Excerpt from The Bedroom Philosopher Diaries — the new book from Justin Heazlewood
Saturday 14th. Hobart. Brisbane Hotel. All-Ages
Gig vibe: 8 Venue treatment: 1 Band morale: Good.
There’s no better way to spend time before a gig than lying on a cold single mattress listening to half an hour of kick and bass from the support band. My room, which smelt like the inside of an old car with egg soup spilt in it was barely holding onto its one star rating with the inclusion of a bath. Sometimes it’s all a man can do to bathe. With steam gathering on my phone and the ice prick of a leaky shower on my toes I lay back and tried to clear my mind. I dried myself and began my regular routine of yogic exercises and formal moaning.
The band room was a pickled sauna, seething with a sell out crowd. We hit the stage around 11pm, half an hour after schedule. During the second song two girls had a scrag fight in the front row, landing punches in each others faces.
‘Don’t fight over me girls,’ I ad-libbed during Tram Inspector, a picture of moral responsibility. Overriding worries about whether lyrics can be heard is the full throttle soul fire of being the headliner in a packed pub. For a high concept folk-pop act, we could rock the fuck out when necessary. It’s a sonic grudge match. Band versus pissheads. Two raw, carcinogenic energies being spewed forth like a Harry Potter wand-off. On Saturday nights the audience are busy giving their own performance to pay you too much attention, so you’ve got to hurl every ounce of immediacy and showmanship from the third drawer of your mind. The audience will eat you, or more accurately, drink you alive if you let them. There’s a time to be thoughtful and respectful and there’s a time to wind up your jack in the box psyche and unleash a sneering sex clown of sassy arrogance and cunning jest.
Half way through Megan the Vegan a man handed me two spirits from the bar, which I sculled, earning respect from the sozzled throng. I was untouchable and in the zone. During New Media, some freak threw two cups of frozen corn at me. It was like flying through a swarm of winter bugs. I played on, making sure not to show weakness. I recalled an anecdote about the lead singer of Iron Maiden, who after being hit in the face with a beer bottle didn’t miss a beat. I surged on, prepared for the next thing thrown at me to be the glass itself. My friend Emesha came to the rescue, accosting the culprit.
‘Your mother should have had an abortion!’
The jocular particulars played out to the unsettling sounds of karaoke next door. Punk Idol set in a psych-ward. Nothing says 3am like a munter slurring his way though Baby Got Back only to be immediately given a second go at it. While the bar reluctantly closed at 4am, the bar staff kicked on with their own appallingly loud glitch-doof. The remaining hotel rating star thrown at us like a weapon. After tense deliberations, I bailed to stay in a warmer bed – feeling like a captain abandoning his ship.
At 8am I returned to the abrasive computer music still raging. Anthea and I knocked on the bar doors, trying to get someone to open the band room so we could rescue our gear. An ice-eyed goth-punk appeared, unlocking the door and flinging it rudely. Moments later she reappeared with her backpack, shooting us a weaselly stare.
‘You guys are weirdos.’
Hitz Rodriguez appeared, looking like a raped ghost. His room had been above the party so he’d endured a Guantanamo Bay worth of audio torture. I hugged him tightly, our downy puff jackets a collision of feathers and concern. Sore but amiable, Gordo set the band on a course for the North-West coast. Morning sun streamed through the glass as Neil Young filled the speakers (which I asked to be turned down.) It was sure good to be away from that place.
A lesson learned from last year’s tour was to avoid country bakeries at all costs. Everything’s got meat in it and everyone’s the lunch lady from The Simpsons but less funny. Despite this, we stopped at Oatlands under former Hobartian Nature Boy’s advice to try their Scallop Pies. I was about to order a pastie, but after copping the angriest ‘who’s next’ since the high school bully, opted out. I offered a $50 reward for anyone to go in and ask if the pies were organic.
Nature Boy had been diligently guiding us via Google Maps, and found a shortcut through Deloraine that avoided the Midlands highway. The shortcut turned out to be 70km of unsealed road winding around three small mountains in heavy fog. With comic timing, the petrol light came on a quarter into the detour. With two hours till sound check we were perilously placed. We glued our faces to the frosty windows, desperate for service stations as the van grumbled along the crunchy gravola. What we found were shanty towns, where a barrow full of onions was the supermarket. Anthea handled the situation best by sleeping through it. Mad-Dog made the mistake of waking up to find the van on top of a mountain.
‘There’s no mobile reception and no cars around, we need petrol or we’re fucked.’ Gordo was the most phased we’d ever seen, running hands through his hair TWICE! For the next forty minutes we wound and ground our way along godforsaken back crests and bush blazes before scraping into Derrolane.
Joy came fast. We had experienced our first real Band In a Van Without a Plan moment and survived. We celebrated by cacking ourselves senseless over a cryptic anti-Melbourne billboard featuring a man sitting on a submerged Rubik’s cube. In the battle of eateries Frogs Café with its faded award ribbons lost out to the practically titled Café Bakery. A gunshot rang out, as a shifty white sedan skulked by. A few minutes later, while munching on our egg and bacon rolls the clap went off again. We looked out and saw the same car crawling past.
‘Oh that’s just Nigel Lee,’ said the waitress. ‘He does that every week to scare us.’
Our van rose over a crest as the bay of Burnie presented itself in all its rock-mining escarpment and woodchip piled glory. It was a Sunday in Winter and the hometown hero had arrived to set the place ablaze with some light to moderate afternoon entertainment. The venue manager informed us that we might have some competition from the poultry festival in Ulverstone, gently cock-punching us back into reality. The local Advocate newspaper were there early, ready for a scoop. ‘What a pack of gays,’ was the main one. I’d taken the twister mat we were using as a stage decoration and had us tangled up with strained grins. The venue manager ‘wasn’t sure.’
From the awesome new book The Bedroom Philosopher Diaries by Justin Heazlewood. Illustrations for feature image by Leigh Rigozzi.
Avail. as an E-book through Affirm here: