The sound of one man clapping VIII

•June 28, 2015 • 1 Comment

Pop Filter

They say you get what you pay for, so when we saw an ad in the street press for a studio with cheap recording rates we should have known what was coming.

We called up and asked to book eight hours to record, mix and master our debut EP. The engineer said this would be fine. We practiced wholeheartedly, deluding ourselves into believing this would improve the outcome.

The pop filter on the vocal mic was taken from a reused stocking which had belonged to the engineer’s ex-girlfriend. So, for the better part of that day, Danny was singing through a section of the nylon which had once warmed the leg of an unnamed 40-something woman.

We left that studio with a new CD in our hands and granny leg DNA on Danny’s lips. In retrospect, we probably got more than what we paid for.


The sound of one man clapping VII

•June 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Bass Guitar

Everyone knew that a band’s busyness was evidence of their credibility. That’s why street press journalists always said such-and-such “took time out from their busy touring schedule” to talk to them.

Nowadays, everyone checks a band’s number of Likes for the same reason. It’s all bollocks, but nobody much seems to mind.

So, pre-Millennium Bug, we booked ourselves heaps of gigs.

Once we had two on the same night. One was an early evening support slot at a southern footy club and the second was a post-midnight set in a city pub.

Drive, set up, sound check, play, feedback in the foldback, play, break sticks, play, pack up, drive.

We even took time out of our busy schedule to loiter near the street press guy who would later include our band name in his gig review. Misspelled, but phonetically very close.


The organisers of the second show paid the bands by asking each punter, as they arrived, to state which of the twenty bands they were coming to see. The guy on the door had a list and would then put a little tick next to your band’s misspelled name and the punter’s money would end up in your pocket at the end of the night.

If you said you were coming to see more than one band, or all the bands, the guy on the door had no idea what to do.

When we split the cash at dawn there was money enough for each of us to buy a kebab with coins left over for our ash tray (cash tray).

The sound of one man clapping VI

•May 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Punk Band

Someone organised a party at the footy club. (Was it an 18th?) We were to be paid in beer and, equally exciting, would be opening for a local big-name band.

These guys were massive. They had a CD out and even had their own stickers, which you would see on P-plated rear windows all over southern Adelaide, as wells on guitar cases and school books. Massive. They lived a few blocks away from Mike’s and were musical veterans, averaging at least 23 years of age.

One time, their guitarist jammed with us when we were looking for a second guitarist. His strumming hand moved so quickly it just became a pinkish smear in the air. We couldn’t believe he’d given up his afternoon to hang with us. In reality he’d probably had nothing else to do.

So, we were to open for those guys and be paid in beer. I wore a skin-tight op shop shirt which, it turned out, had once belonged to Danny’s girlfriend. He was very cuddly that night.

With five band members, we polished off our free carton of Southwark effortlessly, playing and drinking as if we were invincible.

And the audience! Heads bobbed and nodded, voices shouted post-song, beer was spilled and cigarettes greyed the air of that footy club front bar. I played in my boxer shorts, broke two sticks, cracked a borrowed crash cymbal and busted my finger open on the edge of my floor tom, leaving a beautiful red firework stain on the Remo skin.

Later, between songs in the headliners’ set, their drummer pointed to me and told the full room to give me a big clap. Said I played like a motherfucker.

My All Stars walked on that smoky air for days.

The sound of one man clapping V

•May 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Gr8 Sk8We played skater punk. We didn’t skate, but we figured if The Beach Boys could play surf rock without being able to surf then we could do skate rock.

So, when we were asked to play at the local indoor skate park we were certain our wannabe status would be blown before we said a word.

We said yes anyway. For the exposure.

Entry to the indoor skate park was five dollars.

The bloke on the door didn’t believe we were in a band. We were lugging various parts of a drum kit at the time so perhaps he couldn’t hear us properly over the clanging of the open hi-hats. Fortunately I knew the name of the woman who had invited us to play, so this was proof enough that we were indeed musicians. (It’s who you know, you know?)

He told us it would be twenty-five bucks for us to get in.

We laughed. There was a slight pause. He reiterated, backing up his maths ability.

“Five dudes, five times five. That’s twenty five bucks, fellas.”

He blinked at the five half-smiles beaming at him. Mike broke the silence.

“We’re… not skaters.”

The bloke nodded knowingly.

Danny added, “We wouldn’t normally come to a place like this.”

The bloke nodded just as a kid with a septum piercing pushed past us, flashing the admission stamp on the inside of his wrist.

I shouted to the back of his beanie: “Hey dude!” I sounded like a librarian. He turned around. “Can you get the manager to let us in, please?”

He nodded and wheeled his effortless way towards the woman with the clipboard on the other side of the park.

We didn’t have to pay.

Nobody clapped for us the entire night, even though we could tell they were totally into it.

But we didn’t have to pay. It’s who you know, you know? And it was good exposure.

The sound of one man clapping IV

•May 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Garage Band

I don’t think we got paid for our first gig. Not even in beer although, like all the other high school graduates that night, accommodation was provided. We were permitted to pass out wherever we pleased.

It was the Grade Twelve after-party.

We set up in the shed. Extension leads, gaffa tape, a carpet off-cut to stay the kick drum and floor tom. We had to unplug the CD player to be able to power Jake’s bass amp, but left it to the last minute so as not to kill the mood.

We were spectacular, kinda like an overfilled shopping trolley tipped to one side. Or like a homeless man shouting. Or a homeless man who has lost control of his trolley.

Maybe not that exciting.

Mostly, people stood with one bent elbow and one hand in their pocket. They were watching. That was something. But they didn’t get us.

They just didn’t get us, you know?

Perhaps it is a feeling unique to artists and the mentally insane, that sense that everybody else is wrong, that everybody else is missing the joke, missing the point, not seeing the light. They’re just not listening to the lyrics, man, or they’re too uptight and middle class and mediocre.

But we knew we had found enlightenment.

After the gig, we found inebriation. Jake told me I fell asleep sitting up, like a teenaged Buddha.

The sound of one man clapping III

•March 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

60s Garage Band

In fifteen years, this time of my life will be all soft-focused and vignetted. I will romanticise the hangovers, the howling in my ears and that time we caught the last bus to the wrong part of town and had to trudge for miles and bloody miles.

It will seem like a radar blip, this whole adventure. Meeting and jamming, booking gigs and playing to our girlfriends, designing logos, getting airplay, writing our own live reviews in the local street press – it will all seem so small and pretend.

But for now, this is Big Real.

For now, we are a band.

Me and this guy from the gig at the footy club and his cousin and that guy from school. Shirtless, sweaty, beer bottle floor, Marley poster on the garage door. The guitar is pizza delivery money, the amp is an older brother’s, the bass is all scabbed in stickers and the drums are all tired, bruised skins and stick-snapping rims. No idea where that microphone came from.

We’ll get chips for lunch. I’ve got some coins in my ash tray (cash tray).

The sound of one man clapping II

•October 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Mosh pit

Christ, this house music is loud. The bass is punching my heart and lungs, stabbing my ears; it’s probably loosening the nails in the floor boards. My open palms, face down, keep time on my knees.

I don’t know how long he’s been sitting beside me but suddenly his mouth is up against my ear, shouting its hot and spit-speckled beer breath.

Drummer?” the mouth yells. A finger appears in my peripheral vision and points to my hands, tapping away.

I am. Been learning since the age of nine and tapped pens on benchtops long before that. I make drum sounds with my mouth, use the boomy bus floor as double kick practice, thump my chest and cheeks on the way to school, flip acoustic guitars face down and whackitytacktack the backs of ’em.

And although tomorrow night my ears will still be filled with the ringing, high pitched memory of tonight’s chaos, on quiet nights I stare at the ceiling and hear the whoosh-whoosh of the drummer inside me.

Christ, this house music is loud.

The young man repeats his question, whiskered lips brushing my lobe as he barks. “You a drummer?”

I turn to him and nod for one bar. But I’m not really listening.