Trekkin'

In which You Am I's bassist and drummer keep a diary of their adventures on the Lollapalooza '96 tour across America with bad food and dubious beer.
By Andy Kent and Russell Hopkinson

Rusty's Journal - June 27
Arrive in Kansas City three days into an epic drive from L.A. We have a rehearsal day to soundcheck and get stuff in order. This is the only chance we'll have to fine tune out thrilling stadium style and we're anxious to get everything just right. Kansas City's gig is held in a large field with loads of mud. The weather is hot and humid and I am reminded of the Livid Festival with more American accents. We practice our schtick and then proceed to be photographed for our laminates, the footy is kicked about a bit and we meet other bands. Exit stage right.
The next day is the big day. We officially the first band of Lollapalooza '96 and we are interviewed by some MTV hack about this prestigious honour. Our gig is cool and we make the most of a 1.40pm start and blistering heat. The day is spent sucking on recreational cigarettes and drinkin' cold beer. Chat lots with the Cornershop lads, they're a down-to-earth and mellow brigade and we hit it off. The Ben Folds Five are a nice bunch too, but we don't meet anyone else. It's a bit standoffish at present but I imagine barriers will be broken as the tour winds through the American heartland.

Andy's Journal - Des Moines IO, June 28
The gig feels pretty good. All the boys fairly happy/angry with it all. That's what happens when you keep men in the one place (moving or not) for days at a time. They stagger out gnarly, mad. After the after show toast, Russ admits that drumming is the most fun he could have. Except for perhaps donning a Godzilla suit and stomping on a model of Tokyo.
Run to catch the Screaming Trees. Mark Lanegan never ceases to amaze me, even though he might keel over at any moment. They've all been trying not to drink on this tour and offer us their beer. Big mistake. So Tim marches over to take up the offer, but succeeds only in unceremoniously booting Van Conner off the wagon and into a three day Jagermeister binge.
Rancid get the masses actually dancing. Side of stage, the sarcastic Clash comments go around. But who gives a damn? I'd rather see this than another reformation tour. Hold on, I'd kill to see a Clash reformation tour. What am I saying?
Also witness the real-life fighting monk guests of the main stage, "The Shaolin Monks," clocking the Mortal Kombat video machine. Quite surreal.

Andy's Journal - Pecatonica, IL. June 30
We wake to the horror realisation that there has been heavy rain overnight. Images of the Cosmic Psychos at BDO 1993, Green Day at Woodstock and Rancid three days earlier flash before our eyes. It all spells BROWN YOU AM I. Today, as usual, the gig was situated in some field in the middle of nowhere. This tour was booked with the aid of a dartboard.
Pecatonica is your average sleepy one-street town. Perhaps a thousand residents grows forty-fold ina matter of hours. We turn off the interstate and into town, The locals, who I'd imagined rocking on porches (with maybe the odd banjo) and riding mowers and peeping, horrified, through drawn blinds. Kids are everywhere. It's like an episode of Star Trek I'd seen where the kids take over the town and a landing party was beamed down.
I realise we are the party, beamed down to woo them with our alien sounds. To these mid-westerners, Australia may as well be one of the Martian moons. Gliding down Main Street following the scent of subsonic frequencies, this is one of those occasions where there's enough people to overcome a vehicle. We continue with Spock-like caution; the closer we get the more chaotic it becomes. The Nest must be vast. All around they laugh, air-guitar, kick the heads off gnomes and drink blue slushys and coke till bubble rise from their heads.
Inside the Nest, at the sanctuary of the second stage, we find travellers from other worlds: Cornershop and Ruby from the Britannia system, Ben Folds Five of the North Carolina moon, Girls Against Boys of the powerful Manhattan Empire. They are to become our allies, each using methods developed on their own worlds. We volunteer first. Our mission: to overcome using rock & roll Oz style. Rogers sails through the sky, Hoppy mooning it up, A.K. kicking it out, Hitchcock fingers in tops/fingers on keys. Beam us up Scotty. For today our work is done.

Rusty's Journal - Columbus/Buckeye Lake, OH. July 4
This really is THE STICKS, man. The sloping parkland is pretty but the second and third stages are hidden deep in the forest. Only the most observant of rock & roll fans noticed the little shindig happening away from the frightening Metalli-Hype of the main stage. Still, we do our job as best we can, comfortable in the knowledge that "America's biggest You Am I fan," Janet Conner (wife of our chum Gary Lee), is dancin' away, singing all the words. Post show we retreat to the sactity of the second stage tent, chat with our new-found friends and slurp on Miller beer. I watch Rancid kickin' up dust on the Main Stage, run into Brodie from Sourpuss; she's over here hangin' with the rude boys and having a good time.
The main arena crowd are straight from Metallica Central and aren't up with anything else. Even the mighty Soundgarden have an uphill battle with the cloth-eared proletariat in these parts. I wander around the market; occasionally a good local wreckord store will set up a tent but today it's pretty much head shops and Kirby the Chimp. Kirby's been with the tour since day one. You can get your photo taken with him fo five bucks, and he seems well cared for, but after a week of Lollapaloozas he's looking pretty frazzled. The daily visit from Tim and our tour manager Larry "Fuckin" Palm, with an array of fruit, cheers him up.
I catch a priceless snippit of conversation from two mullet-headed gentlemen next to the Bud Lite tent:

Metallidude #1: "Who's the special guest today?"
Metallidude #2: "Violent Femmes."
Metallidude #1: "Who's that?"
Metallidude #2: "I dunno."

This sums up a lot of where this year's Lollapalooza misses the mark. A lot of people are here for the headliner and pretty much unaware of anything else, hence Psychotica doodle through appalling comedy goth-metal on the main stage to thousands waiting for Metallica whilst Cornershop's mesmerising mesh of trip hop and Indian folk music goes virtually unnoticed. It's an injustice, man.

Rusty's Journal - Montreal/Quebec, Canada. July...
We arrive in Montreal from Toronto in the afternoon and have enough time to check into the hotel and gaze longingly at our beds before soundcheck. Tonight is our first club show for a while (with Hayden and Girls Against Boys). It's almost bizarre not playing in the early afternoon, but what the fuck. We soundcheck and then head out to look around for interesting shops. We find an oh-so-cool second-hand clothing store and in the corner I discover a weird 16mm film jukebox called Viewtron. I throw in a loony (a Canuck one buck coin) and wait to see what happens. Nothing does, so I go back to browsing through French-Canadian Goth cast-offs. Minutes later the Viewtron's screen crackles to life and an odd Serge Gainsbourg jingle, sung by a mid-'60s French Kylie Minogue, bursts forth, all skewed camera angles of flashing coloured portafloods and girls in Mondrian mini dresses. It's a pre-disco Europop nightmare, horrifying yet strangely compelling. I tear myself away from the powerful grip of the Viewtron and return to the gig.
Hayden's plane is late so we get to play later and longer. The show is cool. Everyone has a good time and the throng warm to our mobile beat party quickly. Post show, Adam Young (of Daisygrinders fame ) makes himself known and we spend an evening chewin' the fat.
Early the next morning we stumble into the van and head to Quebec. Drive straight to the gig and set up. We have a great show and a large mob turn up to sample our wares. Jams are kicked out and love energies exchanged with the kids. Get up to the main stage and watch the Screaming Trees' furious rock show. This band are worth their weight - all of it - in gold; one blinder of a set after another.
A quick lunch at the excellent catering tent is followed by a bout of Rancid's ramalama fa fa. These guys supply all the high energy, jump-up-and-down music I need. With horns and Hammond, Rancid take the stadium rock bull by the horns and all those Clash comparisons are irrelevant in the face of such rebel rock bloody-mindedness. If I were 16, Rancid would be the most important group in the world, embodying a lot of what's great about P*** R*** (i.e. lots of jumping up and down, lots of rabble-rousing choruses and tunes maaan). The Ramones were the most important group when I was 16 and their set of classics has a good quality feel to it. I love the way CJ has metamorphosed into Dee Dee. I love the beats and the words and tose awesome riffs. It might sound corny, it might be cabaret, but shit, it's the greatest rock & roll show ever.
Post gig we slide over to Old Quebec City for some nosh and a look around. We poke around the olde world place with loads of 17th century charm and take some snaps before retiring to the sanctuary of out hotel. It's been a long two days but thoroughly enjoyable. Lollaoalooza is nearly over and we're heading towards a bout of club shows in fave towns like NYC, Chicago ans Seattle. What a great job this is.

Andy's Journal - Pownal, VT. July 9
Cruise into Pownal, VT. We're so close to NYC we can smell its stench. Then the van breaks down on the dege of town. Quite typical for us, actually - the record over the years stands at one broken bus, five broken cars/vans (two within an inch of their lives). Memories of the "great Wablo leg" of 1994 came flooding back. On this occasion we are saved by the State Troopers we fear so much. These gentlemen (thy're gentlemen now) raise locals from slumber and into action.
With this behind us and the gig gigged, we high tail it for the Big Apple. The van drama and countless bad nights' sleep have turned Larry into quite an unsavoury character. Our "are we there yet, are we there yet"s are not going down too well with old Larry.
You see, NYC is pure evil in Larry's book. He's been burnt one too many times here. Unbeknownst to us he was about to blow, and blow he did. For three whole days and three whole nights. Over these days we learnt to use a car horn as a weapon to raise New Yorkers' eyebrows (this is hard). Even the bellboys, ever hungry for that tip, gave us a wide berth.

Andy's Journal - Randall's Island, NYC. July 10
Witness Shaolin monks warming up on 8th Ave in midst of Manhattan madness. Very Koyaanisqatsi. Also witness presidential convoy. Guns guns guns. My friend Guy tells me Pakistan played the Windies at the cricket in this very stadium not one year ago. After the gig we race downtown to play a show with Perry "The pied piper" Farrell and Porno for Pyros with Mike Watt on bass. They gave us one square foot of stage each. Maybe Oasis can deal with this amount of mobility but not us. We ruin the set in the best way possible: trash their shit, kill as many as possible and burn the Pyros alive.

Rusty's Journal - Charles Town, WV. July 16
The last Lollapalooza gig. It was fun, really. Of course it was an uphill battle at times; we don't really receive much attention from the media here and in the States the media is everything. We just go out and play. I love the fact that it's a dud gig that will piss us all off. It doesn't matter if it's in front of three or 3000, a shit gig is the worst thing ever, because while you're here that's your entire life. Everything else is secondary. Who gives a fuck about "Olympic Bomb Tragedy" when your foldback sounds crappy? We played our best show on this tour in front of three Silverchair fans in Baltimore. It wuz a blast.
Anyway it's the last hurrah for the second stage groups. We're off for a month on the road with Irish lovely lads Therapy?, Cornershop, Ruby and GvsB are off home for some downtime, and tose charming Ben Folds Five chappies are destined for some Neil Young supports. Our show is groovy, we realise it's the last time we have to do a 1.40pm rock show for a while and we respond accordingly. My lovely Champagne Sparkle Super Classic Ludwig drum kit goes over in a display of unbridled rock enthusiasm and we leave the stage happy in the knowledge that we stuck it up 'em. Frivolities continue throughout the day. I avoid the food fight but meet John Stabb from punk legends Government Issue. It's nice to know that lots of cool people are playing in bands these days - the second and third stages were so free of egos and rock stardom it was frightening.

Andy's Journal - Atlanta, GA. July 22.
Today si the Olympic gig. We were asked to do this onlt last week so we blew out Detroit and flew to Atlanta. It sounded like a logistical nightmare at such short notice, Olympics and all, but the whole thing runs smoothly. Way too smoothly. At the end of the night we're dropped off at our hotel. We look up and there, literally hanging over the hotel car park, is the Olympic Stadium. There we stand with 12 unchecked, bazooka-sized roadcases at our feet, but maybe the idea of Aussie terrorists is too ridiculous. Soundgarden tonight are fantastic. These guys can be very powerful when they put their minds to it.
You Am I: silver. Soundgarden: gold.

Rusty's Journal - Atlanta, GA/Chicago, IL. July 23
Morning in Atlanta, under the shade of the Olympic Stadium. We meet Kostya Tszu, small talk ensues. He has no idea who we are and I haven't seen enough boxing to be too knowledge about his feats in the ring. Nice chap though. On arrival at O'Hare Airport, Chicago, we discover three things.
1. Larry Palm has dyed his hair blue in response to his solo 1000 mile drive from Boston to Chicago.
2. Larry has done some Net surfing and discovered the latest footy scores. The Swans are having the beast season ever (certainly South Melbourne didn't have too many like this) and we're in a country that thinks you need a helmet to play football.
3. Larry is the greatest tour manager on God's green earth.
We check into the Rock & Roll Days Inn on Diversy and Clark and then head down to the Double Door for soundcheck and a reunion with our good mates the Smoking Popes. Post 'check we hang out. I play pool against Wiseold (a rarity for me), drink Stoli and dance to "Hybrid Moments" by the Misfits. Everyone is happy to be here and our gig reflects this. Tim is in fine form for a guy with a hernia, and his sparkling wit and use of carefully placed swear words endears him to the Chicago crowd. We call this kind of gig an "away win" - radio doesn't play us and we're not cool enough for the college rock crowd but we don't give a fuck. Everything is distilled into that hour when you're on stage blasting out th' toons. If we can make an impression then our job is done.
The Smoking Popes do a killer show; they've been stuck in the studio and this is their first chance to do the live rock thang in a couple of months. All in all, tonight is a landmark occasion. It's just another Tuesday night for most, but fo us it's like that Real Kids' song, "Every day is Saturday."