|The Lemonheads in 1987.|
|Evan Dando, 1992. Note the 'Smudge' tshirt.|
But his sweet voice and facility with wistful lyrics always shone through, whatever turbulence had occurred in the background.
Fast forward ten years...
By the early 2000s, The Lemonheads were defunct (splitting in 1997) and Dando was performing as a solo artist.
But his recorded output since the band had ended consisted of only one live album, 2001's Live at the Brattle Theatre, which served to showcase an artist resting on former glory; his set list made up of old Lemonheads songs and covers. In the intervening years, Dando's drug and alcohol problems had worsened and the artists behaviour had become increasingly eccentric and unpredictable. He sometimes appeared disorientated in interviews, and struggled to finish his sets when onstage.
Then, things seemed to take a turn for the better.
In 2003, Dando finally recorded his first solo album of new material, Baby I'm Bored. This was accompanied by a much publicised detox and changes to a healthier lifestyle. The new, improved Dando would support his album with a world tour, a showcase for his reinvigorated talent, body and mind.
This, at least, was the plan...
|Evan Dando and Nic Dalton|
Evan Dando had a long history with Australia.
In the early 90's, before he made it big, he had travelled around the country, and had fallen in with a couple of like minded local musicians, Tom Morgan and Nic Dalton. Morgan and Dalton, best known locally as part of the band 'Smudge', had helped write the songs that became It's a Shame About Ray. Dalton would subsequently join the Lemonheads and serve as one of their many guitarists, playing and touring for two and a half years to 1996.
Once he left the band, Dalton then moved from playing to production, founding the successful local indy label Half-a-Cow records.
So when Dando needed musicians for a backing band for his solo tour, he turned to his old friend and colleague Dalton, asking him to play base. Dalton agreed, and he became part of what appeared, on paper, to be something of an alt-rock supergroup; alongside Dando and Dalton were former Dinosaur jr drummer George Berz, and You Am I guitarist Davey Lane.
Two shows were set for Melbourne, in the first week of August, 2003.
|Dando at The Prince, August 2003.|
'This place used to rule! Now it sucks. God bless gentrification, right?'
Things went downhill from there.
Standing on the corner of the stage, Dalton plucked at his base, looking mightily unimpressed. He would leave the band immediately after the show, his participation in the tour over.
Although whether he was fired, as originally announced, or left disgusted with Dando's behaviour, has never been established (a website with Dalton's name attached currently indicates that he left the band because he was unwell).
Whatever the explanation, with a gig the following night Dando was now without a base player. Whether due to drugs, or bravado, or his lackadaisical nature, the singer simply decided to soldier on without one.
August 2, 2003 then. Evan Dando at The Hi Fi Bar. One of the most notorious gigs in the city's long musical history.
|The mystery girl, onstage with Evan Dando at the Hi Fi.|
Things became strange as his band joined him for the set proper. Accompanying the rest of the group onstage was an unknown young girl, who joined Dando at the microphone.
As a remarkable coda to the story, the embarrassed young girl on stage, holding up the words to songs that Dando had forgotten, was later found to be Missy Higgins. Higgins, a Lemonheads fan but then totally unknown, had talked her way into the sound check in the hope of catching a glimpse of Dando.
After this mess of a show and tour, Dando continued on much as he had before. He has detoxed and cleaned up a number of times, and has relapsed an equal number. He still tours Australia regularly, with the gigs running the full spectrum from the sublime to the ridiculous.
But nothing has topped his efforts at the Hi Fi Bar, in 2003.
Recalling his infamous effort during an interview in 2006, Dando seemed characteristically non-plussed:
As fitting a summation as any.