In the final installment of his tour diary with THE PARADISE MOTEL, drummer and scribe ANDY HAZEL commemorates the end of an era by revisiting the band's birthplace, dressing to offend and playing some truly shocking mini-golf.
‘Diners are requested not to wear military or paramilitary uniforms and will be asked to wear one of the alternative jackets provided.’ So reads the blurb from the menu of the restaurant beneath the venue we play on the first night of our last weekend of our Australian Ghost Story-promoting tour. Unfortunately, two of our party is wearing said potentially offensive items of clothing and the risk of inciting a sternly-worded and gentle ejection or worse, wearing an ‘alternative jacket’ livens up what begins as a fairly quiet evening in Hobart. The upstairs venue, Siren’s Ballroom, is a rarely-unlocked and bare-walled room more commonly used by swing dancers and mice than rock bands and a drinking crowd, but it’s perfect for us and for bringing our take on the events around Azaria Chamberlain’s short life to the birthplace of The Paradise Motel.
By now at ease with the touring process (given that singer Merida Sussex lives in London, touring is a rare event) tonight we’re playing the first show on home soil since the band’s first gig ever. The experience is less unnerving than it could have been, possibly due to a small snow fight on the summit of Mount Wellington, assurances from well-intentioned friends and copious consumption of local ales.
Despite a local radio DJ expressing genuine amazement that most of the band are actually from Hobart mid-way through an interview (“Really? That’s awesome! Says here…[scans Wikipedia entry]…you guys lived in London for ten years. Cool! So…uh, what did you do?”), and a decisive lack of punters in their early-20s, there is a decent turnout and a largely attentive audience. Given that we’re up against Tame Impala at the Uni Bar and the always-appealing prospect of Jane Dust and Go Go Saipan at the less-appealing Brisbane Hotel, there is a warm buzz throughout the venue and candle-lit clusters of punters circling the scattered tables makes for a pleasing sight. Not really all that different from that first show, a kilometer and 15 years away.
Tour mates Sianna Lee go down beautifully and win some new fans. Surely Courtney Love would give more than make-up tips for the rights to cover some of her songs. Spending the rest of the evening catching up with friends, the morning variously playing with chickens and exploring Salamanca Market, the afternoon sees us back on the mainland and barreling along the Calder to Hepburn Springs and the final show of the tour. Easing into town around 6PM we soon realize that a) we’ve chosen two of the most beautiful parts of the country in which to end our tour and B) there really aren’t going to be many people at the show this evening. “I think we could dedicate a song to each member of the audience tonight” is how guitarist and organ-player Charles Bickford refers to it.
Numbers aside, the show is possibly our tightest one ever, and feedback from the audience is all good; which is more than can be said for the shenanigans the band’s rhythm section get up to the following day. With a horrendously kitschy mini-golf course just up the road, spectacularly delicious breakfasts are nearly heaved up at the sight of the some of the ‘features’ of the country’s only Australiana-themed mini golf course (as depicted above). Clearly The Paradise Motel’s sensitivity at writing about issues at the figurative and literal heart of Australia does not extend to the bassist and drummer.
Unfortunate hijinks aside, there is poignancy to the hugs we share after the show when saying our goodbyes, not only at the tour ending and the album being put to bed, but at the lack of certainty about the future. Can a band last spread across hemispheres? Will the future only hold albums and an occasional, prohibitively expensive, reunion show? Will the rhythm section be invited back?