BALLARAT’S Karova Lounge is the kind of regional institution where you have to walk through the crowd to get to the stage. It’s a favourite among touring artists, particularly from Melbourne, who can jump on the National Highway a few hours before showtime and be back in their own beds that night.
The only catch: there’s no dressing room at Karova, meaning Meg Mac and her backing singers had to improvise. They got ready for the show in the pub across the road.
“It’s a funny story, actually,” she recalls from her Melbourne home a few weeks after the show. “My two backing singers and I are walking up to the venue – I think we were a minute late or two minutes late – and the band was on stage ready to go … And this girl just gets out of her car and freaked out because she was running late too. We had our earpieces in and I’m wearing a hat. It was so funny.”
Karova Lounge was first stop on a 24-date sold-out national tour in support of Meg’s debut album
Due to the nature of the shows and their proximity to Melbourne, Meg and her touring party – including six members of her band – decided to drive each leg in a 12-seater van, returning back to Melbourne each night. They’d rest and recuperate, before heading off the next day around lunchtime.
The experience was a far cry from the 10-hour family roadtrips from Sydney to the Gold Coast she’d take as a child, or the 10-hour stretches she’d do while touring North America in mid-2015.
“You just have to be organised and kind of trust that everyone’s going to arrive on time,” Meg says. “Nothing worse than waiting for that one person that’s not there yet. [On this tour] the crew, sound guys would go before us, and kind of have everything set up in that way. And then at the end we all go together [as a band], and we’d get there and then set up the sound check.”
“I feel like I’m always running about two minutes to five minutes late.”
So who’s most likely to rock up late for a roadtrip? “Probably me to be honest,” she jokes. “I feel like I’m always running about two minutes to five minutes late.”
On this run of dates, Meg discovered podcasts – particularly Hrishikesh Hirway’s popular Song Exploder series – which helped break up the monotony of touring and kept everyone alert on the road.
“The van’s speakers weren’t loud enough so we’d use one of the guys’ portable speakers and stick it in the middle of the van so we could hear it.”
Another pro-tip: Loading up on snacks is a pretty compelling reason to make frequent rest stops. “Everyone was eating so many corn chips,” she jokes.
Here’s a visual snapshot of the regional Victorian leg of Meg’s Low Blows tour.
Wick Studios, Melbourne
“That was at our rehearsal studio in Brunswick. We were just in this big room where we did our production rehearsal. We set it up like the show. I was so cold!”
“Another one from the rehearsal room, you can see that red couch in the background.”
Karova Lounge, Ballarat
“That was the first night of the tour and it was pouring down with rain. That’s why I’ve got a scarf and jumper on. That whole first week was just raining and so cold … It was just so grey and depressing outside.”
“It was a small venue so it was really nice to be my first show where I could fully see everyone, and get the feel of them. There’s something really nice about being able to see everyone’s faces and really look at people in the eye and feel like you’re there with them.”
“There was no barricade or anything, so people were literally reading my setlist … It was very intimate.”
The Forum, Melbourne
“I played it once before with Jarryd James – we did a co-headline little tour – but I got to play there three times on this tour.”
“The venue is just so amazing and it was such a nice night. Just looking out and seeing the ‘sky’ – the ceiling’s all blue.”
Melbourne to Bendigo
“I always sit in the front, not the front-front, but the front row in the back. You don’t have to walk through the rows and you don’t feel as car sick. The closer you are to the back, it gets a bit bumpy.”
“When I was in America it was all driving. So that was a shock when I first went there, and then the driving in Australia is like nothing compared to that. Sometimes we would drive five hours after a show, and then sleep in some motel and then drive another 10 hours.”
The Capital, Bendigo
“It was really different because it was all seated … It felt like maybe bands don’t usually play there [often], so people were getting in trouble for dancing and wearing hats in there. I think it was just after we played The Forum [in Melbourne], so we were going from this kind of rowdy crowd to this seated theatre.”