Monday 11th July – Lizottes, Dee Why I recorded this new album of mine at Oceanic Studios in Brookvale, just down the road from here. Tim Kevin (producer) and I drove past this unlikely looking venue many times on our often futile searches for late-night dinner options on the Pacific Highway, and so I am keen to see what Lizottes is like on the inside. Its like a Greek wedding reception venue is the answer. Except they’ve decorated it in Boho chic: drums for coffee tables and accordions for lampshades. I find this use of instruments simultaneously reassuring and unsettling.

But man, they know how to treat a solo artist here. The backstage area is basically set up like a private dining room – formally-laid table and all. SLK are nice enough to share this with me and we have what amounts to a pre-show dinner party, three courses and all. We share school stories, camping anecdotes, 90s pop music trivia and after-dinner mints before its time for me to hit the stage.

The thing about Lizottes is its owned by Brian Lizotte (Johnny Diesel’s brother) and the things about Brian Lizotte is he likes to introduce the bands. It feels like old-fashioned show-biz. My introduction is: ‘We are lucky to have him in Dee Why! Toby Martin!!’. SLK’s is: ‘three gorgeous…AND talented women!’

I have pretty much the best audience ever. They are utterly silent when I’m playing. You could hear a pin drop. Actually someone does drop a fork and it’s deafening.

Thurs 14th July – Lizottes, Newcastle Same instrument-as-furniture vibe, but this time in a 100-year old theatre in a lovely, sleepy part of Newcastle. I am feeling a bit phlegmatic on stage tonight for some reason (maybe it’s the effect of another 3-course dinner) and I am also genuinely worried that I am going to spit into someone’s seared ocean trout (the dining audience are really up close here). And then I want to say something about it, but I am worried that might seem too gross. So I don’t say anything and instead just start to silently question the whole idea of playing a show while people eat their dinner. This is a common problem for me playing live – my mind can wander instead of getting lost in the music. There, I’ve done it. Broken the mystique!

There’s really nowhere to watch the show without having a table here, and so I squeeze in behind Christian (SLK’s guitar tech) side of stage. This is actually quite great because it provides me with the perfect view of Jim White’s extraordinary drumming. There’s one song in particular – Sally’s ‘Every Time’ – where instead of playing the drums themselves, he plays a drum case covered with a tea towel. It’s a great song, and has a kind of a punky riff and there may have been a temptation to exploit that punkiness. But like so many of SLK’s songs the obvious temptation is resisted and interest and subtlety chosen instead. The drumless drumming fits this perfectly.

I have to drive back to Sydney tonight, and so I exit the stage door towards the end of SLK’s set. I close the door and step out into the clear Newcastle night with my guitar in hand. I can still hear the singing as I walk to the car: ‘Rest your head on my shoulder, and I’ll take care of your worries’.

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