Big night

Well after three days of catch-ups with old friends and happy wanderings around this new and refreshed London (a little different from the grit and grime of 15 years ago) we finally headed down to the Islington Assembly Hall for our first show of the tour.

We met the Butterflies of Love outside and have to say we were all mightily impressed by the venue. A beautiful and imposing theatre to say the least and not the place we’re used to performing in. The in-house team were fantastic and helped us settle in. Dressing rooms were allocated. And despite Jeff from the Butterflies insisting that their dressing room was much better because they had a bathroom attached, ours had more homely furnishings and mood lighting so I called it a draw.

Sound check proved a little challenging, as the lads behind the desk couldn’t actually turn on the PA for a good couple of hours… just a lot of furrowed brows and purposeful pacing around. We left them to it while The Butterflies ran through a few numbers on the stage and eventually the PA roared back to life. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief and we raced through sound checks before the doors opened.

With just one Melbourne show under our belt before taking on London I have to say I was feeling pretty nervous. Pete and I opted for a relaxed Mediterranean dinner across the road and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc helped quieten the nerves.

Lots of friends from the old days began arriving and there was a magical feeling in the room as we watched Darren Hayman do his thing. Great tunes and lovely to hear them live after such a long break. Next up was Flowers – part of Fortuna Pop’s next generation – and their cinematic sound filled the room. I hadn’t heard much of their stuff before but their beautiful vocals and epic guitar sound was something special.

Then it was our turn. I did my final warm-ups in the kitchen under the stage. And with all the steel cabinets and cooktops it was kind of like being in a reverb chamber – perfect for my weird vocal exercises.

It was strange walking out onto our first London stage since 2007 but it wasn’t long before we felt right at home. It always takes me a song or two to find my feet but once the nerves settle I can lose myself in the moment and just enjoy being wrapped up in the songs for an hour. It is a real blessing having the opportunity to play music both at home and abroad, and the older I get the more I appreciate what a gift it is.

The set flew by and it wasn’t long before we were playing our final song. I looked out to Sean, the man who put this whole crazy thing together and who has been the epicentre of this eclectic community of music fanatics for the last 20 years. It was then that the emotion of the moment really hit me. He’s off to Japan in a few months and after this weekend Fortuna Pop will close up shop and everyone will disperse. But whatever happens next, this ‘little label that could’ will hold a special place in the hearts of people from all over – from London, New Haven and Kentucky to Melbourne, Innsbruck and New York City. 

As much as I love performing, I have to say I also love that moment right after a show when you can relax and in an ideal scenario (like it was the other night) get to watch another band do their thing. And what a treat The Butterflies of Love were. Wild, unruly and thoroughly engaging, they kicked their way through a set of amazing songs. With both Dan and Jeff in fine voice (why we all used to smoke so much as singers I’ll never know) the songs really came alive… and Jeff’s engaging monologues are a sure sign that a career in politics awaits.  

After the final chords rang out it was time to relax and continue the catch-ups with friends. Celebrations continued on into the wee hours and finally came to a close in the salubrious surrounds of the Walthamstow Travelodge Hotel bar. Needless to say heads were a little heavy yesterday morning but there wasn’t too much time to feel sorry for ourselves as the next Fortuna Pop show was kicking off in the afternoon down at Tufnell Green.

karl smith

Castlemaine, VIC, 3450