Before we get into week 3, there are a few things about Australia you need to know.
- cars/pedestrian traffic are on “the wrong side”
- tons of great ice cream: Magnum, Weis, Paddle Pops, Golden Gaytime, Heaven, Calypso, the list goes on.
- everything sweet is made with real sugar. NOT Corn Syrup. (In fact, now that we’ve seen Japan and now the UK we’re seeing the same is true elsewhere outside the US). Everything tastes way better, which is not a surprise.
- toilets - water spins opposite way…the myth is true! Also, there are two buttons to flush the toilets…I think one is for #1…the other for #2. (Also seems to be true for the rest of the world). Toilets are also super deep for some reason…excessively splashy as a result.
- Australians love tiny meat pies, and Vegemite.
- Best affordable beer: Coopers Pale Ale
- they love to abbreviate everything - McDonalds is “maccas”, breakfast is “brekkie”, chicken is “chook”, barbeque is “barbie”, etc. (Sidenote: why are the only ones I remember food related?)
- Peppers of any kind are “capsicum”, which you see most often see as green peppers.
- some more common words/phrases: “reckon”, “keen”, “heaps”, “heaps keen”, “no worries”, “mate”, “hey?” = “come again?” or “what?”, “cheers”, “take away” = “to go”, etc.
- Absolutely nobody drinks Fosters. Didn’t see one bar that served it, or a single person drinking it the whole time we were in Australia. “Australian For Beer” my ass.
- Devan adds: “Their pool balls be smaller I reckon, eh?” and “Everything is too fucking god damn expensive.”
Week 3 of our tour started off on 01/28 in Newcastle, NSW, just a couple hours North of Sydney. We kicked the day off right with an early morning drive back down the Pacific coast, from Brisbane. It was another hellish drive in sub-tropical Queensland summer heat, taking a good 10+ hours to get to Newcastle. A couple of hours into the drive we started a solid game of Cee-lo that eventually had some pretty big wagers, thanks to O-rock and Tom for going all out. I played four rounds but was forced to quit after the fourth loss in a row. When we finally arrived, everyone seemed to have gone a bit crazy from the heat and the long drive; we continued a fun game we had started earlier, yelling “excuse me sir/miss/ma’am” to the locals as we drove by, and laughing hysterically when they looked towards the van. Typical obnoxious BS from typical Americans. We love it.
When we arrived in Newcastle, NSW Jon from No Trigger made a joke about the Australian equivalent of Scranton, PA, which we all agreed was pretty accurate from what we saw. The venue we played was the Cambridge - our gear was loaded into a back hallway behind the stage, which led out to the street. The room was a pretty good size - enough to hold at least 300. In the room adjacent to the venue was a small bar and kitchen that made pretty awesome pizza for a decent price. A few of us ordered roasted pumpkin/spinach/feta/red sauce which ruled; the best was Tully’s pizza with goat cheese/rosemary/olive oil and lemon juice. Excitebike was the first band to start the night off. We started to get a little worried about the show when we saw only around 15 people watching Excitebike, and even more worried when maybe 30 showed up to watch the next band Mary Jane Kelly.
MJK is an awesome band from Wollongong, about an hour south of Sydney; their sound is a solid mix of ETID, Shai Hulud, with stoner metal riffs and tuning thrown in for good measure. They put on a great show, but unfortunately the kids that watched seemed pretty bored. It was discouraging to see the small crowd for the locals, but thankfully kids started to file into the room as we set our gear up. We played our tightest, best sounding set of the tour to a crowd of around 60 or 70 kids, with a few of them singing along as well. No Trigger had a crowd of equal size with an even better reaction, as expected. Since we were playing 4 shows total with Mary Jane Kelly I made a point of starting a conversation with Brendan, their bass player, who I immediately recognized to be a genuinely nice guy. After loading out of the venue we took a short drive back to Sydney; the majority of us stayed at Tully’s house once again.
The next day in Sydney was Blood, Sweat and Beers Fest - which was the catalyst for booking the Australian tour. However, we were only scheduled to play an acoustic set, which seemed a bit crazy since we were booked on the fest for months prior to actually arriving in Australia - it’s not like we were added last minute. Not a big deal at all. Either way, No Trigger offered to split their set with us, which gave us enough time to do a short, 3-song set. We chose our strongest songs - “Sycamore”, “Gut Rot” and “Four Superbowls, No Rings”.
Upon arriving at the site of the fest, the Annandale Hotel, we were given our artist passes and a multitude of drink passes. We showed up first to the venue and had lots of time to kill after loading in - we brought guitars to the upstairs part of the venue which contained a small lounge for band members, complete with a flat-screen TV with Cable, couches, and a bar area stocked with a case of Coopers Pale Ale. Myself, Mike P. and Jon from No Trigger got to work re-stringing and cleaning our guitars, a meticulous process which ended up taking me around three hours to complete. By the time I was done I had managed to miss Totally Unicorn, one of the biggest highlights of the fest, who apparently completely tore the place apart. Totally Unicorn is a four piece “magical animal hardcore” band with a sound comparable to Heavy Heavy Low Low. Most of the members are large and bearded, especially their singer, Drew, who is known to have an insane stage presence. Apparently during their BSB set he walked across the bar adjacent to the stage, and carried around a stage monitor during one of their songs. Everyone described their set as nothing short of incredible, and frankly I’m pretty bummed I missed it.
At 5PM Ben and Tim did a short acoustic set, which was followed up by No Trigger’s 25 minute set. When they were finished Tom introduced us as a special guest, and we went on to play our short, 3-song set for a crowd of around 350+ people. After our set myself, Tom, Ben, Brad and Devon ate some awesome Thai food at a restaurant connected to the venue - our meals were half price, which really helped make the meal more affordable for everyone. Food was accompanied with drink, thanks to the drink tickets we had gotten earlier in the night. Most of us ended up pretty drunk by the end of the night, with a couple of the group ending up getting thrown out; in Australia, according to law, bars have the right to throw you out if they decide you are too drunk. The Police can come in and slap a huge fine on the bar if they see someone that is overly intoxicated. At the end of the night most of us settled down at Tully and Brock’s, while O-Rock headed to the secluded territory of Jervis Bay for a mini-vacation with our bus driver, Wayne.
The following day was our early Sunday matinee show, which was also at the Annandale Hotel. We left our gear there the night of BSB to save some labor/time the next day. We arrived at the venue pretty beat and hung over from the night before. Most of the afternoon was spent upstairs in the lounge watching a marathon of How I Met Your Mother, the official sitcom of Such Gold. We played with Mary Jane Kelly again - once again their was a small turnout for them and the other locals, but the room started to fill as we set our equipment up. Both us and No Trigger played another solid set, with a much better reaction than the night before at Blood, Sweat and Beers. After our set I went back over to the Thai restaurant for another meal - this time I was joined by Brendan from MJK, his girlfriend Emma, AJ, a friend, and Kelly, the editor for Blunt - an Australian punk/alternative magazine. Since it was such a short show, we ended up back at Tully’s before 5. A small group immediately headed to Bondi Beach, while the rest of us stayed and relaxed. We found ourselves at Bondi Beach about 6:30PM, just as the sun was starting to set. Bondi was easily one of the nicest beaches we have been to - perfect waves, crystal clear water, clean sand, and cliffs lined with expensive condos. Tully and I jumped in for a quick swim - I ended up staying in the water for over an hour; I was having too much fun to get out. While we swam some of the guys from No Trigger, Devan, and a friend Alex, who drove, went and got some burritos. We were back at Tully’s by 9PM, and returned exhausted and water-logged, ready for a good night’s rest.
On Monday morning we got nearly the whole tour together for a trip to a local Koala Park - we managed to get a group rate of $14 each. The first order of business at the park was to get pictures with some of the Koalas. The handler brought out a female, Mudgee, for her feeding. Each of us was able to go up to the Koala for some petting and pictures; we also got some great shots of a few other female Koalas lounging around in awkward positions in the trees in their habitat. Next on the list was feeding some Grey Kangaroos. We walked back to the entrance to buy some food for them for $1.70 - it ended up being a decent sized paper bag filled with some kind of grass. The Kangaroos in the enclosure were very docile, most just lounged around in the shade due to the heat. Two of the female ‘Roos had Joey’s in their pouches; we noticed that they were pretty slimy for some reason. One of the females I was feeding decided to grab the whole bag of food out of my hands…but was only eating the bag. I hesitated to grab the bag from her, but managed to get it back without having my eyes clawed out.
Some of the other wildlife at the small zoo included Red Kangaroos, Wallabies and Wallaroos, and a few crazy local birds. When we had had enough we got together for a group picture in front of the Koala Park sign, and made a 7/11 pit-stop; Slurpee upon Slurpee was consumed. The group split up after 7/11 - Tully, Ben, Tim and myself went into downtown Sydney to see the sights. We walked from Tully’s house to Newtown train station and took a train into Circular Quay. After exiting the train we walked down the wharf towards the Sydney Opera House. We got some great pictures of everyone in front of the opera house, and some with the Harbor Bridge in the background. Seeing the Syndey Opera House confirmed that we had actually made it - it is one of the many landmarks that you know you may not ever get to see up close. From the opera house we walked into the city via the Royal Botanical Gardens, and explored much of the downtown area for a couple of hours. When we had our fill of the city we hopped on a train in Central Station, one of Sydney’s major transit hubs. Back in Newtown we decided it was time for some grub - Tully took us to his favorite burrito spot, Guzman y Gomez. Since I’ve been on a fish taco kick I went for the Barramundi (a local fish) in my Burrito. It ruled, which was not a surprise. By the time we had gotten back to Tully’s it was pretty late in the afternoon - eventually one of the groups came back to Tully’s, worn out from spending their afternoon at Bondi Beach.
On our 2nd day off in Sydney, Tully, Tim, Ben and myself awoke at 8AM for an early morning beach trip. Instead of going to Bondi first we cruised the coast and picked which beach looked best, which ended up being Congee Beach. There was a small crowd at the beach, but we had most of the sand and surf to ourselves. By 9AM it was already close to 90ºF, so the first order of business was getting in the water and catching some waves. It didn’t take long to realize that we were in for a bit more than we bargained for. The waves started out pretty manageable, but ended up getting larger and larger, until they started rising a few feet above our heads, crashing down on us and slamming us into the shallow water. After 30min of pulverization, we headed to Bondi Beach for some calmer waves.
Around noon we decided it was about time to end our beach trip - by then we were pretty worn out by the sand and surf. Back at Tully’s I realized I had gotten some serious sun, but wouldn’t experience the full extent of the sunburn on my shoulders until later that afternoon. While our group was at the beach the rest of the guys were out in Sydney, seeing the same sights we had seen the day before; they arrived at Tully’s only a few minutes after us. Around 1PM nearly everyone headed over to Tully and Brock’s friend Emilia’s house, to get a tour tattoo. I stayed back at Tully’s for some peace and relaxation during the first few hours of inking. Ben came back after his tattoo was finished, and we walked over to Emilia’s together, so that I could get my tattoo done as well. 8 of us got the tour tattoo - a small koala with a red bandanna on a tree, inspired by Wayne, our bus driver. Devan and I mixed things up a bit with ours - he got ‘Heaps Keen’ under his Koala, and I had Emilia color green into the bandanna and put ‘No Worries’ above mine. We each got the tattoo in just about the same spot - the left side of our right ankles. I think we all would agree that permanently inking this tour on our bodies was worth the brief pain.
We left Sydney by 11AM the next morning for an easy drive to Canberra, for our show at Bar 32. An hour into the trip we stopped in Goulburn; the rest stop showcased a giant ram statue, one of the many large-sized attractions we saw during our time in Australia. We got to Canberra in the afternoon with plenty of time to kill. We spent most of that time in a well air-conditioned shopping center a couple block from the venue. It started to downpour outside while we were in the mall; the rain was a godsend since it put the sun behind clouds for the rest of the afternoon, and cooled the city down by at least 15 degrees. Near the mall’s entrance there were 10 or so computers with internet that you could use for a small amount of cash. I paid the $2 for 20min - everyone walked off on their own 10 minutes into my computer time and that was the last I saw of the group for the next couple of hours. When I left the mall I headed back the same way we had came, and found Tom sitting outside a coffee shop in the courtyard, drinking some espresso. We chatted for an hour and headed back to the venue just as doors were opening.
I was immediately overwhelmed by the strong odor of piss and shit emanating from the bathrooms as we entered through the back - something we’ve become accustomed to in Australian venues. In the bar area there were some vegan treats - cupcakes, cookies, etc. - being sold for cheap. The show carried on, and Mary Jane Kelly tore it up once again. During the show it started raining again, and the rain continued all throughout the night, causing the back parking lot to transform into a small pond. I dreaded playing as our set approached - I was in the throes of an extremely painful sunburn on my shoulders, and the heat of the last few days left me exhausted. We still played a fun set to a packed house, and there were a few kids singing along. When the show was over we packed into the van and headed towards our sleep spot in Wollongong. As we left everyone mentioned how they felt a bit crazy - O-rock suggested it was the heat boiling our brains. We all agreed that he was probably right. In Wollongong we stayed with Tully’s friend Drew, who sings for Totally Unicorn. We had most of the house to ourselves - a few of us were in the living room and the rest of us slept in a lounge area that lead to the backyard. It was extremely hot and humid both outside and inside the house, and the windows would not close, forcing exposure to countless mosquitoes and flies buzzing around us all night. Despite the heat we were forced to bundle up with blankets to avoid mosquitoes from eating us alive. My face was spared, but some of us weren’t so lucky.
The next morning, we jumped into the bus for a short drive into downtown Wollongong for breakfast at a local cafe. Most of the group ordered a traditional Australian breakfast, a giant plate of toast, bacon, sausage, egg and beans. A Denny’s grand slam would be dwarfed by the massive plates of food that came out of the cafe. While we ate breakfast my phone decided to break, and the last thing any of us need is a messed up phone only 3 weeks into an international tour. After breakfast everyone headed to the beach, while I walked back to Drew’s to relax and nurse my awful sunburn. I was able to take advantage of some Wifi for the first time in days, and got my phone back to a usable state. The beach-goers were back in the afternoon, and arrived with a ton of food for a BBQ - veggie sausage, lamb chops, chicken strips, etc. After our feast we packed up and headed to the venue, Stay Frosty, which was 10 minutes outside of the city. We loaded in, and Tim got to work fixing up the Telecaster, which has had some problems with the bridge pickup. Mary Jane Kelly played with us another night, and they played another great set yet again. Kids were singing along for both us and No Trigger, which really made all the long drives worth it. Everyone was definitely worn out from the beach trip, but both bands still played great sets. I think the drink tickets we were given kept everyone going throughout the night.
After the show we loaded out and said our goodbyes to Alex, and the guys in MJK, who we wouldn’t see for a while since we were heading out West to Melbourne. We went back to Drew’s again that night - we were asleep by 2AM, but had to be up at 5:30AM to leave for Melbourne. The journey ahead would prove to be long and hard, but worth it.