Sleepmakeswaves On Tour With Karnivool - Part Four

1 August 2012 | 2:09 pm | Sleepmakeswaves

The tour comes to an end. What happens in Perth... gets written up on the internet.

WEEK 4 | Perth, WA by Alex Wilson (bass)

Show #14 – Perth (Fat Shan's Records)

We arrive at Sydney Domestic Terminal at 11.30am. Everything is business as usual, and just a 4.5 hour flight later we've touched down in Perth. Tonight's show is something really different from what we've been doing on this tour. It's at a small underground (figuratively and literally) record store called Fat Shan's. I load in down through the poster-encrusted stairwell and immediately get a good feeling from the place, with happy people chatting, shelves of good vinyl and an extensive selection of cute little trinkets.

We're playing this in-store with a truly stupendous American band called Rosetta; they play a kind of apocalyptic, atmospheric hardcore music. When we toured America earlier this year, we played in the band's hometown of Philadelphia and were put up for the night by their singer Mike Armine, a truly excellent dude who we are all stoked to see again. We will still be in Perth by the time the Rosetta tour hits Sydney, so it's dumb luck that their tour just happens to start in Perth the night before the final weekend of Karnivool shows.

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Thankfully, Karnivool's management has given us permission to play this little in-store, as the 'Vool shows sold out some time ago, and it won't affect ticket sales. Also on the bill tonight is Nuclear Summer, the band of Lochlan Watt, the newly-minted presenter of The Racket on triple j, who we met back in Brisbane. Opening up the night are local boys Vanity, who have stumped up the gear for everyone this evening and helped book the venue. Legends. We all spend some time hanging out down the back, swapping tour stories among the racks of women's vintage dresses and scarves.

Tonight's show is going to be a real low-key, DIY affair. It's a floor show among the shelves of CDs and vinyl down the back. There are no mics on the amps, with the tiny PA reserved for vocals and samples. Definitely a different vibe to the big Karnivool shows. After some straight-up hardcore a la Drive Like Jehu from Vanity, it's our turn to take the stage.

Onstage at Fat Shan's

We have a blast. It's hot and sweaty down the back and there's very little room, but the small crowd of fiftyish people are clearly stoked to be there and are enjoying the sounds. A few CDs fall off the shelves nearby us thanks to the rattling bass and we try not to step on any. The store owner is a righteous dude who assures us the jewel cases are replaceable. I also find out later that one of the kids who came to see us fainted during our set. Luckily he recovered quickly enough to rock out near the back.

Nuclear Summer keep the good times rolling with an excellent set of their patented “sunshine metal”, splitting the difference between angry, squalling riffs and beautiful guitar soundscapes. After this, Rosetta take the stage (or, floor) and are suddenly transformed from the four chill dudes we had a chat with down the back of the room to a thunderous machine of pure hardcore destruction. The band push the little PA and the room to its sonic limits while our buddy Mike stands out front, bellowing furiously into the small but dedicated throng of assembled fans. Otto, who can scream the words to pretty much every Rosetta song, gets the microphone passed to him for a few seconds. He shreds his throat into it and I think it makes his night. We all feel like we saw something pretty special that evening.

Afterwards, everyone's packing up and the night is already winding down around 9:30pm. This is partly because there is no drinking at Fat Shans's (first sober night I will spend on the tour), and partly because, while everyone would probably love to kick on, Rosetta and Nuclear Summer have a red-eye overnight flight that will take them back to the east coast so that they can continue their run of dates together. We get a few photographs with Mike Armine, including the obligatory topless shot demanded by our manager (seriously, Mike) and promise that we'll try and catch up later on their tour so we can make a proper night of it. We head back to our hotel and catch a relatively early night.



Show #15 – Perth (The Rosemount Hotel #1)

We wake up, get our stuff together and head down the road for some breakfast and coffee after a nice sleep-in. One of the first on this tour, to be honest. One of the things that has been really nice about touring with a band like Karnivool is that they have the kind of fanbase that justifies successive shows in the same city. From our perspective, this is awesome. It gives us an opportunity to chill out in a different city and spend even a little bit of time getting to know the town we're playing in. And also the opportunity to get drunk without feeling guilty about hungover crashes on the road the next day. On our own tours, it's usually a case of ten hours driving to one major town, a small club show and then an early start the next morning. Rinse and repeat.

After spending a bit of time trying out amps at the local Billy Hyde's, we get to the Rosemount and spend a bit of time doing a reccie. Perth locals that we've met and the Karnivool boys have talked this place up to us quite a bit and it seems like a bit of an institution. There's a lovely big beer garden out the back where locals and punters alike mill around drinking and smoking. The stage itself is set at the front of a big room with a large circular bar in the centre. It doesn't look huge but when it's packed out at its 700-odd capacity, it gets cramped, hot and sweaty (in that good kinda way). The stage itself, while extended for the Karnivool tech setup, is going to be pretty cosy for Redcoats and ourselves.

Keeping warm backstage

But no matter. We go and sit out the back in the glorious Perth sunshine and knock back some sneaky afternoon beers and pub meals. Pretty excited for the evening's show, but there's a spanner thrown in the works. Karnivool's big digital mix desk decides to take an extended siesta, thereby pushing their soundcheck quite close to doors opening. We rush our stuff onto stage and we all feel a little flustered trying to get our shit together, especially considering the pretty cruisy run we've had so far. Thankfully, our Perth sound guy James is on it. Despite the relative lack of time, he takes the extra effort to see if he can juice a decent monitors mix for us and works hard to pull us a great FOH mix. Total bro.

The show itself is easily our worst of the tour. The bad start cascades into a series of mistakes. I fuck up first by failing to step on my mute pedal for the first big chord of the first song. Goodbye, epic intro. Then Kid's power supply to his whole pedal board starts crapping out on the second song, leaving him without sound. Twice. And by the time we hit the third tune, the dark stage combined with Otto's blindness means he hits a big song transition in the wrong key. To his credit, he recovers pretty well. But we feel like shit just piles up to sour the vibe and for the first time on tour I feel like we really played below our capacity. I would give it 4/10. Having said that, we get some really nice words from some of the punters. I'd like to think that's better chalked up to the difference between how musos and listeners experience the live show.

We're all pretty bummed about the show so we get right down to grumpy drinking with our buddies Luke and Ron from the excellent Perth band Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving, who we shared a split record with back in 2009. One of Australia's best bands. Go listen. Now.

On stage at the Rosemount

Anyway, after Redcoats come off stage they let us know they felt like they had a bit of a rough set as well. While we would have wished that stuff went well for them, it also feels a bit good to know we weren't the only ones that struggled. We all resolve for a better night the following evening. We swing by Macca's on the way home (end of the tour and we've given up on being healthy at this stage) and go back to the hotel. We sit around and eat our greasy shit, down bottles of Cooper's Green and settle in for Friday night rage. Except like most Friday night playlists, it's a cavalacade of hipster pop bands with video clips comprising of people in twee outfits chasing other people in panda suits through the forest. Or some variation on that basic theme. I'm all for some ironic guitar strummery, but where's the variety? A riff or two wouldn't go astray. Tim says it best: “shit rage”. I'm inclined to agree.

Show #16 – Perth (The Rosemount Hotel #2)

Tyson, Kid and I get up early and snag some excellent coffees, croissants and paninis down the road. Afterwards, we sit around at the hotel and work on some new music on my laptop and talk about some new musical ideas and why it would probably be a bad idea for us to get a singer (some of the fans after the shows are getting to us in our weaker moments). After hardening the fuck up and resolving to stay instrumental, metal, brutal and everything else awesome, we wander down to some shopping centre in Perth.

This is because, today, Otto is a man on a mission. A few shows back he had a good chat with Steve, the drummer in Karnivool, about their mutual love of mad 'kicks' (I believe this is what the kids call footwear these days). He's now scoping out the Nike outlet store try and score the freshest treads this side of prog-rock. We meet him outside, where he's well chuffed and lacing up some crimson sneakers with eye-poppingly pink laces. Pretty fresh bro. The kicker (hurrr durrr) comes when we arrive at the venue and find Steve pimp-rolling around in a pair of toothpaste-white Adidas with bling-gold three stripes, brazenly laying waste to all of Otto's dreams of being the Fresh Prince of Sneakertown. Steve's are clearly the freshest. In fact, the Adidas are so dope that we dub Steve 'Mentos', aka the Freshmaker, there and then. Afterwards we all go our separate wways for a bit to get some headspace. I find a park near the venue, chill out listening to Spotify and Skype a friend in the UK while the sun goes down. A really well needed-break from hanging around venues.

Otto Wicks v Steve Judd

Setup-wise, this show is going to be even tougher than last night, as there's an extra band on this evening before us, Forstora. I'll forgive them that, though, because they were awesome. Sounding somewhat like a mixture of Converge, The Jesus Lizard and The Dillinger Escape Plan, they deliver riff after riff of gloriously hateful sonic mayhem from the stage. Their singer, who is a lovely chap called Dennis, comes down into the crowd, gripping a number of people (myself included) in sweaty sleeper-holds and screaming himself ragged. It's an exhilarating set that gets me fired up for our own show.

When it comes, the setup is indeed crap. For the first time on the tour, the night is running about 10 or 15 minutes late, and being a mere opening band, we're worried about having to cut a song. But everyone from our soundie James to the Karnivool tour manager Adam pulls through on our behalf and we can play our regular set. Everyone else in the band is stoked with the gig, so I'll take that. After an abortive attempt to go to an afterparty at a seedy-looking joint called the Rocket Room, we wind up back at the hotel with Andy, the guitarist from Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving, knocking back more beers. Saturday night rage is much better than Friday night, covering Aerosmith to The Stone Roses and much in between. We even manage to get some Olympics in, watching the women win the 4x100 relay gold. Go Straya.

Show #17 – Perth (The Rosemount Hotel #3)

Last day of the tour. Can't help waking up with some sense of wistful anticipation, coupled with the dregs of a hangover. I rouse the guys out of hotel beds and Andy off the couch and we all head down to Fremantle. The sun is out, people are having a great time on a warm Sunday afternoon. We take a nice stroll among the boats and the boardwalk. The plan is to go to the Little Creatures Brewery; Tim has been there before and has been talking up the awesomeness of the chilli/garlic/mussels/bread/beer combo they have there.

It's a bit of a shitfight finding somewhere to sit down, but we have beers to mitigate the waiting and when we're at the table and the food comes, it was definitely worth the wait. Perhaps a little pricey for some broke musicians, but it's the last day of the tour and we've worked hard, so fuck it. Some hours later we're back at the Rosemount, chilling out the back. There's an acoustic set by some bearded dude that looks halfway between a hip-hopper and lumberjack. He has an amazing voice that's somewhere between Ben Harper and Howlin' Wolf and he rips out blues covers of Die Antwoord, Queens of The Stone Age and OutKast, just to name a few. Epic Bearded Singin' Dude, I said hi to you when you finished but I can't remember your name. If you're reading this, you made my day.

The show is very early tonight, with doors at 6pm and sleepmakeswaves on at 6.20pm. The reason for this is a combination of Sunday night curfew plus the fact that everyone wants to try and kick out of the venue early so we can get the afterparty happening. The flipside of this is that the early start means the crowd is looking a bit thin when we take the stage. After kicking into the first song, however, we stop noticing. There's a kind of recklessness that comes from playing the last show, like all the expectations have fallen away and there is nothing left to prove. We feel like we've earned the right to go for broke and not give a damn about hitting the right notes or laying down the riffs in lockstep, and as usual with us, this mindset delivers one of our best performances. The crowd that has decently filled the room by the end of our set is definitely appreciative.

Rosemount crowd

We help Redcoats onto the stage and then I get down the front to watch them for the last time on the tour. They seem to be in the same headspace as we were; their set is loose, jammy, fuzzed out and soaked with attitude. We grab some dinner with them in the beer garden afterwards and talk shop. We're all pretty bummed that the tour is wrapping up. Just as everyone is getting relaxed and having a good time, things roll to a close. No-one is particularly excited about the prospect of returning to our respective home towns and figuring out what to do with our days off. We've all got more touring on the horizon, though. We head out on a headlining tour in September and the Redcoats dudes will be back on the road with a new record later this year. Emilio, Neil, Rhys, Andy (and Jack and Pete): shit was real. Love you guys.

Drummer love: Redcoats and Sleepmakeswaves

We all get back inside to watch Karnivool deliver their awe-inspiring rock show one more time. The crowd is as intense as any on this tour - crowd surfers aplenty - and the Vool guys are clearly enjoying themselves, as they joke with and high five their friends and family in the crowd. By now we've had plenty of time to get the know the new stuff they've been playing and it's clear the new record (when it comes) will be killer. In the meantime, we're gonna miss seeing these guys rule the stage every weekend.

After Karnivool's set we drag a tub of Asahi up to their dressing room and hang out. Otto, thrilled at the prospect of a genuine rider and no remaining dates on the tour to risk getting kicked off, hoes into the salsa and Doritos amid cries of 'Fuck the Police!' Yep, we're that cool.

At some point, Drew takes me aside and emphasises the point that we should stick to the instrumental path and don't need a singer. This encouragement, along with the kind words he wrote when signing CDs for the other guys, makes for a happy sleepmakeswaves. Eventually, the festivities make their way to the Rocket Room for a second time.

But this time we hang out. Everyone is smiling and working their way through bar tabs. We bust out a pretty awesome singalong version of Faith No More's Easy, guitar solo included. I indulge my fanboyish tendencies and get my now-battered tour lanyard signed by all the Karnivool guys. It's a good night, which ends up with Tim, his girfriend Shy, Otto, Kid, Tyson and myself smoking celebratory cigars out the front of our hotel in the wee hours of the morning. Stack dem post-rock dollars.


I don't really know how to finish this. But I feel like we probably had the best “first big tour” a band could hope for. We travelled around Australia with a bunch of excellent musicians who were also stand-up dudes. We played to loads of new punters every night and brought a sound they probably haven't really heard much of. We learned how serious tours worked behind the scenes and are a better band for it. We drank loads of free beer and met the Prawn. We worked harder than we ever had touring Australia before, but had more fun than we could have imagined.

To all the Karnivool guys and your amazing crew, thank you. And to everyone who saw us play, thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.


Otto, Kenny and Kid

Emilio and Otto

Neil and Otto

Sleepy John and Otto

Kid, Otto and Shy

End of tour cigar...

Enjoy the blog? Check out the other entries below. Sleepmakeswaves will be back on the road in September. Check out the dates here.