A Deloris Tour Diary
Penned by Deloris frontman MARCUS TEAGUE, using nothing but blue Bic on yellow notebook paper and his smarts. Read the secrets beyond a national tour with U.S. comrades Okkervil River and locals Subaudible Hum.
Ding Dong, Melbourne
We go pick up the Tarago that we’re going to live in for the next week and a half from the city depot. They give me the keys and I’m turning the ignition before I can say “Hey, what’s the deal with insurance on this?” Doesn’t matter it’ll be fine. Spend the next 5 minutes summoning vast experience behind the steering wheel, yet remaining in the carpark with the engine running and not being able to find the park brake. Call a guy washing one of the hire cars over to show me.
“Can’t find the park brake?”
Meet up with Luke at my house and we set about packing this thing. Rip out the steel rods along the floor that stop the seats from being jammed together, and disregard the sound of a traps case being gouged along the soft felt ceiling. Unbelievably everything fits. Except any notion of us being able to take our some-of-the-time violin player Melisa along for the ride. No matter. Men it is.
Get to Ding Dong in Melbourne where the first show of the tour is happening. I’ve never liked Ding Dong really, or more to the point the sound. Watching bands there it always sounds muffled and lost, the sound coagulating in a boomy, dribbly mess. Anyway the room is pretty big and if it’s even half full tonight I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Okkervil River are an unknown quantity in Australia with this being their first tour and with only a bit of radio airplay in the month leading up to it there could be 5, there could be 500.
We’re loading in when the other bands (Okkervil and fellow touring partners Subaudible Hum) arrive and we all gingerly introduce ourselves. Everyone seems nice which is fortunate. No one wants to be in the company of pricks for a few weeks. Gear sharing is arranged and we figure out with the Sub Hum guys who’s taking what interstate. We’ve decided to take the bulk of our own equipment including the drums for all the bands to use, which means having a car that’s packed vacuum tight, and a drive awaiting us spanning a coverage of 3 states in 3 days.
Showtime: We get inside to see Sub Hum finishing to nearly a full room. This is good. They sound together, and REALLY FUCKING LOUD and maybe that’s why it’s getting a bit lost in the mix. Which is what I’m hoping isn’t about to occur as we get ready to play. I’ve decided to use the megaphone for our opener Birdcatcher on this tour and this is the first test of its jedi powers. The band starts and I start at the back of the room basically yelling through the megaphone as I walk through the crowd making my way to the stage. Fun. Push my way through the crowd just in time to strap on my guitar and play a few bum notes. Good one. We’re playing almost all new songs on this tour and we’ve devised a set where we don’t have to stop for about the first half. Seemed like a good idea until we’re on stage and every time I sing I get a brain-pulping feedback shriek through the monitors, to the point where I can’t hear anything else. Look out and hope it doesn’t sound the same in the crowd. Some of the people squashed up against the front are flinching every time it happens. After a couple of attempts of trying to get the mix fixed it sorts itself out...which reveals that everything onstage is about a million times too loud. Ears bleed, foundations tremble, and Ben’s high G note on the bass threatens to crush bowels. The next few songs go well though, and we finish up with our new favourite arthritic-inducing guitar workout and get off. Once offstage I walk up to a friend.
“Did it sound as shit out here as it did up there?” “Yeah”
Okkervil River have I think the perfect setup to deal with any situation. Simply bass, guitar, keyboards and a heavily strummed acoustic guitar that’s also run through a distortion pedal. They’re quiet and disparate sounding enough that they can be heard clearly through a muddy PA, but loud enough to be able to overcome a quiet one and still demand attention. Plus singer Will’s voice is clear and ragged and strong and announces itself whatever the situation. Despite a sore throat, drummer Travis’ broken wrist, a new bass player and the aforementioned audio problems, they sound and play fantastic. A year of touring’ll do that to you I guess. The crowd loves them, and it’s great to finally hear tunes off their new record like ‘Black’ and ‘For Real’ and I look forward to seeing these bands around the country for the next week, for absolutely free.
We load out. Have a chat to all the band people, and strike up a conversation with John the keyboard player from Okkervil...whom we discover between talks of his love of ornithology (birds) and his stay in the outback a few years ago on an Aboriginal community, guts runaway orphans for a living. Haha. Not really. Everyone’s got aftershow glow and somehow now it’s 2 in the morning. We drive to Sydney in 3 hours.
Friday 2nd Dec
The Hopetoun, Sydney
Leave Melbourne at 6am and drive all day. Remark loudly and regularly at the luxury afforded by the humble Tarago and its giving of personal space. Particularly when Luke sleeps with his mouth open. Arrive at the best little venue in Australia, the Hopetoun in Surry Hills at 5:30 and lug everything in. Our host and bearded svengali for our stay is Darren from the Tucker B’s, who calls to give us directions and in no time we’re in his cosy backyard in Erskineville checking out the guitar pedals he makes by hand, and keenly picking out which bit of floor we’re gonna be sleeping on.
Get food and to the venue once again to see the tail end of Subaudible’s set. Between eating, getting gear ready and being anxious it’s difficult to concentrate on their multi-tiered sound but we hear good things and vow to watch their whole set tomorrow night in Wollongong. As we’re setting up on stage the crowd is again pressed against the front, and I think how much fun it is to be playing in these situations. A warm night, new songs, great bands, people packed in...goodness. The tour’s interesting for us in that we’re debuting almost a whole set of new songs, but interstate at least, also a new member of the band. Luke the drummer is our original drummer from way back, who’s playing as Dan is taking a sabbatical whilst having a baby. Ben Keenan on guitar has been with us for over a year now but never outside Melbourne, and the other Ben, Ben Gook on bass is an old friend but brand new on stage. As always The Hopetoun treats us like a favourite tee shirt. The megaphone disappears into the crowd and the punters embrace it in their sweaty fog before it arrives back onstage in time to be swapped for a telecaster. Flesh is pressed and lights move and a happy agreeance is arrived at between us and the crowd. Afterwards friends who’ve seen us a million times say glorious things and I feel like getting drunk.
Once again Okkervil play exceptionally, and clearly they’re overwhelmed with the response they’re getting from the crowd. Everything sounds real sweet and crystal clear. The show ends and with no long driving commitments tomorrow, we arrange to meet later at the sacred hovel that is the Towny. Once there we find its fruits are laid and waiting to be peeled as we score a window seat and surround ourselves with pints. Chat with tour manager James, Joel from Sub Hum and Travis from Okkervil, who goes on to reveal himself to be the second super nice guy we’ve met from the band, compelling us to get to SXSW next year and offers us his floor space if we do. Check.
What follows involves: Wandering through Erskineville, The Tucker B’s, firecrackers being set off in a kitchen, a kitchen floor being badly and hilariously scorched, firecrackers being set off in an underpass, dissection of life and bands and life in bands and a slow, bright walk home. Arrival back at Darren’s at 9 in the morning and pass out on a bare wood floor under a table.
Oxford Tavern, Wollongong
We’ve never been to Wollongong before. It’s fucking weird. We arrive at the first intersection to see a huge stretch cherry red falcon go past, being driven by a large lady with short hair, sunglasses, a black tuxedo and white bow tie. 20 seconds later she goes by again from the SAME DIRECTION. Followed by more women in huge Cadillac style cars. Just as we get to the venue and into an argument with the carpark attendant a WHITE CHARIOT DRAWN BY 4 HORSES GOES BY. We park the car at the base of a giant beanstalk descending from a silver Zeppelin hovering above the town and climb inside for opium and a jam fancy. Then Ben kills a horse.
The free gig starts to a small cross-armed crowd of local drinkers. Which explains in part why Danny from Sub Hum has decided to pretend they’re from America and talk in an American accent between songs. Which is funny at first, and then weird as it’s convincing and no one disbelieves him. We watch their whole set and like all quality bands it has started to compute. Complex arrangements, they can all play the shit out of their songs and they go off on exciting tangents confidentally and with no hint as to how it’s going to come back together. But somehow they do. Another thing they do tonight is finish early which gives us plenty of time to set up.
Despite getting a long sound check I somehow manage to forget to set up the mic stand properly. After doing the megaphone through the haphazard crowd of surfers, farmers and booze hounds, I get onstage and have to stand like James Hetfield for 5 songs as the thing is only tall enough for pint-sized humans. I’m 6’5. It’s reasons why mics should descend from the roof like at boxing matches. You could carve out a few verses and a chorus, nod to the guy upstairs and then solo on the bridge as the mic disappears into the rafters, leaving a stage free of stands and headroom for all. But in the end we play a good set to a big oval room in Wollongong mostly full of people who clap and then we get off.
Okkervil have a small crisis of faith tonight, as they run up against a medium sized audience that doesn’t know or really give a fuck who they are. Early on Will misconstrues the crowd’s friendly heckling for venom and spits back some of his own, before he decides to take them to task. He gets off stage and walks around strumming his distorted acoustic before returning and settling in to what becomes their most vigorous and carefree show yet. As the end nears I can begin to feel each cell in my body revolting from the night before and head outside for some air. Jason and Ryan from Sub Hum are out there and we have a quiet drink amongst the locals talking of how lucky we are we get to be here under the pretense of playing guitars. Someone smashes a glass next to us and the guy in front of us with the lit cigarette at eye-level stumbles backwards waving it round. Time to go.
It’s here after loading out that we realise that it takes about 15 hours to drive from Wollongong to Brisbane...and that it’s now 2am and we need to be at the venue tomorrow (today?) at 5pm for load in. Meaning we have to start driving immediately. Keenan decides to drive first and out of Wollongong, as I crumple into the back seat for some shithouse sleep punctuated only by the sound of Luke saying to him “Um you’ve stopped on a freeway.” His response is the fact that he can’t see any cars coming. At least if we’re crashed into I’m relaxed. Finally through the maze of Sydney they find the road to Newcastle and set off.
The Troubadour, Brisbane
I don’t really know if I slept. I know Ben didn’t. The day is a weird sleepless haze punctuated only by a baking hot stop at the golden guitar in Tamworth which is pathetic and some lunch which was pretty damn nice. We loiter in Tamworth a little longer than we should’ve and so speed it up on the remainder of the featureless drive. By the time we near Brisbane we’re in physical shutdown mode: barely anyone’s talking and when it is it’s with a lazy slur. Eyes are glazed. When we arrive at Fortitude Valley, Sub Hum are playing an acoustic set at Ric’s Cafe watched by the Okkervil guys, so we park out the back of the Troubadour and call em over to help lug.
Loading into venues is never fun and rarely easy. Sometimes you get lucky, like The Northern Star in Newcastle where you load from the car directly onto the stage. The Troubadour differs somewhat. At the end of a piss-soaked single-lane alley a spiraled, narrow metal staircase wraps it’s thin frame up five flights of stairs. You can’t see where you’re going and no one can pass you coming down. If it’s raining it’s guaranteed you’ll be killed, if not from crushing your legs under an amp on the staircase but when you plug all your soaked equipment into the power sockets. Lucky for us we’re in a brain-fuddled soup and can only act on instinct and muscle memory, but the lug combined with the drive combined with the heat which is wrapping around us like a snug electric blanket on high, pushes the capabilities of our meager flesh and bone to the limit. It’s grueling. Once all loaded in we retreat back to our Brisbane host Ian On’s apartment for some staring at walls and lying open mouthed on carpet willing blood cells through our hearts.
Fortunately the venue is pleasingly air-conditioned and with an ample backstage area. Word comes in early that tonight’s show is sold out. Sub Hum start up and play a blinder, while we lie on our backs backstage. Travis takes the opportunity to take a photo of each of us and I imagine him being back in America looking through his camera wondering who these sallow corpses are. We take the stage and it’s absolutely packed, people lining the walls next to us and heads everywhere, driving the heat up immensely. In an effort to take the attention off our physical malfunctions I’m wearing my prettiest shirt...which is also the thickest and within seconds of the opening solo song I’m wearing a wet canvas sail. The band gets on stage to start Birdcatcher and I grab the megaphone and wander through the crowd looking for a spot. Figuring it’s packed so I should stand on a chair, the one person I lay eyes on and ask to have their seat turns out to be the one guy holding up his passed out girlfriend. After his death stare I say never mind, and find a new one, which I jump up on just at my cue to start yelling. The rest of the set is incredibly fun, but runs like we’ve been awake for 30 hours. A late note here, a quiet cymbal hit goes in place of a loud one there, Keenan’s having trouble with a borrowed amp and the air is oppressive. The last two songs have the most words and near the end I can disturbingly hear the sound of my rattling lungs coming back at me through the mic and PA. Despite all this (or maybe because of it) we all agree afterwards it was our most fun show. Finish, get off, and lie on the ground for a while.
We grab beers and watch Okkervil from up close, facing the crowd facing them. They’re in their element and have everyone onside from the get go. One guy at the front is acting all like he’s at Motley Crue across town, punching the air and smashing his head in time to the horror of the studious types around him. It’s hilarious. Near the end of their set I sit down next to Luke and collapse on him for a while, waking up to the gig having finished and with bands and friends sitting all around. Despite knowing how I feel but bolstered by our high spirits, we elect to go out for a celebratory drink at Ric’s, leaving our stuff at the venue. We cross the road and soon Travis and James from Okkervil and James the tour manager come by. Jagermeister goes down, stories are passed. Will walks past with a gaggle of girls and comes inside. Keenan and I make little sense to anyone and soon realise nothing can be achieved here. Get pizza and marvel at Brisbane citizens in distress at 4 in the morning, before retiring to the apartment where a new floor awaits.
We were supposed to do an instore today with Sub Hum at Skinny’s but apparently someone blew up their PA. Which is the best thing ever as we sleep til 2pm. After peeling ourselves up for breakfast, we go Backstreet Boys style to the pool. Like uncooked pasties into a fridge, we slip carefully into the water and stay there for an hour. The next show we have is in Ballarat on Wednesday so the plan is to start driving tonight and arrive at the gig for sound check. About 2000 km’s.
The road out of Brisbane is fairly straightforward, and we drive til about 11pm when we’ve just crossed the border back into NSW and find a hotel nearly completely covered in moths the size of our hands. The room inside is deluxe. We watch The Osbournes. We eat cereal. We watch some of the video footage we’ve been taking. We live it up. We get beds. We sleep a glorious sleep.
Luke begins the day unsettled after flushing the toilet and seeing sewerage water rise up through the drain in the middle of the floor. Little do we know that the end of the day’s going to be much like the start. Like the drive to Brisbane we’re taking the New England Highway on this trip, not the Pacific road up the coast. Apparently there’s road works choking up the coastal road so we’ve traded tourist towns and quick swims in warm surf for arid fields and service station restaurants. It’s quicker physically but the opposite upstairs.
Somewhere between some fields and some more fields, and just after having to slow down to let some cows cross the road, we approach a truck barreling our way on the other side of the road. Just as we pass there’s an innocent cracking sound, and we look up to see a large ‘L’ shaped crack in the windscreen sitting there like a bullet on our doorstep. Our insurance is fucked. In the middle of this no mans land and with one tiny stone, we understand that we’re suddenly, probably, not gonna make a cent.
We arrive at Yass about 11pm. I’ve started to develop a sore throat, Luke is sleeping most of the time, and the two Ben’s are quiet. Someone says we should’ve flown from Sydney. Mutiny. We find a pub and crawl upstairs, and in poor form we decide for the first time that we can’t be arsed unpacking the Tarago, leaving it outside for the town to inspect. The rooms are decent and with blinkers on I find my bed and lie down feeling weird and too exhausted to sleep.
The Karova Lounge, Ballarat
We wake up at 8am and something’s wrong. By the time we’re a few hours out of Yass it’s boiling hot and all I want to do is put my windcheater on. Throat’s sore as well. We get to some country town for food and while the others eat lips and knuckles I stock up on fruit and juice, as well as get some Betadine throat gargle which I spit into the gutter. Delicious. Finally after again driving all day we arrive in Ballarat to find no one at the venue and the mixer wandering the street nearby. We get round to a pub, and walk in to a conversation with an old guy having dinner, who proceeds to tell us he’s been on the road for 28 years...remembering people’s names. He performs a show where he remembers 300 people’s names and puts them into songs. We praise him for not being in our van. We go upstairs and by this point I’m struggling. I’m cold and hot and can’t swallow and get into bed. The other guys load into the venue round the corner and sound check while I sleep.
I wake up 20 minutess before we go onstage still hurting. Luke comes to pick me up, and I get there to hear Sub Hum finishing, the sound making my head hurt. I have a scotch to numb the pain, then we set up. Mel has come up from Melbourne to play violin and I can barely say hi to her. We play and I sing ok but start to drift off whenever I try to belt it out. By the last song I’m thinking of ditching it, but we play it anyway and I don’t sing half the words. We finish and of course, I leave straight away and go back to the pub and sleep.
Adelaide / Melbourne
I wake up shivering in the heat, can’t swallow again. Okkervil and Sub Hum are staying here as well, and nearly everyone’s ready to leave for Adelaide by the time I drag myself up. In the shower I spit out some blood. We load up the van and sit in it ready to depart when the actuality of what’s happening to my body registers. We can’t play tonight. I call James the tour manager and tell him it can’t happen. It’s fucked. The show is sold out and we haven’t been to Adelaide for about a year. The decision hurts but it’s made and while the other bands head down the Great Western towards South Australia, we limp towards Melbourne and home.
I spend the next 3 days sweating and trying to swallow in bed, while Okkervil head to Meredith for their last and apparently triumphant show, accompanied by the guys from Sub Hum who celebrate the end of what was pretty much a sell-out tour. I don’t mind so much considering the success of the tour. So much fun. It was the best of times it was the blurst of times.