Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Jamie and Kim from Fear Like Us, Wolfman Jack, and a bunch of random teenagers at Spoon Café, 29-03-07.

I get a fucking puncture on the way to Spoon, so I'm not in the best mood when I arrive. Figuring I'll change it after the show, I lock up my bike across the road and start walking over, worried that maybe the show had started early and Jamie and Kim have gone on already. Hobbledehoy Tom and his friend Fjorn nod hello from their spot in the doorway. I make it halfway across the road before realising that Jamie and Kim are not playing, and instead the makeshift Spoon 'stage' is being occupied by some random kids who are fucking awful. I turn back to my bike.

A few minutes later they are still playing. I decide to walk in. Georgia Rose is sitting up the front. "These are teenage runaways from Tasmania," she tells me, nodding her head at the band. The thought occurs to me that maybe they should have stayed at home and let their parents pay for a few more guitar lessons. I head up the back to the bar. Natalie Ann is tending, and she shouts me a ginger beer. The kids are singing about asking some girl to go down on them. I drink the ginger beer. Another kid gets up from the audience and grabs a guitar. "This song is called fuck the cops," he tells us. For the second time that evening I walk out.

Nat follows me and we sit across from the café a while. We chat and I take care of the puncture. Jerim comes out and tells us that we have to come back in so we can see the band he 'manages', Wolfman Jack. Nat attempts to play punk policewoman and pull him up on it, but she's tired after a day at school and her heart isn't in it. We wander back in, finding a seat way, way down the back. She makes some peppermint tea and draws on her legs with permanent marker.

Wolfman Jack come on and – despite me being a big fan of Plan-It-X records and acoustic punk in general - it's difficult for me to find anything to like about them. The main singer seems to be inflated by his own self-importance, which he lets out in bellows that echo across the small space. His voice isn't great, which I'm okay with, but he seems to think he can make up for it by yelling louder, which I'm not okay with. They also seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that hitting the strings harder is some kind of substitute for passion. They seem to be attempting to develop a Plan-It-X style quirkiness, but instead come off like VCE drama students. Still, when they hit a ska breakdown Nat and I get to reminisce about skanking, so maybe they do have some redeeming qualities. After their last song Jerim asks me what I think. I tell him they were alright, and don't go into detail.

Jamie and Kim start setting up and Nat and I move up the front. Most of the kids who filled the café earlier in the evening have disappeared – obviously part of the Wolfperson entourage. When Jamie introduces himself and Kim (as 'the Melbourne half of Fear Like Us', prompting calls of 'the better half!', which I'm sure Babs and Joel will be happy to hear) the kids filter back in. This proves to be an important factor, as it almost derails the show altogether. They talk loudly amongst themselves throughout the set – at one point forcing me to pull out my teacher voice and tell them to shut up. They don't seem to understand that the spotlight can possibly shine on someone else, and do whatever they can to bring it back to themselves. The kids are, to sum up, annoying as all fuck.

But goddamn, Jamie and Kim, sitting on milkcrates as if they're sitting on the street, reel that shit in. Eventually even the kids shut up and sit there, transfixed. Years spent in hardcore and screamo bands mean that Jamie knows his shit, knows how to construct a song, knows how and more importantly when to build tension and when to release it. His voice seems a little weathered tonight, and cracks occasionally, but somehow that adds to the overall feel. He's tired, Kim looks tired, we're all tired. Nat has put her head in my lap and is trying valiantly to stay awake. Jamie pulls out a banjo and introduces a new song, 'Hunger Pains'. Halfway through he takes a break and does some old-timey bluegrass fingerpicking. It fucking rules; the place bursts out into spontaneous applause. He keeps the banjo out – weathering jokes about Deliverance – and plays a reworked old song, 'When We Close Our Eyes'. Georgia looks happy – she has the chorus tattooed on her ribs. But when Jamie takes the stage solo and tiptoes into a stripped back version of Against Me!'s 'Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong' the whole place is in awe. I feel like my fucking heart is about to break. It's all minor chords and softly softly picking and vocals that are sometimes a whisper. I look around me. I'm at Spoon most weeks. My friends work there, run the place, eat there, put on shows there. I've cried in the toilets, flirted over boardgames, being hugged, been ignored. This is my community, and Jamie Hay has just given it a soundtrack. He returns to the guitar and Kim joins him for a few more numbers. At times Kim seems to be Jamie's foil – serious, shy and unassuming where Jamie is gregarious and outgoing – but tonight he's funny and warm, letting more of himself shine through. They finish with 'Music and Movement' and the room is quiet. It takes a few more moments for us to return to life.

We sit around a while longer. Nat goes home and I talk with Fjorn. She and Tom are allegedly going to stay out all night, but he has been momentarily distracted by his gigantic crush on Jamie, so is ignoring her in order to talk to him. We play marbles with glass balls from a vase and climb all over the furniture, but eventually I too get up to leave. Jamie is leaving at the same time and we talk briefly about bluegrass. He put me onto Old Crow Medicine Show a few weeks back, so I know he has decent taste in country music, but we get sidetracked and end up talking about something completely different. Eventually he heads off to catch the tram and I get back on my bike. A tailwind pushes me all the way home.

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