Wednesday, May 30, 2012


My men’s circle is spending this Saturday night on Mount Hotham, and someone has suggested an activity for civilised after-dinner entertainment: we each select our favourite piece of music and present it to the group.

As I trawled through my playlist of favourite tunes in preparation, I was surprised by the one that stood out most. It’s not my favourite group or composer by any means. It is a beautiful song but, fittingly for the exercise, it’s the way it intertwines with my own story that makes it so special to me.

Let’s start in 1994. In January of that year, the Big Day Out moves from Adelaide Uni to the Showgrounds. I am not quite 14, attending a big concert with mates for the first time. I get my first whiff of marijuana; am caught in a mosh at, of all bands, Def FX (launching pad for future celebrity wiccan Fiona Horne); see TISM clad in balaclavas playing broomsticks; witness the Teenage Fanclub, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Ramones and Soundgarden – surely one of the greatest lineups in Australian rock history – ruined by the terrible sound in the indoor pavilion; and, finally, see someone wheeled out in a body bag as the festival closes.

I’m a little blonde kid with an older brother and a large emotional investment in rock music. I read Rolling Stone and Kerrang, write reviews for the street presses, and heap scorn on friends who are discovering techno. Any time they try to play me electronic music, I deliver a standard joke. “It’s DJ Farquar’s new track ‘Two Drums Beating’!” I laugh smugly and often.

Fast forward to 1998, and I’m on a tram to Dixon Recycled with boxes of CDs to sell. Painstakingly pieced-together collections of REM, Husker Du, King’s X and many more great bands are about to be traded in for a completely new way of life. My hair is spiked, my nails are blue and my wrists adorned with bright sparkling bracelets. Rave is the culture, and the music is electronica – a friend and I have just discovered Warp Records. I know nothing will ever be the same.

Two years further into the future, it’s now October 2000. I am camped in a tent city demonstration in Placa Catalunya, Barcelona. My companions are Thelia, a young South African, a Brighton crusty named Fluffy Dave di Dooda,  and seventy west Africans and fifteen Pakistanis who are demanding the right to work. There are protests every few days, and I do some basic French-Spanish-English translation. I feel so at home there that, when I head down to Valencia for a weekend, I take a small bag and leave my large backpack at Catalunya.

Each morning, before we head out to find fresh cardboard to sleep on, I wander over the road to the FNAC deparment store. Thelia has found an unmarked staff bathroom that we use for rudimentary ablutions. And each morning I spend fifteen minutes on the shop headphones, listening to the Radiohead’s new album Kid A. Each song plays for two tantalising minutes, precisely, before the store computer flicks it over to the next track.

The influence of Autechre, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada is palpable; later I will read that Thom Yorke ordered the entire Warp Records catalogue after making OK Computer. I’ve given away rock for electronica, and now it seems the biggest band in the world are doing the same thing. The warm opening chords and processed vocals of ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ sound so damn significant. I may be sleeping on the street, but I couldn’t be happier: for me, at least, the world is as it should be.

I know there is no point buying the album – I am still carrying around an old walkman with a handful of dubbed cassettes – and in all but one case I come to accept the abrupt ending midway through each song. The exception is the eighth track, ‘Idioteque’, which always cuts out just as its booming industrial beat and intoxicating vocal line begin to shift up a gear.  I am desperate to hear the conclusion of this song. Finally, a month later and hundreds of kilometres to the west in the Basque city of Bilbao, a German girl called Eva plays me the whole album from start to glorious end. And the full version of ‘Idioteque’ is confirmed as my favourite song – the favourite song of a boy who doesn’t really listen to songs.

Let’s finish in the present: why ‘Idioteque’ today? There’s a yearning in the music that suits the litany of nostalgia I’ve just presented. It’s also the closest to out-and-out electronic dance music Radiohead ever came. In fact, it’s the only song of theirs I’ve ever heard mixed into a dancefloor set (by DJ Trip at Adelaide’s Crown & Sceptre in 2003). Remixes abound, and in 2010 a great version of ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ went down a treat on Rainbow Serpent’s Market Stage, but ‘Idioteque’ doesn’t need to be touched up. It straddles the dancefloor and the bedroom as it is – in other words, ideal electronica. Throw in a vocal line you can sing along to, and it really is the perfect modern fusion.

Perhaps most importantly, to my mind it hints at a potential Radiohead have never really fulfilled. This might seem a strange thing to say about a band so widely regarded as one of the greats. But Amnesiac? Some great Kid A outtakes. Hail to the Thief? Underrated but still patchy. In Rainbows? Hugely enjoyable but not challenging. The King of Limbs? A welcome return to experimentalism but lacking an emotional punch. Twelve years on, it seems Kid A – and ‘Idioteque’ in particular – represent a high watermark which Radiohead will never reach again.

So here it is.

How do you choose a favourite piece of music? In late autumn of 2012, this is how I chose mine. Like a true electronica geek, with no reference to the lyrics.

Friday, May 4, 2012

John Butler's "Tin Shed Tales" @ HiFi Bar, 25/4/12

There’s a Collingwood guernsey in the lineup, and a few drunk sailors wandering past from Young & Jackson try to blag their way into the HiFi. It’s been a long, wet Anzac Day, and thankfully Felicity Groom is downstairs warming up. She switches from guitar to autoharp and back again, finishing with a crowd-pleasing take on Mental As Anything’s Live It Up and haunting renditions of her own Siren Song and An Ache. This is John Butler’s “Tin Shed Tales” tour and the curtains part to reveal a beautiful corrugated iron set hung with instruments, skateboards and some interesting art (is that Donald Duck vomiting?). The man himself strolls out to rapturous applause, launching straight into the feelgood opening of Gonna Be A Long Time and Better Than. A kick drum brings the bass every time he taps his right foot, and punters bop and sing along.

Anyone hoping to dance all night is soon disappointed, because tonight the magic is in the stories Butler tells; the performance is as much spoken-word as musical, although one complements the other. Introducing Good As Gone, he tells of immigrants distilling moonshine, gene pools and Celtic folk music in the Appalachian Mountains – and then demonstrates the progression on his banjo. Perhaps anxious not to seem didactic, he speaks somewhat haltingly of the campaign to stop Woodside’s gas plant in the Kimberley. But what follows is an eloquent piece of protest music built around the simple but unforgettable image of Kimberley as a “wild and free” girl coveted by callous cowboys. Then, less than a week after David Bridie sang Danny Boy for Jim Stynes at the MCG, Butler puts his own spin on the classic tune with an exquisite intro whose high notes float effortlessly from his slide guitar. It’s a lovely moment imbued with moving family history and the power of music to help us heal and remember.

There is one song that loses its essence in the Tin Shed: slowed down and stripped of its rhythm section, Revolution seems more distant than ever. But Zebra ends the main set on a high, and then Felicity Groom reappears to sing Danielle Caruana’s part in Jenny. As voices clamour for Ocean, Butler takes us back to the time he left university to “busk next to a bin”, and discovered that music can convey feelings words simply cannot. It’s an invitation to share a moment of personal, even spiritual, reflection, as the instrumental epic builds inexorably to a climax of raw sonic energy and the house lights come up.

(written for Inpress, for print and online publication)

Mount Kimbie @ the HiFi Bar, 3/5/12

“These aren’t quite songs yet – indulge us.”

There’s a surprising echo of Spinal Tap (“We hope you enjoy our new direction”) as Dom Maker introduces an extended bracket of works-in-progress at the HiFi Bar. Mount Kimbie have talked openly of moving beyond the treated vocals and lo-fi synths of  “post-dubstep”. Tonight it seems that, not unlike Tap, they are digging ever deeper into art-rock for inspiration. It occasionally verges on self-indulgence, but then writing “not quite songs” is precisely what Mount Kimbie are known for: at their best they hover in their very own sweet spot between dance music, ambient and indie.  And if live jams of their new material don’t always find that spot, it’s still a pleasure to witness a band so fearlessly pushing their sound further out and further in.

What’s more, the show starts and ends superbly. Opener Carbonated emerges from a foggy soundscape with a house beat bashed out on drum pads. It’s a rhythm that underpins much of the show and, with vocals chopped up or even performed live, the vibe is more post-punk than dubstep. In fact, bass weight is about the only thing Mount Kimbie draw from that most ubiquitous of contemporary genres. A glorious rendition of Field sees the duo cranking up industrial drums and electric guitar, and when the drop comes it’s a hip-hop beat that sends the place bananas. The bubbling melody of Before I Move Off gets the night’s biggest cheer, and haunting piano chords provide a perfect, unexpected counterpoint. “Australians, I love how much you love that song” says Kai Campos. “Paid my rent for a couple of months.”

In fact, the band seem genuinely surprised at the ferocity of support they have garnered. A pumping encore throws more than a splash of acid house in the mix, briefly threatening a rave re-enactment of the HiFi’s Teriyarki Thursdays in the late 90s. Then, all too abruptly, it’s over. There’s a restless potential about Mount Kimbie, a feeling that, with time, they will learn to fully employ the amazing powers at their disposal. They are already an excellent band. They could become one of the very, very best.

Tonight’s supports could be the main act’s kid brothers. Sicilia’s ambient laptop techno sets a rather neutral tone, which Oscar + Lewis then vandalise with blunted beats, bright synths, live R&B vocals – and a guest rapper/ dancer named Grant who steals the show and then hands out miniature zines by the bar. Post-dubstep? Post-everything.

(written for Inpress for print and online publication)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

James Vincent McMorrow @ Toff in Town, 12/4/12

It feels good to sit and listen to folk music, even on the bandroom floor at the Toff in Town. On stage a double-bassist alternately plucks and bows away beneath Emily Ulman’s fragile voice and guitar work – but, despite a neat cover of Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire”, the songs don’t quite cut through.

It’s standing room only by the time James Vincent McMorrow steps into the spotlight, and from opener “Sparrow and the Wolf” it’s clear the direction this solo show will take. Slowed down, what is a rollicking song on record now hinges on the lyric “Seen no joy in this world”, and the “oh-oh-oh-oh” singalong becomes an evocative lament.

A stark version of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” is an unexpected reminder of McMorrow’s roots in the post-hardcore scene – it’s just that, these days, his voice alone provides the dynamic shift from quiet to loud and back again. And this voice is definitely the bedrock of his appeal. The falsetto is almost Buckley-esque, and sounds even purer live and bathed in chorus. The lyrics are poetic but not cloying and, when he finally speaks to the audience three songs in, McMorrow’s banter is endearingly humble.

A story about food poisoning, passports and airports breaks no new ground, but people still hang on every word. Later he abandons “This Old Dark Machine” halfway through the first verse, explaining he can’t bring himself to sing the whole song with his guitar out of tune. This draws laughter and applause, and he is moved to share the tale of his only other experience stopping a song mid-performance – politely shooshing an obnoxious bunch of drunks in Philadelphia. The Melbourne crowd might not be so rambunctious, but whoops of delight greet the opening lines of “We Don’t Eat”, and the country-folk feel of “Breaking Hearts” gets toes tapping.

Wishing the audience a nice evening and a good life, McMorrow sings “If I Had a Boat” off the mic at stage left. It’s a fine gesture, but one those beyond the first three rows have cause to regret. Thankfully he returns to the stage and the mic for a heartstopping and clearly much-anticipated encore of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”. With rest, studio time and greater stardom now beckoning him after three years of constant touring, it has been a pleasure to spend this intimate evening with James Vincent McMorrow. And his beard.

(published in Inpress 25/4/12)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Espionage feat. Jacques Greene and Machinedrum @ Roxanne Parlour, 8/4/12

Heading out dancing still gives me butterflies. They flutter round my stomach like old friends bringing back all the nights out I’ve almost forgotten.

Section 8 is bouncing to “Blue Monday”, but I miss the carpark where we’d smoke and laugh at the Club X sign that read “Discreet Rear Entrance”.

At least the Shanghai Noodle House will never change: wait at least two hours after Spicy Bean Curd Noodle Soup before applying caffeine and alcohol.

The Exford must have a secret for every backpacker that passes through: mine is kissing an older woman under the table.

Who are these smokers? Oh, it’s the back of Billboards – that must have been me once, me and the long lost raver goths in the last days of Teriyarki.

Then into the dodgiest lift in town and up past Charlton’s, where Dan’s birthday rendition of “Lust for Life” ended with a stranger stealing the mic and pouring beer on his head.

Hard to imagine this place splattered in fluoro and fractals and goa for the first Earthdance Melbourne in 1998. Was it this floor or the next? Christian tripped out and we had to walk him home before midnight.

Now the doors open onto Roxanne Parlour, where The Operatives put on Flying Lotus, The Gaslamp Killer, Dam-Funk and Harmonic-313 – a killer show, and one of their first biggies. Soon Roxanne is closing its doors and, if worrying rumours about the structural soundness of its dancefloor are true, maybe it’s going out with a bang tonight. Vision of the infamous “Israeli wedding disaster” keeps floating  to mind – too much booty-shaking and we might all end up downstairs singing karaoke.

But I guess a lineup featuring Jacques Greene, Machinedrum and Funkineven is just worth the risk.

The crowd is quite sparse but the dancefloor thickens up as the first international takes the stage. Mr Dibiase seems squarely rooted in the West Coast glitch-hop scene, and most heads nod in appreciation. There’s even a few gangsta moves being thrown up the front. If the stereotype is true, this is definitely music for Gen Y – every thirty seconds brings a new track and a new vibe. I find myself recalling an old friend’s criticism of hard psy-trance: “there’s just no journey in this”. I simultaneously wish I was playing Nintendo and remember that I don’t much like hip-hop – hardly a ringing endorsement.

Dibiase starts and ends late, so local DJ Ed Fisher’s set is seriously squashed. He barely has time to drop a few soulful dubstep tunes that keep the floor warm for Jacques Greene. And when the French Canadian steps up, things take a turn for the housey.

I am not a great supporter of house. In fact, if people who have barely made my acquaintance were asked about me, I’d like to think their recollection might go something like this: “Blonde guy. Glasses. Hates house.”  I fantasise about wearing an undershirt that read “That’s not techno, that’s house”, so if needs be I could strip down and march around ordering everyone to leave the dance floor, or sit down, or whatever form of protest my ecstatic megalomania saw fit to organise at the time.

What is it about house that gets my goat? In short, it’s that I can’t stand easy listening dance music. I want to be surprised on the dancefloor, to be shocked into action by a rhythm, a sound, a melody, a sample – or preferably an original combination of all of the above. House is essentially minimal disco, the generic club soundtrack to a night of champagne, cocaine and dancing in high heels.

But despite this long-held vitriol (which may stem directly from the many precious hours of life spent queing to get into Q on Rundle St in Adelaide) Jacques Greene’s set is not even the first time this year I’ve felt glad to hear some house. The first came on the Monday of Rainbow Serpent, when the Sunset Stage’s all-night barrage finally mellowed out. And now, after the unwelcome assault of Mr Dibiase, a bit of four-to-the-floor goes down rather well indeed.

Not that Greene’s sound can really be pigeonholed as house. If there was a bridge between the UK funky scene and Radiohead, he’d be playing a party somewhere in the middle: black music rears its head in the R&B vocals and some of the beats, but it’s all drenched in bittersweet synths and often downright laid back. The crowd goes nuts for him, even singing along at times, but I find it hard to get a groove on – even when the rhythms syncopate and he wheels out the 303s.

One guy who has found his groove has also found his way on stage, a slightly chubby geek who is hyping the crowd and even grabs a mic to introduce Greene early in the piece. “Who gave that guy the mic?” My crew is not the only one exchanging rolled eyes – do they let just anyone up there these days? – but the laugh is on us when the stage invader turns out to be none other than Travis Stewart AKA Machinedrum himself.

It all makes perfect sense: geeks do make the best electronica. The segue is quite smooth as Machinedrum begins in relatively ambient territory, but unfortunately he is a bit too comfortable on the mic. Outside the studio his voice is rather (what’s a polite way to say this?) tuneless, distracting from the crispness of the beats. Thankfully he only sings “Sacred Frequency” and one other track live, and then it’s down to business.

Although steeped in IDM, Machinedrum’s sound now draws heavily on the RnB meets happy hardcore vibes of the Chicago footwork scene. It makes for a frenetic dancefloor with loads of swagger, and things really ignite whenever a hint of jungle enters the mix. With footwork clocking in around 150-160bpm, the crossover potential is there – and already being mined worldwide by producers  including Africa HiTech and Om Unit (with whom Machinedrum collaborates as Dream Continuum).

At times I feel like my body is moving itself and I’m floating three inches above the floor. My feet haven’t moved this fast in years, and I keep pulling my jeans up around my knees in an effort to cool off. It’s euphoric but relentless and I run out of puff just before the hour is up, retreating to the back to prepare for the closing set.

The thing is, after the all-out assault of Machinedrum I just can’t quite catch the thread of Funkineven. He’s a cool London cat with a feather in his hat and he’s dropping the sweetest acid and electro (although I don’t recognise any of his own productions), but at 3:30am I need something dark to keep me going – and the ever present hint of disco in the mix keeps it a bit light and fluffy. I know I’ll regret it, but a quick conference reveals everyone’s pretty buggered. Back in the dodgy lift and out onto Coverlid Place we go.

It’s been another stellar event from The Operatives, with reasonable flow despite a seriously varied lineup. Machinedrum has destroyed the dancefloor and even brought some karaoke vibes with him – so, in the nicest possible way, my suspicions about what the night might hold have come true.

Before I know it I’m sitting on a couch with Burial on the stereo and a single malt whisky in my hand… then waking up walking to the train station, realising I’ve left my keys behind, running back and breaking back into my old house, running for the train and missing it, running for the tram and missing it, waiting for a bus that never comes, finally jumping on a train and dozing off until Melbourne Central then hopping on a tram, spotting Theresa walking in the opposite direction past RMIT, jumping off the tram and running after her to give her a big hug and tell her all about it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Round 2: Melbourne vs West Coast @ Paterson’s Stadium

“happy easter to u both, poor dees, but legs by 93 over eagles reigning premiers. visit soon. x”

For an Old English scholar and editor, Mum displays a surprising mastery of the condensed language of SMSes. Between wishing Theresa and me a happy Easter and urging us to come back to Adelaide, she commiserates with me over Melbourne’s terrible Round 2 loss in Perth – but strikes an appropriate note of Easter optimism with the news that Norwood have had a big win in the SANFL.

My favourite bit is the phrase “eagles reigning premiers”.

I get footy texts from two people: Mum often sends through Norwood results, and my friend Chris Nehmy keeps me up-to-date with the Crows, as well as occasional comments on the game in general. Yesterday, when I had already given up on the Dees for the afternoon, I received this fairly standard piece of sarcasm:

“I think this really could be Melbourne’s year”. To which I replied, in a similar vein: “Mark Neeld has really got the boys playing an exciting brand of footy”.

Last year, both our clubs sacked their coaches mid-season. Melbourne dumped Dean Bailey after the 30-goal annihilation at Geelong, and Neil Craig finally resigned when Adelaide played St Kilda back into form to the tune of 103 points. He’s now the Manager of Elite Performance at Melbourne. On a day like today, it feels like a bad joke.

I ended my post on Round 1 with the classic footy clichĂ© that a week’s a long time in footy. Usually this refers to the possibility of bouncing back from a bad defeat with a win the following weekend, but in this case it took on a different meaning. Melbourne has endured what some journalists are describing as the worst week in AFL memory.

First came the deflating loss to Brisbane, then a media scandal over the coach’s alleged handling of indigenous players. Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse, the CEO of the club’s major sponsor, Energy Watch, was revealed as a total bigot. The Board dumped Energy Watch (a principled decision that will cost the club around $2 million), and the players ran out yesterday with duct tape covering the company’s logo.

I watched the game at Bar Centrale on Lygon St. Years ago it was Sabatini’s, and Socialist Alternative comrades would wander up there from Trades Hall to drink and play pool after Thursday night branch meetings. Now it’s very much a sports bar, and yesterday a few abashed-looking Melbourne fans gathered to see how bad the carnage might me.

It was pretty bad, a classic belting. The Dees fought hard, especially early on, but looked completely inept. At times we seemed to bring the Eagles down to our level, but as the first half wore on they shifted up a few gears and ran away with the game. I left at half-time, when the margin was 48 points, and predicted a 100-point loss. In the end, it was 108.

The only consolation is that our next two games are at the MCG, and we play two other winless teams: Richmond and the Bulldogs.

The main problem I have with all this is not even that my team is losing. Its that, having committed to following them closely this season, I have the awful feeling I’m not going to see many good games of footy. And I’m not a one-eyed supporter, it’s the game I love.

I guess I’ll just have to watch a bit of Hawthorn vs Geelong tomorrow – or get Mum to send over the VHS of Norwood beating Port in the 1984 SANFL Grand Final.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Steve Earle @ the Corner, 29/3/12

It’s a full Corner Hotel tonight– even the front bar is packed with Tigers fans undergoing the traditional Round One disappointment. Meanwhile in the band room, the Jess Ribeiro Duo battle sound issues to showcase a set of mellow originals that merit more than polite indifference.

But there’s only one man the crowd have come to hear – and that’s just as well, because there’s no one else on stage with him.

On reflection, this intimate solo show is a fitting way for Steve Earle to present his new album I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive. Earle may have bested heroin – and been rewarded with remarkable, sustained vitality over the last two decades – but he is clearly feeling his own mortality. He recently moved from Nashville to Greenwich Village to ensure he retains a community of fellow artists well into his later years.

So far so gloomy, you might think. But staring death in the face gives Earle an undeniable power which at times borders on the holy. This is a man who lives his values, and tonight he shares them not just through music, but also the meandering introductions that flesh out the philosophy behind his songs.

Early in the piece he introduces his bazouki (which he later swaps for a guitar and then a banjo) as an “immigrant instrument”, one that washed up on the shores of Ireland to be reclaimed by a new musical tradition. “Immigration is our past” he declares, “it’s our present – and if we have a fucking future it’s our future as well.”

Before playing “Jerusalem”, Earle talks of his unshakeable belief in a peaceful future in the Middle East and around the world. When he says “I am a recovering heroin addict and I cannot afford to believe in a lost cause or a hopeless case”, it’s hard not to be swept up in the moment.

Not everyone is feeling the love, though – there’s a core of drunk revellers wanting a more toe-tapping set. As early as the spine-tingling acapella intro to second number “Gulf of Mexico”, a lone voice responds to shooshers by hollering “I don’t want to be in church!”

It’s an oddly apt complaint, but the majority are clearly rapt to be in the house of Earle tonight. Even new numbers “God Is God” and “Every Part of Me” are greeted with reverence, while“Copperhead Road” and “Devil’s Right Hand” close the set on a note of jubilation.

Troubador, preacher, activist and prodigal son: Steve Earle stands in all these traditions, and his voice is as vital as ever.

(published in Inpress, 4/4/12)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rd 1: Melbourne vs Brisbane @ the MCG

I had a rush of blood to the head this week, and did something I’ve never done before: I became a member of my football club.

I grew up in Adelaide with an SANFL “Footy’s Best In The Flesh” sticker on my bunk bed. Norwood was our team, and I ran around Under 7s training with Gary McIntosh’s number 14 on my back. Whenever State of Origin footy came to Footy Park, a parent would take a bunch of boys along and we’d chant “S-A” and “We hate you ‘cos you’re Victorian” all night long.

All the same, even in the 1980s it was hard to ignore the game across the border. On winter Sunday mornings my brother and I would leap out of bed to watch Drew Morphett present an hour of VFL highlights on the ABC. It was the era of the great Essendon teams, and in the backyard he’d be Leon Baker and I a diminutive Billy Duckworth.

1987 was the year I became a Melbourne supporter. The Demons had a graceful, ageing champion in Robbie Flower; a South Australian gun named Steven Stretch on the wing; and the young Irishman Jim Stynes, whose famous blunder in the 1987 Preliminary Final was the kind of tragedy that weds a young fan to the team. I’ve been waiting for redemption ever since.

I’ve written elsewhere about my existential angst as a Melbourne fan. Being an interstater, and politically of the Left, it can feel rather odd to support the MCC team. A few years ago I flirted with the Crows and the Bulldogs, but neither ever took. I think the turning point was when Liam Jurrah burst onto the scene - but it might just as easily have been when Jimmy came back to save the club from extinction. Here were some people I could care about, and a story worth telling.

I was eleven years old and jumping around the living room when Jimmy won the Brownlow in 1991. Last week I was moved to tears when he died. It’s a funny thing, crying at the death of someone you’ve never met. I guess I cried for myself really, for the dead man I will be and the child I’ll never be again; but also for my family and friends, and for Jimmy and his, and because reading all the obituaries I felt happy and sad at the same time.

So Jimmy’s gone - and Liam Jurrah is out indefinitely with a bad wrist, a family feud and a pending court case. But this week I joined the Melbourne Football Club anyway. I chose the eleven home games membership, general admission seating, for $195. I don’t like Etihad Stadium. I’ll probably make a game or two there, but really I want to be at the MCG.

I’ve never had many mates who actually barrack for Melbourne. One of the few who spring to mind is a lovely bloke named Dave Lafferty, a Queenslander mate from the student activist days. One night at the New International Bookshop I had an unusual rush of customers - there was a big event on upstairs - and Dave appeared out of nowhere and started making coffees. I hadn’t seen him for years. We both lived in Footscray for a while, and went to a few games but then he disappeared again. Are you out there, Dave? The ‘G misses you, and so do I.

For Round 1, 2012 my fellow Dee is Pete Coles. Pete’s a brother from a men’s circle we both sat in a few years ago. That’s a story in itself, but suffice to say that while we’re not best mates, we’ve been through some real bonding experiences together. He’s a big, gentle man with flowing red-brown hair, a muso and youth worker and a bit of a hippie. In fact, as we head into the ground I joke we’re the hippie faction of the Melbourne supporters, both in our sandals, Pete with his prayer beads and me with my sushi.

Less of a hippie is Jerome Small. I hope I’ll go to many games with Pete this year - perhaps even find a few more Dees who want to join our faction - but I also want to sit with friends who support the opposition. Today, that’s Jerome. He’s a Lions man from back when they called Fitzroy home, and his story is a bit like mine. He gave up on the footy altogether when Fitzroy folded, then wore an Essendon scarf to a 2001 Grand Final barbecue - but found himself jumping instinctively to his feet when Alastair Lynch marked on the lead in the first quarter that day.

Fast forward a decade and Jerome’s back in his old Fitzroy scarf. He’s a big, gentle man too - a construction worker and one of the most authentic socialists I’ve ever known. As we take our seats in the Ponsford Stand, up in Level 3 so we get an overview of the action, I wonder if he and Pete will find a political argument today.

After a minute of applause for Jim Stynes, a fitting variation on the minute’s silence, the ground announcer invites us to remain standing for the national anthem. Jerome sits down in disgust, declaring “I’m not going to stand up for a song that’s full of lies!” I wish I had his gumption, and resolve not to stand next time myself. As the song plays we discuss the increasing proliferation of national anthems and calls to patriotism in AFL footy, on Anzac Day and beyond. An Irish ballad would have been much more meaningful today I reckon.

Before the first bounce, I knick Jerome's record to perform an impromptu quiz on both clubs’ history. The players have their pre-game rituals, I have mine. I ask for a tip, and Jerome prevaricates while Pete plumps for Melbourne by 40. Inspired by his confidence, I tip Melbourne by four goals.

We lose by 41 points.

It’s a scrappy game. Neither team looks great in the first half, but in the third quarter the Brisbane rucks are well on top and Simon Black and any number of young midfielders are carving us up. Given the Lions won just four games last year, it’s a disastrous start to our season.

I still enjoy it though. There’s a masochist frame of mind that comes naturally to any long-suffering supporter. I’m not one for bagging my team, but I repeatedly wonder aloud what Jack Watts is doing in the centre bounces so often - Pete reckons the coach is trying to toughen him up, and we have a not entirely generous chuckle when young Jack comes off with the blood rule. We both acknowledge that the team has not a single star, perhaps not even a genuine A-grade player. It’s a depressing thought.

Even when we do kick a goal it seems more the result of persistence than skill. At one point we seem certain to score as two players close in on goal with the ball at their feet; Aaron Davey attempts to soccer it through but only succeeds in falling over, and thankfully the ball lands in Brad Green’s hands for a goal he seems embarrassed to celebrate in the usual manner. “A comedy of errors” I suggest. “!” shoots back Jerome.

The real highlight of the day - and keep in mind here we are the hippie faction - is that Jerome gets to see his team win. “GO LI-ONS!” he bellows with increasing regularity as the realisation dawns that a victory is on the cards. I particularly like how he looks up the young players in the Record, then shouts their names for all to hear: “We LOVE you Pearce Hanley!” “Mitch Golby you are a STAR!”

When the final siren blows Pete looks pretty keen to get moving, but we stick around so Jerome can enjoy the song, and the celebration continues as the players and staff salute the fans up our end. Jerome’s not too keen on coach Michael Voss, whom he calls “son of a cop”, but when Jonathan Brown shows his face – recently reconstructed for the third time – Jerome reckons he looks in pretty good nick. In fact we can hardly see the man, but it’s an optimistic moment.

As we leave the ground, Pete and I plan to reconvene for Round 3 against the Tigers, and I tell Jerome I’ll probably see him at the Marxism conference at Easter. It’s been a good day out with mates I haven’t seen much for a while.

If Melbourne don’t improve dramatically, that might be the story of my year as a club member. We all know a week’s a long time in footy, but Perth is also a bloody long way away – and we’ve got the Eagles over there next weekend. Things might just get worse before they get better.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"What the fuck do you want fuck off out of here or I’ll bite ye!" Debut Mondays at the Wheeler Centre

The Wheeler Centre runs a monthly night called Debut Mondays, where four first-time authors are given a mic and ten minutes to read from their work. As you might imagine it can be a hit and miss. Not all writers publish a first book that warrants a second, and even those who do usually take time to grow into the entertaining performers we nowadays expect them to be.

This year Debut Mondays has moved downstairs to The Moat, the swish cafĂ©/bar/restaurant that opened late last year. (Along with Embiggen Books down the road, The Moat is apparently part of “the Little Lonsdale St renaissance”.) It’s a much more welcoming, hospitable environment for what is usually a lowkey event – although the March edition was something special.

Robert Power kicked things off entertainingly, confessing he had spent time in his youth as both a revolutionary socialist and a Seventh-Day Adventist. The creepy religious twins in his reading from In Search of the Blue Tiger certainly bespoke this experience.

Next up was Maggie Groff, who had already won my heart by chatting comfortably with yellow-shirted Leon – a local street identity and serial attendee of protests and literary events. Maggie read one of the opening scenes from her book Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute, a light crime read that delves into the world of cults in northern NSW and south Queensland.

Then up stepped Chris Flynn sporting a shaved head, thick black-rimmed glasses and a gentle Irish accent. After a few introductory remarks, he excused himself to “get into character”. He turned his back to the audience, bent at the waist and kept us in amused suspense before reappearing clad in a black balaclava (minus the glasses).

The narrator of Flynn’s Tiger in Eden is Billy Montgomery, a Protestant hard man from Belfast who is hiding out in Thailand, and we were treated to a section of Billy’s experience on vipassana. Vipassana is of course a silent meditation retreat, and Flynn’s frenetic delivery of Billy’s inner monologue – complete with a thick Belfast accent, slang and swear words – made for a hilarious contrast with the supposed calm of his environs.

Since I bought the book afterwards (a first in all my time at the Wheeler Centre), I can reproduce here my favourite section from the reading, when Billy leaves the guided walking meditation and encounters a trail of ants that draw his attention:

“Fuck they’re amazing so they are in a world of their own they don’t give a fuck about us humans and our aul problems, they’ve got attitude too this big red one crawled past me I was sitting on the ground watching them and he must have seen me or something, the wee bastard stops and looks right up at me as if to say what the fuck do you want fuck off out of here or I’ll bite ye. I’m about a thousand times his size or something, I could crush him no bother and he still comes at me all threatening like did you not hear me get to fuck. I jumped up thinking, aye all right pal take it easy I’m going now. I had to sit somewhere else and hope he didn’t come back, the wee fucker set of balls on him like.”

Is Flynn indebted Irvine Welsh? Billy’s mix of humour, boredom and quickness to violence are reminiscent of Trainspotting’s Begbie, and the first-person form accentuates the similarity. I love Welsh anyway, and Tiger in Eden is so well realised it shouldn’t really matter. The sex scenes (of which there are many) and the long full moon party scene are written lightly and convincingly. Billy’s character becomes more sympathetic as his horrific past bubbles up to confont hime, and this process gives the book its structure and abiding sense of hope.

Give Tiger in Eden to a boy aged 15-50 and see if they don’t devour it in one or two sittings.

Of course, the fourth author at our Debut Mondays event (yes, we’re back in The Moat) did not fall into this demographic. She was the 11 year-old Eliza Baker, winner of the 2011 John Marsden Prize for Best Short Story/ First Chapter of a Novel by a writer under the age of 18. As a man in a balaclava dropped F and C-bombs with abandon, Eliza’s dad seemed rather unamused – but her mum was cracking up.

Eliza then stood up and read Chapter One of her novel in progress, South Spirit: The Locket Heart. It was cute and magical, and warmly applauded. After her experience at The Wheeler Centre, however, perhaps Chapter Two will be a bit different.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Little Readers and Readees

Yesterday I worked the Children’s Book Festival for the Wheeler Centre. Outside the State Library lawns were overrun and Little Lonsdale St was a “child apocalypse” (according to my workmate Autumn) of colourful chalking. Inside I chatted to authors and held the mic for kids to ask questions whose succinctness put most adult patrons of the Wheeler Centre to shame.

I must have been too old to appreciate Andy Griffiths when The Day My Bum Went Psycho was published. Thankfully I seem to be young enough now, because I was consistently delighted by both his half-hour presentations – especially the second, a slideshow of his forthcoming 13 Storey Treehouse book with illustrator Terry Denton. And the kids were climbing off the walls.

But the real highlight of the day, for me, was hearing Graeme Base. Like most kids my age (i.e. 32) I have vivid memories of Animalia and The Eleventh Hour. For the first time in decades I remembered the excitement around my brother’s class having an Eleventh Hour dress-up feast. Unfortunately, under Mum’s creative direction he went as the swan, and was teased quite severely. This was, after all, Year 7 at a boy’s school.

At one point a child asked Graeme how he got the idea to write books, and in his response he asked the audience if anyone knew the book Masquerade. I was kneeling in the second row, waiting to hold the mic for the next question, and amidst the confused silence my low murmur of assent carried all the way to the stage. “Sebastian knows!” exclaimed the author as I knelt there feeling absurdly proud.

Masquerade is an amazing book by Kit Williams, published in 1982 as the clue to a real-life treasure hunt. The author had buried a golden hare somewhere in England, and hundreds of thousands of people around the world bought the book in the hope of unlocking the mystery and claiming the prize. And, with the miracle of Wikipedia, I have just discovered the original winner was revealed as a fraud six years later. It’s an incredible story, and I’ll leave you to look it up if you’re interested.

When I think back to my childhood, The Eleventh Hour and Masquerade seem like definitive, eye-popping experiences of the magic of books. Another that springs to mind is Anno’s Journey, Anno’s Italy and similar works by Mitsumasa Anno.  If you don’t know Anno, imagine Where’s Wally? done in a minimalist, Zen Buddhist style by an artist with a deep interest in history, science and travel.

If I was sitting in Mum’s place in the Adelaide Hills, I’d be able to list many more favourite picture books that truy transcend the term. As it is, I’ll have to stick with what I can remember.

Having said that, my first memory of reading, like all memories from the first three and half years of my life lived in Brunei, is no a real memory at all. It’s captured on film. There I sit, blonde and pudgy with the Three Billy Goats Gruff balanced between my toes. It almost looks like I’m reading the book, but really I’m reciting it by memory. A neat party trick, though.

What I do remember is Mum reading aloud to us. A lot. More than a lot. More than I can imagine any parent reading to their children. More than I can imagine reading to my children, if and when, and that’s a sobering thought because there’s really no greater gift you can give a child. Not when you’ve got food, clothes and a roof sorted, anyway.

From an early age we had at least an hour of reading every night, and usually not in bed but sprawled out in the living room on a sheepskin rug, the couch or in front of an open fire. Kipling’s Just So Stories were favourites, especially The Beginning of the Armadilloes and The Cat That Walked By Himself. The Hobbit was a big hit, but when Mum started The Lord of the Rings I found it hard to follow and wandered off.

Or so the story goes. I was so young I can hardly remember this – somewhere around my sixth birthday. The way Mum tells it, every time I wandered off she would see my head peeking around the corner shortly thereafter, and before long I’d be back in the living room, listening again. Writing this, I just heard a flash of Mum’s voice solemnly intoning the words inscribed on the ring of power: “One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” Soon I was hopelessly enthralled.

Amazingly, this wasn’t even the first time The Lord of the Rings had been read aloud in our family. Dad read it to Mum in England, when she was pregnant with my older brother Thomas. I can just imagine Mum correcting Dad’s pronunciation of all the names, and interrupting to fill him in on the Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse influences on Tolkien’s Middle Earth. How he managed to finish it within nine months remains unclear.

Years later, giving the Best Man speech at my brother’s wedding, I explained his curious middle name Aelfwyn to a bemused audience. It means “elf-friend” in Anglo-Saxon, and I joked that our parents are not even hippies – they’re just geeks.

To the extent that this is true, I’m glad of it. Months of our childhood were spent listening not just to Kipling and Tolkien, but Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Lloyd Alexander, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Ursula Le Guin, E. Nesbitt,, Kenneth Grahame, Colin Thiele – and dozens more authors I can’t wait to read to my kids, if and when, before the 21st century catches up with them.

So I thought yesterday, walking home from the State Library, with the sights and sounds of of children spellbound by their favourite authors dancing happily around my head.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Music I Love - Now Yours To Download!

Sebby's Retro Electrorave mix by SebbyP

As readers of this blog will know, I was rather excited about seeing Africa HiTech, Mark Pritchard and Aphex Twin perform live earlier this month.

As well as inspiring two laudatory reviews, this led me to while away an afternoon investigating the entire Warp Records back catalogue – or at least as much of it as I could find on Bleep. $100 later, I had on my hard drive a large collection of tracks from the classic Sheffield electronic label of the 1990s.

In Energy Flash, his seminal history of rave, Simon Reynolds criticises Warp for snobbishly setting itself apart from the scene – and argues that by doing so it cut itself off from creative explosions, such as the birth of jungle, that occurred precisely because producers and DJs needed ever newer and crazier sounds to keep the dancefloor pumping.

There is at least an element of truth to this. Warp is known as one of the founders and custodians of electronica or, as it is sometimes known, IDM (intelligent dance music). With compilations like Artificial Intelligence in the early 1990s, they helped create a sound somewhere between rave’s main room and its chill room. But Reynolds’ critique glosses over the hugely influential work of artists like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Boards of Canada and in particular Autechre – who have drifted steadily from the dancefloor but somehow continued to develop an immense oeuvre that is, at its heart, rave.

The music I was looking for on Bleep was the electro-beat, ambient-acid rave of the first half of the 1990s. I’m sure there’s more out there, and I plan on tracking it down, but I did find what I was looking for: an early twelve-inch by Move D (now known for his deep house); various Pritchard aliases including including Link and Reload; some Underground Resistance and Drexciya connections, still fresh and showing the influence of Detroit electro on the UK scene; and, most notably, two LPs and three EPs from the little known and short-lived Sheffield outfit RAC.

RAC’s music fit the bill pretty closely, and two of their tracks have found their way onto this mix I put together on Ableton to showcase some of these new/old tunes – as well as other favourites that clock in around 134bpm. The only genuinely new tracks are from Scuba and Shpongle, and both could be described as looking backwards to move forwards.

It was fun (and pretty easy) making the mix, although I struggled to get the volume levels as even as I would have liked. Mixing the records live would be another story altogether, although I do feel more inspired to get behind the decks than in quite some time.

You can download it from Soundcloud or just have a listen, and if you do I’d like to hear your thoughts. What’s your favourite track? Can you imagine dancing to this music? It starts very mellow but works its way onto the dancefloor, I think. What are your thoughts on the electro-style breakbeat? I love how the off-beat gives the music more bounce, while the 303s and other percussive elements make it flow – four-to-the-floor can sound so wooden and lifeless at times. The Buckfunk 3000 (AKA Si Begg) track hints at where this style would be taken with great commercial success but much less nuance in the early Noughties, i.e. the breaks scene.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the mix. If you haven't been out in a while, have a dance around your bedroom! I certainly have been.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thoughts on a funeral

On Wednesday I went to the funeral of Celia “Aze” Beasy, my girlfriend Theresa’s great aunt, at St Stephen’s Anglican Church in North Balwyn.

I only met Aze once. She lay quietly looking out the window from her bed, speaking briefly when prompted by her energetic younger sister Valmai. But before the funeral Theresa told me of Aze’s wonderful shack at the beach, where canasta games dragged on forever because her friends would constantly drop in unannounced. Having witnessed the purgatory of her last days in a nursing home, it was good to have this snapshot of life as she really lived it.

Aze moved down from Newcastle very late in life, and many at the church would scarcely have recognised the vibrant woman described in the eulogy. I almost felt sorry for her, surrounded in death by so few people who really knew and loved her. On reflection, however, I think this says more about me than her. She lived a long and happy life. What else matters?

It’s a difficult question to answer. At least there was one happy side effect of Aze’s death, which doubtless is quite common: her family pulled closer together. They spent more time together, talked more, hugged more. It was great to see.

As a newcomer, I felt more at ease with Theresa’s family at this time of grief than previously in more informal settings. Suddenly, I was useful. I held a box of tissues, Theresa’s hand and her Mum’s hand bag; I passed around food platters and chatted up senior citizens; I belted out “Jerusalem” when the priest seemed to lose his way; I even managed not to think of Will Ferrell in Stepbrothers when “Con Te Partiro” was played.

And no, the day wasn’t all albout me – but I do have a tendency to narcissism, which is partly why I’m interested in funerals.  At times I’ve imagined giving the eulogy of a close friend or family member, and delivering such a virtuoso performance that the attendant throng was wept bone dry of tears and rolling in the aisles with laughter. In contrast, Aze’s eulogy was delivered quite matter-of-factly by an acquaintance she made after her 80th birthday.

Perhaps the ideal eulogy is this: an energetic, talented youngster steps up to bring a life long since gone grey back to the full colour of its bloom. A friend of mine recently returned from London for the funeral of her grandfather, at which she delivered her fourth eulogy in even fewer years. She was a big hit. Afterwards, distant relatives and family friends were jostling for position, hoping to book her in to “do them” when the time comes.

But of course, the usual narcissistic funeral fantasy involves one’s own send-off. It’s morbidly but endlessly fascinating to ponder: what would happen if I died tomorrow? Who would speak? Where would they hold it? How many people would turn up? Perhaps more importantly, who would write the Facebook event invite – and who would click ‘Maybe Attending’?

In the mixtape era of the early 1990s, I selected Metallica’s “Orion” as my funeral march. Thankfully, times have changed and I now have a suggested playlist on iTunes, although it does need some work. In fact, even thinking about this makes me want to buy my legal eagle friends a beer (they aways end up paying anyway). Is it possible to produce a will so watertight that the executors of my estate are legally obliged to play a particular selection of music, at a minimum decibel level, and on a particular brand of speakers?

Here’s a mouth-watering scenario: at the ripe old age of 90, I disappear in a sandstorm during a Trans-Siberian ultramarathon and am declared legally awesome dead. My recalcitrant conservative children engage in a lengthy court battle against my surviving coterie of old friends in an attempt to have my will quashed, but are ultimately unsuccessful. In an ironic twist, said old friends sit too close to the Bose sound system at the funeral and suffer multiple simultaneous cardiac arrests during the blissful electronic maelstrom that is Pita’s Get Out Track 3 at the legal minimum of 100dB.

Those who survive this ordeal then find themselves at a wake where all my worldly possessions are laid out for their perusal. Everyone has to take something home, especially if it’s a book with their name in it – or a picture of me looking young and beautiful. Or perhaps old and beautiful, either is fine. By the age of 90 there will be over 5,000 tagged photos of me on Facebook, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a few decent ones.

All my signature dishes are served: zucchini pizza, rice balls, smoked trout salad and spanish tortilla. Dessert platters heave with a dozen different custard pastries. There is vodka, jagermeister and a bottomless ice bucket of Cooper’s pale, and when everyone is tipsy (but not too drunk) a beautifully crafted joint gets passed around. The music is cranked up, and suddenly a live-action performance of Dan Ducrou’s “Grandpa Does the Melbourne Shuffle” is underway. Cue more cardiac arrests.

This fantasy might have outstayed its welcome, but be warned: this is only the beginning. Soon my will will be written, and so will the directions for my funeral and wake. Actually, I might do the Facebook event too. It would be such a shame not to go out on a high.

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to work on being worthy of such a send-off when the time comes. Harnessing narcissism to live a good life? As Woody Allen says, whatever works.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Winter Is Coming (And That's Summer In France)

In recent years, I’ve been quite enthralled by the Tour de France. At first this came as a surprise to people who know me, including myself. For years I took perverse pride in having actually forgotten how to ride a bike. One of my most recent adventures in cycling ended when I veered inexplicably into the railway line fence in Westgarth. I just checked: the scar is still there on my belly.

So Le Tour (it’s French for The Tour) might not make me want to hit the pedals, but it does make me turn on the telly after 10pm any night I’m home.  To the skeptical or uninitiated, I usually begin my explanation like this: “Have you ever watched one of those HBO DVD box sets?”

Bear with me.

In a single cycling race – say, the road race at the Olympics – a hundred or so riders start off, ride for a really long time and then somebody wins. Sometimes there’s a bit of drama along the way but often it comes down to a sprint for the finish line. Let’s call this the Generic Hollywood Movie version of cycling.

The Tour, however, is the HBO Box Set. With 21 days of racing (and a few rest days in between), there is plenty of time for the drama to develop.

In the Tour, riders are in it for themselves but more importantly for their team, and hence the team’s major corporate sponsor. Most teams are international but some have a national base: there is a Basque team, and now an Australian one.

Some teams have a rider aiming for individual glory. There is the Yellow Jersey for the overall leader of the Tour; the Green Jersey for the best sprinter (points can be won at the finish line but also at various places throughout a stage); the Polka Dot Jersey for the King of the Mountains, the best climber; the White Jersey for the best young rider; and the prestige of winning an individual stage.

If a team has a rider hoping to win any of these things, his team mates are expected to support him even at their own expense. But if he falls out of contention, one of his team mates can have a day in the sun.

The significance of all this may not be instantly apparent, so let me explain. In the Generic Hollywood Movie, everyone is trying to win the race/ get the girl/ save the world. In the HBO Box Set, life is rather more complicated. People want different things! There is a tangled web of motivations and alliances, with characters moving up and down the ladders of fortune and influence depending on their skill and luck.

Only one man can wear the Yellow Jersey – but most of the riders in the field are directly or indirectly involved in a plot to tear it off his back.

Sound familiar, Game of Thrones fans?

The great thing about Le Tour – and HBO TV shows – is they don’t pander to short attention spans.  If you turn on for twenty minutes, nothing will happen. Invest a few weeks of your life, though, and the rewards are proportionate. If you really get to know a character, you’ll really feel it when he falls off his bike – or gets his head chopped off.

With its second season about to air in the US, Game of Thrones is something of a phenomenon. Based on a series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, it was supposedly pitched to the network as “The Sopranos on Middle Earth”. It’s a description that may be apocryphal but nonetheless cannot be bettered.

The setting is the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, a realm with many similarities to Britain. The War of the Roses is a clear inspiration: the two noble houses of Lannister (Lancaster) and Stark (York) are at each other’s throats. A great wall protects the civilised from barbarians to the north. Across the Narrow Sea is a vast land mass of exotic cultures, magic, and perhaps even dragons.

It’s not all tight scripts and great acting, of course. Le Tour may have the drugs but Game of Thrones has serious doses of violence and sex. I haven’t heard as much blood gurgling in throats since The Passion of the Christ. As for the sex, well, I would argue it’s mostly contextual. Others have a different view.

Some people have complained they can’t follow Game of Thrones: “Too many names, too confusing.” Well, I guess that’s where the luscious mise-en scene and amazing backdrops come in. If you haven’t got the foggiest what’s going on, just put your feet up and enjoy the view on your expensive new Plasma TV.

One of the celebrated highlights of the Tour is the breathtaking scenery. While the riders grind out another 200kms, we are treated to helicopter shots of mediaeval abbeys poised perilously on windswept mountaintops. Game of Thrones is essentially the same but, instead of lycra-clad cyclists flashing past, a knight fights a lowborn thug to the death in the trial by combat of a dwarf – while a nine-year old prince breastfeeds and cheers them on.

The Tour de France and Game of Thrones. Let the cross-promotion begin.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Born To Run?

My Dad is a runner. In 1963 he almost won the Open Mile at the Achilles Cup, Adelaide’s private school boys’ athletics meet. Dad was the favourite, but he went out too hard and the Scotch boy caught him on the final straight. I like it when he tells this story.

I like to tell a story of my own, about my name. When I was born, in 1980, the English runner Sebastian Coe was preparing for the Moscow Olympics – and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was still top of the pops as far as Mum was concerned. My name represents Dad, the jock, and Mum, the intellectual, finding common ground. Like most good stories, there’s some truth in it.

Growing up, my brother and I loved sport but thought running a strange pursuit. In fact, in some ways I took after J.S. more than after Lord Coe: there were more family concerts of baroque music, with Mum accompanying my recorder on the harpsichord, than there were jogs along the beach. Dad dragged us out for a run around the oval once or twice, but Thomas and I would soon get distracted attempting left-foot banana kicks at goal from impossible angles. More fun, less effort.

With very few exceptions, I never went running solo until much later in life. At age 27 I moved to Sydney, as much to improve my health as to see family and friends. I ate well, bodysurfed a lot, stopped drinking and smoking – and then one day, perhaps when the beaches were closed, I decided to go for a run.

It was a rather sobering experience. I lasted two minutes on the steep slopes of Randwick and Coogee before breaking into a walk. A few minutes later I attempted to run again. Then walked some more. Returning home with my tail between my legs, I could easily have forgotten all about running for another twenty years. So why didn’t I?

Mainly I kept at it because I’d been unhealthy for so long, and now I wanted to get fit. Running was a means to an end, but more than that it seemed particularly efficient form of exercise: you could run from the moment you left the front door to the moment you arrived home, the odd traffic delay notwithstanding. And, even if every minute of the run was painful, there was always the high that came afterwards.

There is an equlibrium here. For several years I appreciated the benefits of running enough that I could put up with the act itself, two or three times a week, for four or five kilometres. But running along the Yarra I began to glimpse something better, a higher state where I actually enjoyed being outside, running through the trees and up the riverbank.

Back in Adelaide before Christmas 2010, I went exploring the hills around Mum’s new place in Balhannah. I chose a loop on the map that looked about 7kms in length, and managed not to get lost. It was a beautiful, undulating course but what struck me most was a feeling I experienced about twenty minutes in. It only lasted about five minutes, but I instantly recognised it as the Holy Grail I never knew I’d been seeking.

I felt like I could run forever.

A week later I ran the 11km loop in Chambers Gully with a friend. We climbed (slowly) for 6 kms, ran along a ridge with a stunning city view, and descended for 4kms. My mate nursed me through it and bought my Gatorade at the end, but I still felt like I’d won the Boston Marathon.

A week after that I kicked a soccer ball barefoot on the beach, and broke a toe.

So the first half of 2011 was a write off. I got depressed. I swam a bit, and a few times it felt good and right like running had begun to feel. Mostly it was quite boring; with all due respect to the Northcote pool, the scenery (especially underwater) is very dull. Slowly I began to realise that, even though my toe wasn’t fully healed, I could still run without doing it further damage.

My road trip up the east coast was the real turning point. I camped by deserted beaches and woke up with a barefoot run and a swim. With my friend Daniel I ran the hills of Goonengerry, the 8km loop around Minyon Falls, the beaches and cliff faces of Bunjalong and Yuraygir National Parks. We weren’t just exercising, we were exploring, socialising – and getting buff to swan around Rainbow Serpent with our tops off.

More than once Daniel led me down a trail that wasn’t signposted. We’d follow it for a kilometre or two, and just as I began to complain aloud and suggest we turn back, we’d arrive somewhere magical: a hill with a view, or a river for swimming. We’d stop and enjoy this place we’d discovered, then run back.

Returning to Melbourne, I’ve kept running but struggled to recapture this sense of adventure and pleasure in running. Thankfully, the other day a present from Daniel arrived in the post: a copy of Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.

This post has been rather subdued thus far – partly because I’m recovering from a bug, partly because up to this point in the story I have more or less uninspired about running. For now at least, Born to Run has completely turned this around. Two weeks ago I was back in the habit of running dutifuly, nose to the grindstone. Now I’m dreaming of running around Australia barefoot. I simply cannot wait to get back out there.

Born to Run is a classic piece of “participant-observer” journalism. The book opens with the injury prone McDougall being counselled by top doctors to give running away for good. It finishes with him completing a 50 mile ultramarathon through the Copper Canyons of Mexico, a race that pitted the legendary endurance athletes of the local Tarahumara people against some of the best US ultrarunners.
It’s a cracking read: every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, or with a mystery that needs solving. And inseparable from the physical quest to run the race is McDougall’s inquiry into the crucial role played by running in the story of human evolution.

It’s hard to imagine a greater motivational tool for runners than this: apparently we really are born to run. Worried about your big butt? Well, you don’t really use those gluteus maximus muscles to walk, only to run - and if you don’t use them they’re only going to get bigger. What about your body fat percentage? Apparently humans have relatively high body fat (compared to, say, chimpanzees) precisely to enable us to run long distances.

And why did early humans need to run so far? To hunt. Most animals can beat us pretty easily over short distances, but when it comes to distance running we are right at the top of the tree. The technique of persistence hunting, which has probably been in use since the arrival of Homo erectus 2.6 million years ago, is still practised today by some traditional tribespeople in Africa. Homo sapiens’ ability to run might even explain why we succeeded and the Neanderthals disappeared.

Lastly, if we’ve been running so far for so long, why do we need all these fancy shoes? Well, the good news for people who hate Nike – or just enjoy the feeling of the earth under their feet – is we probably don’t. Cushioned shoes encourage us to run with a gait that actually increase the impact of running on our bodies. Going barefoot is much healthier, as long as you run with proper form. (Wearing shoes is also fine as long as your form is good.)

This post has become, if not a marathon, then at least a longer, slower version of my usual method. I have much more to say on this brilliant book, my Dad’s illustrious athletics career, the genesis of my name and who knows what else – but now I’m off for a run. Not because I feel I should, but the fact it's my evolutionary destiny helps to explain why I want to.


If anyone out there wants to join me in exploring Melbourne on foot, I’m going to start with the Merri Creek Trail later this week.


There's lots of good reading online on the science behind the Running Man hypothesis. You can read a quick article that sums it up pretty well here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Aphex Twin @ the Palace, 8/3/2012

As JPS and Mike Hunt go three for three on stage at the Palace Tuesday night, it occurs to me that warming up for Aphex Twin really is a dream gig.

Think about it, you can play anything. And I mean anything.

What are you going to do, clear the dancefloor? It’s filling fast no matter what records you spin. Freak the crowd out? These people have paid good money to be freaked out. Upstage the main act? Um, yeah. Good luck with that.

The boys seem to enjoy the freedom to go dark and heavy, banging out Autechre (‘Second Bad Vilbel’), Nosaj Thing, Eskamon and Plaid. Heads nod and knees bend in appreciation. The only misstep comes towards the end when Mike, sporting an oversized Underground Resistance tee, takes things too far into minimal tech territory - but Jerry quickly jumps up and fades in Autechre’s ‘Bike’.

It’s a masterstroke. Many of us gathered here tonight have listened to this track many, many times in the privacy of our own homes. Now, it bursts out of the huge sound system like a coded message for the faithful: you’re not in your bedrooms any more. This is where you, and this music, really belong.

Mark Pritchard’s arrival is another sign we’re in an alternate universe for electronica geeks. Where else are 40-something white men in shorts and glasses greeted so ecstatically? (Well, perhaps the punk scene). And three nights after Africa HiTech’s triumphant Espionage show, he deserves a rapturous welcome.

Pritchard has been in the game for over 20 years, through innumerable partnerships and monnikers like Global Communication, Jedi Knights, Link, Reload and Harmonic 313. He relocated to Sydney several years ago, and is now the closest thing Australia has to electronic music royalty on a global scale. One happy result of this is that, when living legends like Autechre and Aphex Twin tour, there is a man with the credentials and the record bag to play alongside.

“He should play something hard!” we joke to each other as the 303s roll in. Tonight we’re partying like the Noughties never happened, but it doesn’t feel regressive. In the Nineties, UK electronic music hit a sweet spot where anything was possible. With inspiration streaming in from across the Atlantic and across the Channel, rave music cannibalised hip-hop, breakbeat, house, techno, electro, ambient, krautrock and more  (including chin-stroking academic music) in the search for the perfect party where the beat never stopped – and never got boring.

Underpinning this, of course, was a unique scene that, while growing, was still relatively united and utopian. But packed into the Palace tonight, we are a long way from London warehouses or the fields of Castlemorton. As Pritchard drops a hint of his/Reload’s classic “Feedback Energy”, it’s becoming increasingly hard to dance.

By the time he plays the VIP mix of “Out In The Streets”, all we can really do is pogo, headbang or hug friends – and from here on it’s a 20-minute jungle rinseout to the finish. To be honest it’s a bit much for me at 9:30pm on a Tuesday, and if this is the warm-up act then I’m getting slightly worried we’ll only be visited by the evil Richard James tonight.

After a tense few minutes of quiet anticipation, the stage is bathed in an abstract pattern of light that quickly coalesces into the famous Aphex Twin logo. Somewhere up there, we can just make out the head of the great man “Believe in me” intones an electronic voice over an ambient track. “I believe in you!” shouts a bloke behind me. An 303 line creeps in and then the beat drops – it’s hip-hop! The crowd roars and begins to dance. Or at least bop.

For the first half of the set, I find it difficult to enjoy the music as much as I feel I should. Partly it’s my own expectations, which are ridiculously high. Seven years ago Aphex played the Prince of Wales and the music was two hours of danceable bliss – even though we were practically dancing in the toilets to find space.

Partly it’s the squash, but perhaps partly it’s the sound? Stevie T from 8 Foot Felix reckons the speakers are set too far apart and there are too many dead flat walls. I look around. It’s a beautiful venue, and the three packed tiers above make me feel like I’m in a Lenny Kravitz video. But the sound is a little trebly, the bass a tiny bit boomy, and the melodies in the mid-range are getting lost.

Should I join my friends who fled upstairs to find room to move? A beautiful moment early on decides me againt it. The second track breaks down into a rolling synth line bathed in chorus, and as the beat comes back in the visuals morph into close-up, live images of punters dancing.

Most fans would be expecting this, but it’s still a trip to witness up close. And for much of the show, amazingly, the visuals seem to take centre stage. They are constantly entertaining – especially the sequence that puts Aphex and some punters’ heads on the bodies of Aussie icons like Shane Warne, Bindi Irwin and even Julia Gillard being bustled away from the Tent Embassy protesters – but at times almost distracting.

I can’t help but compare this show to Autechre, who play their music in total darkness (the Exit lights and a lamp on stage the only exception). An Autechre gig is ipso facto all about the music: find a spot, open your ears and listen. Dance if you will or can.

I’m tempted to say this show is all about spectacle. But afterwards my mates who fled upstairs to dance tell me they had heaps of space, tore it up, couldn’t see a thing and loved every minute of it. A matter of perspective, then.

The crowd greets “Fingerbib” (off Richard D. James) and “PWSteal.Ldpinch.D” (off the Analord Eps) with ecstatic hands in the air, but the turning point of the set,  for me, is when Aphex drops Surgeon’s “Radiance”. It’s a monster of a track, timeless and terrifying rave music, and the carnivalesque visuals of red and white fractals complement it perfectly. It’s the epileptic fit you want to be having.

Hints of Drukqs drum ‘n’ bass takeover, and then something very unexpected happens. Two hooded figures appear on stage, making their way down from Aphex Twin to the lower stage near the punters. They are wearing unbelievably awesome fluourescent orange onesies. Then they pull out mics and start rapping in South African accents – it’s Die Antwoord!

With hype levels going through the roof, Ninja and Yo-Landi rhyme and dance over some seriously hard, jumping rave music before Ninja decides to somersault into the crowd and lead a chant of “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” from mid-air.

It’s all over before we know it, and the whole episode sums up Die Antwoord. They’re fun and they get the party started, but they’re in pretty bad taste and you wouldn’t want them sticking around too long. IMHO, as it were.

If there was any question Aphex might be upstaged, he puts it to bed with the last twenty minutes of his set. The intensity builds and builds as the tempo ramps up and the sound palette heads inexorably towards white noise. We move through jungle into gabba and breakcore territory. People are moshing, people are leaving, people are covering their ears, people are laughing and letting it wash over them.

A set that began in relatively ambient territory finishes in a screeching squall of sound. There’s even a hint of “Ventolin” in there somewhere. It’s an undeniable visceral experience, and when Richard James leaves the stage with a little thumbs-up the place goes bananas. What follows is the lengthiest, most boisterous attempt to win an encore I’ve ever been a part of – and even though most of us must know we’ve got bugger all chance of the man reappearing on stage, it feels right. Like a tribute.

After all, who knows if we’ll ever see Aphex Twin in Australia again?

Maybe as you’re reading this you’re on your way to the Future Music Festival to see him headline a stage after Sven Vath, no less. If so, I’m a bit jealous. At least at Future most of the crowd will be off at Skrillex or whoever, and there should be plenty of room to move.

Maybe one day we’ll get to hear music like this in the setting it really deserves. Mark Pritchard and Africa HiTech at Rainbow Serpent 2013 would be a pretty good start.

Maybe I'm just an old raver who can't accept that it's not 1998 any more.


(Maybe I should have written this piece on Wednesday. Sorry it took me so long, and it's still a bit rushed.  I’ve been sick as a dog and am just feeling better. I’ll post more videos when I can.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Espionage feat. Africa Hitech @ Miss Libertine, 3/3/12

Halfway through the Summer Innit party in February, Scotty cracked the shits , got on his bike and headed southside to a trance party on the beach.

“When I first moved to Melbourne I spent years going out and supporting the bass scene”, he said as he was leaving. “And you know what? No one ever dances. The crew here are just so fucking uptight!”

I looked around. A hundred or so people sat placidly on the grass around us as the DJ dropped an old jungle remix of the Fugees’ ‘Ready Or Not’. Our mate Daniel was doing his best to ignite the dancefloor, chasing a little kid around with the inexplicable energy of a onetime raw vegan drum ‘n’ bass fiend. But apart from that, an energetic frisbee circle was the closest we’d come to getting our collective boogie on.

This scenario is something of a recurring nightmare: the more adventurous electronic music is stuck in its ghetto of pot-smoking chin-strokers, while the rocking parties are soundtracked by house and trance. It’s like I’m 21 again, and either freaking out at the What Is Music? Festival or queueing up with a heavy heart to get into Q (Adelaide Q).

The good news is, Melbourne has a new crew hellbent on making a mess of these age-old distinctions. In the last year a bit, the Operatives have thrown their Espionage parties with the likes of Flying Lotus, Mount Kimbie, Clark, Marcus Intalex, Nosaj Thing, Klute and Martyn. On the same date as my birthday bash last month they put on Rustie, Hudson Mohawke, Araabmuzik and Balam Acab at Roxanne – just about the most so-hot-right-now lineup I can recall seeing (even on paper) in Australia.

So when Scotty grooves over to me on Saturday night, with Africa Hitech easing into their 3-hour set at Miss Libertines, gestures despairingly at the crowd and shouts in my ear that “Someone has to shake these people up!”… well, it’s not a good sign. Except that onstage Mark Pritchard and Steve Spacek are beginning to do just that, moving from the soulful reggae-infused breakbeats of their opening into Shangaan electro vibes. Happy hardcore party in a South African village, anyone?

As the music heads for the darker climes of grime and dubstep, Scotty starts to shake himself and the dancefloor up with some frenetic moves that raise the bar – and draw looks of bemusement and admiration from the odd chin-stroking bystander. But before long he’s back in my ear about the mixing.

“It’s Jamaican style”, I tell him as one track is wound noisily down and another sprints from the blocks. And when you’re traversing as much territory as Africa Hitech are tonight, Jamaican style seems like a safe bet – fair enough too, Kingston is one of their spiritual homes (along with London, Sheffield, Chicago and the afore-mentioned South African village).

It’s not like they never beat mix, either. With the room already cranking at around 160bpm, they bring in “Out In The Streets” to a roar of approval. We all do our best “Melbourne Shuffle Meets Chicago Footwork Inna Dancehall” before BOOM, they drop that classic dub reggae song we all know but I sadly cannot name and then BOOM straight back to “Out In The Streets VIP” – now with extra jungle!

It’s full ragga style and the perfect climax of their set, and from here on they drop one massive drum ‘n’ bass tune after another until I’m retreating to the toilet to douse my head in cold water. JPS AKA Jerry from the Operatives takes over and plays one of the craziest tunes I’ve ever heard first up, but by now I’ve realised I’m done for the night. I’m not 21 any more, after all.

“Top five all-time best music heard in a club”, I suggest to Scotty, and he tells me he’s always going to trust my musical recommendations from now on.

Well, my next tip is pretty obvious: Espionage featuring Jacques Greene, Machinedrum and Funkineven on Easter Sunday night. Sweet baby Jesus! And tomorrow night Jerry AND Mark Pritchard are back supporting Aphex Twin at the Palace.

I just hope we’re not the only ones dancing.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Top 20 Tracks of 2011

I'm a tad late with this, so I've had the benefit of trawling through the end of year lists produced by The Wire, Pitchfork, Bleep, XLR8R, FACT, etc. And what a bizarre decision by The Wire to give James Ferraro their album of the year! Good grist for the blogging mill I guess...

I've put the tracks together as something of a listenable playlist, rather than in any particular ranking. I'll write a little something below each track to give some context too. Enjoy!

The somewhat atypical opening track of Hecker's Ravedeath, 1972 album has been mesmerising me all year long. Sheer transcendent beauty! See also his Dropped Pianos EP and, for techno trainspotters, his early work under the Jetone alias on Force Inc and others.

For those unfamiliar with rapper Lil B (and I'll own up to that), Clams Casino seemed to come out of nowhere with a fully-formed, blissed-out downtempo hip-hop sound. 'Numb' is the standout cut on his Instrumental Mixtape, followed later in the year by the rather disappointing Rainforest EP.

With just one EP and a few singles to his name, Holy Other still managed to make the Sonar bill and top several end of year lists. While decidedly easy on the ears, his sound has just enough melancholy and sonic depth to invite repeat listens. A little over-hyped but undourbtedly perfect for the morning after a big night.

One half of UK dubstep duo Vex'd, Kuedo was another artist who seemed over-acclaimed in 2011. His album Severant is as a patchy listen, but when he does nail the vintage synth with modern beats sound, he really takes you there. 'Salt Lake Cuts' is a perfect slice of sunshiney euphoria for the edge of the dancefloor.

A friend of a friend of a friend who witnessed Matthewdavid performing live in his native Los Angeles reported "making love to the speaker all night". There's a lot of low end, a lot of high end, and it's all swirling together in a glorious kaleidoscope of sound. 'Like You Mean It' comes off his Outmind EP, put out on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder, and for mine it beats any of FlyLo's recent output hands down. See also Matthewdavid's amazing XLR8R podcast of November 2010.

Looking back, why was everyone so surprised that trance and hip-hop made such sweet love together? 'AT2' was the first Araab track I heard, on Laurel Halo's FACT mix, and although the album Electronic Dream didn't quite live up to my high expectations (especially the terrible production quality) it remains on high rotation. See also 'Golden Touch', in which he samples Jam and Spoons 'Right in the Night' to great effect. Touring Australia this February.

Not much from Burial lately, but everything about 'Street Halo' is pretty much perfect: the vocals, the crackle, the drop and even the unexpected coda. One night I was inexplicably holding down the pavement outside some footballer bar in Richmond when the DJ inside dropped this; I ran inside to show my respect, only for the bartender to cut the music and turn on the house lights just as I made ecstatic contact with my new favourite DJ.

A new Modeselektor album is a real event, and although Monkeytown is even patchier than usual - there's a track for every DJ on there, and a lot of cheese - 'This' is a superbly tense and haunting piece of electronica with all their trademark polish and bass weight.

Not only the best of the TKOL remixes, but better than any originals Radiohead or Caribou have put out for some time. When I played this off the Bose Sound Dock at Rainbow Serpent, a hush fell over our little teepee; at the end, Ned remarked that he wanted to hear it again the next day so he could remember it. (I hope you're reading, Ned.) So graceful, yet so propulsive - and with an unexpected euphoric payoff to boot.

Byetone is Olaf Bender of German label Raster Noton, known for the intellectually rigorous and often demanding electronica of the likes of co-founder Carsten Nicolai AKA Alva Noto. So it was a pleasant surprise to find his Symeta album featuring some very danceable, crunchy industrial beats. Bleep obviously thought so too, naming it their album of the year.

Having produced some huge, synth-driven dubstep beats over the last few years (see especially 'Quantum Leap'), it was a nice surprise to hear Slugabed drop something close to a four-to-the-floor beat - although still with a monstrous wobble. The Moonbeam Rider EP was full of ecstatic melodies and strange twists and turns, and rather unfairly lost in the flood of UK beats. Expect big things in the future from this guy.

I hear he's a great DJ, but I can't really imagine going off on the dancefloor to Martyn's music: on the whole it's just too polished, too housey and too minimal for my taste. But this last track off his Ghost People LP is pure rave joy from start to finish, unloading one catchy synth line after another over a breakbeat that's perfectly in the pocket. A whole album like this please, Mr Martyn!

You know what to expect from Surgeon: serious, uncompromising techno. Breaking the Frame, Anthony Child's first album in over a decade, delivers this in spades - but incorporates more broken rhythms (even dubstep) that lend the work a real freshness. And 'Radiance' is so mind-bendingly immense, it makes me long for a warehouse big enough to do it justice.

One half of US post-garage outfit Sepalcure, Travis Stewart aka Machinedrum is an electronic chameleon who lately has latched onto Chicago juke with interesting results. While much of his hyped Room(s) LP veered dangerously close to the background (a bemusing result for such frenetic rhythms), 'Flycatcha' takes the sound back to the dancefloor with a vengeance. Touring Australia in April.

Now living in Sydney, Mark Pritchard is probably the closest Australia has to electronic music royalty on a global scale. As Global Communication (with Tom Middleton), Reload, and more recently Harmonic313 and now Africa Hitech (with Steve Spacek) he just keeps on releasing great tunes in an amazing array of styles. The 93 Million Miles was a sometimes difficult blend of juke, dubstep, acid house and free jazz, but this jungly remix of monster hit 'Out In the Streets' cannot be denied. Playing a three hour show at Miss Libertines in early March.

Carrier was an interesting album on Dusk and Blackdown's Keysound Recording, half 'purple garage' (to coin a stillborn term), and half juke-infused, wistful electronica. 'Trust' falls decidedly into the latter category, and was easily my most listened-to track of the year.

It took a while for Blue Daisy's modern take on trip-hop to hit home - and the first half of The Sunday Gift still leaves me a little cold. 'Shadow Assassins' straddles an unusual space between a fist-pumping dancefloor and the couch at the back of the room. You may wish to blaze, but there's really no need.

Wander/Wonder is, aptly enough, a meandering and beautiful album of warm bass, treated vocals and artful sound collage - and 'Await' is its emotional highpoint. Balam Acab is touring in February, although the live show is apparently terrible. He sings. Why does everyone want to be a rock star?

2011 was Nicolas Jaar's year, and the title track off his debut album shows why. The rhythm section is a perfect low-slung swagger, and up above the vocals reverberate endlessly like a dream that might just become a nightmare. The whole album is amazing, although if you want something more upbeat try his EPs and remixes. They're mostly amazing too. Oh yeah, and he just turned 22.

Apparently GusGus are a veteran Icelandic group of musicians/artists who once counted Emiliana Torrini as a member. Their latest work is being released on Kompakt, the ageing Cologne colossus of minimal techno, and although much of it is too vocal-led and cheesy for my taste, there are moments of beauty and beautifully sparkly production. Hopefully 'Benched', the last and slowest track on Arabian Horse, hints at their future direction.


Thanks for listening, and reading. Comments welcome!

Peter Haas(z) - Almost Certainly Not a Dud Root

I’ve been thinking of reviving this blog.
Actually, I’ve been thinking about starting three blogs: one on electronic music, one on sport and one on politics and society. It didn’t take me too long to detect a small flaw in this plan, though. So for now I’ll see if I can write enough to resurrect this one.
Somehow in my absence this blog has reached almost 900 views. Perhaps the Anonymous who wrote “Seb Prowse is a dud root” in the comments section of an older post has been checking back regularly for signs of a reaction? If so, they just got one: I deleted the comment. There are some things a man likes to keep quiet.
Interestingly, the same phrase also appeared in the women’s toilets at Trades Hall late last year (or so I was told). The plot thickens. Either our perpetrator is being rather presumptuous, or we are dealing with a rather short list of suspects. Or, perhaps., I am merely the incidental subject of a post-ironic slogan which will soon be as ubiquitous as the dreaded Vote for Pedro or, preferably, the mysterious “Who is Peter Haasz?” graffiti campaign at Melbourne Uni in the late 1990s.
I never knew the answer to this question at the time, although I have met Peter Haasz several times in subsequent years. We bonded over achieving fifteen minutes of name recognition in ridiculous circumstances. If I ever meet him again, I’ll ask if his name has a ‘z’ on the end. I’ve written it both ways and neither looks quite right.
Pretty soon we’ll be saying that if you can remember the late 1990s in Melbourne, you weren’t really there. Or, at least, you weren’t getting your gear from Carl Williams.
Here I was taking a leisurely stroll down memory lane, and now I’ve run smack bang into a dead drug dealer. Time to end this post and think about what comes next.
Welcome back to A New Rhyme, and thanks for reading.