By Rod Whitfield
It’s been a ridiculously eventful last six months or so for this, one of Australia’s premier progressive rock acts. Not only did they release their fabulous third album, Bloom, to rapturous response across the globe and tour extensively, nationally and internationally off the back of it. They happened to be in Europe when the shattering Bataclan massacre took place. Frontman Jim Grey, speaking from his home in Brisbane, tells us that there was much unrest across the continent even before the unspeakable events that took place in Paris in November last year.
“I don’t want to bag out the whole tour, because it was an amazing experience,” he begins his recollections, “we played to some incredible people and people who’ve been waiting for us for a long time. About half way through the tour, we started running into some of the violence and the reactionary response to the refugee crisis. It was the first time we saw it, waking up in our bunks on the bus and looking out of the windows and seeing nothing but a bunch of riot police. Fully armed and with shields and weapons and sticks and things. It was like ‘okay, something’s up!’
“We ran out to the front of the bus and it turns out that, right in front of us on the other side of the bridge, was a huge protest. They had red smoke, red flags flying, big posters that I couldn’t read, and they’re all chanting things. Afterwards, we found out that there had been a demonstration by an anti-refugee fascist guy. He and his fascist buddies had been rearing their ugly heads all over Europe. And here, obviously, our Prime Minister, or I should say our disgraced former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. That sentence is just sweet in my mouth!” He laughs.
The band managed to escape from that situation, but the unrest certainly didn’t end there. In fact, history will tell us that it only escalated from there.
“That all sort of shook us up a little bit,” he continues, “a few weeks later we were in Stuttgart and we heard the news after the show, we were all sitting in the bus and trying to get in for an early night, rock ‘n’ roll you know!
“We all checked our phones and we see on the news that everything’s going crazy and something’s happened in Paris and no one had the details. We were due to be in Paris three nights later, and we were obviously a little bit worried. Reports had been saying that something like 12 people had died, and we were thinking ‘wow, this is something very serious.’”
Of course, at that point, a major decision had to be made that didn’t just involve the band members and crew. “We woke up and I looked at our guitarist Sam Vallen, his face, he hadn’t got any sleep because he’d stayed up all night following the story. He was telling me that there was over a hundred people dead at a show.
“So there was a lot of debate about whether we were going to play the show or not. I was talking to my wife Amy, who was adamant that we don’t even go. Which of course makes sense, I saw the logic in that and I also saw the logic in going and playing the show.”
In the end, they decided that, despite the fear that was in the air across the continent and especially in Paris, the show must go on, and a rock ‘n’ roll show ended up being a glimmer of light in all the darkness and hate.
“Eventually it turns out it was fine, the country was open, we could play the show, we did go. We just decided that no matter what happens it was the right thing to do. And to their credit, the people of Paris were amazing. We came into sound check and we had this scary experience where the staff were showing all the emergency exits and taking us up onto the roof, and they’d put a ramp down so you could run from one roof to another, and it was all high tension.
“So we went to dinner and when we got back there was a line down the street for the show. Made up of the most amazing people, and I spoke to a lot of them and some of them were actually nearby where the attacks happened and knew people who had been injured or killed. They had experienced the terror first hand. This was their way of coming out and saying ‘no, I’m not going to be a part of that fear and anger and hate.’ They were there in a spirit of openness and love and fearlessness.
“That was just the most unbelievable experience for all of us. Probably the scariest show I’ve ever played but definitely the most memorable.”
The band are heading out across Australia for a national headlining tour of their own in April, which will no doubt be a little less scary that their experiences in Europe late last year. The tour is in support of the latest single taken from Bloom, a track called Turntail, and is actually the biggest tour of their homeland they have yet undertaken. Very able-bodied support is coming on the tour in the form of Perth’s awesome Chaos Divine, so this is a tour not to be missed.
Caligula’s Horse Tour Dates 2016
Saturday, March 12: El Grande Festival, Gladstone*
Thursday, April 7: Jive, Adelaide
Friday, April 8: Ding Dong Lounge, Melbourne
Saturday, April 9: Amplifier, Perth
Thursday, April 14: The Pier, Port Macquarie*
Friday, April 15: Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Saturday, April 16: The Basement, Canberra
Sunday, April 17: The Small Ballroom, Newcastle
Saturday, April 23: The Zoo, Brisbane
*Chaos Divine Not Appearing
Tickets on sale via wildthingpresents.com, Oztix, and the venues.