Sunday, September 5, 2010

A big weekend

The weekend before last – August 22-24 – was a big, busy weekend for me so I thought it'd be worth documenting it. Plus I've got some really cool photos and I want to have a shot at actually including them in the post.

Friday - The Whitlams at The Gov

The first part of the weekend was seeing The Whitlams at the Gov1. For those who aren't aware, The Whitlams are an Australian band, most famous for their song No Aphrodisiac, which came #1 in the 1997 Triple J Hottest 100 – and, courtesy of YouTube, here it is:

I've liked them since before then, but never managed to actually see them play live until a couple of years ago. Not really sure why; a combination of missed opportunities and the fact that, to my knowledge, they aren't a band especially liked by the friends with whom I'd go to gigs in the past. But regular entertainment colleague Miriam is, so when they're in town I go see them with her. It's a good thing this happened, because they're good enough live that I'm happy to see them as often as once a year2.

Tonight's gig was to be something a little different; they were trying out doing a show 'theatre style' – all seated – rather than the usual Gov configuration of the audience mostly standing with some tables and booths off to one side. This was fine by me; I'm getting less enthusiastic about standing around for a few hours if I can possibly avoid it3, particularly on a Friday after having spent all day at work.

Work had had the opposite effect on me this time; sometime in the mid-afternoon I'd worked out how to do something I'd been looking at throughout the week, and which was very significant to one of the projects I was working on, so that had the twofold effect of both a) putting me in an excellent mood, and b) making the afternoon fly by.

So, instead of being tired and grumpy and slightly resentful that I wasn't getting to go home to my quiet, warm house (as I tend to be when I've decided to do something on a Friday evening well in advance of knowing if I'd be in the mood to), I was upbeat and enthusiastic – so much so that having to sit in the car for about an hour and wait for Miriam, who'd been delayed by traffic problems, to show up (she had the tickets) didn't bother me in the slightest; I just went over the lines for my play until it go too dark to see. Afterwards I just sat and thought about random things, which is something I don't actually get to do – at least not without feeling guilty - that often anymore.

Once she arrived we went in and looked for seats; I saw a familiar looking (red) head, that of Sam Leske, a local muso I know through both mutual friends and his occasional involvement in musical theatre. There were two seats free next to him so we sat there – a few rows back and fairly close to directly in line with the middle of the stage.

There wasn't a support act; the band just came on around 8 and started playing. Tim (lead singer/keyboardist) wasn't in the best of moods – he's openly left-wing and the most recent polling information had the then-pending Australian election results going against the current (Labor, the more left-wing of the two major Australian political parties) government.

But they didn't let that get in the way of their performance. As noted earlier, their live shows are very good and they played almost all of the songs I like - No Aphrodisiac, You Sound Like Louis Burdett, I Make Hamburgers, all three parts to Charlie, Blow up the Pokies and more4. They finished at around 10; I was quite happy, since there was plenty more going on over the weekend and an early night was something I'd probably benefit from.

1The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, one of Adelaide's best live venues; I've seen a diverse range of bands there over the years, including Muse, Gomez, Ice Cream Hands, George, and Little Birdie.
2This doesn't apply to as many bands as it used to. Really, there are probably only half a dozen acts I'll go to see if I've seen them before.
3It's a sad reminder that I am, despite my protestations, getting old.
4They didn't play Band on Every Corner; apparently, they only do that very rarely – they had played it last time I saw them, but that's probably only because they were doing the album it's from, Eternal Nightcap, in its entirety.

Saturday - Daniel's mad steampunk tea party birthday

There were few things I needed to do on Saturday – vote in the federal election, finish making my costume for the party later that evening, and then go to the party itself. However, I'd gotten into my head that it'd be fun to vote while wearing my costume – some of it at least – so it wasn't going to happen in that order.

It was a steampunk party, so the previous weekend I'd gone op-shop hopping to try and find suitable bits and pieces. I was impressed by what I'd found, all of which could be – with some modification – acceptably steampunk, albeit less the classic Victorian look and more like the US equivalent. I got a cream and brown collarless shirt and a brownish wool blend vest. I'd painted the buttons with metallic paint to help with the style, since steampunk is very heavy on the use of metal.

A top hat came from Spotlight (courtesy of Miriam, who'd found it in the city store; I didn't see any when I was at the Modbury store the previous weekend – I'd have preferred a bowler, but they didn't have any) and goggles, which my friend Nora had made for an earlier steampunk event and kindly lent me for the occasion.

This is probably a good time to insert a picture so you'll get the, er, picture:

The goggles make it unmistakably steampunk, but I needed more. So, I set about trying to come up with a device of some kind. After a look around the house, and some research on the internet, I decided on taking a toy shotgun and modifying it accordingly. With the help of some more metallic paint (I'd bought the bronze myself and borrowed some other colours from Nora), some plastic tubing from Spotlight, a mint tin, a spice jar, a few parts from an old coffee plunger and some other bits and pieces from around the place and all was ready to go.

It wasn't quite that straightforward; I'd planned to attach things using Nora's hot glue gun, but that didn't work out so well and I ended up having to drill some holes and screw things into place instead. Still, it allowed me to make use of the power drill I'd bought several years back and so far had only used to screw my IKEA coffee table together.

Here's the result:

I'm pretty damn proud of it, actually. I don't consider myself to be very talented in the craft department so when I can even put something as relatively run-of-the-mill as this together I can't help but be impressed with myself. But the thing is I really enjoyed doing it, and am kind of hoping something else will come along that'll require me to be creative.

Heck, I've even contemplated making some other steampunk weapons, just for the fun of it.

Anyway, having decided to vote in costume (minus the gun, of course) I dropped into the polling booth – a school not far from my house – and did my democratic duty in my wacky gear. It didn't keep the Liberal how-to-vote-card person from trying his luck, but he was the only one. I got a few second glances but that was it. Still, it was kind of fun; I may make costumed voting a regular thing from now on.

All that was left now was the party.

I'd been looking forward to it for weeks now; this was kind of odd in itself because, as I mentioned in the ATG post, I've been having some social anxiety issues lately, and that had been manifesting itself in undermining my enthusiasm for – and my ability to enjoy – things like house parties. But between the knowledge of the sort of people who'd be there – primarily wacky theatre people – and my determination to have a good enough time to justify the time and effort I'd put into the costume, as well as to help Daniel celebrate his birthday, I felt that I'd be able to make the most of it.

Part of this was down to planning, though. I knew I had to drink, and to maintain a certain level of inebriation throughout – without getting too drunk. This also meant not driving, since I knew that if my car was there I'd end up stopping at some point so I could drive home – a sure-fire way of ensuring a poor night out. So, I'd managed to obtain a lift up with friends Megan and Tony.

It was all coming together.

Now, you might be thinking this is the point at which something goes horribly, horribly wrong. But it didn't. It was a great night on pretty much every level.

The costume aspect for starters; nearly everyone got in on the steampunk idea, and there were only a handful of people not dressed up – and even they had the excuse of having been, or on the way, to another event. Some of the costumes were amazing, and I found out later on at least a few who were there are 'serious' steampunk enthusiasts, including some of the people who put on the steampunk ball during the Fringe. It made me very glad I'd put as much effort in as I did – and the response to my gun was overwhelmingly positive.

Most importantly, though, there was no surfacing of my anxiety issues. The fact that I was drinking pretty much constantly almost certainly helped, but it was also because I was in a situation where there was no shortage of fun, interesting people to talk to. And it wasn't just catching up with old friends; I actually met some new people.

Of course, there was the obligatory drunken foolish moment5; there was one girl who was also a Facebook friend of one of my co-workers; I decided this was an interesting enough coincidence that I should bring this to her attention – sadly, though, she didn't appear to feel the same way, so after a somewhat stilted conversation, I wandered away.

A few people got drunker than perhaps they should have – apparently there was an absinthe session at some point; probably a good thing that I wasn't paying attention and missed that, because I would have partaken and almost certainly ended up hurling as well. But I didn't, so as a result I didn't get too drunk; however, I had had enough to mean that I was not entirely well by the time I stopped.

Eventually it all wound down – though the late-night karaoke went very late indeed. Unfortunately, for me the downside to having such a good time was that I had not gone home with the ride I'd come with – I had decided beforehand that if I was having a good enough time I'd stay at the party and find my way home whenever it became necessary to do so – so I was kind of stuck there without having brought a change of clothes or any kind of sleeping equipment.

Which meant that I didn't actually sleep that night. At all. I just couldn't doze off.

Eventually, those others who'd stuck around emerged – having had, I presume, some sleep6 - and Daniel decided it'd be a good idea to cook some barbecue breakfast. As I mentioned before, I hadn't drunk so much that I was ill, but I couldn't have been far from it, since I was unable to stomach anything more than black tea and dry toast. Even that was a struggle.

Luckily, this another moment for which there's a photo:

It's at this point I realise that this costume could be used again – as seen here, sans the hat and steampunk goggles – if I ever need to dress as a folk musician.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, it was a great night – certainly one of the most memorable parties of the last few years. Lots of drinks, a great atmosphere, good friends, brilliant costumes, conversations with interesting new people7; it all adds up to a win.

But the weekend wasn't over yet; there was still the Darren Hanlon gig that night. But before that I had to go to an SA Writer's Theatre workshop at Holden Street; while I'd far rather have gone home and gone to bed, I didn't have a choice – I was reviewing.

5It just wouldn't be a party if I didn't have at least one.
7Including a serious rollerskater with whom I'm hoping to go skating at some time in the near future; you can pretty much guarantee that's going to lead to a blog post.

Sunday - Darren Hanlon at Jive

Going to a gig without having had any sleep was a distinctly bad idea, so after the SAWT workshop I had an hour's sleep and woke up feeling a lot better. More would have been better, but I was worried that if I slept any more than that I wouldn't be able to get to sleep that night, which would mean another whole day of feeling wrung out.

Darren Hanlon, like The Whitlams, is someone I'll see live as often as I can manage, which usually amounts to a couple of times a year. I've been a fan of his for a few years, ever since Triple J started playing tracks from his EP Early Days. If you aren't familiar with his work, here's a couple of examples:

He's probably second only to Lazy Susan on my list of favourite Australian artists. He writes some of the cleverest lyrics of any songwriter I know, and that's very appealing to a word-nerd like me. But he also brings a genuineness to his music, and that's a very big part of his appeal8

This is even more so in his live performances. He is – as you'll notice from the first of the two videos – a small, cheerful-looking but otherwise unspectacular-looking man, someone you'd probably not even notice if you saw him on the street9; he is however, able to generate an amazing amount of stage presence, and this makes his live shows more than just about hearing the songs.

Anyway, enough back story. After the support acts – who were both also in Darren's band – the man himself came on and treated us to a couple of hours of some great music, interspersed with anecdotes and observations, many about his home town of Gympie in Queensland10. None of what he talked about was quite as amusing as the story he told at the last show, which featured his manager entering him in a pinball contest in Seattle and him doing quite well.

He played almost all the songs I wanted to hear, but (sadly) skipped a few from the last album, Pointing Rayguns at Pagans (a 'b-sides and rarities' collection), Pinball Millionaire, Eli Wallach and the cover of Perfect Day11. However, we were treated to another cover, the Phil Oakey/Giorgio Moroder song Electric Dreams, from the movie of the same name; he'd originally done it for Triple J's Live a Version segment.

Anyway, tired as I was, it was a great gig – and, as the third part of a truly epic weekend, a great way to finish it all off.

In a way it'd be great to have weekends like that all the time, but I think that I'd struggle to find the energy. As it is I knew I'd be wrecked by the end of it and had very sensibly chosen to take the Monday off work in order to recover; however, even that wasn't enough to keep my always unhelpful immune system from capitulating under the onslaught of the first cold bug that came my way and I'm only now, two weeks later, getting back to full health again.

But it was worth it.

8Put it this way – I have a very short list of songs I consider to be both genuine and possessing real sentiment, and he has two appearing on that: Falling Aeroplanes and A-Z.
9This is illustrated by the fact he quite often stands in the audience during the support bands' sets and tends to remain unnoticed by the very people who are there to see him.
10Where, incidentally, my brother lives and where I've spent some time. A couple of years ago I ending up speaking to Darren after a gig and told him this; he seemed genuinely amused.
11It's one of the downsides to liking artists who continue to write new songs; eventually there's not enough time for all the songs the more recent material has supplanted.

1 comment:

  1. I am quite awed over your knowledge of bands in particular and culture in general ! I can safely say that I have never heard about any of the bands in this post, and had to look up the steampunk thing.However, as far as propagation of blog posts goes, facebook seems to work well...:-) Hope we can catch up sometime soon !