October 16 to October 19, 2001
By Adam Gibson
It was an offer I thought I may as well not refuse: journey to Melbourne with Sneeze as they played a show in support of Evan Dando, plus did a spot on a cable TV show. My job would be to help drive the Tarago, be a roadie in lieu of anyone else there to do the job and assist in drinking Nic's share of the beer rider. Oh and of course I was to document the trip in words and photographs.
So with a few spare days available, I said 'okay'.
Tuesday October 16, 11am
The trip begins under hazy Sydney skies as Simon and I pick up the Tarago from a nondescript hire car joint in Rockdale. We then drive across town to gather Tom from an address in the inner west best left ill-defined. The plan is to load Tom and all the band's gear quickly into van then to head down the Hume, eventually picking up Nic from a truckstop in Yass.
11.30am, Arrive at Tom's house
Simon bangs on Tom's door. No answer. Tom's dogs go berserk inside. Simon tries to peer in through the curtains. Can't see anything. Shit, we both think. We speculate that Tom has had a huge one following the first Sydney Evan Dando show at the Metro. We figure he could be anywhere, possibly in Bondi, where Evan is staying. We try to nut out a plan of attack. I suggest we ring Nic on the Official Sneeze Borrowed Mobile Phone (OSBMP) to get Evan's contact number. Simon does that, gets the number and Nic shares our concern as to Tom's whereabouts. Then, just as Simon hangs up, the grinning figure of a bright-eyed Tom comes loping down the street, bag of shopping in hand from his quick trip to the shops. Simon looks visibly relieved. Everything's sweet and we load the van and attached trailer, Tom's dog David pouncing on every move.
11.55am, Exit Sydney
Head out of Sydney's sprawl down one of those freeways you read about in the Daily Telegraph. Simon driving. I slip The Clash's first album, The Clash, into the stereo. Simon and Tom shout for it to be turned up. It sounds magnificent and huge and Tom informs us that the first ever recording of him on tape was of him singing the song Career Opportunities. (A nice irony there, Simon suggests).
The ones that never knock
Every job they offer you's to kick you up the dock
The ones that never ...knock!
Discussion flows over the top of the music about just how awesome The Clash were. We talk about how the songwriting partnership between Joe Strummer and Mick Jones was one of those volatile but magnificently inspired combinations that had a truly magic quality. We sum up by agreeing The Clash are the greatest rock n' roll band ever.
Stop at a service station somewhere south-west of Sydney for lunch. They can't do toasted sandwiches because the toaster is on the blink. Simon, Tom and I all have veggie burgers (we're all vegetarians). They're surprisingly good. Tom has the first of what will prove to be the trip's many iced coffee milks. I buy a newspaper and it's full of rubbish about John Howard hitching his and Australia's wagon to a variety of depressing matters.
Drive off south. A compilation tape in the stereo pushes us along with Cold Chisel's Flametrees bringing back more than several memories.
Kids out driving Saturday afternoon
Just past me by
And I'm just savouring familiar sights
The OSBMP rings. It's Nic. He's at the service station, wondering when we're going to arrive. We're 30km away. Simon says to tell him we'll be 15 minutes.
Arrive at service station. We can see Nic through the glass sitting inside next to a group of leather-clad motorcycle enthusiasts. Not Bikies but motorcycle enthusiasts; suburban family men with all the gear and head-to-toe leather ensembles out for a burn on the highway with their boutique machines. Nic tells us later that they attempted to make small talk with him while he was waiting there. He tells us he just grunted at them.
We fill up the van with petrol. I take over the wheel and head south through sprinkles of rain that look like they'll turn heavier but don't. Then the rain clears and we go down the strangely deserted highway.
We put on the first of two tapes recorded of the week before's J-Files on Evan Dando. Discussion flows between Nic and Tom and Simon on various points raised by the program, where this song was written and how etc. Tom mentions that during one morning alone he and Evan put Shame About Ray together, while Evan alone nutted out Confetti and Rockin' Stroll. A productive morning.
Then an interview with Nic is aired by Richard Kingsmill. Nic's voice sounds high and funny and Simon asks who the little kid is doing the talking. Nic is upset about the interview being played because it was recorded years ago, just after he left the Lemonheads, while promoting Godstar. It's all out of context to the present day. Nic reckons he could be construed as sounding bitter and is worried that Evan, who was no doubt listening to the J-Files, would be upset about hearing that tone. I get the sense that Nic wishes to clear up any misinterpretation when he sees Evan in Melbourne.
Nearing sunset we pull up at Holbrook, perhaps the only town in the world famous for a large submarine in its main park. Indeed, the town bills itself on signs on its outskirts as "The Submarine Town". Just why the hell this is, and how the big mother of a sub got to be where it is, is a complete mystery. Indeed it becomes apparent to me that this submarine motif and the conjecture on the matter is part of Sneeze folklore on Melbourne trips.
Also part of Sneeze legend is the Holbrook bakery, rated by Simon (who actually does rate these things) as having the best custard tarts this side of the other place where there's really good custard tarts. Nic is firmly in agreement. Even though it's 6pm on a Tuesday, not a time you'd expect a bakery to be well-stocked, the shelves are chocka with an array of goodies.
But alas! The only item they're out of is the much-lauded custard tarts! A collective groan goes up as we make other choices. Nic gets a cherry tart sort of thing. Can't remember what Simon and Tom get. I get the world's best Neenish tart.
Nic takes over the wheel. Head out of Holbrook with the sun setting brilliantly over the ranges as fields wrapped in swathes of purple Patterson's Curse glow fluro in the soft dusk.
I fall to sleep in the back seat as Bill Gibson talks to Richard Kingsmill on the tape about his time in The Lemonheads, while Simon, Nic and Tom add commentary.
I wake as we're pulling into Albury, our intended stop for the night. While the others work out where to put the van for the night, I walk up through the silky air of Dean St, Albury. People are amiably chatting at outdoor café tables, a hint of smoke on a breeze that's warm but tinged with the idea of oncoming chill.
Go back to meet the others at the Termo Hotel, where we're supposed to be staying. We walk into the bar area and Nic tells the guy behind the counter, who looks remarkably like cricketer Michael Slater, that we're meant to be booked in for the night.
"Oh right!," the guy says, "you're Shrinkwrap aren't you?"
"Ahh, no," Nic corrects him, "Sneeze actually."
The bloke doesn't skip a beat and checks the four of us into a room. It's appropriately dodgy but it'll do. Settle in for a while, have a cup of tea etc.
Head downstairs because Simon and Nic are desperate to watch that night's episode of The Bill. I'm desperate for food, willing the show to finish so we can go and eat. Tom's not into the show and he goes up to the room to crash out on his bunk bed. Would you believe it's an extra bloody long episode of The Bill? Well it is.
The show finally finishes. Nic goes to check whether Tom wants some food. He comes back down and says Tom said to grab him something to eat if we could. We walk into town and find a pizza joint still open for business. Order a large Vegetarian and a medium Hawaiian (without the ham) and take a seat in a wood-panelled booth. The pizzas arrive and while eating them we go on to discuss what various pubs in Sydney have meant to us over the years.
Nic says he was always a Lansdowne aficionado, The Plunderers pretty much having home base there in the early days. He says it's the venue that was the centre of his musical infancy, over and above, say, the Hopetoun or the Annandale.
Simon and I concur that the Lansdowne was also important to us. In fact we used to go there to watch The Plunderers play well before either of us had ever spoken a word to Nic! (And we'd always try to get served by Alison Galloway behind the bar too). Simon asserts that he and I, however, were also very fond of the Hoey and also that his old band Disneyfist was in fact more of a Sando band.
Talk swirls on and around an amazing array of band-related topics and anecdotes (which are mostly best kept unwritten...)
Amble pretty much exhausted back to the hotel. Nic and Simon have made sure to save three bits of pizza for Tom (what a caring band they are!)
I cover the window with a blanket.
It's been a long day and we've got a longer one ahead of us tomorrow. However, Simon and Nic agree (Tom's asleep) that not playing a gig on the way down to Melbourne is much less tiring.
We go to sleep.
Oct 16 | Oct 17 | Oct 18 | Oct 19 |
All words and photos by Adam Gibson, 16-19 October 2001. Please ask before reusing.