Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Thursday the 22nd of Dec

Other than a conversation with my mom, the day didn’t really start until 3:30, the time when I sought out a coffee shop and sat to sip and listen to a playlist put together for me. The playlist was a powerful one, and the liner notes that went along with it contained some of the most meaningful complements I’ve ever received.

Back at the hostel, I picked up Laurie, a Belgian who had been intrigued by my free concert plans and we headed to Federation Square Live for their summer concert series installment. Richard in Your Mind kicked things off with a goofy, stoned performance that seemed like Ween at their weird end. For the first couple songs I was wondering if they were being serious about performing this music. But as the set wound on and they clearly were, their fun with it became infectious and I enjoyed myself. Big Scary filled the other half of the bill with a two-piece act a la White Stripes, Local H, or the Black Keys. The lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist was confident and played with conviction. The drummer attacked the kit like no female I’ve seen before, both in vigor and in skill. The two played off each other well, alternating feather-light notes and demolishing bars and, in one song, alternating words for the conflicted mess of a mental state feeling the song built up to.

Post rock-out we met up with a German couple and spent a while talking about our various countries, bands, and my plan of joining the Occupy Movement. That fact was one I had intended to keep quiet to all people in the hostel lest they spread it around or tell the staff. But my desire to look cool and show off trumped my reason, a sure sign that I’ve still got some maturing to do on this trip. Shortly after a bird shit on my back (I was standing up straight, I’m honestly impressed with the aim) I headed up towards gig 2.

Waiting for the tram, I asked the older gentleman which line I wanted to catch. When he found out I was heading up to a show, we got to talking about live music and the scene here. Apparently it isn’t what it once was thanks to the double whammy of poker machines replacing live music as a method of a bar getting revenue and the rise of DJs and spinning pre-recorded music. I have noticed the prevalence – at least in Sydney – of that kind of venue. Here it seems more electronica DJs than just spinning dance tunes. He told me about various pubs to check out, and about the session musicians with whom he hangs out – professionals of phenomenal skill who have been at it for decades. As he left me at the door of my destination, he invited me down the block to the show he was attending – the 75th birthday party for a member of Australia’s first rock band The Thunderbirds (formed in 1954) who had been rocking out bluegrass, country and blues ever since.

Gig 2 was Richard, Leanne’s sister’s partner, rocking drums for Perpendicular Columns of Rock. I missed much of the show thanks to the club giving me the wrong start time. However I did get to see enough to witness Richo play the drums so hard and frenetically that it made Animal look like a soft-rocker. The entire band put so much into the big rock finale cacophony of noise that my nerves resonated for a good 15 seconds after they stopped. Leanne and I caught up and figured out Christmas plans before she headed out and I went on to gig 3.

The Railway Hotel was in full blues swing when I arrived, packed from wall to wall with people who were twice my age and drinking like they were well-practiced. The birthday party was here because the man of the hour wouldn’t take a night off to party when he had already booked a gig. That’s hardcore. And so guest musician after guest musician joined the band for a couple songs, giving new voices and new styles to the ensemble for their three sets. Not seeing the guy who had invited me I nearly left but decided to force myself to try to get in with the older crowd. Asking for a light didn’t do it, and I wasn’t sure how exactly to break into a circle of musicians in their 60s and 70s. So preparing to leave, I was bumped into by a drunk guy with a pony tail who, for whatever reason, instantly latched on to me and invited me to join them. Following the “Never resist and invitation” mantra that I should go ahead and get tattooed on, I followed him to a free beer. He introduced me around and I spent the next hour talking with a crowd older than my parents about travel, about music, and about life.

As the gig wrapped up and I polished off my fourth beer (two purchased, one gifted, and one found unattended) the party decided to head up the road a couple kilometers further to the premier old-musician hangout in the area. This put me about 5 clicks away from camp, already past public transit hours, but things have always seemed to work out when I throw myself into these types of situations without figuring out the end game, so I went. After all, how often does an older generation invite you to come out and party with them as they drink you under the table?

A band of high schoolers was just finishing up at the final venue, a blues/jazz quartet of biologically-18 year olds in suits that seemed to be 60 in spirit and with as much talent as those years would have afforded. I complemented a woman on her dress and ended up spending time with her and her partner trying to figure out what was in the Christmas present someone had given her, debating the merits of being over and under-dressed, and certainly other topics that are now eluding me thanks to the three additional beers I had there. I talked with the group that had brought me about their travels in the US, about their inclinations that health care was a fundamental human right, about the political spectrum in the US and what I thought people in the US thought. I was more vocal than usual, again given the alcohol. We talked of the Melbourne music scene, of live music, of why I came to Australia (which I should just write out a post about). I joined them outside for a cigarette and conversation, talking further about travels and what to see. And as one by one they dropped off, I started to notice that only 5 people remained as possible rides.

I invited myself into the cab of Ms. Dressy Dress and her’s, which got me about 2km closer. Finding out that the full trip in would cost another $15, I opted to contribute my share to the fare and hop out to walk it off for the remaining 3 or 4 km. Having none of it, Mr. Dress refused my money, gave it to the cabbie, and put in the rest of his money. $11 total is what that came to, and he played on the driver’s sense of humanity to get that turned into a full ride home. After 10 minutes of talking with the driver about camping and driving a cab, I was back at home to grab my sleep gear, get to the park, and crash out hard.

10 hours. 3 live shows. 3 pubs. 7 beers. Then 5 hours of sleep in a park. I’d say I might be getting too old for this but the crowd that kept me out so late would probably call me out on that right quick.

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This entry was posted on December 24, 2011 by in Australia, Concert, Victoria (Melbourne).

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