Sunday, February 8, 2009

I can't believe I can actually say I'm in Australia. It's fairly surreal. Oddly enough though, it's the most similar to America than any other country I've traveled to outside the US. In the UK, for example, they have all their own products (makeup, food, etc.). Here, they have mostly US brands so I feel at home even though I'm on the other side of the world.

Day 1: Adelaide

I arrived in Adelaide on Wednesday, 2/4/09. It took 5 planes and 30 hours to get from Cleveland to Australia, so if you’re planning on coming here, prepare yourself. I think this is the first trip that I’ve actually been able to sleep for a substantial period of time on the plane which helped a lot with the jetlag. I slept for half of the 15 hour flight from LAX to Melbourne. The other half was spent watching bad movies and reading my Sookie Stackhouse book. Oh, and I trained my brain with my Nintendo DS. Good times.

So the flight plan was this:

I managed to miss my connection from Sydney to Adelaide due to customs, but thankfully there was another flight 2 hours later, so I was saved. After arriving in Adelaide to stifling heat (95f), I was met by a handsome driver named Peter who was holding a sign that read, “Ms. Clapp.” I felt kind of important. I’ve never had someone meet me with one of those signs before.

Peter swept up my bags, got the car and met me on the curb. Then it was off to the Miller Apartments. We’ve been staying in apartments the whole time we’ve been here. Technically they’re hotels, but they have full kitchens and a washer/dryer. It’s been great to have these amenities since most of the time I’m in a sterile hotel room with dirty clothes every where.

I met Robbie for dinner a few hours later (he and Howard had arrived earlier that day after a horrendous 54 journey). Howard had decided to retreat to his room and crash. So we made our way 2 doors down to Nando for some bbq chicken. It’s one of Robbie’s favorite restaurants, but he said it’s different from the UK incarnation. I had succumbed to my hunger an hour before and had a cup of noodles from the convenience store, so I wasn’t terribly hungry. We mostly just got caught up and then headed back to the hotel where I completely crashed at 8:00.

Day 2
The next day, David arrived and he and Howard headed to the local radio station to do a promo spot for the show that night. We then all met up around 3 and headed to the venue in the blistering heat. We performed at a venue called The Gov. It’s a very interesting venue because it is a rather eclectic mix of d├ęcor, food and style. For those of you who are reading this and live in Nashville, it kind of looked like the Broadway Brewhouse on steroids. (See below)

Upon our arrival, we were a bit skeptical about the sound crew. There was one guy there, but he said he wasn’t working the show, didn’t work for the venue and was only there as a favor to help set up the PA. Our sound man (Dan?) didn’t arrive until about 2 hours later, but it was all good. We got the gear setup, worked out the usual bugs and did our soundcheck.

We were all a little nervous since we hadn’t performed the set since September. All of those nerves were unnecessary however since we completely rocked the place and had the crowd singing at the top of their lungs for the whole show. They were so into it that I completely forgot how hot it was in the place and I just went with it. I loved every minute of the show and remember thinking to myself onstage, “I love my job.”

Day 3: Perth

I met up with Robbie and Howard at a tiny restaurant right next to the hotel for breakfast. It had amazing organic food and we gorged ourselves on homemade toast and poached eggs. It was so nice to have a tasty meal before our trip.

After a quick ride to the airport, we were off to Perth. The flight was 3 hours and it was the best flight I’ve been on in years. They fed us, gave us complimentary wine, aired “Australia” and the crew was hilarious. Qantas gets 2 thumbs up in my book for sure.

The venue in Perth was called The Regal Theater. The area of town was really cool and the theater itself was nice. Although we had a proper sound check and got things sounding pretty great, we were all a bit tired. Robbie and I had to rally ourselves to during Howard’s solo set because they had couches backstage that were way too comfortable.

The show was decent. It’s always tough for us to play to a seated theater since we want people to dance and Howard is fantastic with the crowd. People did get up and dance, but it was a fairly mellow crowd overall. That said, we made it through and put on a great show.

It took forever to get out of there though and I was a little grumpy. I fell fast asleep on the couch, then I went out to the minivan and crashed there until David finished up the merch. I think it was because I knew that we had to head out so early the next day that I was not too jazzed about staying up late.

The hotel we stayed at in Perth was my favorite one so far. It had really cozy lighting and a nice rooftop pool with a gym. The temp there was borderline cold and I had to get a Howard t-shirt from David just to stay warm at the show.

Day 4-8: Sydney
After 3 hours of sleep, we left for the airport at the ungodly hour of 5:40am the next morning. Then, it was off to Sydney. This flight was 5 hours and I was happy to catch up on my sleep. Apparently the flight attendant tried to wake me for brunch and I was passed out. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much sleep after that. “Rachel Getting Married” was on and I had to watch it. It’s a pretty sad movie, but I couldn’t stop watching it. Howard and I discussed how awesome it was later. If you haven’t seen it, you should. The acting is fantastic and the way it’s filmed is very unique.

We landed in Sydney around 1:40 and got to the hotel around 2:45. We had to be downstairs to leave for the venue at 4. That was a tough one, but we all made it. Then we made our way to Canterbury Hurlstone Park for the soundcheck.

This venue is inside of a casino and the layout was interesting. The seating consisted of several rows of tables perpendicular to the stage. It kind of looked like a bingo hall but with better lighting. I told myself not to judge a book by its cover and I’m glad I did. The sound was incredible, the lighting was fantastic and we had a kickass show. The audience was with us the whole time and they danced at the front of the stage singing every word. This makes such a difference. We literally feed off of the energy of the crowd, and this was the best show we’ve had yet.

After the show was over, Robbie was starving so we headed out from backstage in search of food. We were instead met with fans who wanted to take pictures with us and have us sign their t-shirts and CD’s. It was a little overwhelming. I don’t know how Howard does this every night. It makes me respect and appreciate him even more. Don’t get me wrong, I loved meeting his fans and hearing their feedback, but I can’t imagine having to do that if I wasn’t feeling well or just didn’t feel social. He stays until he has met every person in line to see him.

Day 5

I have to say that this has been a fantastic day so far. I slept in, went and had lunch at Darling Harbour, shopped around and soaked in the hot tub here at the hotel. We’ll see what develops for the rest of the evening, but for now I’m just glad to be sitting in my air conditioning, typing this blog. Stay tuned, there’s a whole week of adventure still to come! The internet here is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it has a cap on what I can download and upload. Hence, I don’t think I’ll be able to post videos and pics until I get home. I’ll try though.

Day 6

We just got back from shooting a live TV spot for a local show here in Sydney. I think it's called Mornings with Kerri Anne? It was really fun and it looked great. I wish I could show you! Now I'm off to do some more exploring around Darling Harbor. It's cloudy here today and much cooler so it will be better for walking around. I managed to get sunburned on my right shoulder just walking around yesterday with Robbie. We walked around in the shade as much as we could and I still got burned. It's really dangerous here. SPF50, here I come!

Day 6 continued

Holy crap, I got to pet a koala today! Not only that, I had my picture taken with him. I went to the Wildlife World (I know, tourist trap from hell) by myself and had a blast. I saw creatures that I didn't even know existed and I also saw some of the most terrifying bugs in the world. The most venomous critters live in Australia and I got to see all of them behind the safety of very thick glass. I think the nastiest looking character was the redback spider. It's kind of similar to the black widow, but uglier. After hearing about a huntsman spider for days, I finally came face to face with one and nearly had a panic attack. They are harmless but creepy as hell. They can be as big as your hand and they jump at you. The thing that scared me the most was the fact that they look like overgrown brown recluses and I lived in a duplex that was infested with the awful insects. If I come across one of those here, I might need resucitation because I'm going to pass out. No question about it.

I was also able to get really close to a kangaroo (again, behind glass) and they are intense animals. One of them came right up to the glass and posed for pictures. The one I was mainly interested in was passed out in the sand looking as though he had a rough night and was trying to recover. It was amazing.

We had dinner at a great Italian restaurant tonight with Roy Ortuso (tour manager) and his wife Enza. It was good food and I'm really full. I think it's off to bed with me for now.

Day 7

It's been a slow, lazy day so far. It's a little after 1 and I've spent the bulk of my day online answering work emails and gazing out the window. It's a rainy day here in Sydney and it's going to rain tomorrow as well. I did manage to get out and find some Starbucks which was great. They don't do the free drink with the purchase of a mug thing over here. Grrr.

I'm waiting to hear from Robbie at the moment so we can head out in search of lunch with his friend Andy. I think we're going to do some exploring outside of Darling Harbour as well, so that should be fun. It's too bad it's so foggy because we could go out on a speed boat and tour the harbor. Oh well.

That's about all for now.

We met up for lunch and decided to forgo the jetboat mostly because it left the harbor and didn't come back! Howard decided it was time for a cigar at the Cohibar so we sat and enjoyed the rainy day under the protection of the bar's roof.

Then we took a water taxi to the opera house and I got some great pictures of the Harbor Bridge and the opera house. We made our way through the botanical gardens which were really quite impressive and found our way to a little cafe for afternoon tea. Here we struck up an interesting conversation about politics (the UK is pretty excited about Obama) and the Cold War, WWII and Germany. All-in-all it was a good chat about some serious things.

We then walked over to the ferry to head back to Darling Harbor. We were skeptical at first about where the ferry was taking us exactly, but we made it back and pulled ourselves together for dinner. We ate some fantastic sushi and then headed home to crash. Well, I crashed. Howard and Robbie headed back to Cohibar for cigar #2.

Day 8

Today was the day of the UGG boot. After several days of doing online research on what exactly constitutes a real Ugg, I found out a lot. First off, the uGg Australia brand is the one we know in America. They are, in fact, made in China! The word ugg is actually a term used to describe the style of boot. It is not a brand name to anyone but the US and it’s quite a bone of contention here in Oz.

So after searching online and finding out what’s what, I decided to buy two pairs of Shearers Uggs which are made here. I hope I wasn’t duped, but they are really nice, comfortable and cheaper than the US version. So my buttons won’t say UGG, but I’ll know that they were made properly and in good faith.

Right, moving on. So after going on a mission to find Robbie and backup MOTU controller for the tour, I set off to find the post office. I decided to ship back a box of gifts instead of lugging them all over the place. It was a little more than I wanted to spend (about $70AUD or $50USD) but it’s definitely worth it. Anna, your Tim Tams and Uggs are on their way now!

Andy Ross picked us up and we headed to his house in Coogie in his beat up Suzuki Sidekick. We took the top off and let the wind blow through as we made our way to the ocean. We came over a steep hill and took in the amazing sight of the sea. It was vast and blue and perfect.

Andy lives in a beautiful house that overlooks the water from every side. His wife, Dina and their two kids, Max and Ruby live there as well. We had a great day with them, just relaxing and chatting. We watched some of Andy’s film that he’s working on. It’s a documentary about the farming drought going on in the Outback. He shot the whole thing himself using a tiny HD camcorder and it looks really great. I look forward to seeing it when it’s finished.

I also got to try an Australian candy bar called Violet Crumble. My sister requested I bring back two things for her from here: Violet Crumble and Tim Tams. I must say the Tim Tams are much tastier than the VC’s, but who am I to judge? Hopefully she’ll be happy regardless.

Now we’re Brisbane-bound and several thousand feet above the earth. I’m really looking forward to the show tonight after being off for a few days. The pace is about to pick up again and I’ll be heading home before I know it.

Day 9

The show last night in Brisbane went really well. It was in another services club. They're the equivalent of the VFW in the US, but they're super nice and they have slot machines in them. It's hard to explain...

Every night at 6:00, these service clubs have a moment of silence where the whole club stops and they remember those who gave their lives in war. It's really moving and spooky. It would be impressive if we could do this in the US every day instead of only on Veterans Day. Just a thought.

We're back in Sydney now for the show tonight. I would write more but I'm exhausted. Flying all over the place is tiring.

Day 10 - Sydney

After arriving in Sydney and checking into the same hotel we stayed in before, we had a little time to rest before the show. It was at another services club in Hornsby and it took us about an hour to get there with traffic. Poor Brad (tour manager) had the day from hell. His plan was to drop us off at the hotel, head to his house to pick up gear and Howard's G8 (we had two shipping in tandem to the shows) and then pick us up for the gig.

The first thing that went wrong for him was that the van he had rented for us was so big that he couldn't get it out of his steep driveway and took out a brickwall in the process. He also damaged the van. Then the G8 didn't turn up and he had to hastily find a plan B. In this case, it was going to the radio station where Howard had done an interview a few days before to borrow someone's personal keyboard for the show. He didn't get to the venue until just before 7 and the show started at 8. We had a quick soundcheck and barely had dinner before it was time to go on.

We rocked it though and the crowd had a great time. There is some wonderful footage of the show and the fans on Facebook along with the rest of the tour diary. We had to much fun making it! I've got much more to recap but right now I need to eat, do laundry and re-hydrate. Stay tuned.