Wednesday, January 23. 2008
I realize that this posting skips ahead a way and misses quite a few recent and important events, but i want to post it now while the memory is fresh. Rest assured the tale of woe preceding these events will follow shortly.

Sunday just gone saw the annual drugged up mosh fest that is the Big Day Out, at the Gold Coast Parklands. Given that i have only just arrived back in Australia, i was shocked to discover that Rage Against the Machine would be headlining this most hyped of festivals, the very band that i had long given up hope of ever seeing. A quick perusal of the line-up showed a distinct lack of any other bands i actually gave a crap about but as fortune
had it a friend had a spare ticket, and i was happy enough to shell out the $130 just to see the Rage in person.

Having learned the perils of not staying nearby in previous years (let's face it after 12 hours of rock, drugs, and alcohol, no-one should have to take a bus for 2 hours) I arranged with some friends to get a hotel room in Surfers Paradise for the weekend. This turned out to be somewhat more entertaining than i had anticipated: We booked a 2 person room, which turned out to be quite large, with a desk, balcony, massive bed, and sofa bed. As a result of all this, we soon found our room filled with 10 people. Now, this was a 4 1/2 star hotel, and we only had 2 keys, so sneaking in and out was certainly an adventure.

But back to the festival. I can honestly say that i love the summer festival vibe here in Oz, the festivals in the UK definitely have more atmosphere, largely i think due to the camping/multi-day nature of them, but you can't beat a Brisbane summer day for bikini clad, tit's out action. Awesome.

And so to the bands. Unlike previous years i did not bother to get there exceptionally early as there was nothing that i cared about until around 3pm. We arrived around 11:30am, waltzed through the front gate (and not to matilda) without so much as a queue, and proceeded straight to the beer tickets line. Here i have to mount my high horse for a second. Can the organisers of festivals please come up with a better method of distributing beer? Having to line up for an hour to get tickets for beer, then half an hour for said beers is unacceptable.

If you insist on going the beer tickets route, at least offer the option to pre-buy quantities of beer-tickets at the time people purchase their festival tickets, thus eliminating at least one (the longest) line. You don't need a degree in economics to see that this will result in higher sales, and more profit as people will most likely over buy, and yet they will still be happy at not having to wait for hours for the chance to go to another line and wait for hours. Is it really that hard?

After we were all suitably liquored up, the rocking began in earnest: Operator Please were first on the list, as two of my friends are fans. I'd not heard of them before, but was assured that they were a local Gold Coast band, (wo)manned by adolescents with a need to rock. They turned out to be a kind of J-Pop/alternative/nonsense band, complete with a violinist in a Japanese school girl outfit (and very fine she looked too). They reminded me of the 5-6-7-8's seen in Kill Bill, not really my thing, were well and truly good fun.

The first band i actually wanted to see was Regurgitator, I was so amazed to see them on the bill, as last time i was in Oz they had broken up, I remember Quan's last interview with Richard Kingsmill of Triple J where he basically told Australia to go fuck themselves for being racists c*#ts. Anyway, apparently he has recanted, and they are back slinging there own particular variety of pop-rock. Before these festivities though there were a few hours to kill.

We headed to the side-show area of the festival and were treated to Box-Wars! This is a movment started in Canberra, Oz, whereby grown people fashion armor and weapons from cardboard boxes proceed to beat the crap out of each other. It was mid afternoon by the time this got under way and the participants were filled with the vim and vigor that can only come with loads of beers consumed in the summer sun. They put on a great show and by the end not one of them had a costume left or didn't have welts on their shoulders and torso.

I met up with my brother and headed down to Regurgitator, to remember the ninties, Brisvegas-style. Regurgitator took the stage, dressed all in white with massive Aviator sunnies, and proceeded rock our very souls. The first couple of songs were good, slow warm-ups, before they launched into Black Bugs, to thunderous applause. Polyester Girl thrilled the hit-single lovers in the crowd, but the highlight of the set was ushered in by Quan's brief introduction "Here's an old song", before launching into a heavy rendition of Kung Foo Sing. I can honestly say that Regurgitator kicked even more arse than i remember, and it's great to see them back together rocking out.

Now, in my experience festivals are largely filled with waiting around for people or trying to meet up, this one was no exception, the next couple of hours were spent downing beers and trying to rejoin a group of friends to head off to see Tom Morello's acoustic project, The Nightwatchman. We eventually all got together despite the lack of mobile coverage, and headed off the the Converse Essential Stage (yes, like football stadiums before them, festival stages have souled out and allowed sponsors to name them). This was the prelude to the days greatest disappointment: apparently Billy Bragg and The Nightwatchmen had swapped timeslots, without any announcement being made, and we had missed them by an hour or so. Top work organisers. Thanks very much. Oh, and Billy Bragg sucked so bad it hurt. His music was fine, and i do love the whole one guy with a guitar thing, but out of an hour set, i think he talked for about 45mins.
Shut the fuck up and rock!

Anyways, as the headliners rolled around the girls in our group insisted on seeing Bjork, and i was interested myself as to what the Icelandic Pixie would be like. It turns out the answer is annoying. There were some cool bits, I am after all a sucker for cool lasers and smoke machines, but on the whole her visual heavy performance seemed a little out of place in the open air environment. However, this was fine as it gave time to rest before the main event.

Rage Against the Machine appeared in front of the biggest crowd that i have seen in front of the main stage. Helped, no doubt, by the fact that there were no descent DJ's or Hip Hop acts headlining in the other tent. Zack was looking particularly cool with his new 70's style afro, while Tom Morello, well, let's face it the man's look hasn't changed one iota. There was much debate as to how they would kick off, with the smart money going to Bulls on Parade for the first tune, however as the first driving notes of Testify rang out through the speakers there was no room for complaining, as their performance was truly inspiring. Bulls on Parade appropriately followed, while Bullet in the Head kept the anger rising. Now, I have seen all the Rage DVD's and Zack is a bit lack-lustre in some of them, but damn, that guy was on his game, jumping around like a mad thing, and providing a masterclass in hip hop rhyming and timing. The crowd noise died down as the singles thinned out, with classic album tracks like Down Rodeo and People of the Sun, delighting the real fans, and bemusing the bandwagon jumpers. However, the parted seas were soon joined when Gorilla Radio kicked our arses, and it is a great sight when 50,000 people are screaming "It has to start somewhere....". Vietnow drove us on, delivered with similar vehemence and followed with a nice rant from Zack on how happy he was at Howard being recently deposed (to which we vociferously agreed), and an impassioned Freedom closed out the set. Zack even managed to get out the screams at the end of this song, which, after a long set of screaming impressed mightily.

Needless to say no-one was moving and the chanting was soon rewarded with an encore. Renegades of Funk got everyone moving again, and War Within a Breath (a personal favourite) brought the anger back; We were all left drained and elated by Killing in the Name of..., suitably left until last.

It's been about 15 years coming but i can say that they were honestly worth the wait, and i am looking forward to seeing them again, this time away from the festival environment.

Definitely the best show of 2008 so far, and it's going to take some beating....

The Final Wash-Up

Monday, January 7. 2008
In the morning I felt fine, embarrassed, and stupid. Man, what a waste and I was a waste. Better be more careful. I drank nothing but water and soft drink until about three in the afternoon and stayed away from the green demons out there, and there were plenty of them. I also made a real effort to see more bands, and so I was there at the front of the stage from the start of the day.

Plastic Palace Alice opened up the tent stage for the day and everyone there was sprawled on the ground, chilling out with bottles of water and breakfast from the food vendors just outside. The band were slightly avant garde, slightly pop, and a little bit folk, like if Belle and Sebastian had grown up in North Fitzroy. It was a little slow for dancing, but then again, no-one felt like dancing. I shall keep an eye out for these fine kids again.

Most of the people in the tent were there to check out the next band up. Brisbane’s very own The Go Set, replete with bagpipes and mandolin, serve up Aussie flavoured Dropkick Muphys slash Flogging Mollys head kicking anthems, but with a pronounced Scottish bent. From the stomping pace to the synchronised jumps, they had all the kids on their feet and dancing, before wrapping it up and wilting with the rest of us. Any time, boys.

Outside, the big stage started with the rock antics of Young and Restless, but it was too early and too hot for that, it’s right out of an inner city pub on a cold night, kids with spiky collars and dyed black hair. The same curse hit Mammal and Horsell Common, both purveyors of more-than-competent rock (I think I’ve read articles about both bands use the phrase “post-grunge”, but I’m still no closer to cracking that particular code) and at the right temperature, both bands would kick some serious arse. But the winds was no longer coming off the ocean but from the dry north and pushed the atmosphere from fun to punishing. No relief could be found, not inside a tent, not under cover, not at the bottom of a can, not in the bar, mist tent, water tap, anywhere. This is the kind of weather that brings the crazy out, that makes sane folk go nuts for want of relief, and I knew it would be getting violent sooner rather than later. Till then, it would mean doing what we could, and getting sunburned in the face of whatever post-grunge is would not be part of this. We retired to hang with people who could provide shade and conversation.

When the middle of the day had passed it was time to get back to feel out the music again. Still too hot to handle, but I had to see these next acts. British India were fantastic, churning out Velvet Underground on speed tunes, while The Matches are only a decent radio hit from going stratospheric. It’s an odd story, given the pedigree that produced their last album (we’re talking the likes of Brett Gurewitz and Mark Hoppus here) that means almost no-one had heard of them before now, despite being around for a few years in a climate most suited to their success. Locally you are made or broken by radio airplay, and as Triple J become less and less important on this scene, getting a track on one of the mainstream rock networks becomes almost necessary to get by now. If these boys, young, well dressed and good looking, can ramp up their radio-friendliness – every percentage point that goes up, their number of fans will grow exponentially. I can feel it, and they deserve it. The fans who came out to see them probably didn’t know all that much of their stuff, but they played their little American butts off as the sun set right into their eyes and we rejoiced as it finally left us alone. They tore into every song and made more than a few friends on the way. Watch out it they hit your town someday.

The sun was gone and it was time to drink again. Donnie Las Vegas showed up, and questions were asked, and certain elements came into play. It would transpire that the rest of the year, and the first few hours of the next, would be chemically enhanced, as the wonderland came upon us in white powder and colourful little pills. We all took our share, and spent the rest of the night on the same page, the same level, even if we weren’t in the same place.

Shihad came on and took us all apart. That’s just what they do, smash people into small pieces, and rebuild them into rock and roll warriors. On records they come close occasionally to recreating the experience, but Shihad are a live band and tear it up like no-one else. They did not fail this time either, sending the crowd into violent spasms of righteous joy. Then it was You Am I’s turn, as Timmy Rogers and co stumbled out to play their way into our hearts. They’re always a rough proposition at that time of night, because everything revolves around how drunk Tim is at the time. And it was new year’s eve, and it was the second last band of the night, and Tim was on a knife’s edge. And there was this voice in the back of my head telling me, throw your shoe at him. Go on, clock him one, smash him good, take him down for rock and roll… And ignore this voice, I did, because they were rocking hard. Old stuff, some of the newer stuff, but classics all the way, and they had no choice but to play Berlin Chair. They did all this, and in an attempt to quiet the voice that would make me barefoot, I threw my two water bottles at him instead. One went long and took out Rusty, the other merely brushed the singer, and this served only to inflame the rage. One would have it that I took off my footwear in a fiery moment and took his bony white are down, while another would say I didn’t. Yet another saw a vodka bottle being filled with urine and hurled in his direction, while the filler and thrower’s identity remain safely anonymous. Either way, Tim took a hit to the head and flipped off the crowd, who did cheer – some reports later said this caused the band to leave early, others yet said they played on and left a raucously happy crowd in their wake. Who really knows what goes on in those happy moments of delirium, fuelled as they are by mystery and mysterious substances? I surely don’t, and hey, I was there, man.

Hilltop Hoods came on and the mood was so good by that point I didn’t care it was them bringing in the new year. In fact, it sounded awesome. Way awesome. I don’t know their shit, but I do now. They did the honours and the night was still young, the dance tent was set to go off and things were only just beginning to peak. Off we ran into the night, seeing things several steps ahead of time, and then minutes, and then hours flew over, faces, people, feelings, dancing, everyone was there, my little brother the young conscience, the Mount Eliza girls, testament to everything we are not, Donnie Las Vegas, the cackling Cheshire Cat, grinning up there with the very mood in the sky. Beats turned to light and colour turned to sound, I was wet and sweaty, then dry and happy, buzzing on the ground, my legs suddenly giving up and the tension of three days came back and said, ok man, you can hang here, but the dancing part of the night is over.

I kept a lazy eye on my brother, and eventually people called in to go hang at the campsite. I wasn’t so talkative anymore, in fact, talking was the last thing on my mind. I was commanded to chill and reflect, to bring it in easy, just like the new year. I brought everything in easy, told all the girls it had been an honour to party with them, and stumbled off to watch the sun rise over Bass Straight. It was, in a word, devoid of hyperbole, epic.

I want to end this here, and give Soldier Of The Party awards out to all involved, from the guys who stole a bottle of Jagermeister from their passed-out neighbours and drank it in an hour, warm, to the guy I argued about You Am I with for an entire hour as Donnie’s camp site. All of them deserve it, and that would be an ending. But we had to take down the camp site and get it all in the ute and get out of there. But with everyone doing the same thing at the same time, the line was outrageous, and with nought but a single dirt road going out of there, it would take a while. From start to home, it was about a six hour effort. Six long, un-air-conditioned hours. At the end of it, a shower, finally, a shower.

I hope you all had good times. I hope I have more good times this year, and I hope I have plenty with all you too. Here’s to it gentlemen, here’s to two thousand and eight.

My god, is it the future already?

The Wash Up (part three)

Thursday, January 3. 2008
Day two dawned, and it was already thirty degrees by eight am. Everyone on the campsite made two pilgrimages before the music had even begun. The first to line up and use the toilets (not much of a wait) or for the less adventurous, the showers (made the line for the bar look like the line for the Flock of Seagulls reunion tour ticket line). It goes without saying that showers in such times are for the weak, but that didn’t stop the less strong willed from succumbing to the pleasures of a clean body. The other trek was to go get ice at the bar to refill those eskies full of smuggled alcohol. It was a procession of people with bags of ice, and it was oh-so-cooling to carry. Then it was time to get some music on.

There were two stages, the main stage and a smaller stage under a tent. The tent was bearable because it also provided shade, even if it was still hot as all hell in there. Standing out in the open was nothing short of insane, especially if you don’t know the band too well, or at all. New things and open minds and all that, that’s one thing, but frying and going insane (and potentially getting pretty damn sick) just won’t make it happen. It’s a good thing my brother came with the right attitude, that the music was secondary to the experience of being there, and so we cruised past and only caught glimpses of the Dardanelles and the Exploders. Both bands were cool and deserved more attention than we could give, but it was way too early for the quasi stoner rock stylings of the Dardanelles and just too damn hot for the straight up rock of the Exploders – but watch those names, they’ll be worth seeing some other time.

My brother had other friends there and we went to see them, and back to hang with our neighbours, and to get well on the way to oblivion. We eventually went through half the slab of beer on that first day, it being a little hot to hit the hard stuff before the sun went down, and I spent a lot of time being amused by the antics and constant chatter of the Mount Eliza trash bag girls, as they powered ahead with their schedule of getting fucked up. They weren’t even up for seeing any bands that first day – so all they had was the party. More power to them.

Eventually it came time to go see Airborne. This is one band who will never fail to rip it up, and no matter what the situation, crowd or vibe, they play as hard as they can. And the crowd goes absolutely nuts, they lose their shit when they do their thing. It was on for young and old – the music sounds like AC/DC and the high point was watching Joel scale the scaffolding at the side of the stage – guitar attached. The low point was running into the circle pit of idiots, who were having the time of their lives tearing off the shirts of anyone who fell into their circle of terror. I found out too late, when one shithead grabbed me by the back of my grey singlet and ripped as hard as he could. It didn’t rip off completely, but was hanging on barely. I bought that singlet at Uniqlo nearly six years ago for the princely sum of one thousand yen and it has served me admirably since then. It didn’t look a day older than when I bought it and never let me down. Vale. And fuck you to the guy who destroyed it. He left two huge red lines across the side of my neck where the seams caught and still refused to rip. Badges of honour.

After the band I headed to the merch tent to replace my shirt. I was going to wait til the next day to make a choice on the merch, but my hand had been forced.

Next up were Kisschasy, Frankston’s favourite sons. The local crowd were way into it, they loved it, we sat back in the shade and watched the show of love for the local boys. I felt like they were channelling a strong Saves The Day vibe, but it got a pass mark from me. As they played out their last song (the hit single, duh) who should walk by but the God of Party himself, none other than Donnie Las Vegas. The missing ingredient had been found.

The bands in between there and the evening’s big names were blown off to go drink with Donnie and his crew. They had arrived that morning and had ended up with the camp site way at the back, so far from the stage they might as well have not been there. But they had more than enough shade to go around and a stereo with an iPod plugged in, so the scene was easy. We sat back and drank JB and Coke and applied sunscreen lotion every twenty minutes, and moved when the sun did. Still we got burned, still we suffered, and still we got drunk. Way drunk. We didn’t bother going for the water every other drink like we should have and when it came time to move to our camp site and then onto the music, it was more a stagger. By the time we got there I was gone, and still I kept drinking, and as the sun went down the harder edge stuff came out, and I went away for the night.

I still feel bad for missing the bands.

The Wash Up (part two)

Thursday, January 3. 2008
The first thing to do in our situation is get friendly with the neighbours. One, they have shade. Two, we did not. Our camping setup consisted on two one-man dome tents, two folding chairs, a rug straight out of the seventies, two eskies and the ute. Did we think about the sun? The total lack of natural shade? Fuck no. We had the inside of our tents, but it was stifling in there, what breeze was coming didn’t get inside. The people all around us had bigger tents, gazebos, all sorts of shade manufacturing devices. We would have to cozy up with them to survive.

So we did. The three girls next to us borrowed my airbed pump, and as such broke the ice for us. The turned out to be massive stoners, which is always fun. Next to them was a gaggle of Mount Eliza girls. Mount Eliza is a far, far outer suburb, so far out I rarely deign to call it part of my city. It is situated in a very picturesque part of the Mornington Peninsula and, as such, is possibly the most expensive suburb in the area. But Mount Eliza rich is a far different breed to inner city leafy suburb rich. It drives a nice car, but eighteen year old daughter snorted a monster line of dirt speed and crashed it into a Saab last week. It has more than enough disposable income to get the latest fashions, but gets them from Sportsgirl, not Prada. It went to a good school, but couldn’t quite get the marks to go to a good uni. That’s what was camped next to us. There were nine of them, and they had big expensive tents with buttloads of shade and welcomed us in. Score.

They all spent the next three days inhaling, drinking, snorting and smoking every synthetic substance they could get their hands on. They all had raspy voices and where inexplicably broad across the shoulders – hormones from chicken eggs? Mommy was on steroids when breast feeding? Who the fuck knows what goes on out that way? At nineteen, they were almost all bigger than me and had taken far more substances than I ever considered. They were all pretty damn fine looking, too, but were well on their way to some pretty severe beer guts. Proto-Peninsula People. We hung out with them when there was any amount of down time, and on that first day there was more than enough, with the bands not starting until the next morning. So we hung out with these genuine trash bags, then went to check out the stage.

It was set up right at the end of the island with the best sea view. The breeze was coming off the ocean from the south and that was what made the heat almost bearable. A couple of shade cloths were set up around the place, but it would turn out to not be nearly enough as the temperature was closer to forty than thirty after that; the sight of every square centimetre of shade occupied with people was striking, but conceivably I can’t imagine where more shade tents could have gone, without compromising views or safety. In the end, the battle against the heat became more about survival, keeping hydrated the challenge. Plenty of drinking water was on offer as well as a mist tent, free sunscreen lotion at the info tent and bags of ice being sold at the bar for the campers. Previous years had seen some pretty big logistical problems, mostly coming from getting all those cars in and out, but also a lack of food options and toilet lines. No such problems here, just the heat to deal with. When night came on day one, the change was almost instant, the heat disappearing to be replaced with a chilly night. No cloud cover means all that heat goes away, but it did mean drinking without fear of severe dehydration. All this was getting to me, having slept all of four hours the previous two nights, and I was in my tent and out by midnight.

2007, So Long


Two awards will be won tonight. This will leave a lot of pain out there, because I know the many eyes on this column wait all year to hear what gets anointed as the best of the year – and this time, I couldn’t hardly give a care about depth in analysis, I just want to hand over the trophies and get on with it, leaving last year to mellow in the toilet of time before someone flushes it all away.

Fuck this, who does he think he is? Just because he had a bad year doesn’t mean he can get away with not putting any more effort into this. What a tool.

First up, track of the year. Whatever one song turned me on the most. Doesn’t have to be a single, just one track from somewhere that did it just right. As it turns out, this gem comes from an album I don’t even really like all that much. Some of it is good, some great, some downright annoying – but that’s just how the band does it, outside the template, outside genres, outside conventions. They’re always going to miss the marks of expectation and ask questions. I don’t like it all, but what I love, I love.

One song, from the whole year? I can’t take this anymore.

So come on down, LCD Soundsystem, it’s all yours. ‘All My Friends’ comes in with a twitchy piano line, not looping, not quite right, but moving around, twisting but staying the same, and in come the words. Are we still here, in this place? It’s the morning after and the music is still playing, are we awake or not? We’re not as young as we once were, guys, maybe it’s time to leave all this behind. What did we get out of it? And just enough time to contemplate each line between thoughts, and think, yeah, I might be burning out here, that line about taking the first five years to get with the plan and the next five years trying to be with your friends again – was it all really worth it? And more time to think between call outs and one liners and introspections, then you come around and it’s all, my God it was worth it, and when he gets to the part about not trading one bad decision for another five years of life, well, you know what he means. We went hard and we’re not sure if we went home, but where are my friends tonight? Where are your friends tonight? And there’s no realisation, no answers, just more questions on top of questions, and an urge to give it one last spin around. The piano is still going, right to the end, and you know it’s coming back on at some point in the coming week, because the track is right in the middle of the album. Things don’t ever stop there.

Holy fuck.

Album of the year was tough, but I had to make a call and sentiment wins out over happy times. I like a good story, and a whole album of stories just makes me wet. When the title is from a Jack Kerouac novel (‘On The Road’, no less) it gains even more points from me. I hadn’t heard of The Hold Steady before this, but I’ll be sitting up and paying attention from here on in. Boys & Girls In America channels equal parts Kerouac and Springsteen, filtered through every bar worthy of a set from New York to LA. It’s an album that rolled up early to the show to catch the band on the way in and stayed back to chat to t he local kids. Some nights it stayed and got shitfaced in the bar, others it walked aimlessly through the streets of whatever town it had ended up in, only half wondering if it might get in trouble, keeping half an eye out for a story to tell on stage tomorrow night. The kids in every suburb, every little corner off the freeway, all have kids like the ones in these songs.

They might not go through some of the things the protagonists deal with – the girl who can pick the winners of horse races in ‘Chips Ahoy’ stands out as the uncommon story – but we can all relate to the kids who party too hard in ‘Chillout Tent’ or the massive nights of ‘Massive Nights’, as everything comes through the Sal Paradise eyes of Craig Finn’s voice, more teller of stories than life of the party, looking out for the Dean Moriatys out there. And there’s plenty of them, ordinary, normal, special days, bad days, we’re there the whole way. That’s why this was my favourite album of 2007.

The Wash Up (part one)

Wednesday, January 2. 2008
Is your washing done? Maybe a few dirty dishes in the sink? Could be you missed a sock at the bottom of the dirty washing pile, or maybe at the back of your bag somewhere? How about the housework, did you vacuum the carpet and scrub the toilets? Because if you did, if you’ve done any of these things, you either had a less epic new years than me, or are currently resident in a country where the Chinese variety is the preferred flavour. I was just going to tell you all about it, but then I remembered, I went to a music festival. And as you’ll see, the music was far from the main event, but still, this is where we review shit like that. Come pull your chairs around and have a listen. You might want to prepare a damp cloth, a few bandages and, at very least, a nice cold drink.

Christmas this year was almost reduced to an annoyance. As it stands, I have less to do with it than ever before, meaning as little to me as Ramadan or Hanukah or whatever else might be out there. If anything, my total disdain for the absolute commercialism (unseen in these parts by these eyes in some five years) made me physically ill, and on top of that the ten percent of total related coverage that is about any religious aspects – well, that just pisses me off. But I persevere and keep it to myself, and like a good boy scout, I go home to see my family and give presents and get presents and in the back of my head, calculate how much in the red or black I ended up. It can’t be stopped. I ensured I took away mostly things I will need and came out ahead.

An event like this is accompanied by a road trip home. I hate that town, more than life itself. If my family didn’t live there, I would never go back, except maybe to burn it to the ground and salt the earth once the flames had died. Christmas Eve I twisted my back lifting a slab of beer at the supermarket and spent the next three days in pain, unable to sit back in a chair or lie on my back. I didn’t complain, I just took it. Thursday night came around and my little brother went to hang out with some of his friends and I went with him, because I knew some of them. We ended up at some random house, a friend of mine was living there, but apart from him I didn’t know anyone else there. Nor did I need to. It was the run of the stereotype brigade, from the high school failure in the dead end job guys to the pregnant with kid number two while kid number one runs around unsupervised and all before the age of twenty-two girls and all manner of deadbeat in between. Let’s face it, if you are still in a place like that, no matter what you do with your life, you’re a failure. Holding anything back? Never.

Thursday ended in some genuine rejuvenile drink-like-a-sixteen-year-old style antics. I might have pissed in a backyard fountain. I might not have. There was about four hours of sleep in there somewhere, before lunch, a final goodbye to my parents and we packed up the ute and got on the road for the long drive back to the city. It hadn’t been too hot the week gone, but the mercury was past the thirty degree mark, and the humidity was negligible. Hot, dry, dusty, punishing. All this wouldn’t be an issue if the ute had air conditioning. Three hours later and there was roadwork being done on the West Gate Bridge. Traffic was at a crawl. Two city-bound lanes were closed and everything was just squeezing through like honey out of the freezer. This wouldn’t have been a huge problem if we had air conditioning. We got over it eventually and on through the city and out to our northern suburbs home. It was meltingly hot out there. I had to work that night, but before that, there was preparation to be done.

It had been planned for months, mostly because tickets disappeared almost instantly, so decisions had to be made. So I let my brother use my credit card to buy five tickets to the Pyramid Rock Festival, December 29th to January 1st. It would have been me and him, plus his girlfriend and two of her friends, and on top of that a few more of her friends would be there (they had their own means of getting tickets, it seems) to make a good sized group. In the meantime, my brother and his girl broke up, cutting down the contingent to two. Far from fatal, this changed nothing of our plans, or preparations. Just the dynamics of it all. We got together our gear and went to the supermarket when I went in to work and got food and booze. I put in eight hours and after a short stop at home to get it all together, we were off at just past six thirty am. It was already a hot morning.

The festival is on Phillip Island, on the east side of the city, past Western Port Bay. The Bass Highway turns into the San Remo Bridge which becomes Back Beach Road and from the bridge onwards, it’s two lanes all over the island. The crowd which shows up for the festival is huge and getting a camping spot close to the music is a pretty big deal, given the size of the event, that at least half the crowd showing up to camp come on the first day – a day when there isn’t even any music. Just getting the camp site together, have a look around, check out the setup, meet the neighbours, and have a few drinks.

A note about the drinks is due. All these big camping festivals don’t allow BYO drinking, because their liquor license only covers the music area and the bar there, and whatever is sold there. It’s more a liability issue than a killjoy issue, so to an extent, it’s no surprise that the cars coming in get a cursory search and little more. That, and there are several thousand cars trying to get in, and it’s hot, and people are already getting worked up. There’s still a need to try to hide your hooch because enough of the inspectors are zealous enough to catch you out and you won’t get away with a slab sitting clearly in the boot, so some kind of thinking is needed. Over the festival I heard a lot of stories about how people got their supply in, and I have to say, ours was one of the best. As well as the old roll up a bottle of vodka in the sleeping bag ruse (one so old we were damn lucky to get away with it), we had an extra trick. Take a slab of soft drink, they sell them in 24-can cubes, but take out all the lemonade and insert a slab’s worth of beer cans, leaving only lemonade where the cans are visible from the outside (a small slit in one end and at the top where there’s a handle) and glue it up again – off you go son, you’ve earned it. Other people got the tops off water bottles with spoons, re-sealed juice cartons, and one guy used the disused petrol tank in his car (he ran it on LP gas) and got in some nine vodka bottles. I presume it was for his mates, or he was a real pisshead.

We got through the inspection point with no hassles, although the guy came oh-so-close to uncovering our work. From there, on to the camp site. It was a huge empty paddock, offering no shelter from sun or wind, or should it happen, rain. We got set up near the front, behind where the stages were, so there wouldn’t be any sound carrying over. Not that we had a choice, they told us where to go, and so it was. We got the tents up quick smart and had a beer. It was ten in the morning, and already it was past thirty degrees. It was on.

(This was going to be a one-shot effort but I have to run off and do something. So come back some other time for part two, and probably three. I’m lazy, you know?)