I grew up in the small rural town of Traralgon, a community surrounded by farms and power stations, situated in the Latrobe Valley in the Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia. It’s a town where not a whole lot happens and it can also be difficult to find a job there, especially now that a lot of the industry in the area is dying. When I was younger, I never really wanted to stay in Traralgon, I just knew there was a lot more out there and I wanted to experience it. Some people love the simple life, but it isn’t for everyone so when the positions as cleaners or in pyramid selling in the town started to disappear, I had my chance to do the same. After a little bit of looking, I found a job in Melbourne and moved in with my old Traralgon mate, Owen, when I was 19. I stayed in Melbourne until I was almost 28, most of it spent in a cockroach-infested, six-bedroom share-house in North Melbourne, before I moved to Daejeon, Korea in 2007 to gain teaching experience for my eventual relocation to Singapore for Anna’s work at the beginning of the following year.
As with living in Traralgon, not a lot happens in Singapore, despite being a significant international hub, with few major international events, particularly concerts. Very few groups worth seeing ever come to Singapore; in fact, I have only been to two shows in the 10 years I’ve lived here – Bob Dylan, who sounded just like Tom Waits doing Dylan covers, when he played at the Singapore Grand Prix in what I think was 2010, and Stone Temple Pilots when former lead singer Scott Weiland was still alive and in the group back in September of 2011. I definitely miss going to shows here, something I took for granted when I lived in Melbourne and then took even greater advantage of while we lived in New York a few years ago.
A couple of months back I saw that the Dean Ween Group would be supporting Primus on their Australian tour, the Melbourne leg of which would be at the Palais Theatre in St. Kilda on April 15. I thought to myself that this would be a fun show, Ween is my favourite band and I don’t mind Primus either, having seen them several times over the years, so if I were still living in Melbourne, I’d definitely be going, but unfortunately I’d have to give this one a miss. “Hey, maybe they’ll be playing Europe when I’m over later in the year,” I thought, but it turned out I wouldn’t need to wait that long — I received a message off my old friend and fellow former Traralgonite, Pat Corrigan (left), asking me if I was going to be in Australia around April 15, a slightly odd question considering the fact that he knows I only ever go back about once every two years and that’s usually at Christmas, but I also knew what else was on so I asked if this had anything to do with the Dean Ween Group shows. Pat replied that he had bought tickets for himself, as well as for Anna and I if we were able to make it, otherwise he’d just sell them. I asked Anna and she knew how much I’d love to go to this show, plus she was also keen to go back and visit some friends so we booked some flights and made it a date.
Pat received his name because he was born on St. Patrick’s Day so he came and stayed with us in Singapore to party for his birthday in March and now a month later it was our turn to return the favour.
Saturday, April 14, 2018
We arrived in Melbourne at around 10:00am and once we were out of the airport we jumped in a taxi and made our way to our hotel, City Limits Apartments on Lt. Bourke St. in the city. The weather was horrendous for the bulk of the day, typical of Melbourne, this time just wet and windy, the rain almost coming in horizontally several times. Still, that wasn’t going to spoil our plans.
After we checked into the hotel, had a shower, and donned something a little more appropriate for the climate, we walked down and had a look at the Queen Victoria Market and then went and had brunch at a favourite old haunt of ours when we both used to live in North Melbourne and a place we always eat in at least once every time we come back, Hot Poppy on Errol St.
After a damn fine brunch we did a bit more shopping, most of which was just stuff for the dog, then we met up with Pat and another old Traralgon friend of ours, Marc Dean, for what turned into a kind of pub crawl of sorts. We started out in the afternoon at the Imperial Hotel, just around the corner from where we were staying, made our way through a bunch of different places, just the small, dingy types of bars and pubs that I like going to, and eventually ended up at Cookie on Swanston Street until it was time for them to close. Anna had already gone home by that stage, but I don’t get back to see my friends a whole lot so we made the most of it.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
The day was finally here, but there would still be a few hours to wait. Anna went and caught up with some old college friends, Stan and I-Lynn Tay, as well as Dan Joyce, for lunch so I spent a large portion of the day just wandering around the city.
Before long, Anna was done and it was time to make our way down to St. Kilda for the show. The doors at the Palais were to open at 7:00pm, the Dean Ween Group would come on at 8:00pm and do a 45-minute set, then Primus would play at approximately 9:15pm, meaning we had time to grab some dinner before the show. We opted for Claypots, a really good seafood restaurant on Barkly St. in St. Kilda that also gets some great live bands in. While there, I bumped into some old friends that Owen and myself used to hang out with a lot back in the day, Morag Milton and Gerry Donne, who just so happened to be going to the concert as well.
When dinner was done, we met pat at the Vine Yard and started walking down to the Palais. I was excited for this show because I had seen Ween live before when they reformed and it was easily the best concert I had ever been to. I had also managed to kind of see Gene Ween perform a solo show, but I hadn’t had a chance to see the Dean Ween Group play, so that had been on my to-do list for a while now. Primus always put on a brilliant show too, so this was going to be a great night, but I thought it was a bit weird that they were playing at the Palais. When I used to live in Melbourne, most of the concerts I went to were at the Palace, which was a massive live music venue and nightclub next to the Palais. It was an excellent band venue with a huge open floor space, but unfortunately the Palace was pretty much destroyed in a fire back in 2007. The Palais, on the other hand, is an odd location for a rock concert because it is an old theatre with built-in seating, not really conducive to getting the crowd into the show. Time would tell how it would all go.
We arrived at the venue and I jumped in the extremely long line for merchandise, picking up a Dean Ween t-shirt, a signed gig poster, and signed records by both bands. I checked all of this into the cloakroom, then we went to find our seats. The two albums by the Dean Ween Group aren’t bad, but they’re not among my favourites either, however, live they were awesome, with Claude Coleman and Dave Dreiwitz, Ween’s drummer and bass player respectively, as members of the band. They played both Dean Ween Group stuff, as well as a few Ween tracks. Les Claypool from Primus and Dean Ween have been buddies for a long time, even filming a pilot years ago for a TV fishing show together, so it was a bit of a treat when he joined the Dean Ween Group on stage for the Ween tracks “The Mollusk” and “The Rift.” I obviously found it a little bit more exciting than Anna did, because she nodded off in her seat for a bit at one stage.
A few sights from the Dean Ween Group’s set:
- This Heart of Palm
- My Own Bare Hands (Ween cover)
- Waste Station 9
- The Ritz Carlton
- Mercedes Benz
- The Mollusk (Ween cover) *feat. Les Claypool
- The Rift (Ween cover) *feat. Les Claypool
I didn’t record any video from the Dean Ween Group’s set, instead opting to record the audio instead. You might hear a bit of us talking during parts, but they were a lot of fun:
Next up was Primus, who opened with “Those Damn Blue-Collar Tweekers.” After they had completed their first song, Claypool mentioned that he didn’t realise it was going to be a seated show and that he had written a heavier setlist, expecting everyone to be standing. This got everyone up and they put on a fantastic show, playing a bit of everything from over the years, despite having just recently released a new album, “The Desaturating Seven.”
I got a few photos, but they came out a bit dark due to the stage being back-lit, however, you may be able to make out what’s going on:
Primus’ set concluded and we waited for the encore which consisted solely of the track “Southbound Pachyderm,” but things got a little interesting when Dean Ween came out half-way through the song to do the guitar solo, something I had to get on video. Again, it may be a little hard to make out, but it’s worth a look if you’re a fan:
Setlist + Album
- Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers (Sailing the Seas of Cheese)
- Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver (Tales from the Punchbowl)
- The Seven (The Desaturating Seven)
- Moron TV (Green Naugahyde)
- Too Many Puppies (Frizzle Fry)
- Sgt. Baker + Too Many Puppies reprise (Sailing the Seas of Cheese)
- Jilly’s on Smack (Green Naugahyde)
- Mr. Krinkle (Pork Soda)
- The Trek (The Desaturating Seven)
- John the Fisherman (Frizzle Fry)
- The Storm (The Desaturating Seven)
- Welcome to this World (Pork Soda)
- Mrs. Blaileen (Tales from the Punchbowl)
- Jerry was a Race Car Driver (Sailing the Seas of Cheese)
- My Name is Mud + Jerry Was a Race Car Driver reprise (Pork Soda)
- Southbound Pachyderm (Tales from the Punchbowl) *feat. Dean Ween
It was a great concert and I later found out that the Dean Ween Group met and took pictures with people in the lobby between sets, but alas, I missed out. Oh well, I still had a blast.
The show was over, as was the main reason for why we had come back to Australia, but our trip wasn’t done yet. Anna was flying out on Thursday afternoon and I was still around until Sunday, but how did we spend the remainder of our holiday? Quietly, so let’s go through the remaining days quickly in point form:
- On Monday night Anna met up with I-Lynn again and their friend, Shyammi Gunatheesan, for dinner so I grabbed a bite to eat and a couple of drinks with Pat and some of his friends, with Anna meeting up with us later on in the night.
- Tuesday through Thursday were to be spent just relaxing in Traralgon and hanging out with family so we checked out of the hotel, jumped on a V-Line train and went to the Valley, with my Dad saying they would drive us back to Melbourne on the Thursday and take Anna to the airport. We had dinner with my family on the Tuesday night and just sat around at home, chatting. When we went to bed, Anna and myself had both forgotten how quiet it was in the country; it was so silent we both broke into fits of laughter each time my stomach gurgled or Anna swallowed because it seemed insanely loud. We definitely had a tough time sleeping both nights.
- Wednesday was spent just walking around the shops in Traralgon. When we came back to my parents’ place it dawned on Anna that we had left our passports in the safe back at the hotel in Melbourne. Oops, going to have to make a bit of a detour on the way to the airport.
- My parents drove Anna and myself to the airport on Thursday, making two stops along the way; one to visit my grandmother and another at the hotel to get our passports. Anna made her flight without a hitch, then I got dropped off at the Ascot Vale Hotel, where Owen is the manager. I would be staying with him and his girlfriend, Rochelle, until I was to fly out on Sunday afternoon. Friday night was spent just sitting in the bar, drinking and chatting with Owen and the locals.
- On Friday I just had a look around the city and went to the Ascot Vale Hotel again that night. I also found out that there was going to be a 60th birthday lunch the following day for my auntie, Gaye, about an hour-and-a-half away by train in Berwick.
I caught a couple of trains and made it to Berwick for Gaye’s birthday lunch on Saturday, also getting to see some family members that I hadn’t seen in possibly over a decade. After lunch, I hung out at Gaye’s place with her and her friend, Gail, just sitting around, catching up. Before it was time to go, Gaye took me for a drive in her sweet new ride (right), lighting it up on the open road and then dropping me off again at the train station. On the way back, I went a little further and stopped off in Coburg to meet an old friend and former fellow Traralgonian, Mary-Anne Nieuwenhuizen, at her place for a quick catch up with her and her son, Iggy, before making my way back to Ascot Vale for my final night at Owen and Rochelle’s place.
- I hung out with Owen and Rochelle in the morning on Sunday before Owen had to work and I had to fly out. I made the flight without a problem and it was all going smoothly, but I started to feel a little sleepy so I thought I’d take a nap. The next thing I knew, I was laying on the floor in the emergency row with a bunch of flight attendants leaning over me and a man telling me I had had a pretty bad seizure, but the strange thing was that I felt completely fine, no headache, no missing time, and no problem remembering any details when they quizzed me about the day, date, where I lived, and a few other details. Still, I was promptly upgraded to Business Class so I could lie down on a bed near the doctor who had initially helped out the staff, was given an oxygen tank and had my pulse and blood pressure taken every 20 minutes or so. Singapore Airlines is the best! When I got off the flight, I was given a few frightened looks by some of the other passengers, but probably the most terrified came from the person who had been in the next seat. As I was coming out of the bathroom at Changi Airport, the Indian man and woman who had been in my row on the plane looked genuinely concerned for my wellbeing and asked if I was okay, if I needed any help or a ride to the hospital, that kind of thing, while their son, who was no older than about eight or nine years old and had been seated beside me, just stared at me blankly, mouth agape. I definitely scared the shit out of that kid, but there was nothing to worry about, all was fine, but I really appreciated the gesture from his parents.
Besides the seizure on the way home, it was a great week back in Australia. The Dean Ween Group and Primus were brilliant so I want to say a big thank you to Pat for the tickets. Also, thanks Mum and Dad for driving us back up to Melbourne, another big thank you to Owen and Rochelle for their hospitality and letting me crash for a couple of nights, I love your new apartment, by the way. A shout out to all the Singapore Airlines crew and other passengers who helped me out on the way back and lastly, thanks I-Lynn for Kermit’s Mötley Crüe t-shirt: