They formed way back in 1989 and proceeded to become one of Australia’s all time favourite bands, selling out shows, selling millions of records and winning awards by the bucket load. Hell, they even guest edited Australian Musician. On Saturday November 13th, it all came to an end. In this exclusive diary, Powderfinger’s drummer Jon Coghill relives the band’s final week. Pics by Marty Williams
Saturday November 6
We played the Acer Arena at Homebush in Sydney tonight. It’s exactly a week until our band calls it a day. Surprisingly, I have no sentimental or sad feelings – I’m more excited than anything, excited at the prospects of life out of the surrogate family unit we’ve become over the last 20 years. Okay, I may be feeling a little sentimental. I’ve been trying to take in the audience more than usual. This isn’t the easiest thing when you’re sweating and slobbering behind a drum kit.
The venue was filled with 14,000 beautiful, caring Sydney fans of the ‘Finger’. I’ve never seen so many people standing, grooving and singing in unison. Hence, they inspired us … no … we inspired each other to an unforgettable gig. And I’m not just saying that. After three months on the road we’ve got our shit together and the gig seemed to have this organic momentum. You know, that thing you strive for when rehearsing, when everything comes together just right without having to try too hard. Sometimes we have those flawless gigs and there’s no explaining why it happens … we were just lucky I suppose.
So that was the gig, but since this is a diary, I’ll try to elaborate as clearly as possible on the day-to-day schedule of a PF tour. It goes something like this:
3pm. We (the band) meet in the lobby and shuttle from the hotel in the city to Acer Arena at Homebush. These journeys usually consist of a band meeting (today it’s about the quality of the first cut of our ‘Sunsets Tour’ DVD), a discussion about that night’s set list, and much pisstaking about the previous 24 hours. The pisstaking usually involves Darius coming up with a Chinese proverb to explain why JC was partying so hard and Hoggy regales us with his tales of saving someone’s life the night before.
3:30 – 4:30pm. Soundcheck. We practise songs that’ll be new to this set. Today this includes ‘Day You Come’, which features the Jet boys singing backup vocals. The soundcheck version includes an inspired outro rap by Chris Cester who does a razor-sharp rendition of an old Vanilla Ice song. We tell him it’s a must at the gig, but that night, as the outro starts, he replaces it with a Liam Gallagher impersonation, in which he raises both index fingers in salute and scowls to ignite the crowd.
4:30pm. Laze around backstage, read the paper and have a bet on how big our Brissy band room is.
5:30pm. I have dinner at catering (steak and steamed vegies) and pisstake with the crew and my brother who’s come down from the Blue Mountains.
7pm. Bertie Blackman plays a great set. She sports drawn-on black cat’s whiskers and plays rock music that grooves to strange African tribal feel.
8pm. Jet play a blistering set. They’ve been on fire the whole tour but they’re kicking it home for the end few shows. They’re a bit of an inspiration really. For me, Chris could be Australia’s best drummer (maybe equal with Kram). Chris has the rare ability to express his thoughts in a drumming language. What I mean is – he doesn’t rely on the maths and hours of exercises and technique learned from exercise books – he channels a lifetime of music listening to fit perfectly with the song. He just happens to use his unique language to do it.
8:15pm. Meet and greet with guests from Jetstar, Qantas and some contest winners. I have an interesting chat with the CEO of Qantas the day after one of their A380s nearly fell from the sky.
9 – 11pm. We play.
11 – 12am. Universal present us with plaques that denote double platinum sales of Golden Rule. Big boss George Ash (a very funny and lovable man) jokes that our plan to break up did more for the sales of Golden Rule than any TV campaign ever could.
Sunday November 7
ARIAs. If anyone watched the ARIAs, they probably concluded it was a shambles – it was, but it was fun. I loved the randomness of the night. I loved that you felt you were at a party that you could only escape from through the bottom of a bottle. I meet some genuine people (not always the way at things like this) – Birds of Tokyo, Myf Warhurst, The John Butler Trio entourage, INXS, Short Stack and good ol’ mate Chit Chat. I said hi to Geoff Heugill (swimmer) because I thought he was an old friend, but then realised I only knew him from the telly. I was offered a Viagra from a very funny person, which may explain Carmen Electra’s face as I stood behind her when we won the award for Most Popular Band. Actually, I didn’t take any Viagra, but it would have been interesting if I did. I didn’t really need to when I met Bob Katter’s daughter, who was a beautiful and intelligent girl (and from country Queensland like myself). I mean, how often do you meet Bob Katter’s daughter? And … she ends up being completely sane! But seriously, I didn’t embarrass myself with any protrusions, and she had a boyfriend, so don’t read anything more into my bullshitting.
The day went something like this …
2:30 – 3:30pm. Soundcheck at the Opera House. We run through ‘Burn Your Name’ five times and practise various rock’n’roll shapes for the camera.
4pm. Shower and spruce-up, have make–up applied for the cameras. Drink beer so I can face the cameras.
4:45 – 5:15pm. Walk the Red Carpet. Get interviewed and filmed by media of the world. Try to make as many jokes as possible while being interviewed.
Here are some standard answers you’d have needed for a Powderfinger red carpet journey this year:
No, we’re not that sad that this is our last ARIAs together.
Yes, we’re definitely breaking up.
No, we’re actually getting back together next year.
No, we’re actually getting back together next year to do a tour with John Farnham.
I’m not sure who’ll win Best Album. Who’s nominated?
No, I’m single.
Actually, I’m coming out of the closet next week that’s why I don’t have a partner here.
You’re free to use any of these answers when you head down a red carpet next.
Monday November 8
10am. Wake up, eat Aspirin. Pack, then search for a good toasted sandwich. I run into the drummer from Birds of Tokyo and proceed to tell him they’re the next big thing. He feels the pressure and starts to sweat. Just quietly he’s a great drummer who channels the backbeat of Phil Rudd.
12:30 pm. Check out of a deluxe hotel at Circular Quay and stare nostalgically at the Harbour bridge as it’s dwarfed by a huge ocean cruiser. Get a little sentimental and realise I’ve been taking deluxe hotels for granted (I’ll never take hotels with bidets for granted though).
3 – 4:30pm. JC and I view the ‘Sunsets’ DVD with director/big wave surfer/all round nice guy Gregor Jordan and throw in our two cents. JC has some terrific ideas. We realise that the cut has a distinct lack of Hoggy footage – we fix it.
5:30pm. Fly to Brissy. Asleep before I hit the my bed.
Tuesday November 9
A day off tour and luckily my computer blows up and I miss the back and forth emails about the ‘Sunsets’ DVD edit. Subsequently I’m cut out of most of it and replaced with footage of Hoggy. This, I’m told, is a good thing because my hairstyle has been letting the band down. We’ve had a few meetings about it already but I’ve refused to change it. The moral of the story – it’s called a band for a reason, not a floggin’ solo project (where you can do your hair any way you like).*The majority of this paragraph is untrue
9:30am. I channel Kelly Slater’s competitive nature and dominate the inside break at National Park Noosa. This isn’t hard to achieve with three others in the water.
Wednesday November 10
Today we played the Riverstage in our beloved Brisbane. This is a hometown gig with a hometown crowd. And just to set the record straight up before I’m finished – we (the band) didn’t stay in Brissy because we wanted to stay true to our roots. We stayed because the girls are hotter than anywhere else in Australia.They also have the finest bottoms on the planet (Yet to be scientifically proven).
I’m going to be a complete wanker now and declare that this gig was the best we’ve ever played. A few people (a friend of a friend associated with the band I hear you ask– thanks NW) thought the Acer gig was the best but I disagree. There was a certain intensity and spontaneity to the Riverstage gig that I’d never felt before. Somehow you could tell the crowd was feeling close and as a band, we connected on a new level. It felt as if we could control the songs in anyway we saw fit. The rock songs were tight and gritty and the ballads were fat, groovy and manipulative.
Anyway, here’s the set list:
Love your way
Lost and running
Burn your name
My Kinda Scene
Sail the Wildest Stretch
(Break for movie and move to B stage)
Like a Dog
(Back to main stage)
Pick You Up
Bless My Soul My Happiness (Finish/encore)
On My Mind
The day ran a bit like this… 2:30 – 3:30pm. Soundcheck
6pm. John Steel Singers
8 – 10pm. PF set. I may have outdone myself as a drummer tonight, as I received a compliment from Kram about my drum solo.
12:30pm. Jet host a party at the lime bar in the Valley. Fine spirits and fine company. Some fine outfits and a fine chat with good ol’ Pete Murray.
Thursday November 11
Today was a day off from being a musician, but not a day off from being a C-grade celebrity. In fact we became C-grade celebrities for a good cause. We attended the annual gala dinner for Yalari, an organisation that raises funds to give indigenous kids an opportunity to attend reputable private schools. These kids come from all over Australia and study as boarders throughout the five years of high school. If you want to check it out go to yalari.org.
The dinner had 750 notable guests who were privy to some great speeches – from inspiring Yalari kids and the Yalari founder, the witty and unstoppable Waverley Stanley – and some great performances by Didge player Will Barton (and one of the Yalari kids who sings on the Qantas ads we all know). An auction helped raised much-need funds for the 154 kids Yalari are sponsoring next year. It also celebrated their first group of graduates.
Friday November 12
Our second last gig and at the Riverstage in Brissy again. Tonight we play with the great You Am I and Jet.
2:30 – 3:30pm. Soundcheck. We chop from the set the songs ‘DAF’, ‘My Kinda Scene’ and ‘Stumblin’’ and replace them with ‘Who Really Cares’, ‘Up and Down and Back Again’, and ‘Rockin’ Rocks’. Looking out at the Riverstage amphitheatre there are signs of the times for PF – there are eight Powderfinger kids either running or being prammed through the lush grass. They’re not really listening to their talented dads, they’re too busy chasing each other and getting rashes from rolling down the grassy embankment. Darius’s boy, Arden, who’s about five, has brought his guitar to be signed, although he reckons he wants to be a drummer. That’s what he tells me anyway (maybe with some of his dad’s charm). Good luck I say. Buy a pair of ear plugs, Tam and Darius.
4pm. Brisbane Lord Mayor ‘Can-do’ Campbell Newman presents us with a plaque commemorating our services to the city of Brisbane. He wanted to give us the keys to the city but we have them already, from a few years back. We ask him if having the keys means we get free parking in the city. ‘Can-do’ says he’ll look into it. As for the plaque, he says it’ll be fitted into the new Riverstage that’s in the works (it’ll be bigger and accommodate a wider variety of acts). We lobby for it to be called the Powderfinger Riverstage. ‘Can-do’ says he’ll think about it. ‘One more thing’, asks our manager, Paul Piticco, ‘Can we turn the noise meter off for the last show?’ ‘I’m sorry,’ he responds , ‘I’ll have to be ‘Can’t-do’ Campbell for that request.’
7 – 7:20pm. Another meet and greet with Jetsar competition winners and staff. They’ve been lovely people, but I manage to hide when our tour manager Denis Sheahan comes looking, so I miss it.
8 – 10pm. We play a pretty good gig and the crowd has that same vibe as Wednesday night. I think they feel the end approaching. I still haven’t felt sad. I’m still excited at the prospect of finishing up. I think I’ll miss bashing out ‘On My Mind’ every night, but at the moment need a little break from it.
Saturday November 13
Last Powderfinger gig ever. It’s been a long tour (and a long innings) and it’s culminated in a huge amount of support from family friends, work colleges, our amazing crew and, of course, the beautiful people who come to see us play. It’s an overwhelming feeling to have the well wishes of so many people pushing you forward. Before I finish, I have to say thank you to everyone who has helped – it’s been a wild ride that each of us will always cherish. I’ve grown up around the band and learnt the highs and lows of life and I wouldn’t change a thing. So thank you once again.
2:30 – 3:30pm. Last soundcheck. We replace ‘Up and Down and Back Again’ with ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘My Kinda Scene’, ‘Rockin’ Rocks’ with ‘Stumblin’’.
6pm. You Am I are awesome as per usual. Rusty is the Buddy Rich of rock’n’roll.
7pm. Jet play their best show of the tour. They have a great song called ‘All You Have To Do’ and it’s the highlight for me. It has beautiful Beatlesque melodies in the chorus with a sleazy Roxy Music-meets-John Bonham verse. They’re about to have a year off so they put in an extra special effort.
8 – 10:20pm. Play last gig. The crowd gets us through the gig. They’re going wild and singing their bums off (I don’t envy the Riverstage clean up crew). I was especially inspired by one girl in the front row. She sang every word with a huge smile on her face. She’d done it at another gig in Victoria and I must say thank you to her. Also my seven year old nephew, Sasha, who sat at the front of the VIP section and air-drummed through the entire gig with a pair of chopsticks.
We finish the gig and run around the stage thanking everyone. One last bow. The crowd is full of smiles, and maybe tears, I couldn’t really tell. But the tears dry up as ‘I Just Can’t Get Enough’ by Depeche Mode is pumped through the PA.
10:30 – 12pm. We celebrate backstage with the entire crew, the band and our families. Hugs all around. Relief and a few tears. I managed to not shed a tear until I hugged our sound guy Marky Mark Mcelligot, He’s been an amazing friend, a sympathetic ear and the most jovial and beautifully antagonistic drink partner you would ever want. He’s the type of guy who keeps your feet on the ground.
12 – 3:30pm. Party Hard
See ya and thanks for all your support lovely peoples.