80 gigs in 80 days

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80 gigs in 80 days


Nick Jorquera was, like many local independent musicians, working a day job and gigging around town with his band I Heart Cusack on weekends, while slowly building up a catalogue of songs.

Nick Jorquera was, like many local independent musicians, working a day job and gigging around town with his band I Heart Cusack on weekends, while slowly building up a catalogue of songs. But Nick and his brother/musical partner, Ricardo following the sudden death of their mother early his year, decided to dramatically shift their bad fortune and poured all their energies into raising Victorian music’s profile to an all new high. The punishing marathon of 80 consecutive concerts at 80 different venues around Victoria – along with 160 or so bands – in an inspiring feat is only a handful of shows away from done, and Jorquera can happily claim a hundred percent attendance, thus far.

Speaking to Beat, Nick is in surprisingly good condition after 71 gigs and quietly hurtling towards the grand finale to be held at The Tote this weekend. If his persistence has waned at all, it doesn’t show as he begins taking stock of the longest party in Australian music history, and anticipates one super-sized hang-over. “I worked out the other day that out of the 71 gigs we’ve done so far, I’ve drank during 65 of them,” Nick begins, with a hint of pride in his voice. “I also have this intense, thick beard now – which I can’t wait to shave off, because it’s really disgusting. I get food and drink and all kinds of crap in it, so I’m probably going to have a ceremonious cutting-off of the beard on stage at the final gig.”

Indeed, the last show of the 80 gig marathon is in Nick’s sights but he’s not, as might be expected, all smiles about it. “I am looking forward to it, but at the same time, it’s been such a huge part of my life – it’s basically taken over everything – and I can’t really imagine not living like this.

“I’m going to have a long, long sleep and try and eat a bit healthier,” he adds of what happens once it comes to a close, “but really I’m quite sad to see it end.”

Such a dramatic lifestyle shift has also since created many unexpected turns for Nick and for I Heart Cusack’s music. “As time went on and we were exposed to more and more music through the bands that supported us at each gig, my own tastes have changed a lot, now I really want to take my music in a totally different direction. There were a lot of bands we played with that I might not have ever gone to see, but this has really opened my eyes up to huge amount of new music.”

Every single show on the tour has been performed at a different venue throughout Victoria, which meant constant travelling for the guys. Nick explains his road weariness caused some considerable confusion. “I remember turning up to play in Ballarat and thinking, oh wait aren’t we supposed to be in Bendigo tonight?” he laughs. “It’s hard to explain, but we’d often sleep on the train between towns, and sometimes it became a bit confusing as to where we actually were when we woke up. I honestly can’t even tell you where we played last night!” he exclaims.

“This final week we’ll be doing a few more open mic gigs, which we started doing in early November. They’re heaps of fun and a lot more unpredictable, plus with the last show coming up we thought I’d be nice to go a bit easy for before that.” The toll on Nick and his brother, who are the only members of I Heart Cusack to attend every show, is hard to fathom exactly. On one hand Nick’s happy he’s lost some weight, “I’ve hardly eaten at all, and I think I’ve dropped about 10 kilos.” But to further fund the tour, he had to begin working part-time, seriously limiting his recovery time.

“I ended up getting this menial office job for three days a week which means getting up at five AM everyday and cutting sleep time down to about three hours a night.” Nick explains. “I feel like I’m living this double life, sitting at my desk at work thinking about what the night has in store for me, and then I’m off to a venue, dancing on tables and going crazy.” He smiles. Sleep loss, endless train travel and a dull paper-pushing job are hardly reasons to celebrate, but Nick’s thrilled about some of the side-effects of his current lifestyle. As he continues, “As a singer, I thought my voice would be shredded by the end of this, but in fact the opposite has happened – It’s far easier for me to sing now, and my voice has become stronger, which I’m really happy about. Plus I’ve become a better performer, and I’m just a lot more confident dealing with venues and problems as they come about.”

While Nick’s made a lot of friends and greatly expanded his music tastes on his gig-a-thon, it’s his bizarre encounter with a Chilean cycling team that he recalls most fondly. “Close to mid-way through the tour,” he relates, “we ran into these guys who were here for the cycling championship, and because I’ve got a Chilean background and can speak Spanish, they asked me to join them as a translator,” he laughs. “At this stage, life was pretty fucking weird. In the day I was riding in the time trials for a Chilean cycle team who couldn’t speak English, going to my office job, and then playing a concert at night.”

With mounting extra curricular activities, the mission was, on one occasion, in jeopardy. Nick remembers. “The day of the bike race, we were really late to leave for that night’s gig, and we ended getting stuck in Shepparton when we were meant to be in Bacchus Marsh. We had to improvise and so ended up playing this house party with a bunch of other local musicians instead. It was, he adds, “probably my favourite gig of the whole event because it so unplanned, and it was great fun to break from the routine!”

So the end of Nick’s extraordinary project is almost here, and he can happily claim it as a roaring success for local music. He’s proved that with even with little resources, one independent artist can make a huge impact for the benefit many.

The next thing for I Heart Cusack is to book a studio and get a slew of new songs down from their wild expedition, and even though he’s earned a good rest, Nick’s love of adventure is something he feels might be hard to shake off. “I’m already thinking about doing a whole tour of open mic nights and just playing alongside amateur performers,” he grins. “There are so many talented singers who only go to open mics, and I’m like, ‘why aren’t you playing your own gigs?’”

Looks like there’s no to be rest for Nick Jorquera, then; at least not while there are unsigned bands, reluctant stars of open mic nights and Chilean cycling teams in need of a friendly boost. He offers finally, “This just feels like our life now, what I described, so it’s too weird to even think about go back to normality in a way.”

The 80 GIGS IN 80 DAYS FINALE will be at The Tote, this Sunday November 21, featuring I Heart Cusack, The Revels, The Thod, The Bon Scotts and The Good Ship. Get along and give Nick and his band (and beard) a proper send off in the mother-of-all end-of-tour parties! Nick and crew also hit The Old Bar this Thursday November 18. Help support him all the way to the end.