The craft of storytelling, in music. A fine concoction of experience, a twist and play on words, a tune to itself or part of the greater journey (or record). It’s a sweet moment when the mix of instruments and lyrics can reach you, penetrating thoughts and describing just exactly how you’re feeling and just what you’re thinking. Or maybe you’re no longing worried about what had you stuck. Beautiful storytelling becomes a journey when the listener surpasses instrument and lyrics to a time and place where the wine’s a little cheaper and the smiles last a little longer. The room isn’t so cold anymore, even in the darkness of winter. It’s not just music, its describes your part in time.
Rattling surrounds me as I sway and close one eye to focus on the one-hundred-and-sixty characters in front of me and hold tight hoping not to fall. At a slow and steady pace, I make my way back home no longer aware of tomorrows stupidly early start, instead lost in the increasing cool breeze from the Melbourne dark beyond. There’s a place where my bed is, in a tight expensive room trying to strangle the joy of life out of me. The isolation, the price, the proximity to debt, the long hours commuting to work and family – instead becomes a reason to share a story, to build around what it was like to live in a scene of people in town, and to be an observer that just so happens to keep diaries and enjoys writing.
I ended up surviving that tram ride up Lygon Street, and as an outsider who wore lyrics on his sleeve without turning them to permanent ink, I saw the scene grow. Six years on, formative memories visit over a glass of quality red and tonight I realise something special.
My memories of living in the thick of things are vivid – never a day goes past where I don’t think of the bands and artists of that time growing up in Melbourne. Walking my Brisbane mate around town recently, and in pointing out all the venues, recalling the late nights, later cab rides and trying to find the best hot chips at ridiculous o’clock, the adventures on the street were flooding back to mind. I couldn’t shut up, and the stories kept coming as I was reminded how much went down through those many doors off streets like Lygon, Gertrude, Brunswick, Johnston and Queensbury.
The beautiful places for the dirty types. Patchy floors, patchy clothes, and beat up broken bathrooms. Graffiti, stickers, handwritten band posters and broken windows. Punks (whatever that means) dressed for the cold (or over dressed for the warm). Upcoming gigs and shouts of cheap beer, mostly Coopers Pale. Yelling until you’re sore in a pit of temporary heat, body busted and alive, then pouring out into the frosty cold, awaiting the next one.
In places you’ve never heard of, or won’t hear of again, a small (yet actually pretty large) group of people lived in the music we heard. We became regulars in a community. All the faces were recognisable, and most I never met. Everyone was searching for something, whether they knew it or not, and the music gave them the answer.
That was why the scene changed for me. I found what I was looking for, what we’d all dreamed of – the chance to make my mark on the world – and my passion for the coast and underwater world surpassed that for music. I changed, and in turn so did my perception of the scene, literally overnight. I took a long time to come to turn with this. Years. I tried all the regular things, but nothing worked, and despite returning continually for gigs and sweet nights out, the fun was there but the buzz and excitement of the music just wasn’t there for me anymore.
I was equally sad and angry that things had changed for me, and along the way I forgot something. My music wasn’t hijaked by trendy newcomers, or wasted by near commercial success like I thought. It’s still there hanging around the same dimly lit venues filled with black jeans and hoodies, still written by the artists you haven’t heard of yet, and still in the brilliant songs maybe destined to fade away onto an older mp3 player, or into a dusty record sleeve in a bottom draw somewhere.
I was wrong, but glad I’ve come to learn this. The music never left, it’s still there doing it’s thing. It’s not the old friend I can’t connect with anymore. We’ve rekindled an older and wiser flame, and despite the lengthy gaps between hanging out properly at a gig, we get along oh-so-sweetly once more.
“Immersed in a poisoned city we sang for a better world, and whatever happens in my life I owe a lot to those that gave us all the chance to dream of something awesome.”
Last weekend we were Making Tracks in world class rainforest only ninety minutes from Brisbane. It’s an awesome place Lamington National Park, have a look at my collection of photos here.