Monday, January 28, 2008

Tori’s 40th Birthday Extravaganza

Steve Kilbey and Ricky Maymi played at my house. On our front lawn. With a whole lot of friends gathered for the event of Tori's 40th. It was exceptional.

I picked Steve up from the airport on the afternoon of the party, with a little apprehension having read his previous day's blog the night before. He'd been feeling harassed, angry and still had a lingering bad cold and croaky voice. The vitriol rolled right out of the page. But when I met him at the airport, he was cheery and happy to see me. Perhaps relieved that someone had actually arrived to get him. Either way, it was a welcome beginning. Here was me chatting comfortably with my all time favourite singer songwriter who I had seen on stage dozens of times, but only met briefly backstage a few fleeting times post gig trying not to gush too much with sickening adulation. So we drove and we chatted. He was friendly, interesting, interested in what I had to offer and forthcoming on all topics of conversation. I found out that Nick Cave is currently dying his moustache, which particularly amused Steve. "The Prince of Darkness dyes his moustache black". A few days before the party Steve had emailed me and said he had a really good friend from the US named Ricky Maymi who would be in Melbourne the night of the party and who really wanted to come and play with him. Did I mind. Ricky is the guitarist with the Brian Jonestown Massacre so it just seemed to be getting better and better. Did I mind? Not at all!!! Apart from the fact that I was going to be having an extra internationally famous musician coming along, I felt really happy about Ricky’s presence because I knew that Steve would more likely have a good time if a friend of his was around. We drove to Lisa's house to pick her up, along with the incredible food she'd prepared for our spectacular vegan feast. Not only were Steve and Ricky coming to play a gig, they were also coming for dinner. We then picked Ricky up from where he was staying in Carlton and headed on down to Warrandyte.
Now I've had a long time policy of not smoking too early on at a party, especially if it's my party and there's a load of stuff to be done, but the prospect of sharing a smoke with Steve Kilbey and Ricky Maymi on my front porch was just too tempting a proposition for me to resist. Rolled pure, a cocktail of Steve's natural and Mr's hydro, it did the job and after a great initial conversation, I plummetted into surreal land. And still with heaps to do. And feeling like all tasks now had an extra degree of difficulty. And with extreme summer heat beating down . And with the time before the party growing shorter. Anxiety. And gurning. Oh no!!! I'd blown it. Got too out of it and was doomed for the party. And the forecast saying thunder storms and showers were a certainty. And is that a cold I feel coming on at the back of my throat. And the gig with the PA and guitars and lights and people and food and drinks was to be outside, under tarps of dubious quality, one of which had ripped and come down the night before in the previous night’s rain. My paranoia told me a disaster was lurking. I managed to scrape enough words together on the phone to the B&B to work out when Steve needed to check in. ASAP they said, so next thing I was back in the car driving Mr.Kilbey down to Jireh Lodge, mouth like the Sahara, and no longer feeling the poise in conversation to know what I wanted to say. Steve was thriving on the smoke. In full flight. Erudite, relaxed and entertaining. Sharing jokes with the landlady about being a male stripper. I could hardly speak with my mouth sticking together when I tried to talk. The only time Steve seemed flustered was while I was looking to exit the car from the B&B carpark on to the busy Warrandyte Road, blind corners in both directions and cars zooming around at speed only metres away. Luckily for both of us the physical and potentially life threatening task helped to focus me. We picked up bags of ice from the Warrandyte pub and Steve suggested we get some energy drinks. What a glorious idea! I couldn't think of anything better than an icy cold, liquid refreshment that provided energy. Mother. An energy drink with the same flavour as a Glug. It hit the spot perfectly and prompted an entertaining conversation about Glugs, Sunny Boys and Razzes. Back at our house my head was still swimming with all of the things left to do to get the party ready. Beers and Yellowglen bubbly to get on ice. Parking signs to put up in various locations to stop a major pile up in our drive way. Ladders and other crap to clear away. Dripping with sweat. And with a seemingly increased sense of anxiety now that the caffeine and guarana from the energy drink had kicked in. And the hour getting later and pressure from everybody that it was time to sit down and eat the feast that Lisa had prepared. Beautiful food. From a beautiful and talented person. Made with love. Lisa, being a vegan, and knowing that Steve was a vegan, had offered very early in proceedings to do the catering. Around a dinner table were Tori, Nat, Bruce and Lynne, Lisa, Steve and Ricky. I'd been running around with Steve so hadn't seen Ricky for a while. He'd been off rehearsing. I soon discovered that he'd been having a similar predicament to me and could barely speak.
Having finally decided all my tasks were finished and fed with excellent food, I slunk off to have a relax and a shower. And from there, my evening began to turn around significantly for the better. I thought I'd take 15 minutes to rest and calm myself. Lying on my bed listening to Steve and Ricky rehearse just outside my window. An Interlude, Just for You, Buffalo... songs I'd lay on my bed and listened too many times over the years on vinyl, tape and CD, but now I was listening to these favourite songs being played live while lying on my bed. Tori came in getting ready and I got to share some of the moment with her. And a kiss. I was back in town!

And from there, the night entered the zone of bliss, which never really left, and a couple of days later still welcomely lingers. A throng of people gathered, perhaps a hundred or so. Some who I haven’t seen for ages. Julie McBride. Toggy. Marion. Mike and Lisa down from Sydney. Sister Nat down from Queensland. Many people were there who I’d never seen at a full scale party before. The Warrandyte crew. Terese and Kim. Kate and Tony. A whole lot of relatively new friends. Still, I can do without that start to a party where people arrive and it’s all the initial hello’s. Ricky saved me from a good deal of that when he came up to me asking if I had a copy of Almost With You on CD. We disappeared into Finn’s room with CD and my Martin guitar which he was to be using. The lead break was just eluding him and he felt he needed to nail it. So began a very enjoyable guitar moment for me. I listened to the song 7 or 8 times with Ricky, while he played the lead looking to me to see what I thought. He still wasn't happy with one section. I told him that I’d spent hours years ago doing exactly what he was doing now and suggested that I could show him how I played it. So we swapped roles and I played and he watched. The guitar went to and fro between us a few times before he felt he had it. When I walked back out to the party, I was buzzing.
Around 10pm I grabbed the mic and brought Tori to the stage. She was overcome with emotion so I stayed there with her, my arm around her shoulder. I felt very close to her and proud to be standing up with the beautiful woman I’ve shared my life with for the last 19 years. And then of course the show. Steve and Ricky playing songs in my front yard. So many highlights. I just glided around.

Dave getting up to sing Tristesse was one of the great impromptu performances I have ever seen. Note perfect with all of the feel and passion. Dave on stage, singing an all time favourite song, with Steve Kilbey playing guitar to accompany him. Beautiful. And Lisa and Stephen McKenzie singing Don’t Look Back.

I was standing next to Geoff and Dave watching the show in my garden. The three of us had been standing together back in 1982 when we all saw the Church play for the first time. Sharing a J with Julie, something I'd done many times over the years at gigs. Steve playing Caroline Says after a conversation we’d had earlier in the day where I told him how disappointed I was that Lou Reed had only done the Berlin show in Sydney and not brought it to Melbourne. He had tried to get tickets and missed out himself. Berlin was his favourite Lou Reed album he told me. And an encore of An Interlude. From hearing it in the afternoon from my bed, I just had to hear it again up on the stage. And through the whole event, Steve was pure entertainment. Funny. Very funny. Happy to drag in local references of the party to songs and banter. He was having a good time. And then the whirr and blurr of the party as everybody buzzed out in euphoria at what a special thing they had just been part of. The mood was exceptional. The balcony had become the “backstage” haven for Steve and Ricky and a number of people had joined them to smoke and chat. I left them to it. They all seemed to be having a very nice time. I flitted around on my own euphoric cloud from person to person. And Jazzy. What an amazing little 7 year old girl I have there. Still going strong at 5am. She’d been whipping all comers at table soccer around 4am. Wayne. Dave Mollet. And here she was now at 5am, sitting with me and Tori on our bed helping Tori open presents. I’d told her she could stay up as late as she liked as long as she was being a good party guest, and she was superb. After everyone else had gone, Jazzy had finally crashed and only Tori and I were awake, I took out Steve’s 12 string that he’d left with me and had a play. All of the Church songs that I could muster, to hear how they sounded with me playing them on Steve’s guitar. Magical.

The next morning seemed to start all too soon and in very hazy fashion. Less people than I expected were still around the house. Tony Smith draped asleep across the couch. Milla already up and having transformed the front yard from a party zone into some state of order and Wayne who was now playing table soccer with Finn. I had to somehow get through my hazy lack of sleep and get it together to pack up and return the PA and take Steve to the airport. I got to his B&B around midday and sat around talking with him for 20 minutes while he had some breakfast. Going through the party post-mortem. I have a really nice group of friends he told me. Which I know but was glad he thought so too. Some bloke I was talking to said “I’ve got me girlfriend up the duff” he told me with total amusement. Guy about 40, beautiful girlfriend with long black hair. It wasn’t until later that it hit me that he’d been talking to Tal. What does Tori do he asked. When I told him that she was an artist and he realized that the pictures he’d been admiring at dinner were her work, he was disappointed he hadn’t told her. He said he loved her art. We left the B&B and went down to the Yarra to share a spliff for the road. A stop for another energy drink (“You’ll be addicted to them now too he said after handing me his favourite red V”) and then a relaxed and enjoyable drive to the airport with discussions of siblings, kids, his time living in Melbourne, the fact that he always felt more of an affinity with Victoria than New South Wales, old school days, the time he carved Essendon into a school desk, a whole range of topics, each flowing easily on to the next. I’d seen Steve play on my front lawn and that was a huge highlight. But I’d also been spending time just hanging out with him over a couple of days. To me that was the biggest buzz. When I saw him off at the airport, we exchanged a warm farewell. So what did I think of his guitar he inquired. I told him I’d had a 12 string on my wish list for a long time and it was great to play his. That’s the one I played on all those Church hits you know. You should go out and buy yourself a 12 string. What’s stopping you? You can afford it. Go out exploring for a second hand Guild. He’d had a good time and was glad he came down. He seemed sincere when he said that as I had his email address, I should use it and stay in contact. I might just do that. First I think I'll go and buy myself that 12 string guitar.


eek said...

Wow that was so much fun to read! I had the biggest smile on my face reading it. What a fantastic experience. Some great pics too. :-)

"He seemed sincere when he said that as I had his email address, I should use it and stay in contact."

As long as you don't send him 20 or so nutty/harassing emails a day I think he'd like that. ;-)

This is kinda off the subject but I think Tori bought one of Steve's prints in 2006, but it got lost in the mail so I sent another. Thought she might get a kick out of knowing the lost one finally found it's way back to me about eight months later. I told it I hoped it enjoyed it's grand tour. :-)

princey said...

What a nice guy you are organising that for your deary wife! I loved reading all the "finer details" from a fan's point of view (being a huge one myself!), what a thrill of a time! It was well worth it by the sounds of it and to play sk's guitar must of been such a special moment for you. Thanks for sharing that and for the pics too (you must have a huuuge front yard!!)