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THE MERCY KILLS – COURTNEY LOVE AUSTRALIAN TOUR DIARY

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Missed flights, missing merch, an ailing drummer, a trip to a hospital emergency ward, a non-landing plane, backline in a state other than the one they were going to play, and a demanding 2014 My Kitchen Rules contestant. As The Mercy Kills explain, it’s all in a fortnight’s work for a support band on the road with Courtney Love.

We’re The Mercy Kills, a four-piece rock band from St.Kilda featuring Jen X Costello on bass, Nathalie Gellé on guitar, Josh Black on drums and myself, Mark E on guitar and vocals. We’ve been gigging around Melbourne together since 2008. Our music has been described as brash, bold, dirty, energetic, and sleazy. All compliments we’ll gladly accept. After recording a couple of EPs, we were proud to finally release our debut album ‘Happy To Kill You’ in 2013. We’ve been lucky to play regularly at some of Melbourne’s finest rock ‘n’ roll venues such as The Espy, The Corner and Cherry Bar. We’ve picked up a few great supports too including Killing Joke, DeathStars, Misfits, and Mi-Sex, some of which saw us travel interstate. We’ve had some other great wins along the way as well. We hooked up with and interviewed legendary New York band, the New York Dolls for Australian Musician. Our track ‘Can’t Stop’ was featured on the soundtrack of an Australian movie called ‘Murderdrome’, the world’s first Rollerderby/slasher/zombie film. Our latest release is a new 4 track EP called Paradise Motel. Needless to say, our momentum has been building organically year by year to the point where this year, we were able to score our biggest win yet … the support slot for the Courtney Love ‘You Know My Name’ 2014 Australian tour.

TMK Enmore. (c) 2014 Peter Coates

TMK Enmore. (c) 2014 Peter Coates

We’re all Courtney Love fans. Nat was just 13 years old when she first heard the band Hole while hanging at Au Go Go Records. “This guy I was seeing at the time said you have to listen to Hole,” she recalls. “He said buy that record and you won’t regret it … and I didn’t. Hole’s “Pretty on the Inside” to this day means the world to me, a lot of memories good and bad are attached to this record.” Nat actually met Courtney a couple of times, “the most memorable time was when my friend Brody Dalle’s band Sourpuss supported Hole in Melbourne on their first Australian tour, I was underage, we both were and she got me in and took me backstage, I was completely overwhelmed and forever grateful.  Similarly Jen, a Nirvana fan, caught the Hole bug after seeing a video on Rage. “We were lucky being girls and teenagers and having her to look up to,” says Jen. “Being at  school trying to fit into being a girl but having this chick who is so tough and cool and a musician and that’s what we wanted to be.” Josh was a massive Hole fan, more so than Nirvana. I loved the Hole sound too, being into that dirty, guitar driven thing.

Jen at Enmore show. (c) 2014 Peter Coates

Jen at Enmore show. (c) 2014 Peter Coates

So how did we acquire the Courtney Love support? Our manager Jo Gualtieri had heard that Courtney was looking for a support act to tour Australia. They called for submissions and Jo said, let’s give it a shot. As reported in the press, Courtney did have the stipulation that the support either had to be a band fronted by a female or to at least have a couple of members who were female. We had that box ticked anyway. Long story short, they liked what they heard and we got the gig. It was about two weeks that we had to keep our mouths shut. Even when they said, you’ve got the gig, it wasn’t until I actually heard Jo on speaker phone to them, that I finally believed it. Up until this tour, our biggest gig would have probably been Killing Joke  at Billboard. We’d played the Corner with Death Stars and Misfits but nothing like playing the Enmore or Festival Hall as we soon would be.

Taking on the tour was logistically tricky. We all had to take time off our day jobs to start with, although some in the band admit they were willing to lose their job if they weren’t granted permission. We need not have worried, all of our employers were as excited as us about the tour. The other factor to consider was having new product out and enough merchandise to sell. We were in the middle of recording and realised we needed to quickly get these songs done, mixed, mastered, pressed and into our hands. “We had already booked our launch dates for the EP,” recalls Josh, “so it had to be done before the tour. The first launch was a week after the tour. It had to be done. We didn’t have another opportunity to get back in the studio to finish.”  It was a mad dash but the day before we left on tour, the pressings arrived and the t-shirts just a couple of days before that.

Wednesday 13th August, 2014
Courtney and band were already in the country and about to play Metro City in Perth. That was the only gig we didn’t have the support for. Meanwhile across the other side of the country in Melbourne we were loading our gear onto trucks for the tour. We’d recently bought some new Fender amps, smaller amps the Hot Rod Deviile but the idea of using that for shows like this was ridiculous, they are just too small. We hired Marshall quad boxes and took our own heads and hired the road cases from Rob McManus at Melbourne Backline who did a great deal. That was a massive help. However, our first glitch appeared as a lighting guy we knew enquired as to what we were doing for a PA in Hobart. He said not only am I not going to Hobart but neither is the gear, it’s going to be in Brisbane while you are in Hobart. So it was a mad scramble getting onto the Hobart guys, the same ones Courtney used for her gear and they sorted us out. Not a great way to begin the tour but problem solved.

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Josh, Festival Hall. (c) 2014 Rom Anthonis

Thursday 14th August, 2014
The day before we left on tour, nobody had really slept. Nat tried to calm her nerves with all kinds of relaxants, but they all seemed to have taken an opposite effect. Jen couldn’t sit nor stand and didn’t know what to do with herself. “I think musically, we were really prepared,” says Jen. “I wasn’t nervous about us. We just really wanted to do the best we could. Apart from it being Courtney Love, it was also the amazing venues we would be playing.” Josh was more tired from the frantic preparation than impending tour nerves.  We’d read the reviews of the Perth gig on the net and were pretty excited to hear that Courtney was in fine form and much of her set was made up of Hole songs. We just couldn’t wait to get started.

 

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Courtney Love. Festival Hall. (c) 2014 Rom Anthonis

Friday 15th August, 2014 Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Finally it was tour day. We flew to Adelaide, checked into the motel and realised pretty soon after that we didn’t have a drummer. The first day of the tour and Josh had missed his flight. Four hours later he got into town and we breathed a sigh of relief. We had a bit of time to kill and walked it off around town to keep our minds clear. Josh tried to nap without success. Finally we rocked up at the Thebbie, a beautiful old theatre. We strolled into the back entrance passing fans who were waiting for Courtney to sign everything from guitars and CDs to shirts. We walked in and didn’t know anyone. People inside assumed we must be the support band. We’re standing there and could hear Courtney Love talking and that’s when we knew it was actually happening. Robin and Micko from Courtney’s band came up to us, seemed like fun, cool guys and made us feel welcome. Courtney was in an area of her own. While preparing for soundcheck, Micko was checking out my guitar and Robin was being mischievous with a couple of Devo looking pot plant things he decided would look good as a bra for Jen. I remember looking at my gear and then hearing Courtney sing. She was doing her warm up,  a full on scream. I didn’t really think about what her performance would be like until then. I thought holy fuck, I think she is better than she has ever been. This was the first contact with the lady herself. She walked past Jen and Nat and said hi. I got a cheeky grin coming out of the men’s room. In general we kept our distance, affording her some respect and privacy.

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Ginger Wildheart. (c) 2014 Peter Coates

It was our first soundcheck playing in front of a real PA. “The PA and the stage crew were so awesome,” recalls Jen. “I was going … I can actually hear Nat, I can hear everything. I was worried that our voices might be wrecked by the end of the tour but I reckon our voices were better because we weren’t having to belt it out all the time like we usually do.” Josh noticed the difference too. “I was just rapt that I had drum fill. I am lucky to get it at all usually. People that we were working with were at a whole new level. They all know their shit. When you do the pub circuit you get some dudes who are pretty good, some are hit and miss and some are absolutely useless. These guys just really know what they are doing. Any problem, they sort it. Ask for something, they get it. Generally they think of it before you do. Just the professionalism. They care about the show.”

The gig itself was great. Ginger Wildheart, her guitarist had the best advice ever before going on … don’t be shit! The punters were right in our face. It was great to get that energy coming back from the crowd. We’d tailored our set as best we could. Out of 30 road ready songs, we picked 10 or 12 that we thought would work for our 40 minute set. If truth be told, we had been concerned. These people were here to see Courtney play not us and we’d heard stories of how some support bands are treated by the main act’s fans but the Adelaide crowd was sensational. It was a surreal moment then watching Courtney and band from side stage. “When she started playing Miss World, Jen and I looked at each other and just had to hug,” says Nat.

backstage1_(c) 2014 Paul-Miles.com

Backstage Festival Hall (c) 2014 Paul-Miles.com

Saturday 16th August, Festival Hall, Melbourne
With one gig under our belt, we were still a little nervous flying into Melbourne. It’s our hometown gig and we know they’ll be friends and family there to cheer us on. Walking into the legendary Festival Hall where some of us had seen bands like Guns n Roses, Pulp, and INXS it occurred to us that the venue looked smaller. In the afternoon light and with the doors open, it wasn’t so imposing.  The first thing Jen did was to run on stage and impersonate Michael Hutchence. INXS at Festival Hall was her very first gig and she wanted to relive a moment.

The gig that night was wonderful. Standing backstage behind the curtain while waiting to go on, we could isolate the voices of individual friends in crowd. We hit the stage in front of that huge PA and amazing lighting and were feeling pretty damn special. We could now pick out faces in the crowd. Jen’s mum and dad were in the mosh pit. I walked out and climbed onto Courtney’s teleprompter, which she had named Axel Rose. We weren’t entirely sure why but there was some connection with the Guns n Roses frontman. The amp stacks in Adelaide were closer in and I got up on one here but my guitar lead wasn’t quite long enough to do it. My first major Spinal Tap moment! We had bought wirelesses but I was still working mine out and in the end, I went with leads and gaffa taped them up so they wouldn’t come out.

backstage2_(c) 2014 Paul-Miles.com

Nat & Jen backstage. (c) 2014 Paul-Miles.com

After the gig we headed for our spiritual home, the Cherry Bar. We invited Courtney’s band but I think they went a bit hard the night prior. A couple of the road crew, Duncan and Olly ended up at Cherry though. Jen however, had a different kind of night.  “I ended up at Box Hill hospital emergency,” Jen explains. “My dad and my mum stayed in the mosh pit for the entire gig and through Courtney Love. Dad collapsed in the crowd, which scared the shit out of us because he’s had a heart attack before. We took him to hospital but he was absolutely fine, I reckon he was just so overwhelmed by our awesomeness! The hospital thought it was pretty funny that he was up the front at Courtney Love. He had so many doctors and nurses ask him why he was in a mosh pit.”

 

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Nat & Mark, Enmore. (c) 2014 Peter Coates

Monday 18th, August, 2014 Wrest Point Casino, Hobart
It was nice to have Sunday off and recuperate after the Melbourne gig. We also had a very early Monday morning flight to catch to Hobart. Wrest Point Casino hasn’t changed since I went there as a kid but now it’s retro decor has become trendy again over time. It was odd playing a gig on a Monday night but the venue was really nice. The crowd was massive but quiet compared to the other states so far. This gig will be forever remembered as the one Josh nearly didn’t make it through. He’d picked up a bug and was suffering badly. We could see him deteriorate as the gig went on.  He spent two hours after our set under the shower. Jen and Nat watched Courtney from side stage again and got a little carried away with their singing, at one point wondering if their voices might have been picked up in the band’s microphones. The manager turned to look but it must have been cool with everyone as the bass player came over and left the girls with a bottle of Patron Silver tequila or Courtney’s magic water as she referred to it as. ms Love really enjoyed this gig. It was her daughter Francis Bean’s birthday and she got the crowd to song Happy Birthday, treating the show as a party. Courtney has a habit of getting a little special group of people together. Throughout the show, she’d select audience members to join her ‘special group’ of people side stage. At the end of the show they get escorted upstairs and she has her half hour or whatever, at her discretion to hang out. We joined everyone upstairs and got stuck into it.

Tuesday 19th August, 2014  Travelled to Brisbane. Thankfully for Josh’s sake, we had a day off. He was still in a bad way. The wait at Hobart airport was a pretty special time though. We were sitting in the transit lounge and then Courtney’s band came up to sit near us, they really did go out of their way to make us feel comfortable. They seemed in good spirits, chatting to Courtney about Koala vaginas … as you do! Once we got to Brisbane, Joe, our manager took Josh down to Chinatown to pick up some remedies to get his health back … boiled ginger, garlic, whatever it took.

Josh's usual party trick. Disallowed in some states. (c) 2014 Paul-Miles.com

Josh’s usual party trick. Disallowed in some states. (c) 2014 Paul-Miles.com

Wednesday 20th August, 2014 Eatons Hill Hotel.
The venue in Brisbane was Eatons Hill Hotel and it had the best rider. We got treated really well. Anyone who has seen The Mercy Kills will know that Josh likes to set his drumsticks alight and breathe fire. Unfortunately, fire regulations wouldn’t allow it tonight. We played well though and looked up to the balcony to see Courtney’s band checking us out again. Courtney put in another blinder too. There was a lot of energy for her when she came on and she killed it.  I’d heard that people were expecting it to be a bit of a train wreck. I reckon she was on a bit of a mission and thought, I am going to play these songs well and give some really good shows.

 Thursday 21st August, 2014, Flight to Newcastle
Josh was beginning to show signs of improvement. We’d pretty much quarantined him, offering him the double room as much for our sake as for his! Check out was a brutal 3am and we were woken not by our alarms but by blaring sirens outside, coincidentally at the time our alarms were due to go off anyway. We weren’t too far from Newcastle, descending, when all of a sudden the plane just took off again. Jen is a nervous flyer at the best of times. Josh wasn’t well. We all had to get up at 3am and now the plane turns around and flies all the way back to Brisbane, where we’re told to jump on another plane. It would have been quicker to drive to Newcastle.

Friday 22nd August, 2104 Panthers, Newcastle
Venue was terrific. Soundcheck was smooth, gig was awesome. We didn’t hang back though. After getting up at 3am and having two flights to Newcastle, we were starting to feel the effects of life on the road. The after-gig happenings were something we’d probably rather forget. We do recall a contestant from this year’s season of the TV show My Kitchen Rules, crashing in and demanding to meet Courtney. Then upon rejection, muttering those immortal words ‘Don’t you know who I am?’. Um well no, not until you told us!  I vaguely recall strolling the streets after the gig, shirtless in the rain. I also nearly got murdered for at the local McDonalds for the laminate I was still wearing. Whatever happened I know my back was killing me in the morning.

Jen & Mark, Festival Hall. (c) 2014 Rom Anthonis

Jen & Mark, Festival Hall. (c) 2014 Rom Anthonis

Saturday 23rd August, 2014 UC Refectory, Canberra
The morning began with what we believe to be the world’s best toasted cheese sandwich at the Wombat Cafe. We had to drive from Newcastle to Canberra in a five seater people mover and needed a good feed to begin with. Because of my sorry state and Josh still not being a hundred percent, the girls were entrusted with the driving. Thrilled they were not. Nat had booked the Canberra accommodation but they hadn’t delivered on what they’d promised. “We got to the room and there were bunks and a double bed,” recalls Jen “Nat went to the front desk to sort it out and I opened the cupboard and another bed comes flying down, just missing my head.” Luckily the hotel did have a great spa, which did wonders for my back.

The gig in Canberra was very different to the others. The stage was set up in what seemed like the university canteen. They built the stage and put up these partitions and I’m just thinking, for Courtney Love… they are just going to push these over. I was worried about the sound too because of the vinyl floors and there was a lot of glass … but again it was one of the best gigs and sounded great. We’ll never forget this gig, as we could see Courtney watching our set. The bass player spoke to us and said Courtney watched a couple of songs and that’s really rare. It made our night. This show had a private, more intimate feel about it. Courtney played a lot of really old material including ‘Twenty Years in the Dakota’. She always did a segment on acoustic guitar during the second half of the show, her and Micko. Tonight though, it was on her own. She said to Micko, aren’t you joining me? He just said nup, you’re on your own, and left her to it. It was nice to see. I think it was a song called ‘Drown Soda’, a very early one.

 Sunday 24th August, 2014 Enmore Theatre, Sydney.
There must be some kind of synergy between The Mercy Kills and the 3am timeslot. Once again we were woken at the ungodly hour by our phones going off. Someone hadn’t packed one of our merch cases and it had to be dropped off to our hotel. They called wanting to know where we were staying. Nobody knew the name of the hotel. I don’t know how they found us but they did. Not a great start to the morning as we had to drive to Sydney. Of course after getting to sleep in the backseat during the Newcastle to Canberra stint, the boys were obligated to drive this time to Sydney. Our accommodation in Sydney was The Sunrise Hotel, another dodgy but homely hotel we are very familiar with.

Soundcheck was at 5pm for our last gig of the tour. There was a bit of trepidation again within the band. The Canberra gig was small and a bit like a party but with The Enmore, we were back to the big production. The sound of the room just whacked you. Before soundcheck however, we finally got to meet Courtney Love properly. It was in Canberra that her PA had realised that we hadn’t officially connected and she was going to organise it. Micko came to get us and said, come and meet her and we’ll take some photos. She just said g’day to us all, shook our hand, said she really liked us and thanks for doing the tour. It was nice of her, she didn’t have to do that.

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Courtney’s Twitter post

“It was all sinking in that it was coming to an end,” says Jen of the final gig. “The set that night was amazing, looking out into that crowd. We had two friends come up for that gig. Our friend took some panoramic footage of the crowd when we finished and it was absolutely full. She had everyone throwing their bras at her at that gig. Her mic stand had about 30 bras on it. She said if she got as many bras as she did in Miami, she’d jump into the crowd.” Before we knew it, the last gig was over. Josh got a couple of bottles of vodka, Jen wrote a nice note and we left it in the band’s room. Little did we know that Courtney would take a photo and send it to the world via Twitter. We went to the Brooklyn Social Club, the venue Courtney selected for the after party. Nat reckons they had the best fried chicken she’s ever eaten. There was gallons of beer too. Courtney hung for a little while then departed. We’d got pretty close to the band and crew, it had been two weeks on the road with them and something we’ll never forget. We’ve  stayed in touch with Courtney’s band via email and social media and hope we’ll meet up again one day. We’ve since played our EP launch at Cherry Bar and we intend to capitalise on our new found fans by playing more interstate gigs by the end of the year. There have been discussions about overseas too, including America and Japan. We just hope to keep the ball rolling, build on the momentum and take The Mercy Kills to the world.

 

 

The Mercy Kills current release is Paradise Motel EP. website: http://www.themercykills.com/

The band’s next gig is the Man Up Festival at Yah Yahs

Courtney Love Twitter: http://Twitter.com/courtney

Thanks to photographers:
Paul Miles
Rom Anthonis
Peter Coates

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