Going about proceedings in the opposite direction to most Australian bands, they have established themselves overseas whilst remaining a relatively unknown entity in their homeland. This weekend they were to be making the jaunt to Melbourne, supporting The Screaming Jets on the Friday and Saturday, before backing that up with the opening slot for The Dead Daisies on the Sunday.
When I was approached by the band’s tour photographer Benon Koebsch to jump in the van for the long mission down the Hume to document the weekend it seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t resist. Several lies later I had shrugged off prior commitments and found myself in the van heading south. We departed Sydney at the undesirable hour of 5.30am, our goal being to pick up the band from Tullamarine at 3pm. We did this and headed for the uncharted suburban waters of Hallam, the scene of the first show.
Loading in and soundchecking in one swift motion, it was time to recline and relax ahead of Tracer‘s set.
Having learnt much about the band via Benon and having caught a show earlier in the year at Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice, it was the first opportunity I had to sit down and tap into their personalities.
Mike (guitar and vocals), Dre (drums) and Jett (bass and vocals) are an affable trio, intensely dedicated to their musical mission yet light hearted and relaxing to be around. I hear several amusing anecdotes about life on the road (most notable is a tale of a naive sound engineer and a fictitious European AIDS card) before its time to step into the dressing room and morph into preparatory mode. As the crowd swells downstairs I sit back and watch Mike stalk the room wielding a stick and warming up the vocal chords incorporating a slight variation of Soundgarden‘s Mailman: (“I know I’m headed for your butthole..”)
Down the hall, bass already draped over his shoulders, Jett goes through his own set of warm ups. Dre prepares by molesting a chair with his drumsticks prior to declaring “lets put on a rock show”. Down the stairs they go, through the closed kitchen and up onto the stage.
What is immediately evident with a Tracer show is that they are confident, well oiled and great at working the crowd.
Mike initiates mass singalongs to ’There’s A Man‘ and ‘Devil Ride‘. Dre is a perpetual flurry of limbs and hair whilst Jett relentlessly humps his bass with a concerning degree of passion. Fusing frequently aired numbers such as ‘Wrecking Ball‘ and ‘Too Much‘ with the unreleased ‘Water For Thirsty Dogs‘ and ‘Us Against The World‘, a potentially difficult crowd is won over, especially with their trademark inclusion of ‘War Pigs‘ into set closer ‘Walk Alone‘.
After the show it is the inevitable and humbling toil of the loadout, before we jettison out to our lodgings at Chelsea where we are to be staying with Jarrad of The Deep End fame, who had very kindly offered to put us up for the duration of the trip. Fatigued after a non existent sleep the evening before and a lengthy road trip I capitulate on my half of the air mattress while the others maul a bottle of Jacks. Mike and Dre sleep in swags under the clothesline outside. Rock n roll.
Sharing a rather small sleeping space with Benon I arise to the undesirable odour of coalescing flatulence before scampering out the door. I find a lovely beach and a cafe mysteriously void of BBQ sauce. Benon and I head into town to meet up with a friend for Yarra-side beers whilst the band goes off to a music store to play with expensive toys. We make plans to link up at the night’s venue at the suburban extremity of South Morang, a location even most Melbournites don’t seem to know much about.
That evening Tracer charge onto the stage with the usual aplomb, however tonight’s audience is a little stand offish.
An overzealous security guard doesn’t help, accosting one punter for the crime of enjoying himself. Regardless, the guys push on as hard as ever and in the end manage to win over a bunch of the locals.
After the set the trio kick back upstairs, absorbed with their electronic gadgets and very much in their respective zones of solitude. The post performance buzz is still evident, although perhaps sullied a tad from the slightly disappointing crowd response. Then its time for another 45 minute commute back to Chelsea where beds and swags are filled immediately.
Sunday morning and still no BBQ sauce.
Following yesterday’s pattern, Benon and I disappear for the day to partake in some social adventures before uniting with the band at Richmond that evening. This show takes place at the seminal Corner Hotel.
Featuring two stages, Tracer crank it up on the smaller stage and seem to thrive on the intimacy.
Being in each other’s pockets seems to fire them up and as a result the most rollicking set of the weekend is delivered. A genuinely appreciative audience certainly helped the cause too.
The slight despondency from the night before dissipates promptly with this performance as several punters hit the merch stand to grab some elusive Tracer vinyl.
There is a notably buoyant mood post gig, but with an early rise necessary the next day, there is no after party. Incredulously, Dre has to front up bright and early for his day job in Adelaide the next day, meaning the earliest of flights. For Benon and I it was another 900km trek up the Hume.
The weekend was hard work and uncomfortable at times but it was well worth it to see a burgeoning Australian act ply their trade in their relentless pursuit to live out their musical dream.