Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
123Trip End Feb 27, 2006
As soon as the tour was over, I went for a bite to eat at Hungry Jacks and made my way to the mighty MCG. A guided tour of the famous cricket ground was high up on my things to do list. As I waited for the tour to begin, I wandered through the AFL Hall of Fame. I was quite surprised to hear that Aussie Rules is in fact more popular than cricket in these parts
It turned out that I was the only person going on the tour at 12.30pm, so I had VIP treatment! My guide was a nice old man, who had been a member for 48 years! The wait to become a member at the MCG is currently 20 years, so parents often send in their children's application forms as soon as they are born! There was a lot of talk about the Ashes series, and we both agreed it's good for the game to have such a close contest. I mentioned that Australia will struggle when Warne and McGrath retire in a couple of years!
There's no doubt that the guy was very knowledgable, and I enjoyed hearing his anecdotes about games involving Fred Trueman, Dennis Lillee and Viv Richards. The stadium was huge, and it will hold nearly 100,000 by the time the Commonwealth Games come to Melbourne next year. It would be an amazing atmosphere to be in a capacity crowd, and I'm half tempted to come back in a couple of years with the Barmy Army!
The tour lasted just over an hour, and it was $10 well spent for a big sports fan like me. As I made my way back into town, the rain started falling so I went to the library for a couple of hours and surfed the net
I spent the evening at the Regent Theatre, a very elegant place, watching the Lion King. I bought my ticket for this event a few weeks ago, as the production had only recently come to Melbourne, and tickets sold out fast. The opening sequence was spectacular as all the 'animals' gathered on stage, dancing to the rhythm of the African drums. It was very entertaining. And it continued in the same vein for nearly 3 hours, until Simba did eventually become King. All the stars received rapturous applause, and rightly so as they'd put on a great show.
It had been a busy day, and I was looking forward to the luxury of a sleep in the next morning - something of a rarity since I arrived in Melbourne. I could relax now as I'd done most of the things I'd planned to do, and my sights were firmly set on the reason I came here in the first place - the Teenage Fanclub gig!
I ventured into town in the morning, but it literally didn't stop raining all day, so I returned to the hostel in the afternoon. I listened to my Teenage Fanclub minidiscs to get me in the mood for the gig - I was excited about seeing my favourite ever band live for the first time
So I arrived at the James Squire Brewhouse at 7.30pm and looked out for a guy wearing a white long sleeved top with www.powerpopradio.com written on the front. No sign of him, so I got a beer (extortionately priced at $8.20) and sat down for a bit. When it got to 8pm, I wandered around the pub, which by this time was heaving with after work drinkers. Then all of a sudden I heard someone say "Rich" - it was Tim from the board, who'd recognised me as I'd said what I'd be wearing. I ended up spending the whole night with him, and he even helped me sell my spare ticket for $40 which enabled me to buy a T-shirt!
Tim had lived in Melbourne for 5 years, although he's from England originally. He also had a spare ticket as his heavily pregnant wife decided against coming to the gig - seeing the mighty Fanclub may well have sent her into labour! Anyway, he was a really nice lad who'd been a fan for 13 years, putting me to shame (I only discovered their greatness in 2000).
A few more people turned up at the Brewhouse, but after a few pints, Tim and me went to the venue to meet our ticket buyers. There were no problems, so just after 9pm we went into the Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom and went downstairs to the basement area. Tim was raving about the venue, and it did look good, with a capacity of about 750 people. The gig had sold out, so I was hoping for a good atmosphere with lots of real fans in the crowd, and I wasn't disappointed.
As The Pictures closed their set, we made our way to the front, ready for when Teenage Fanclub came onstage at 11.30pm. There was the usual activity, with roadies running around doing their thing, getting the guitars ready and such. It wasn't long after when the affable Scotsmen strolled onstage, and immediately ripped into Near You - one of my favourite songs - to massive cheers from the crowd.
As the Fanclub have got such a large back catalogue of amazing songs to choose from, it wasn't surprising that their set list was so memorable. I appreciate that 99% of people won't know what I'm talking about here (except you James if you're reading ;-)), but to hear them playing the likes of Sparky's Dream, Neil Jung, Slow Fade, Ain't That Enough and Take The Long Way Round was, to use a popular Oz expression, AWESOME
The band briefly departed towards the end, but made no secret of the fact that they'd be back. Sure enough, they returned and played a storming version of Don't Look Back, which may well have confirmed it as my absolute favourite Fanclub track. As the set concluded with He'd Be A Diamond, I wondered how many other bands had 3 songwriters of the quality of Norman Blake, Gerrard Love and Raymond McGinley. Answer...none!
After the gig, we hung around because the band often come out and speak to the fans. Tim and his wife had spent a couple of hours with them the last time they played Melbourne! "Guitar George," one of the roadies, said they'd be upstairs in the bar in a short while. So we went and had a few more beers, and one by one, the band members came into the bar. I spoke briefly with Francis McDonald, the drummer, and I complimented him on his solo album which I'm a big fan of. Then I spoke to Norman, and when he found out I'd come from New Zealand, he was really enthusiastic about the place and saying how he'd love to go there. I also passed greetings with Gerry at the bar, and all in all they seemed like such genuine, friendly, unassuming people
It's not like Tim and me were stalkers though! There were quite a few fans chatting away and getting autographs. I was annoyed when I had my picture taken with Norman, but the dark conditions had resulted in a blurry photo! Luckily, two girls from Singapore offered to take one with their camera and email me it, so I was happy about that. Tim had also taken one, so surely one of them would be ok!
As the band drifted away, we had a couple more beers, and listened to the superb music that was playing. A lot of it was Teenage Fanclub, power pop related music that suited my tastes. I remember asking Tim if he'd heard of a band called The Posies, and recommending their album Frosting On The Beater, and literally TWO SECONDS later a song from that very same album started playing! Very weird.
When it got to 3am, we were both tired and decided to call it a night.
I went to sleep listening to Songs From Northern Britain on my minidisc player, and reflecting on what had been a brilliant gig. Definitely worth flying in for!