The Athenaeum Library is the oldest library in Victoria and has the aura of comfort and reassurance that only comes with age. It sits there indifferent to the city life steaming beneath its windows.
Parliament had once made a home there and luminaries such as Mark Twain had been known to soak up the vibes of the stately rooms.
There’s an almost childish kind of glee to be had in playing live music in an environment such as this. An environment that is usually so dominated by dignified omnipresent silence. That’s what brought me there – a gig.
The facade of the Regent Theatre makes an inspiring back.drop for the night’s proceedings. I arrive as they were setting up a stage and positioning the chairs for the select audience who booked for tonight’s session.
This was my third show here in as many years and the welcome, warm and sincere. I brought Chris Wilson along with me the first time I performed here. He loved it. He really got a kick out of talking to the audience.
Last year I introduced Jerome Smith to the crowd. We had a ball and so did everyone else. This year, my dear friend, Dave Hogan got the spotlight.
Dave turned up not long after I did, and we eased into a soundcheck that was so enjoyable we carried on playing for a good hour or so. Just swapping tunes and testing each other’s knowledge.
You know you have something going when there’s no need to play, but you do it anyway because it is so enjoyable. We stopped about ten minutes before we actually needed to start the show. Just enough time for a little wine and a few nibbles
The patrons flooded in easily and light conversation over finger food chased the sobriety out of the room. The wine helped as well.
Dave and I were called to the stage introduced to the audience and it was nice to see a few familiar faces scattered among the throng. The structure of the evening is an informal and sometimes informative discussion, peppered or punctuated by musical indulgences.
Anecdotes and lyrical footnotes, chased along by riffs and licks, played hide and seek among the bookshelves. This is one of my most favourite gigs and is something of an annual event.
The music and time flowed by and our hour was up before we knew it. The room demanded another 20 minutes of us and gave it willingly.
During the proceedings told a story of how a scientist discovered that running sound through wood produced a strange effect. He thought the wood would change the structure of the sound. Instead, he found the opposite, that the sound altered the molecular structure of the wood itself! I was rather pleased with the notion that the stoic shelves that housed the books made of paper from pulped wood would never be the same after our performance.
After the show, a group of us walked down to the Gin Palace. We had a wonderful time in a little sidebar drinking moonshine cocktails as if in an old speakeasy during prohibition. Fairy lights and branches hung from the ceiling giving the impression of stars in a forest at night, our own private constellation…
Everyone was in a wonderful mood but such is the nature of these unplanned gatherings, the company soon broke up and headed off to meet with previous assignations and obligations. All things come to an end Joey and I took two DJ friends, just down from Brisbane, to dinner at Meatballs.
Meatballs is a vibey little restaurant near AC/DC Lane. We discovered it after a gig at Cherry Bar, one night. The food is simple but beautifully prepared and they have a brilliant selection of fine Italian wines.
I confess I know little about such things and tend to let the waiter find something to suit both the meal and the palette. I have never been disappointed with the choice the house has suggested.
The dinner itself is somewhat hazy, given the potency of the cocktails downed previously. We talked, we ate, we drank, smoked…pleasures cannot be beaten. The food was delicious and mist satisfying.
Saturday was my nephew’s tenth birthday. We spent the afternoon with my brothers family, drinking and eating – again. Teasing the kids and laughing at things that all families laugh at. I can’t believe how fast my niece and nephew are growing. It’s sad but inevitable, I really love those kids. I could have stayed there all night, but we had quite a schedule ahead of us so we bid a fond farewell and went off into the night.
First on the list was another dinner. This time we hooked up with Mohair Slim and had a very tasty Thai experience. No frills, just good food and located ideally for what was to follow. Service was prompt as it was delicious. The meal consumed, we trotted over the road to Miss Moses and caught a scintillating set by Anna Lee and The Double Lovers. (I think I have that right).
They delivered set, full of classic R & B tunes, all of them classics. It was a great selection and they played them damn well. We last saw the band around this time last year and I was truly amazed and delighted to see how much they’d grown together as a unit. Great songs performed passionately and authentically. I would have happily stayed there all night as well, but we had promised to listen to Mohair Slim do his set at Slow Grind Fever and a promise is a promise. We said our goodbyes and drove off once again.
Smoke machines set to overdrive created an atmosphere, literally so thick, you could indeed carve it. Any effort at costuming for Halloween was practically lost in this environment. Joey and I found a couch, settled in and cuddled up and listened to the tunes as we checked out all we could given the limited field of vision.
It was a lot of fun. Skeletons, witches and zombies riding and gyrating in the red-lit foggy atmosphere. A very convincing Freddy Kruger sat opposite us for a while…
Again, I could have spent the night, happily not moving off the couch, but we had one more destination before the night could be put to rest.
Next stop, Up The Junction, for an earful of Northern Soul and other Modish music. Joey loves everything sixties and has a multitude of friends that share that love. We arrive, door person, waves us in and we proceed with the meet and greet phase. Once hellos have been said, I tend to find a comfortable couch and sip a drink and watch Joey dance. When she dances I find myself totally, enthralled, engrossed in her movement. Guys side up to her but she has a wonderful knack of avoiding such interaction.
I have to smile to myself as the shuffle off looking as if they had misplaced a drink or friend. I can watch her dance for hours. While she took the floor, I allowed myself to be swallowed up by a couch. I sat their happily, having various chats with people who tend to read and follow my posts on social media.
It always surprises me, that no matter where I seem to go, this happens. Once upon a time, it would be about what band I was in, the previous gig… I still get that, but the writing seems to be taking over. I enjoy talking as much as reading and writing so all comers are welcome. It is never boring.
During a lull, a balding, drunk little English guy tripped his way across the room and practically sat in my lap. He leaned in close and asked, his words blurred and laden with hops, “Is it true, you know the guys from Radio Birdman?”
I tell him yes, that I am friendly with them, that I was actually hanging out backstage with half the crew just the other week.
He was most impressed. He loved music.
“All this.. “, he waved his arm in a vague effort to include the room and the sound emanation from the PA, “but punk is best…I went to see The Sex Pistols – live in a shitty pub…’ he slurred and getting a little misty-eyed, “I was only 14 at the time… had to sneak in…”
He carried on with drunk talk that skipped like we a scratched record from one track to another. I couldn’t get a word in but was happy to hear him out. He wanted to know how old I was, where I was from. He even asked about my star sign…lol…I had no idea people still did that. He was a very enthusiastic chap and probably would have talked my ear off if one of the promoters of the club had not collared him and dragged him away.
“I told you before, stop bothering people – especially him!”
I said I didn’t mind, he was drunk but not threatening or aggressive. He got to his feet begrudgingly and looked around at the floor, was as if he may have dropped his dignity and sort to pick it up, the way intoxicated people will sometimes do.
His last words to me were, “…anyway, I didn’t mean to bother you, I dig the whole Gandalf/Rick Wakens look – but I know, you’re a punk at heart!”, and then stumbled off onto the dance floor and on to the bar.
Suddenly it was two in the morning. It had been a great day and an even better night.
I can’t think of a time in my recent history when I’ve managed to cover so much ground in one outing. All in all, a terrific weekend. I quite liked the idea of looking like a mash-up of Handing and Rick Wakeman. I can’t say that it was ever my intention. I have just grown into whatever it is I am these days.