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Melbourne Cup Day in Melbourne

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Melbourne Cup Day in Melbourne

Andrew Ryan

Melbourne Cup day in Melbourne is notoriously fucked up in some parts of the city.

Way too many people give a shit about horse racing and they don their tacky attire to allow them in to a space that celebrates something that is cruel to both animals and gambling addicts, something which is a total waste of energy and money and time.

Horse racing? The race that stops the nation? Fucking hell. Why does anyone actually give a shit?

But because the city does all but shut down on cup day, there are some fun-loving and enterprising humans who create INTERESTING events to coincide with the public holiday.

Like the Eastment Street Derby, held every cup day for I have no idea how long. People who enter make their own go-karts, and race them down a hill, over and over all day until a winner-supreme is proven. The street’s inhabitants open up their garage spaces and backyards, turning it in to something of a festival, beer and cider flowing, dj’s spinning tunes, humans dressed up in bizarre costumes holding placards directing the flow of visiting humans according to when the road needs clearing for the zoom of the go-karts.

I went to my first one a few years ago, because a guy I was living with for a bit regularly entered the race. He won a few too. Pete McKew: architect in training, punk musician, and go-kart racing champion.

This year there were sooooooo many more people than the last time I saw it all go down. Hundreds. Easy. Which is not to say that it’s never been popular. It just felt MORE popular this time. Word of mouth spreads real easy in this town. And the audience for events like this is pretty huge. It’s things like this that will make me miss Melbourne.

But I didn’t last long at the derby. It was a bright, sunny day, I wanted a beer, and an excellent gig was about to start around the corner at Northcote Social Club. So off I wandered down the road to the pub, geared up for some good friends and some punk tunes.

The venue was packed. There were a bunch of haggard looking older dudes leaning on the bar, eyes fixed firmly on the big screens playing the live action of the races. Nursing their beers, cheering when their horse moves, ‘”ergh, stupid, what a bunch of dumb idiots etc” I was thinking to myself. The rest of the humans in the pub seemed like the local vaguely creative types, and run off from the derby down the road. It was such a beautiful day, everrrrrrryone wanted beer.

I waited in line to buy a jug, staring at the television screens because it felt rude to stare at the harried bar staff (all of them sweating and rushing), and I couldn’t help but yelp in disgust when the high definition camera focussed on the aging ladies of the races, plastic surgery and makeup screwing up any signs of grace in old age, smiling weirdly at the camera as they remember the golden days of racing, shitty headwear perched on their heads like stuffonmycat.com.

What would these people do if they didn’t have weird money and horses and all that shit? I know it’s a cultural phenomenon, some people base their whole lives and the lives of their families around it but it seems so fucking cruel. Train a horse, race the horse, push it to its limits and then shoot the damn thing.

I saw one friend who had bet on the races. He took the advice of his gambling addicted father and bet 20 bucks on a horse that lost his money.
“Dude, horse racing is fucked.” I said.
“I know that. Everyone knows that.”
“But that didn’t stop you from perpetuating the fuckedness by giving your money to it.”
“Fuck that. It’s fun.”
Sigh. The hypocrisy, it burns. Smart men and women all throughout the western world who KNOW things are wrong but are too lazy or too disillusioned to take appropriate action. The laziness of privilege. Nihilistic boredom.

And beer. So much beer.

But this is why punk music happens I suppose. The aforementioned friend is the vocalist of the day’s headlining act, Cuntz. They topped off a day of noisy, interesting, aggressive tune making, right up my alley, more enticing than the kinda boring rock-pig steez going on at the Tote at the same time.

I’ve written about Cuntz a bit before, and I’ll do it again, real briefly this time. Their intensity seems heightened since they’ve been back from the USA, more confident in their weird angry shit. They have a song about betting on the races. It’s creepy and sad and angry. That’s what Cuntz are I guess. Depends on their mood and the audiences mood and all of that, and beer.

Again, so much beer.
And that’s what Melbourne Cup day is really like in Melbourne. Beer fuelled. Booze fuelled. Another excuse for Australians to get fucking wasted because that’s how we do, for reasons that I would love to explore once I’ve interviewed everyone I know who gets wasted all the time. One day. Onnnnnnne day.