OW, MY FREAKIN’ EARS!
You wait for it all year, wiling away those long winter months, coat clad, scarf necked and boot shod into bleak
Then it’s upon you. Last year kicked off a little earlier than usual with Flip-Out at the Corner—with the highest quality, wall-to-wall calibre of acts and no filler, we can only hope that that one comes back! Then everything changes. Life becomes such a frenzied mess of over-indulgence and aural abuse that your every day existence is shoved into a ditch until the heat comes off. Jobs are forgotten and lost, significant others alike. You are reduced to a warm tinnie gripping, singlet wearing, stinking, and greasy-skinned credit card disaster. But who can blame you? It gets better every year and you’re not getting any younger that’s for sure.
Meredith looms large with the promise of new talent and mad hallucinatory gaffer-tape Dictaphoned tent conversations to mark the end of the working year. You tramp out of the Supernatural swamp area with mud-invaded orifices and little recollection of anything but The Bronx’s set and some dude breaking his shoulder during the nudie run. Oh, and the rain… always back to the rain.
New Year hits hard with promise of more camping madness—you’d think you would’ve learnt your lesson last year, or at least have enough emotional scabbage from the Meredith washout to convince you it’s a terrible idea. Thankfully you’re better prepared this time as pastel-clad teens vomit red cordial and dry-root amongst the sheep shit crusted pasture of the obnoxiously overpopulated (and priced) festival grounds. It makes you feel a bit tired but thankfully your sweet camp-site allows you the luxury of retiring early and leaving them all to it.
Not wanting to be left lagging when the lunacy is over, there’s the local stuff to keep up with as well. Unfortunately the regular venues won’t relent with killer bills. After all, was it not the Drones at the Forum and Eddy Current at the Corner that topped last year’s best-of-gig lists? All the while you’re hammered by sideshows. You visit the Forum, the Palace, the HiFi the Corner. There’s a nasty Christmas comedown thrown in there for measure—much to the vexation of family members.
You are treated to all the worldly marvels of the first Australian leg of All Tomorrow’s Parties (if the rumours are true then we’ll be graced again next year), where fans of proper music can escape the bubble-wrapped fanfare of tweenie-fests and appropriately appreciate profound performances from the cream of local and international produce. You catch Dirty Three doing Ocean Songs; elsewhere, Fantomas perform The Director’s Cut and Public Enemy prove It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us (them) Back—you could hardly fathom last year’s Sonic Youth does Daydream Nation—the Don’t Look Back series ensures a marvellous time for thirty-somethings loath to let go of their dissipating youth.
The kids build towards the Big day Out where you all sweat in the stifling racecourse car park and punish yourselves for being Australian. We grown-ups steal into the V.I.P. area where at least the expulsion of a weak bladder seldom results in a half-hour ordeal. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays throw up more gigs; frenetic sideshows erupt like pox all over the arse of your week—it’s the silly season after all—and then there’s the weekends. Thankfully you get a breather (of sorts) at Neil Young at The Bowl and then maybe catch Leonard Cohen sulking; it feels as though the dust may settle a little.
Then February arrives with Summer Tones—finally they’ve got this one right—by fuck, the line-up’s astonishing! St Jerome’s—skinny jeans and Oakley Frogskins; Soundwave— inclined to angular black fringes and scowling; Alice in Chains at the Palais—joy for the creaking bones and backs of the slightly more antiquated; Nine Inch Nails—machine noise and body-paint; and finally the backmarker, Golden Plains, to signal the end of it all—though with the class of the bill this year it’s going to be chaos until we drop mid-March. That’s of course if you consider the Blues and Roots, V and Splendour festivals to be of a dissimilar ilk to their summer compadres—outsiders thrown at us during the off season to remind us of what has been and what’s to come around again—hardly the same. And that’s only the weeping scab on the surface of it all; of course there’s the unyielding continuum of local established and developing talent you’ve been neglecting in the speed blur.
Eventually you’ll find yourself trudging out in a Victorian Southerly on your way to: the Tote, the East, the Northcote, the Birmingham, the Corner, the Espy, the Evelyn, the Empress, the Edinburgh Castle, the Toff, Old Bar, Pony, Ya Yas, or any of the countless other champions of the Melbourne music world—all the gems… Perhaps the Gem? You’ll arrive again at one of the dark, smelly, wondrously beer-soaked jewels in the crown of this fair city and breathe it all in, stop for a pot and scour the music pages for news of up-coming local delights and forthcoming summer festival pleasures. You’ll remember then that it’s not so bad amidst the sleepy chill of the back end of the year—rather pleasant, in fact, to be holed-up in a dark room on a dreary eve with some swampy guitar noise for company. And as the bands roll on through you’ll realise just how lucky you are to live in a town where it’s there for the taking week after week, year-round. In a corner you’ll vow to march on for the cause; because, undoubtedly, if these gifts are not perpetually embraced then they will surely be lost. Use it or lose it as they say… Amen to that.