Confessions of a Midnight Oil Sideman: The Big Pineapple and Pacific Highway

Australian Jack Howard, who rose to fame with the band Hunters & Collectors, is on a year-long world tour with Aussie rockers Midnight Oil.

Sleep is becoming an issue. Twitching and turning deep into the night, finally succumbing just before dawn. Ugh.
Do I listen to some music, do I turn the light on and read, damn fat pillows, air con on or off, more magnesium, unplug that noisy fridge? I’m not sure what’s going on – I think my brain’s been too active just before bed. I did have one exceptional dream, one of those long crazy narrative ones that continued on through the half-waking moments. A strange cgi/animated dream full of small Miyazaki-like creatures chasing me, a broiling sea full of sunken ships from which two Matt Mattel action figures had washed up. I picked them up but realised that some creepy live ceramic figures were watching and following me. I ran down the Lower Esplanade to escape. High drama in dreamland! Anyway….

Jack Howard

The rock ‘n’ roll life on the road: Jack does some washing.

We drove down the old Pacific Highway last week from a rain-soaked Brisbane. It rained pretty much the whole time we were up there and The Big Pineapple was especially drenched and mud-soaked. At these big outdoor gigs, we’ve been making what we call Beatles exits to beat the traffic. The Pineapple exit was particularly exciting. Straight offstage in the rain after the encore, we jumped into our respective four wheel drives and had to hightail it up the muddy hills slipping and a-sliding all over. At one point, we started to slide sideways towards the bush but our driver skillfully gunned us on. Our convoy finally made it out and at a service station a few kilometres down the highway, we stopped for band members to change and get their hands on the beer and food that the vans had been stocked with. It was a thrilling adventure – like a scene from The Bourne Identity.

I hadn’t driven down the Pacific highway since the H & C days when we’d hop our way down the coast through Bangalow, Byron Bay, Coffs, Sawtell, Port Macquarie and Taree to Newcastle, Gosford and Sydney. Even though you have to slow down constantly as you pass through the small towns, it’s a lovely and scenic drive alongside The Clarence River. We stopped at The Rock’n’Roll Cafe in Mullumbimby for lunch. Plenty of friendly folk there had been at the Brisbane show the previous night. We had a healthy lunch and fine coffees. A few selfies for the locals, of course.

The shows were BIG despite the rain. We had a couple of horn sections on the run down the coast. They’ve been good to have along for songs like Say Your Prayers, Forgotten Years and Both Worlds. I’ve been doing it all myself on the tour with my octave pedal for added depth and power (which has worked very well) but it’s been fun to have some company back in Jack world.

The band have still been in cracking form and have continued to rotate songs through the set. Stand In Line, Hercules and Bus To Bondi have all had a run; and the crowd sing-a-longs in US Forces have been brilliant. Lucky Country has squeezed its way back into the set and has been a highlight. I love that section of the song when it drops back to Jim and Martin playing those moody twin guitar lines, then it builds again to the big “Lu-cky Coun-try” finish.

Hope Estate was a classic show to over 20,000 eager punters spread over a vast wine-soaked natural amphitheatre. Andy Bickers (Cold Chisel’s sax man) and Anthony Kable joined us on razor-sharp horns. Everyone from Col at front of house to Steve on lights to John, the band’s manager and Sean, our tour manager agreed that it was right up there as one of the best shows of the tour. We did another Beatles exit, this time with a siren-flashing police escort. How exciting! I managed to grab some White Rabbit Dark Ales for the trip and Jonesy, the band’s publicist, had made home-made sausage rolls for the long drive back to Sydney. Happy men.

If you missed them, read Part 1 of Jack’s blog here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

The final Australian leg of the Midnight Oil Great Circle tour kicked off in Alice Springs on Monday, October 2nd and ends in Sydney on November 17.