Sunday, December 30, 2007

Day 2: The Legend of Jojo Starfly, Meredith Music Festival

Saturday 11am

I just want to say how lovely it is to hear the Four Season re-interpreted by the Ballarat Brass Band first thing in the morning when you're sporting a colossal hangover.

Next come the Devastations. To say they are too loud is like saying the guy darting around camp with a watermelon on his head is a bit wacky. I didn't mind the arrogant Berlin-based Melbourne expats, I thought they had improved a lot since the last time I saw them when they were shit, but their gigolo din didn't wash so well with my comrades and these guys know their stuff. They rated their act just above Charlie Sheen's C-level oeuvre, so somewhere between Platoon and Two Guys, a Baby and a Funeral or whatever that show's called.

Newlyweds under the arches

Apparently The Black Lips vomited, gobbed into the air and caught it, made out ("there was a little bit of tongue licking too," said De Campo) and one dude cut his hand on a beer bottle playing slide guitar and wiped the blood from his hand onto his cheeks and I missed that too. Somehow I missed everything worth mentioning outside of the music which I heard fine. Not that I'm complaining. The sounds were enough. Sounds were nice. Everything else was a bit yikes.

Our adjoining neighbours baked us some treats.

Winner of the most significant coverage of an apple in one bite is Coinflow $

On the back of my red fleece, clockwise from far left: Stevie, Tammy, Gerry (or Gerald), Jojo, Terry, Paul and I forgot the other one. JoJo is a wheelchair bound fly who had his spine shot out at an Ice-T concert. This weekend is dedicated to Jo jo Starfly. All proceeds go to the Jo-Jo's Foundation

Strangely the sun came out to Andrew WK. "This is actually awful," says Josh Town. I was indifferent, but I did admire his motivational gusto.

Art Brut rocks. A quite civil mosh pit erupts with girls being hoisted by guys who didn't try to touch their bits. Thoughtful.

A serious moment

I believe the night ended shortly after this mad boogie to The Gossip

The ants seemed to appreciate the company of us as the weekend wore on because they never once tried to pick a fight with us or complain about being inconvenienced.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Day 1: Get Involved! Meredith Music Festival

“Now that you’re Australian I think you’re supposed to call them sheep” — De Campo, questioning whether it was a llama I saw on the way to Meredith.

Friday, 1pm.
We pitch our tent in an even better spot than last year, snuggled amongst gum trees and on top of a bull ant farm who seem fine with it.

“How is this, I arrive at Meredith and I drink a f@#$ing apple juice?” De Campo (seen here drinking a beer) is not one-hundred percent. I compensate by knocking back six beers in quick succession.

“Shane you are so modest,” Suzie says because I chose to do my business down the hill while the girls went behind the first available tree. I confess to being a solitary man in respect to my business. I’m a very private person, I tell her.

There are few things Toby enjoys more than to inflate a neighbour's air mattress using the power of his car engine.

Josh Town soldiers towards the food tents and orders a lamb wrap. The food here is generally excellent, but Josh Town has made a very poor choice. He chose the lamb wrap and it is very lame and considerably dry and it costs him $10 and he now feels hard done by the organisers of the festival. He goes to the info centre to complain, but the food doesn’t warrant a complaint because the organisers have bigger problems to deal with it. They dismiss him with a wave of the hand and he is standing there with bits of dry lamb on his mouth and it’s a sad moment in Joshy Town.

The longhaired Melbournian Ned Collette is witnessed from a tree to the right of the stage and up close towards the end of his set for two of his more interesting numbers. One cut produces a tiny spark before bursting into a flaming guitar solo and the other jaunts along a country road with a smile before it too bursts into flames. "There's not many ideas here really," Josh Town says, but he just ate an unfulfilling lamb wrap, so what does he know. Sometime after midnight the Ned will be witnessed preparing to board the Ferris wheel all by himself clutching a solitary red rose and our will heart will go out to him, but in actual fact this story will be untrue, a made-up ruse between Alex and I who thought it would be a gas to spread a rumour about the Ned but when we told his girlfriend the following night, she didn’t think it was funny at all and perhaps it wasn’t.

Another local act, The Galvatrons are sounding pretty good. They probably lean a little too hard on Eddie Van Halen's synthesiser, but are still pretty refreshing, at least from a distance. Up close you realise they are total clowns with annoying banter. We return to camp for some Frisbee action.

Josh returns separately and says he was standing by the toilets waiting for Matt when a wacky guy walks up and asked what he was doing, why he was just standing there. “I’m waiting for a friend, he’s using the toilet. I think he has diarrhea.”

“No man, c’mon it’s Meredith you got to get involved!” said the dude, and having established a new catchphrase, he disappeared into the night in rainbow coloured parachute pants.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring are a feral, freak-show. I collapse in the moshpit and it’s like turning legless in a pigsty. The band are not at their best. I get the hell out of there.

Gimme that chip, I joke to an Indian chap boring into a revolting splatter of nacho chips, near the food tents after the show. “You got three seconds, he says, or you’re gonna wear it!” It’s funny to us, but the little guy is serious. I back off. We move on to the open air cinema to watch R. Crumb visually elucidate on the origins of asparagus.

Later on, Crystal Castles play and they are vague to me, yet good I dance to their music, the night-blue basslines, female vocals, a punchy spoken word and a shout. This is after a stiff nightcap at the Pink Flamingo bar and a Ferris ride.

I am told off numerous times for clearing my nose in an unspeakable fashion. In my defense, it’s an inevitable with the dust and all, Meredith a veritable pigsty at 3am.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blitzen Trapper, Wild Mountain Nation

The Trappers are one of those groups that throw everything at the wall and most of it sticks in your mind and hardly none of it stinks! The name is cute until you realise these Portland hillbillies have trapped Rudolph’s best mate and it’s only you who can save them! By the third track (the Shins-aping Futures & Folly ) you forget about all that though. You might even give pause and reflect on how weird you felt when you wrote your Blitzen rescue plan, but rest assured everything is going to be alright. After some old-fashioned mountain pop honey, the group try their hand at power pop and it comes off like the nitwit stylings of the Dandy Warhols. They regain their cred towards the finish line, flexing Deerhoof art-rock muscle, lighting up the atonal guitar fireworks ala Pavement’s Wowee Zowee and chiming in with some sweet, pre-pubescent Alex Chilton ballads.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lee Marvin made me do it

Half asleep in bed, I hear the faint rumblings of De Campo closing the front door. She comes into the bedroom. In her hands she holds a gigantic 1200ML sealed bottle of Bundaberg Rum that she found on the footpath in front of the house next to our recycling bin. She displays it proudly, label facing front.

“Lee Marvin.” I mutter. “Lee Marvin is behind this!”

(It's the morning of the first of three Lee Marvin nights that will take place over the next three Wednesdays at Cinemateque at the Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI))

At breakfast Olivia mentions the Lee Marvin connection I brought up. I have no idea what she is talking about. “I never mentioned him,” I say. Yet on top of the cupboard, there it is, the mysterious bottle of rum.

After work, I order a burger deluxe from the joint in the courtyard at ACMI. Why I ordered this I do not know. The burger has two robust patties that the bun is unable to contain. It’s hot out here and the flies are buzzing around my head and trying to get into my food and I am making such a mess with this burger that I feel I need to take a shower immediately afterwards. I am 35 years old and lacking the metabolism (not to mention the good sense) to process such a beast and yet here I am eating this double-beef monstrosity. Why, I ask, why? Two words: Lee Marvin.

The Professionals, Dir. Richard Brooks (1966)

A hell of a fun movie with a hell of a cast: Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Ralph Bellamy, Claudia Cardinale and Jack Palance. There’s horse-riding, dynamite, whiskey-guzzling, bodacious gunslinging babes, ample stunt-work, quality Mexican scenery, wicked salivating bandits and cool, badass dudes. What more do you want? Outstanding Hollywood product. The candied version of The Wild Bunch.

I stayed on for part of part two of the Marvin double, 'Hell in the Pacific', and was far less impressed with that, so I went home unencumbered by strange entity.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Big Wedding

My speech at Toby and Suze's glorious wedding on Saturday (included below) was my third public speech ever. The first one, a short poem to my grandmother at her funeral in 1998, went down well. The second one, on my wedding day in 2000, didn't go down so well. Conspicuously lacking motor skills, I read half of it, before falling over, using the bride's veil to catch my fall. It ripped.

Toby Dutton came into my life at a time when I needed him most. Down on my luck at an unspeakable speakeasy I was crying out for some form of refreshment.

“I have a face that is a cross between two pounds of halibut and an explosion in an old clothes closet!” James Dutton was acting strange. I turned to him aghast. “It’s David Niven,” he said.

I had somehow managed to infiltrate an elite circle peopled by James and his sensible wife Miranda. The effort required vast reserves of raw power and as a result, I began to perspire freely. Beads of sweat leaped off my nose like excited little lemmings hurtling off the nose of a cliff. I imagined Tchaikovsky putting together a pretty nifty score based on this visual for a new episode of Disney’s Fantasia…but I digress.

Anyway, all this activity was making me a tad parched.

Prior to the Flaming Lips concert, James, once again as David Niven, addressed the circle, commanding their full attention. “I wonder why it is, that young men are always cautioned against bad girls. Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against.”

Rather peculiarly, Miranda erupted into sustained, uproarious laughter.

The Flaming Lips were now on stage doing whatever it was that they do, but I did not care. I gazed longingly at the bar. The path to it was populated by an impenetrable wall of ‘pardon the expression’ nimrods standing neck to neck. I recalled a history of people visiting the bar here and never returning. I did not like my chances. But, then…emerging from the shadows, a heroic apparition…not unlike a young Boris Karloff in a classic scene from 1919’s Omar the Tentmaker…emerging from his tent. “Shane, meet my brother Toby,” announced James. “He’s new here.”
“Nice to meet you Toby.”
“I would like to meet a good girl,” he said.
“Didn’t your brother warn you about those?”
“To hell with him and his delightful impersonations, I want a good girl, goddammit! Preferably one with my Mother’s name – Susan Mary.”
“Okay well first… I pointed up at the bar…would you kindly go up there and fetch me a refreshing, sparkling apple cider, they’re rather delicious. Besides you’re closer.” And technically he was, even though he was standing right behind me. Toby started on his way and instantly I regretted what I had just done. Throwing him to the wolves like that. We had only just met. What if he didn’t come back? Well he did go and obviously, he did come back and that’s just the kind of loyalty, generosity and self-sacrifice that Toby Dutton will bring to this great marriage! Though I did make him sound like a great big puppy there, and he is but he’s chiefly a saint.

I’ve worked real hard ever since to be the proverbial captain of Toby’s yacht, the Kenny Loggins to his Jim Messina maintaining smooth sailing, with or without Malibu Rum, best of friends to this exemplary dude, I sure don’t know what I’d do without him sometimes, he’s just the loveliest guy, adored by all, held in such high esteem, a multi-faceted artiste, sings a heck of a rock and roll. Toby Simon Charles. Here’s to you.

“It's the good girls men should be warned against,” David Niven said, as you might recall, via James Dutton. In this case, the golden life-force that is Susan Mary Luke.

Now Toby and Suze may have met at a bingo parlour, but Suzie chose not to yell “Bingo!” until their wedding night, which comes later when they are finally alone together.

Like Ballarat in the 1850s, Suzie has a heart full of gold. She is electric. I stand in awe as Suzie engages the most unlikely pub patrons, and in time they saunter off sloshed on her fresh perspectives, while Suzie buzzes rapt with the sheer joy of good conversation. Toby found her so engaging, they got engaged. I reckon she’s a cross between Susan Hayward, actress of determination, Suzie Quattro, tough spunk du jour, one of the Golden Girls and Mother Theresa.

Like the sun, people feed off Suzie’s amazing energy source. Sounds unpleasant, but it’s really quite extraordinary. She is valued as a rare thing in our lives, a necessity and an extravagance. Together they are a perfect pair.

Now I’ve hardly mentioned the art and music that Toby creates, it is much-loved and appreciated — so here’s to Toby and Suze creating beautiful music together.

1st December 2007