Once the song is ready, we’ll let them know about it and hopefully pick up a few new fans that way. I think we need to be prepared for some pretty ‘religious’ discussion at the time, but if we maintain a position of respect for Dexy’s, and that this song is a nod to them, not a rip-off, we should be OK. Given the number of songs, plus the two recorded last year (Call Me and Southern Delta), we’re actually considering releasing an EP first so that we can have it ready sooner. All the post production will happen back in Adelaide, so we’ll just see how long it takes when we try it. Anyway, back to the film clip. Patrick’s idea was for it to be about me wandering lost after having broken up with a girl (played by local girl Thi), and another girl (Helen) always appearing at the right moment to help me out. Helen was fantastic; she is actually one of the receptionists at our hotel, and was happy to give up half a day to appear in the clip. The clip takes place mainly in the back alleys near the hotel. These are amazing places, like rabbit warrens, off the main streets. Patrick put together a test clip (click here) to get a feel for how it would look (excuse the ‘dry’ singing, this is actually a very difficult piece to pitch because it has such long extended notes in it. The soundtrack on this clip is from one of the guide vocals I put down early in the recording process.

That night we played the No. 5 bar. We played here a couple of times last tour, and so there was a real sense of coming home in preparation for this gig. As usual with high expectations, the reality was a little disappointing. The bar and the girls which seemed so much fun and welcoming last year felt a whole lot more ‘business as usual’ this time. We set up, we played, and we left. Actually, it wasn’t quite like that; we had a few chats to a some of the customers and got a great reaction from the crowd.

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The following day I spent around the hotel room, not doing a lot. Apart from my own recuperation, Kayla was still quite poorly; she slept most of the day, and so I stayed with her to give Karen the opportunity to do some exploration. That night we dragged her out of bed to go to the Jazz Club, a club run by the owner of the recording studio, Tran Manh Tuan. We didn’t stay too long but the whole experience was very rewarding, seeing Tuan play and watching a couple of locals get up and sing with the band. This sparked the idea in me that I could do it, too, and so I resolved to speak to Tuan the next recording session.