Fan Story: Damo from Australia
GREETINGS NOW FROM SHITSVILLE, LONDON!
It’s hard to believe it happened – that 50+ strangers from the other side of the world would get together and pull off one of the greatest moves in rock ’n’ roll history. It must be rewarding to be in a band and know that your fans would set up a fund known as the F.T.B.O.F. (aka the Fly The Buggers Over Fund). So what exactly was the F.T.B.O.F.? Picture this: in a drunken state after a SilverGinger 5 show, a man known as ‘Longhair’ says over a pint, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we each donated five quid and got some of the people off the [Wildhearts email] list from the other side of the world and brought them over to the UK for the next Ginger gig?” And so the F.T.B.O.F. was born – more than fifty strangers did just that. Within one week they raised £920 to fly one lucky individual over to the UK to see the SilverGinger 5 gig at the London Astoria. That lucky person was me. I was in shock the day I found out. The money was transferred into my account safely, and a ticket to the UK was bought. Now read on as I take you on my adventures around the UK, all in the name of rock ’n’ roll!
Day 1: Friday 8 December 2000.
I hopped on the plane in Adelaide and was ready for rock. My first stopover was in Melbourne. Not too far, but hey – at such short notice I couldn’t get a direct flight. This thing was massive. I was flying with Malaysian Airlines and I highly recommend them.
Kuala Lumpur airport was freaky! We touched down when it was dark. I couldn’t see any of the city, except for heaps of lights and stuff. I got off the plane and wandered around taking in the sights of KL International Airport. That place was amazing. They had everything! Even a prayer room so religious folk could go in and pray that their plane doesn’t fall from the sky. I bought some food and chilled for a bit before I got myself ready for the next flight. I had about a three hour stop-over, so I hopped on the Aero Train to have a ride. That thing was cool! It took you from one side of the airport to the other, and it didn’t have a driver. It was like out of some Total Recall type movie. “This Aero Train is not departing” – it still haunts me. I sat on that a couple times, then went and got ready for the next flight. I chatted to some guy from the UK about… well, the UK. The time came to board and we did. I got a window seat this time. Fat lot of good that was gonna do me. It was dark, and I couldn’t see shit except for more lights. I knew which countries we were flying over though because Channel 12 on the plane’s TV thingy told you all these cool details like how long till we arrive, the time there, the time back in KL, and what city we were flying above at that time. Excellent! Fourteen hours later and we started to fly down to London. Man, that place looked amazing from up high in the dark. Lights everywhere, including Tower bridge.
Day 2: Saturday 9 December 2000.
After a long flight from Australia via short stops in Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur, by the time we pulled up it was 6.00am. I got through customs without hassle, and I was hoping there’d be a ticker tape parade for me. People with signs – “Welcome Damo!”. I was sorta freaked out. It was 6.00am and there were people everywhere, yet who was looking for me? I had no idea who I was looking for. I didn’t know who anyone was. I looked for people in Wildhearts t-shirts but couldn’t find anyone. It was strange. People paid for me to come to another country, yet where were they? I sat myself down and got myself a sparkling lemon fizzy drink, or ‘bottle of pop’ as the UK people say. Ahhh, that’s right. Pat was meeting me. I began looking everywhere. Dragging my suitcase with me, finally I saw Pat. YAY! All was saved. Well… She actually saw me. Walked up to me – “Damo?” The one and only.
We hopped in her car and started the journey to Bracknell. We drove past Windsor Castle (which I am told has a real drawbridge!) and Legoland. Unfortunately, Legoland was closed. Dammit! Once arriving at Pat’s, I rang my lovely mother to tell her that I was still alive. Awww, how sweet am I? That’s rock ’n’ roll. I had some toast and was totally amazed at the different types of spreads for it. Snickers spread? Chocolate Swirl spread? Picnic spread? How bizarre! I sat myself down and watched a show called Ant and Dec. This was a music show that was basically a huge advert for major label manufactured bands like ’N Sync, S Club 7, 5ive etc. They just mimed their songs (how original!) and it was basically not very funny, although the hosts thought they were. I ended up falling asleep and woke up hours later. Good thing I did wake up because I was going to see The Yo-Yo’s that night. I got myself ready while watching Miss Britney Spears live in concert. That woman intrigued me. I started realising the similarities between what she and Marilyn Manson do. Both suck musically, yet they have the entire world eating out of their hands. Quite strange.
We set out on our travels to a place called The Underworld at The World’s End pub. The support band was called Throat, who I actually liked – keep an eye out for them! I went closer down the front to watch The Yo-Yo’s. The guys cooked. They had the look, the attitude, and the songs to be a huge band. They had the crowd singing along, and I was rockin’! Biggest mistake of the night was not buying a t-shirt. I waited around too long and voila – they packed up shop. It’s a pity they broke up. Check their album out on Sub Pop. They’re incredible.
I met up with Clay and a few others off the list. Clay was the official Yo-Yo’s photographer – or something – and she had a huge infatuation with Tom (the Yo-Yo’s guitarist) which I thought was quite cute. She loved that upper lip. Everyone I met was nice, and I’m so glad I got to see them. I also met a guy from Sydney, which was quite bizarre.
I stayed at Clay’s house as she lived near London and I wanted to go to The Astoria on Monday to see the Hellacopters. I walked home with Clay and her two chums Katie and Ed, and we got ourselves some food and stuff to sit back at home and eat. Unfortunately, come bedtime, I could not sleep. Katie and Ed snored way too loud. This was not good. I put pillows over my head and the whole deal and tried to sleep. But nope, it wasn’t a goer. ARGH! I needed sleep because of the jet lag. Nooooooo! ‘Please just let me rest,’ I thought. ‘I need it more than you.’ But nope, they didn’t budge. Oh well, it beat paying for a hotel.
Day 3: Sunday 10 December 2000.
I wanted to check out Camden Market. Best thing about Clay’s house was that it was extremely close to them. The place was so busy, people everywhere. I was on the lookout for Backyard Babies t-shirts, but no one knew who they were. What was up with that? They’ve played here enough. One girl even thought I was taking the piss out of her and making bands up. Um no, honey. Monster Magnet and Hardcore Superstar do in fact really exist. She worked in the shop that had the most abusive shop owner in the entire UK – he was an asshole and treated his workers and me like shit. He even kicked me out! We went to a shop a bit further down named Metalhead, and these people were nice and friendly. I chatted to the workers and owner there about the bands and they knew them all. They rocked!
Unfortunately, they didn’t have anything I was after at the time. It was a looooong day, and we all needed rest. We returned to Clay’s and I think I crashed out early. Not sure because the time difference and jet lag had totally fucked with my body clock.
Day 4: Monday 11 December 2000.
Clay had to work, so I decided to look around Soho and London all on my lonesome. This ended up being fine because I got to do whatever I wanted. I wandered down to Oxford Street armed with the trusty A to Z of London – the finest book in tourist history. I walked down Berwick Street to be confronted by cool record stores. I picked up some goodies, including a Toilet Boys LP picture disc, Yo-Yo’s 7”, Wildhearts 10” and 7”, and the Honeycrack LP for only 49p. Bargain! Unfortunately, still no Backyard Babies stuff. I walked down to Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. First thing that popped into my mind was the line from The Rolling Stones’ song ‘Cocksucker Blues’ – “And I leaned on Nelson‘s Column”. There were pigeons everywhere, even more than the tourists – and that’s a lot! I met an Aussie couple and asked them if they’d take a picture of me sitting on the lion. Being Aussies, naturally they said, “Of course!” We’re such good-natured folk, us Aussies. Especially since everyone else I asked just sorta smirked at me like I was some sorta loony. Hey, everyone sits on these lions, baby!
Day 6: Wednesday 13 December 2000.
This day I would leave Clay’s to go and stay with Rob and Saz in Reading. I woke up and was told to ring a girl named Caroline who said she’d meet up with me somewhere so I wouldn’t be wandering the city on my own. I rang her and woke the poor girl up. She agreed to meet me at The World’s End pub. I had to kill around three hours. I had a coke and she had a beer. I had no idea who she was, only that she was another from the Wildhearts list. She was joined later by her friend Karen, and the two of them went to see The Almighty – I was so jealous. They had free tickets too. I hopped on the Tube and went to Leasky’s house. Another guy I didn’t know but who was coming along to the gig with me that night to see the Sugar Plum Fairies. The band starred the man known as Willie Dowling (he played keyboards for The Wildhearts and was the singer/guitarist in Honeycrack). We walked down to the pub and met up with people there. I recognised one of the guys, Mike, from the Yo-Yo’s gig. I said hello and met more cool people, including Saz and Rob. I got told that when I walked in Saz had asked Mike, “Is that him?” to which Mike had replied, “Nah, that’s definitely not him. I met him the other night and that’s not him.” Mike, you weren’t even drunk! You have no excuse! He felt a bit stupid afterwards when they all found out it was actually me. The Sugar Plum Fairies were pretty catchy. Not the thing I’d usually see, but I did like them. They were fun and had some killer songs as well as some that were so-so. CJ Wildheart was also there. The night was closing at Leasky’s and we all sat around singing along to ‘Sky Babies’ and drinking and rocking. We drove back to Saz and Rob’s and, upon entering their house, their huge German Shepherd dog scared the living hell out of me! I was so not ready for it’s barking at 3.00am. I crashed.
Day 8: Friday 15 December 2000.
We hurriedly got ready, hopped in Saz’s big 4WD, and headed on our journey. It took six hours but we eventually arrived at the doorstep of Trace’s house. But not before driving past the monstrosity that was the giant millennium statue of an angel standing about twenty metres high. It was an ugly thing that apparently cost £800,000 pounds to make! Now if I were you guys, I’d be pissed off that my tax paying money went to that! And I thought the gold pigs in Rundle Mall were bad. We collected Trace and embarked on a journey to South Shields in search of the legendary record store known as ChangesOne, owned by the one and only Ian Tunstall. The place was tiny, but so chock full of rock. The guy had in-stores in this place?! Bubble, Clam Abuse, to name just two. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed too tiny, but I guess that made for a nice homely feel. Someone came up with the silly idea to cover me in SilverGinger 5 CDs since I had come all this way to see SG5 in action. I still don’t know how I let myself get talked into such a thing, but they did it. The photos were hilarious, and the video footage even funnier (not that you’ll ever see it). From leaving there, we decided to have a night out on the town and went to some pub that I can’t remember the name of. I couldn’t understand the Geordie accent. I was at the bar asking for a coke and the guy was, like, “Naw a gluss or be a draft?” It took me a while, but he was saying, “In a glass or draught?” Okay, I had a lot to learn. From there we went to Trillians which is like the rock pig hang out in Newcastle. We stumbled down there. There were people everywhere. The stage was set up and the crowd were awaiting the arrival of some band called Rat Salad. Four figures hopped on the stage and the song ‘War Pigs’ had started. No! Not a Black Sabbath cover band?! But yes, it was. Complete with female vocalist. Apparently, they were back by popular demand and were the UK’s best Black Sabbath tribute band (self proclaimed?!). I decided it was toilet break time and, while in there, I listened to the conversations going on around me: “Bot di’ya see dem teets on ’er?” in reference to the female singer. Drunk Geordies at Trillions – such class! You gotta love ’em! We stayed for a whopping two songs (they played ‘Sweat Leaf’, just in case you were wondering what the other song was) and decided to leave due to the amazing amount of mullets. Oh, and this one guy who was head-banging down the front was dressed in corpse paint, studded arm bands, and bullet belt! Looked like he was straight out of Sodom! We decided to go to some other pub, but it was just about to close. Major thing in Newcastle is pubs close about 11.00pm on a Friday night. How strange. We went back to Trace’s and crashed out.
Day 9: Saturday 16 December 2000.
Another early morning and we went and had a look around the city of Newcastle. It was fuckin’ freezing! The sun was out but I was so damn cold. I did manage to find some killer records though, like Hanoi Rocks, Dogs D’Amour, and even a Hellmenn record (been looking for it for ages over here yet find it over there, and they’re an Aussie band!). We parted ways with Trace and headed on down to Nottingham where we were gonna be seeing Electric Frankenstein, Dog Toffee, and Cellophane Suckers that night. We met up with Andy B from the list. He was such a nice chap. He made Saz and me some awesome pasta! What a champ. The Andy Renaissance is highly recommended. We went to the Old Angel and it was tops! I met the guys from EF, the guys from Cellophane Suckers, the guys in Dog Toffee, and Mark from The Rockitts. Fuckin’ awesome people, and the atmosphere was brill. What a total coincidence to have come all this way and yet see some of my favourite rock bands playing around the same time as the Ginger gig. All bands put in a shit hot performance and I bought myself a rad looking EF t-shirt. We then returned to Andy’s and crashed out.
Day 10: Sunday 17 December 2000.
Woke up to a dreary-looking morning, but the excitement was yet to build because tonight was the big night. We had breakfast and then hopped in the 4WD and headed on our way back to Reading to shower, change and grab all my things. This was my last day in the UK, so I had to make the most of it. All the people off the Wildhearts e-mail list were meeting at The Moon Under Water pub to put faces to names. I sorta felt like a celebrity walking into the pub. Everyone knew I would be wearing the Hot Wheels hat and Cherry Pie top. As soon as I walked in, I saw all these people stop and look at me. It was the strangest feeling I have ever experienced. For the next hour or two, I was introduced to so many great people. I have never in my life met a bunch of nicer strangers. These guys and girls were just tops. All the way from USA, JR had come to the rescue with a present for me: a Backyard Babies shirt! For this act alone, he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. What a champ! He knew I was having trouble trying to track one down – that guy ruled! A true gem! These cool funny Scottish dudes got everyone singing along to a lovely rendition of ‘Geordie In Wonderland’. The non-Wildhearts people in the pub must have been thinking, ‘Wot de fook is dis den?’ A great start to an awesome night. After drinking much coke and having many great conversations, it was time to head down to The Astoria for the main event. I felt special once again as I was given special treatment and was on the guest list. Yay! Beats standing in an extremely long queue.
I had been told repeatedly that I would love Antiproduct. Well, they came on and blew me away. Those guys had one helluva stage show. I was so flipped out by them. Catchy songs, arena rock without the arena, silver pants, dayglo paint, and the whole shebang! I urge you all to check those guys out. Next band up was Grand Theft Audio. They featured Ritch from The Wildhearts on the drums. Their set was unreal. I danced with JR along to ‘As Good As It Gets’, the best song I had heard all summer. When it hit the chorus, Ginger himself even ran out onstage to sing the back-ups. What a sight! The song was incredible, and the crowd were ecstatic.
SilverGinger 5 appeared onstage, welcomed by a crowd of around 2,000 singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Ginger. If one band was made for big stages, it was this one. It was only about three or four songs in when Ginger spoke to the crowd and announced that the Wildhearts e-mail list had banded together to bring one person over to their fine country for this gig. There was a crowd of hundreds chanting “DAMO! DAMO!” It was the most amazing feeling in the world. I stood there just freaking out. Ginger then asked, “Where is he? Let’s get him up here… Someone give him a hand to get him up here!” And there I was, climbing the stage. The crowd cheered and went nuts. I was going nuts! I hugged Ginger and said, “Thanks man!” He said, “This is Damo. He plays in a band called Muscle Car who you all should check out!” I was like, ‘Oh my god, he’s mentioning my band!’ He took a photo of me on the stage and then said, “Now he’s gonna stage-dive, so all you people better catch him!” I was like “what? I don’t stage dive!” But I took my jacket off and went to put it on the side of the stage. The crowd started booing because they thought I was chickening out. No way, baby. I ran and leaped for all I could and made the large gap between the stage and the crowd. I was on top of the world… well, on top of a hundred or so hands, but hey, it was close enough. It was the most incredible feeling. The show went on and I was almost crying from happiness! It was amazing. I remember me and Ian (from ChangesOne) dancing together singing ‘Church Of The Broken Hearted’ at the top of our voices. It was just the freakiest experience. I was dancing with people even though I had no idea who they were; but they were nice people, nonetheless. To close the show, Ginger played the Wildhearts classic ‘Inglorious’ followed by the anthemic ‘29 x The Pain’ where he gave the vocal duties to the crowd. Imagine The Astoria filled with the best fans in the world singing so loudly that their voices equalled the sound from the music onstage! I got invited to a secret aftershow party which, to plainly put it, was rockin’. I met Jef and Ritch (ex-Wildhearts), the Antiproduct folk, and, of course, Ginger and SG5. It was amazing. Ginger was a nice lovely chap and friendly to boot. I did the most rock move that I have ever done. I had an idea. I asked Caroline if I could borrow her mobile phone. She lent it to me and, as she left (she said she’d come and get it from me at the Airport the next day), I rang a friend back home (who is a huge Ginger fan) from the aftershow party and gave the phone to Ginger before she answered it. Ginger spoke to her for a few minutes and told her about my stage-dive and stuff. She was flipped out. She told me she just wasn’t ready for the call and was totally freaked out by it. What a Christmas present, eh? It’s not every day you get a phone call from your favourite musician. The night then drifted slowly away from me as I needed to get to the airport.
Day 11: Monday 18 December 2000.
I arrived at Heathrow about 3.30am or something. My plane wasn’t till around 11.00am. I tried to sleep but couldn’t due to paranoia that while I was sleeping someone would steal my shit. Caroline arrived soon enough to get her phone back. I bid my farewells and hopped on the plane to return to reality. I wasn’t looking forward to it. I had been having the greatest time of my rock ’n’ roll life. Why leave? I think I slept on the plane. I don’t really remember, but I do know that I arrived in Kuala Lumpur the next day.
Day 12: Tuesday 19 December 2000.
Finally, I arrived back in Australia. It was great to be back, although I missed the hell out of the UK. Someone somewhere will one day pinch me and I’ll wake up thinking that it had all been just a dream. If that’s the case, then don’t wake me. I’ll be back!
Thanks to everyone who helped out in any way possible. From the Listees getting together to raise the money, to the bands, to all the new friends! Your friendliness, help, and hospitality will forever be in my heart! Special thanks to Melinda at the Travel Centre in Adelaide for organising my entire trip in less than a week. You people are some of the coolest friends a guy could ever want.