All Good in the Wood: Collingwood's Backyard Festival

Sunday the 18th of March was the first “All Good In The Wood” backyard festival, which I have been looking forward to since the idea was conceived by some friends of mine last winter. The premise was (and still is) this: have gigs in 5 different backyards in Collingwood in one day, and have a fucking great time. It was pulled off so perfectly that the day felt like a dream. I was on the verge of joyous tears on at least three separate occasions, brought on by the incredible sense of community I felt, how lovely and supportive and helpful everyone was being to each other, and how fucking hard all the bands played. It was beautiful.

The day started at around 2 o’clock at Anchor BMX on Johnston Street, which is just across the road from the Tote Hotel. About 50 people were squeezed into the tiny backyard, drinking Tecate beers available for a gold coin donation, to watch Beat Disease loudly kick off the festivities. I love this band, because not only do they fucking tear it shreds on stage, but their faces and body movements are some of my favourite to photograph. The smile that formed on my face as they started to play didn’t go away until I was laying on a blow up mattress in a friend’s spare room about 18 hours later, intoxicated by various liquids and naturally growing flora, with the worst headache of my life.

After Beat Disease, Anchor’s inhabitants treated us to a free BBQ, which everyone munched down on eagerly, chatting about where they were headed after the food, who was playing, and how fucking awesome this festival idea is.

We moved into the Broken Glass records backyard two doors down from The Anchor via an alleyway to watch Deep Heat, which I was happy to discover was the band of a girl I used to work with briefly. The crowd had grown close to 100 people by then, which made the awkward layout of the yard kind of difficult to maneuver. Miss Kitty Rock, the owner of the Burlesque store between Anchor and Broken Glass, kindly allowed a hoard of people up onto her back balcony to avoid getting stuck in Broken Glass. Within about 15 minutes, people had sprawled themselves along the badly constructed garage roof to get a good view, giving not a single shit that they could easily fall through it. Cameras were out in full force, Deep Heat’s 90’s sound pumped everybody into a kind of relaxed excitement, and then it was time for the Bad Ladies Burlesque dancers.

Three of Kitty Rock’s troupe sauntered in to the backyard to take off their clothes to a crowd of roudy rock and rollers, and it was both weird and awesome. I have massive respect for the courage of these girls- Burlesque is traditionally done indoors, at night time, with stage lights and in front of crowds who seek out Burlesque shows. Sunday’s performance was full daylight in front of people who had no idea this would happen, with only a shitty old table and the side of a garage to use as props. They pulled it off though- much booby and booty shaking was applauded, and no doubt everyone felt a touch sexier in time for heavy chugging of the next band, TTTDC. I looked out over the crowd from my awkard position on the fence, watching some of my male friends look after another friend’s 5 year old son while he was sitting on the roof head banging, and I couldn’t help getting emotional at how lovely everything was.

It was at this point that I decided to crack open my first beer, which was met with a friend of mine running up and offering some of his homemade whiskey, wood chips and all. Things start to get a little blurry from here on.

I followed some chalk arrows down the footpath for about two blocks onto the next house- 161 Johnston Street. Walking past the Bendigo Hotel bottle shop without going in a buying some booze hardly seemed like a good idea, so I purchased a six-pack of Coopers Green and went on my merry way.

Arriving at 161, I discovered something of an indoor tropical paradise at the end of the alleyway, which was already packed with people. The crowd must have more than doubled in size since the last backyard, and to keep everyone entertained while the band set up inside, a hoola hoop dancer was introduced. I was still smiling, but my cheeks were beginning to hurt with just how much fun I was having. With my camera snapping like crazy, my heart began to race as I realized how fucking great these photographs were going to be, and how well I felt I was capturing the energy around me.

Batpiss began to play, so I rushed inside to try and get a good spot to photograph them. These guys are probably my favourite Melbourne band at the moment, so missing them was not an option. I had to be an asshole and push my way through with a huge amount of force, but no one got shitty about it the way they would at an ordinary gig. A friend spotted me coming and pulled me up through the crowd and onto the platform she was standing on, I spilt my beer on me and her but not my camera or the recording equipment of the VCA student behind me, and started head banging straight away. It was fucking hard to get a decent photo, but it barely mattered because the space was so small and so full and so energized and the band were so loud and awesome. I nearly cried for the second time that day when I looked around and saw everyone else wearing the same shit-eating grin as me.

I burst out of the room when Batpiss finished, feeling like my bladder was about to explode and that I could well be pregnant from the ferocity of testosterone on display during the set. After excitedly jumping on the people I saw as I ran out into the alley way, I nearly collapsed, and couldn’t stop giggling. Regrettably, I had to pass on the next band (Jackals, who are GREAT) to recover my senses, and just hung out with some old and new friends for a little while, then moved on to Gold Street.

Gold Street’s crowd spilled easily out on to the street- it was probably the biggest crowd of the day, somewhere around 200 people. Some were perched precariously on the surrounding walls, while some sat on their friends shoulders and others decided that the hills hoist was the ideal seat for the next two bands. I don’t remember much about Spinning Rooms except that they were high energy and had the crowd in a frenzy, and then Harmony came on and blew my fucking mind. I still get goose bumps when I look at the photos: a rock band with three female backup vocalists getting fucking EPIC with their tunes. Even as I write this: goose bumps. This was another point of nearly crying. All around me people were yelling in appreciation, and then a goon bag was pegged to the hills hoist and spun around, on offer for anyone in the packed crowd who was able to reach it, the sun was starting to disappear and I knew that this was by far one of the best experiences of my life.

I’d drunk all my beer by then, and got so distracted by more chatting to buddies that I missed the first band to play at the last venue, Hotham Street. By the time I got there, the crowd for Hotel Wrecking City Traders had dissipated so I was able to get a prime position up the front for Bits of Shit. This thrash punk band blasted their way through the set, and despite the technically difficulties (musical equipment falling off tables, which may or may not have been my fault, I’m not exactly sure) they pleased the crowd so much that everyone in the vicinity was jumping around or punching their fists or screaming at the top of their lungs, or all three at once. I was chugging the bottle of Corona that was randomly handed to me whilst trying to keep my balance on a table to get good shots of the show, and again, my eyes started to well up with happy tears.

As I stumbled out on to the street at the end of the show, thinking about where I would procure my next beer, I found two of the day’s organisers were being interviewed under a streetlamp on the corner by videos cameras. Thomy-guitarist and vocalist in Batpiss- and Erin- owner of Broken Glass Records- couldn’t do anything but smile and laugh about how good the day went; no fights, no negativity, no accidents, only one run in with the police that didn’t really matter… it was just a fucking awesome appreciative crew of people moving through Collingwood for the sake of local music, and we all had an amazing time.

If this things carries on in the years to come- which I think it might- I recommend that you try to make sure you experience it. Best festival I’ve ever been to, best party I’ve ever been to, best fucking community I’ve ever been a part of.