On The Road with Emilie Autumn

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Ever since I was a teenager I have always wanted to follow a band around going to every show on their tour. Why? Well, I don’t really know. Perhaps it’s all the stories I heard about people doing exactly that in ‘80s, or the movies I have seen which show how easy and fun it is. Maybe it’s because I’ve always wanted to be a touring musician, and since I have no musical talent, following a band is the closest I would get to touring. Whatever the reason, it is something I have always wanted to experience, and now I finally have.

Deciding on what band to follow was not a hard decision. When Emilie Autumn toured Australia in 2010 I knew that seeing her show several nights in a row would hardly get boring. When two friends said they would love to go to every one of her shows next time she tours, the decision was made.

The schedule worked out well with three dates starting in Brisbane and ending in our home city of Sydney. What made it hard was having extremely early flights. There were two reasons for that: one being that the earlier flights are the cheapest – who really wants to be up and on a plane by 6 am? And two, to ensure we had enough time to get ready and head to the show. When it comes to Emilie Autumn concerts, it’s almost compulsory to dress up – unless you prefer to stay comfortable and casual like me – and lining up early is important to ensure you get a good spot on the floor. The theatrics on stage are just as important as the music – if not more for this tour, as it bridges the gap towards her Broadway musical. And if you are in a position where you can’t see what is happening on stage, you really are missing over half of the show and experience.

Brisbane was our first stop, and having never been there before I didn’t know what to expect. From my short stay I learned their trains require you to press a button when you want the doors to open, and it is nowhere near as busy as Sydney. Emilie Autumn was playing The Zoo, and obviously since I had never been to Brisbane before I had never been to the venue before either. It was not what I expected. It was just a door on a strip of shops, that I learned from the locals is actually a night club. Emilie Autumn playing a small night club stage didn’t quite make sense to me, but she played there in 2010 and she was about to again. The six hours I spent in line gave me plenty of time to come to terms with it. There was a small sign that warned people not to line up, but the shop owners didn’t seem to mind, and we remained courteous and didn’t block doorways. It was in the line that I felt the most tired. It had nothing to do with being up since 4am, but because simply waiting in lines is boring. And standing for that long would make anyone tired. Luckily the people around us were nice, and when we all got to talking and laughing the time went by rather quickly.

And then, almost like a miracle, the waiting in line since 2pm, the tired legs, and the sore feet all paid off when we saw Captain Maggots come around the corner. There weren’t too many people in the line at this point and Maggots stopped to talk to every one of us, sign things and take photos. More luck rained on us, when not too long after that Maggots returned with Veronica Varlow as they went to get dinner just before sound check. A few more people were in the line now, but Veronica and Maggots still spoke to everyone, taking more photos and signing more autographs for people. And Veronica, if you’re reading this, you took my pen away with you – I hope it’s safe!  Maggots stood to the side as Veronica spoke to all the people Maggots already met, waiting patiently for her to finish up so they could grab dinner. Maggots informed me sound check was a mere 10 minutes away, but the girls are too nice to walk away from fans, so until everyone got their photo, or autograph, they would stay. Once I spoke to Veronica, I stepped aside and had a chat with Maggots about Devil’s Carnival being her first film, and her busy circus/music life. Our conversation was short, and even though I only heard briefly about her career, she is one of the most interesting people I’ve met. When it came time for them to go it was obvious they were cutting it close, but I’m sure the group of fans waiting couldn’t have appreciated more the fact that they stayed to talk to everyone.

And finally it was time for doors to open. My two friends and I all had bras in our bags to throw on stage for Veronica – yep, that happens at an Emilie Autumn show. The security noticed this and asked me why we had them, in a way that seemed he maybe didn’t want to know. I told him it was to throw on stage, to which he called after me “just don’t hit the artist in the face!” I promised him I wouldn’t, and I didn’t. We got to the front, and without a barrier were leaning on the stage. We were excited by this, for we know crowd interaction would be a part of the show, and of course it meant we wouldn’t miss anything happening on stage. Support acts are not carried for Emilie Autumn, which in one way is good because we don’t have to wait for her show to start, however she has the longest intro I’ve ever seen. Music from the ‘40s, ‘30s and earlier plays for about 30 minutes, until the lights dim and you think the show is going to start, but no. Another 15 or so minutes pass until all lights go down and Best Safety Lies In Fear introduces the first song Fight Like A Girl. It’s a great and interesting way to start the show the first time, and hearing Best Safety Lies In Fear gives me chills every time because I know it’s all about to begin, but I have to be honest, the intro does feel too long, and gets old fast.

When the show really starts though, all those ill feelings regarding the intro are long forgotten. This year’s show was significantly different from 2010 for obvious reasons. One, there is all new material from Emilie’s latest album, Fight Like A Girl, and this time the show is more theatrical. In an interview I did with Emilie earlier this year, she said that despite only being three people up on stage, it feels like 60. She wasn’t wrong. They each play different characters required for different songs, but it doesn’t feel weird. It doesn’t get confusing. It’s just rather brilliant, really. The show itself also seems to run smoother, with less stopping and starting. We still get to see Veronica Varlow’s fan dance, and although fire isn’t part of the show this time, we see Maggots’ stilt walking skill in Scavenger – a truly chilling performance that has to be seen to be believed. With a running time of about 2 hours, the show is just a mere glimpse of what we can expect should Emilie Autumn’s Broadway musical come to light. While it has taken a new direction, remnants of the past are still alive this time round. Veronica’s Rat Game still exists – for those who don’t know, this is where Veronica pulls one – sometimes two – girls up on the stage to well, make out with her. It’s how she corrupts people, and what a way to be corrupted! This time however, Emilie, Maggots and Veronica re-enact an erotic scene that was allegedly written about them on fanfiction.net. This part of the show is rather separate from the desperate story of asylum life, but provides much needed comical relief. Captain Maggots reads the story found in Veronica’s diary, to which Emilie and Veronica act out everything. Nothing says eroticism like Emilie rubbing her sweaty yet supple hands together, while her legs shake like a spring chicken. As you can tell, it’s more about the humour than true erotica. It’s all very over the top, and this leads into Emilie asking who wrote it – I successfully raised my hand early enough for Emilie to notice me at all three shows – and then Veronica writes a story for us, which is of course the Rat Game. The show is equal parts emotional, intense, and raw, while still maintaining hope, hence the final song “One Foot In Front Of The Other” and of course fun, which any performer I imagine wants to be having while up on stage.

For me seeing an Emilie Autumn show is like nothing else. It’s just so different to the shows I am use to. And I love every second of it. For a second when the show was over, I thought ‘damn now I have to wait a few years for the next one.’ Then I remembered that nope, the next show was actually just a day away.

Now, with the first show done and dusted, it was time to head back to the hotel for any amount of sleep I could manage, and an attempt at freshening up before another early morning flight – thankfully not as early as the first one – to Melbourne. Of course, it just wouldn’t be right not wait by the back to try and meet them after. But, as suspected they were rushed into a van, so they too could freshen up and sleep before the next stop.

Try as I did, we didn’t get much sleep that night and I didn’t expect to. But for me, sleep is everything so when I miss it I do not function well. At least until I’ve had a giant cup of coffee. I was running on autopilot, simply going through the motions, and when I heard some flights going in and out of Melbourne were delayed or cancelled, I didn’t know the reason, and to be honest, didn’t really care. Our flight wasn’t affected, so I had no need for details. We did learn later that the flight Emilie and crew were destined to be on was one of the fallen. This I imagine is why sound check occurred so late in the evening and why door times changed.

Anyway, we landed in Melbourne just in time to check into the hotel, get ready and of course head to the venue for another 7 hour wait. Unlike Brisbane, I had been to Melbourne before, however this was the first time at The Espy. It reminded me a bit of The Sando. Upon entering, I realised we will not be able to line up as the venue was functioning as a pub/restaurant and they want bums on seats who will buy drinks and food, not people waiting around, blocking entrances and exits queuing to be first in line. And just as I suspected, security asked us to move along. So we ate there, it was lunch after all, and took a stroll around the area. There were still so many hours to kill though, and not much to do. I am aware Emilie Autumn fans can be a little obsessive, however Melbourne took it to a whole new level. There were people going around writing numbers on everyone’s hands of what order they arrived in. Apparently, this would mean they would automatically get that spot in the line when we were told to line up. I’m not sure why they thought this would work, but they did. I was surprised some weren’t kicked out as they kept trying to line up despite being told several times to move along. There were a few nice people who we chatted the hours away with, but to be honest I wanted to be as far away as possible until the show started.

Doors opened after 8 sometime, I was growing tired and restless by this point so I wasn’t really sure of the time anymore. I ended up somewhere in the middle of the line, which meant I was somewhere in the middle of the crowd, and considering I’m short, and the stage was barely raised – it was a pub venue after all – my view consisted of the backs of people’s heads. But these things happen; we accept it and move on. I was going to see the show again the next night after all, so I let some other short people get a bit closer, so they could try and enjoy the performance. The intro irked me again, only because the show started so late, but finally, at some time after 9 it was on! Hoorah! I have to say, that for the most part, if it weren’t for people holding up their phones and cameras to take photos or record, I wouldn’t have been able to watch their screens and see parts of the show. So, thanks guys.

I don’t see the point in going through what the show was like again, it was the same as Brisbane. I will say however, that the Melbourne crowd was well…pretty terrible. I imagine the show was great – at least so I was told from people who saw – I can however, vouch for the fact that it sounded good. There were a few technical hiccups, such as when Veronica’s mic stopped working, but she covered that as smooth as butter. Back to the crowd though, by about half way most seemed to forget the lyrics to the songs, perhaps they didn’t get that far into the record, and during one of the saddest moments of the show – Gaslight Reprise – they talked, and laughed as if nothing was happening on stage. There seemed to be little respect to the artist shown, as someone yelled out “since when does this count as part of the show?” during ‘Dr. Stockhill Speech’ – a recorded piece that introduces We Want Them Young, and I imagine acts as a way for the girls to change costume. And immaturity as some people thought it funny to continuously make shadow puppets. Funny once, but when done at any available moment, simply annoying – this was an over 18’s show after all. It was the worst show on the tour, and no fault to Emilie, Maggots, Veronica or crew, but simply, and unfortunately the “fans.”

The show ended after midnight, and as we already established, I like sleep. Unfortunately, we didn’t get back to the hotel until 1am and we had to be up and on a bus to the airport by 3:30am. Perhaps it’s best I don’t follow this touring musician pipe dream of mine. We managed about 45 minutes of sleep before my alarm woke me at the ungodly hour of three. I was cranky, tired and cold. I barely spoke two words on the way to the airport, and as soon as I sat in the bus, I was dead to the world until we arrived at the airport. I got about another hour of sleep on the bus, maybe less, but I wasn’t my old self until we got to the airport and I got as much coffee into me as my body could handle.

Then, something terrible happened. That was a bit dramatic, wasn’t actually that bad. Our flight was cancelled due to engine problems discovered during the pre-flight test. Some people were pretty angry, but I was just happy the engine problem was discovered when I wasn’t sitting in the plane 20,000 meters above ground. (NB. I don’t know how high planes fly above land, 20,000 just seemed like a large enough number to put there.) Having the flight delayed sucked. We were meant to land in Sydney at 7:15am, instead we didn’t get on a flight out of Melbourne until midday. So we had 6 hours of hanging out in an airport. It wasn’t fun. Except for the birds that seemed to magically appear in the food court. That was exciting. And I did get to go buy a stuffed koala to throw on stage for the show. Should probably provide context here. There is a moment when Maggots comes out requesting gold, rum, jewels and a live Koloa. I thought it would be funny to throw a soft toy on stage at this point. So, I did.

We eventually made it home by about 3 in the afternoon, I quickly got myself ready, threw on jeans and a t-shirt – I don’t really buy into the dressing up thing (well, I did try in Brisbane) – and got to the venue. There was no waiting in line for over 6 hours this time, but we managed a good spot and what do you know, I was on the barrier.

When entering The Factory Theatre, I saw the barrier and thought it might ruin the show, but it actually helped. I thought being so close in Brisbane meant you could see the show properly, I was wrong. Being those few steps away meant you weren’t craning your neck to look up and you could actually see everything at a decent viewing angle. The Factory stage was larger, so this also helped with the performance, and as a whole, Sydney was my favourite of the three. I’m sure it was a little disappointing for some when the girls would reach out to the audience, but were unable to grab anyone’s hands, unless you had really long arms, but I found the barrier helped experience the show as a theatrical performance better. Due to a request from the venue, they had to have an intermission – this was the first time this had been done at an Emilie Autumn show – and unfortunately, many people thought that something went wrong and they required time to fix it. There were a few sound issues throughout the show, so I was one of those who assumed the intermission was in place to correct issues. It turns out it wasn’t, the venue just requested that or a DJ due to the need for sets to run for X amount of time, so obviously intermission was the way to go. It worked out well I think, people were able to use bathrooms or get a drink, and then the show continued without a hitch.

A fan, moderator of the Emilie Autumn forum, and one of my touring buddies organised for everyone to have an electric tea light before the show, so that during the song Gaslight everyone would turn it on and hold it up. It was hard to look around, but from where I was standing, it looked like most people held their candles up, and I’m guessing it would have looked pretty awesome on stage.

The Sydney show was the best of the three for me. It had a great vibe, I was able to see and truly appreciate everything that was happening on stage, and the show really does require the bigger stage that The Factory offered. Though there was another case of not paying attention during Gaslight Reprise, but I don’t want to sound like a cantankerous old woman talking too much about my annoyance again.

And in case you were wondering, Maggots seemed to love the koala I threw.

So that was that. I finally did it. I followed a band on tour, and went to every show. I’ve always respected musicians, and didn’t think it was possible, but I now respect them even more. Going on tour, constantly travelling, having little to no sleep and still getting on stage and giving every show 110% – I certainly couldn’t do it. And I only did it for three days (minus the getting on stage) – some tours last months. It was a great experience, and I’m glad I did it. Would I do it again? I don’t know. If another band comes to Australia that I could live with seeing their show several nights in a row, I may consider it. But for now, I’m just happy I got to have this experience.

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