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Australia

Tahlia goes to Ballarat

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Tahlia goes to Ballarat

Andrew Ryan

A friend of mine who lives in Sydney tells me he’ll be in town on Saturday night.
“Orly? Let’s hangout!”
“Yep. We’re playing a DJ set in Ballarat, wanna come?”
“Hah, sure, why not? I’ve never been to Ballarat. Woooo!”
Saturday rolls around, and I’m waiting at North Melbourne train station for Dan to pick me up. I’m thinking to myself:
“Ballarat… it can’t be too bad.”

I was very wrong.

The drive was about an hour long, which was fine because my friend was chatty as hell despite driving, and the other people in the van were nice, and there was beer in the van, which was extra nice. We had a lot of fun with I-phone journey planners, and managed to only get a tiny bit lost when we pulled into some town off the freeway for a toilet break.

As we drove into Ballarat, it kind of reminded me of Cannington. Not very pleasant at all. The “city centre” itself was a cross-roads of pretty old buildings, and there were police everywhere. No joke, within the four block radius we drove around in, we saw at least four cop cars, one under cover car, and a few po-po just hanging out on street corners.

Our destination was the Karova Lounge, apparently The Place to Play if you’re on a national tour and you want to drive an hour out of Melbourne. Which means it is The Place to Be if you live in Ballarat and like music. Or just drinking with decent music in the background. The population of Ballarat is approx 94 000, and apparently the largest percentage of these of between the 15-19 year old age bracket, which was pretty obvious; nearly everyone at this venue looked 18. I felt old, but also okay with that, because they all appeared to be dummies.

So we found the venue, driving down roads that looked more like the backstreets of Welshpool than the centre of a town, and pulled up in the van. I could hear the unmistakable sounds of a synth keyboard, and felt any expectations I may have had for the night shatter. What was I thinking? Of course this is going to be shit. It’s regional Victoria. We climbed out of the van, and all realised at the same time that the synth was jamming out the notes from the Ghostbuster theme. Then we realised that the audience was singing along. A collective sigh came from all 6 of us. Time to get wasted.

The bands playing before the DJ set were suitably average. The guys DJing are in a band that mixes rock and electro, so the supports were of the same sort of genre. It really wasn’t may bag, so I retreated to the back room to watch my travel companions play pool, and slam down vodka and tonics as quickly as possible. The rider ran out very fast as a result, so the boys put down $150 cash to help us all get through it. The amount they were getting paid for the gig made this small donation to their friend’s level of enjoyment completely viable, thanks fucking Christ.

When the time came for Dan and Andy to start their set, I ventured out into the crowd with camera at the ready. It reminded me of suburban Perth so much that I felt the need to tell one of the girls that came with us, but just as I started to lean into her ear to say so, she turned to me and said “I’m from Adelaide originally, and this is so similar to suburban Adelaide it’s freaking me out a little”.

How can I explain this delicately? Every girl under 70 kilos was dressed in super short skirts, most of them falling into the kind of hip-style as dictated by Sportsgirl or similar, with a fake-tan and light colour lipstick. The boys hung out in groups of 5 or more, scanning the dance floor for the drunkest floozy, dressed in their vaguely tight jeans and printed polo shirts. Shouting and cackles abounded, dancing varied in style, but was generally of the slut variety, and when Dan dropped “Window Licker” by Aphex Twin, no one in the crowd knew what to do. A few dedicated fans of the band tried to dance as if it was hip hop, but you could see the confusion behind their heavily mascara-ed eyes.

When they were done, our small group was drunk. “SHOTS, SHOTS”, I cried, and off we went to the bar. 10 minutes later, at approximately 3am Dan proclaimed loudly “FUCK THIS, WE’RE GOING BACK TO PARTY IN MELBOURNE”, so we pushed through the fake tan, awful perfume and spikey hair to get into the van, and drunkenly sped out of that fucking hell hole, cranking hits from the nineties as we drove back to the safety of the big smoke.

It sure was an experience. And I got some great photos. But I sure don’t want to do it again. Fuck that shit.