Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Essendon v Carlton at the MCG, 14-04-07, and Fear Like Us, Like… Alaska and Wolfman Jack at Deago Studios, 15-04-07

I'm mostly including this here in order to share with the world my much-propounded theory about anarcho-syndicalism and the Essendon Football Club. It goes like this: Essendon formed around the turn of the century, when anarchism in general was a political ideology with some considerable clout. Indeed, around that time anarchists were known for assassinations in both Russia and the United States, and also for a number of bombings – which, of course, leads me to my next point – that Essendon is known as the Bombers. Essendon as a suburb was, before it gentrified and became 'the Toorak of the North', predominantly working-class Protestant, and was known for militant union activity. And, finally, there are the colours - anarcho-syndicalists too fly the red and black flag, symbolising their unique mix of anarchism through communism (in some circles anarcho-syndicalists are known as libertarian communists, and the labels chosen generally indicate which background you hail from. Communists fly the red flag, anarchists the black). When the moronic Essendon mascot – a giant red mosquito decked out in pilot attire - comes around to our section of the ground I consider asking him about it, but decide against it. It is too early in the day to get bashed.

My little brother Steve and I rock up early to get a decent seat in the general admission section. We are way too disorganised to have bought tickets on the internet beforehand. We're both a little dishevelled. Steve smells like beer and I'm still wearing the clothes I wore the night before. We talk, read the footy record, buy dramatically overpriced bottles of water. Eventually the teams run out.

Essendon is on fire through the first quarter, but by the end of the second term appear to have lost their breath. Brendan Fevola, sloppy earlier in the day, has found his feet and kicked two quick goals. "If we hold him to five or less," I say to Steve, "we'll win the day." At the final siren he has kicked eight and Carlton has pulled off the fifteenth greatest comeback of all time, making up a fortyeight point deficit to take the game by three points. We're not too upset though. We've seen a decent game, and – more surprisingly – I have not heard a single person shout a single homophobic insult. The kid next to Steve did refer to James Hird as a 'poofter', but given that said kid was wearing a headband and danced around like he was at one of the clubs on Commercial Road every time Carlton scored, I think he meant it more in terms of wishful thinking. I couldn't believe it. When Steve told me that his girlfriend's last words to him as he left in the morning were "don't get in a fight," we both knew what she meant. Don't let Brendan say anything. Don't let him start yelling at rednecks twice the size of him. And as it was, I didn't have to. I think this made all of us happy.

On the tram back into the city – after a brief detour to the Bridge Road Macro to score some free end-of-day juice – Steve and I discuss Nicky Winmar's famous protest against racist supporters, ostensibly the tipping point when it came to fighting racism at football games. We try to come up with a queer equivalent to pulling up your jumper and pointing to your skin. Eventually we realise that two things need to happen. 1) Two players on the one team need to come out. With only ten percent of the population identifying as strictly heterosexual (according to Kinsey, that old perv), the odds are pretty good that there are gay players – and more than one per team. They need to come out, and then 2) Make out with each other in front the most vociferous section of the crowd. Now that would make the football worth going to every week. If Essendon again led the way, like they did with indigenous players, I might even consider buying a membership.

So yeah, I went to Spoon that night to see Fear Like Us and Like… Alaska and Sarah (Christ, what was her last name? She was really good and I can't remember. Damn, I suck at this. Should take notes.), but really, despite the good lineup, the whole night was kinda shit – bad sound, bad weather, bad moods – so I'm not going to write about it here. Instead I'm going to skip ahead to Sunday night, when the weather is fine and the early start most accommodating for those of us due back at school the next day. I rock up and see my housemate Tara Jayne on the door. The band in the background are crashing through a trashy pop-folk-punk variety of music that I'm not entirely hating. I ask TJ who they are and she points to the name Wolfman Jack on flyer in front of her. Disbelieving her, I ask again. She looks equally surprised, saying, "I know! They're so much better with a full band!" And she's right. What were annoyingly earnest vocals are being stretched to the limit to contend with the increase in volume, and have lost pretty much all that was irritating about them. Bashing away at electric guitars is much more effective than doing the same with an acoustic, and they come off sounding like a cross between Eternal Cowboy-era Against Me! and This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb. They're still gratingly wacky in moments, perhaps revealing their roots as a ska band, but tonight these moments largely disappear among the sweat and the effort. Later Nathaniel had mentions that he overheard them talking about my last blog, and apparently they were considering dedicating a song to me. I wish they had've. In a year or two they could be an awesome band, and I could've totally told everyone I got in on the ground floor.

First of all, Like… Alaska have stupid punctuation. Cori Burford once suggested to me that ellipses should be banned altogether, and I disagreed, but it's shenanigans like this that make me see her point. I blame Against Me!, but then again, I blame them for a lot of things these days. And really, as a band, L…A are kinda patchy. There are moments of downright perfection, but there are also moments where it kinda seems like overwrought angsty boy-rock. When the bassplayer (hereafter known as 'Rina's little sister') takes an acoustic guitar and the lead vocal for a song, Jacqui Hynes and I look at each other with the 'hell yeah' expression. When Erle Pavlis walks in he declares that it's fucking awesome to see a drummer who can actually drum, but he's understating it – she hits hard and her fills are perfectly timed. The lapsteel, however, occasionally veers into the experimental, and the keyboard player – though excellent at what she does – seems at times superfluous, at times even intrusive. Afterwards I don't remember hearing either of the male vocalists sing at all, but damn, the minute Rina's little sister opens her mouth, I'm all ears.

Simultaneous local heroes and visiting Novocastrians Fear Like Us are up next, and things are not going well from the word go. Bab's bass amp is making fucked up crackling noises and no matter of lead changes or additions of gaffer tape seem to be having any effect. Eventually he gives up and sits on the side of the stage, singing along and clapping with Georgia Rose. His loss, however, doesn't fuck the show up at all – after a few shows with just Jamie and Kim, they know how to fill in the sound. Joel is smirking from behind the drumkit, his three month old moustache barely registering as bumfluff in the dim light. When he first joined the band last year I wasn't hugely impressed – he was always an awesome drummer, but they hadn't quite figured out how to make the drums fit. But in the last few shows it has all come together, and tonight the drums drive the songs as much as the guitars do. After the first couple of songs the kids start calling out for them to play Against Me!'s 'Pints of Guinness Make You Strong', and eventually, after Babs has called it a night, Jamie acquiesces. It's a bit rowdier this time around, with the whole crowd singing and Jamie strumming the strings instead of quietly plucking at the minor chords. Kim sings backing vocals to 'Streets of Mexico' and gets spit all over Tara, thanking her for putting on the show in the next break between songs. They finish with 'The Bitter Cold' and start packing up their stuff, but no one really wants to leave. The kids who own the place start frying up sausages in the kitchen out the back. Someone puts Wu-Tang on the PA and Jimmy Clarke starts rocking out where the stage was. Georgia takes photos of us mucking around, posing for the camera and looking stupid. We dribble away, separate in clumps, rugged up against the first touches of Melbourne winter.

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