DFT Diary - Wednesday 6th July
The Kiwirrkurra boys pulled into camp before we had even gotten up. They are obviously keen, my concerns were all proven hollow. I woke up to find them happy, joking around the fire while Tony boiled coffee.
The massive pot of porridge went on the hot coals while we woke slowly from a smoky slumber as the fire rekindled our warmth. If I’ve done nothing else in my life I think I can take credit for introducing a healthy breakfast to everyone that comes on tour. Slow cooked oats in the morning is the best way to start the day and everyone seems to love it. Chantelle tells me she is converted now for life. Furthermore both Sean and her have become fans of using honey instead of sugar too, which is what I like to do, on my porridge, in my tea and in my coffee.
I have no idea why I told the guys to get here early. I realised when they pulled up at 7 am that I had jumped the gun. I had figured if I had said 8:30 they would come at 9:30, but I misjudged them once again. I see how fear can be enemy of the peace. I want the tour to be a success; I have a vision of them standing on the stage in Port Hedland in front of hundreds of people, getting their shot in the limelight. However those are my desires and might not be the best outcomes.
This weather is hurting us a bit; my lips are chapped and the cold has exacerbated the flu that a few of the guys have picked up. There are a few rattly chests and all of us have sniffily noses now. Still it was nice to camp out last night without having to set up the truck or having to perform. The excitement of the Kiwirrkurra boys and their obvious enjoyment of being on tour is all the payment I need now. Ever so slowly they let their inhibitions fall away so we are getting to know them a little more each day.
We headed for Port Hedland at a relaxed pace. I’m in no particular rush to get there because I still have a fear (seeded by the conversation with Newcrest earlier) that I might lose the boys to the city lights with its ready availability of grog. It is playing on my mind a bit. I feel a huge inner conflict over these feeling as I am aware they are adults with their own car, capable of doing what they want.
Tony has points out to me there is no changing what the outcome may be, there is simply a willingness to see it through, “You’ve given them a great opportunity Damien, and they realise it.”
However, I can’t help feeling like it is them giving me the opportunity. I feel grateful to be on tour with these countrymen, to be around their unassuming and reserved disposition, their inhibited glances and calm stillness. I feel privileged to hear their quiet discussions in their ancient language, wondering what is lost in translation between us. I would like for the Kiwirrkurra Band to know that I am in awe of their ancestry, their heritage, their language and their lack of material desire. I love how they stick together with the strength of a family bond tying them to each other. I admire their lack of worldly concern, their intrigue with the natural world around them and the way they relate to it. I hate how our world has affected them, how the grog has been a scourge and capitalisation has forced them out of a once forgotten land, a once utterly isolated world. I did not personally do that, and I cannot change it- but I can refuse to be a part of it.
In Port Hedland we met up with Ben Lanzon (drummer), Rob Findlay (guitars), Candice and Brian (Indigenous performers) at the shopping centre. They arrived 20 minutes earlier by plane. We all had lunch at a cafe there, my full contingent now at 17! It cost me $150 just for coffee!
It was great to see Ben and Rob again and I’m looking forward to being able to play as band for the next three concerts. These guys will have their work cut out for them as they both have to play for me and Candice. Also on Saturday night they will have to play with Mary G too. That will be 3 hours of gigging, which is a lot of work if you add set-up and pull-down on top of it.
The question of the budget was still a huge concern. Em and I need to sit down to balance the books, add up our receipts and make a few projections, but the first thing to do was pay everyone!
The accommodation in Port Hedland was luxurious (thanks to BHP). A huge double story set of rooms with shared ablutions blocks right on the waterfront overlooking the ships at sea. There was much for Em and I to do; pick up the keys for the venue on Saturday, load the music equipment on to the truck for the next 3 communities, go to the bank, organise the shopping for the next three days, fuel up the three vehicles, refill the jerry cans and pay a truckload of bills off. That was a big weight of my mind and it felt good to finally refund Ewan and Tony. I was personally in debt for nearly $10,000 by the time we reached Port Hedland.
We got back to the rooms by nightfall where Tony had a huge feed of curry chicken and rice made up. Rob, Ben and Ewan had set up the band equipment in the kitchen to practise and the Kiwirrkurra boys where still hard at it when we walked in. Tristan had his electric key board on the ironing stand while Ewan had a clip board to take notes on their set list, making them play the intro over and over again till they had it tight. The place looked like a recording studio.
After dinner Ryder asked me if he could go into South Hedland. This is exactly what Newcrest had predicted would occur, and fear jumped into my heart. I told him we were leaving early in the morning so it would be best if he stuck with the crew but he persisted, asking me if Tony could take him in. I had another predicament now. Ultimately, I would be looked at for the final decision making the responsibility mine too. I can’t stop Brian going out and I wouldn’t stop Tony, so to say no seemed patronising.
Self-doubt was a stone in my throat. I could not swallow. Ryder is 21, he is a grown man. Fear overcame me again. This decision felt like a double-jointed hinge for the outcome of the tour; which way will this swing? How can one know! Disastrous results flashed like a neon sign; boys getting sucked into the night life beco,ming lost to us. My schedule was so tight I had no time to be driving around looking for anyone. The fact I even had to think like this annoyed me, I felt foolish and condescending.
The Kiwirrkurra boys were sitting on the steps smoking. “Can we go into town Damien, walk around?” they asked.
Then Tony walked up, hands in his pocket, calm and thoughtful. Tony, my friend Tony! Tony has a demure that says i am incapable of lying, but you might not like what you hear. “I’ll go into town with the boys Damo,” he said. The dice were rolled.
I slept in the back of the truck as all the rooms were full. I had been too tired to take a moment to cover the plastic seat with a blanket and I woke in a cold sweat, sticking to the bench. Milton was standing at the end of my bed. He had a spear held high, about to launch it into my thigh. Ryder was in the room but it was his ghost. The ghost was covered in blood and broken glass from a shattered windscreen, saying, “See Damien you let us down, now you get payback!”
I had failed. Newcrest were there too, shaking their heads at me. The tour was over, my luck had finally come to an end.
I jumped out of bed. It was 1:30 am. I walked down the corridor to Tony’s room shining the light in. He turned over and squinted into my torch.
“You’re back?” I asked, sounding surprised.
He got up to fetch me a cup of water, forcing me to drink two more in a row. “Have you slept?” he asked.
“I mean this whole trip?” he asked again.
“Not much,” I answered again.
“Damien, the boys are fine! They just wanted to tell their friends they are playing on Saturday. We did a big poster run and we were all home by midnight. It was fun.”