Tame Impala on Rottnest and other Feathered Things

Hello my dear,

Well, I’d like to tell you about the Rottnest show. While I’m doing it I’m going to listen to some Bridget St John, the album ‘Ask me no Questions’. Have you heard it? I think track two ‘Autumn Lullaby’ is my favourite. Pete is sleeping on the couch in the other room, I guess his mind would be singing himself some kind of autumn lullaby as he starts waking.

I kind of felt like the Rottnest show began the night before at the Claremont Hotel – remember where I brought you the cake when you were djing? Well, Drage played first and it was for me the best music I listened to the whole weekend because you know I like that element of danger and trouble to keep everything on its edge and also he really puts his whole self into it for every word. I guess it’s something that maybe can’t be sustained forever, that way of being and that way of making music, but for now while it hasn’t destroyed him it’s my favourite thing.

My second favourite thing at the Claremont was Kevin playing Mr Bombastic while he was djing and everyone dancing really daggily along: me, Tristan Fidler, Felicity, Jenny Aslett and all the others in a big daggy circle dancing to Shaggy. And my other first and second favourite things were giving and receiving massages from one Shiny Joe Ryan, getting right in there to his curly top that was no match for my will to give him as good a time as possible sitting out on the verandah.

But yeah, Rottnest… All that buried history. All those buried boys. I knew it was a prison but I didn’t realise it had been up until 1931 – that seems like only yesterday. From going to prisons here on the mainland somehow I felt it was ok to go there in the same way, as in, with reverence in my spirit and with openness to be healed in some way by being in that almost-natural place and to bring a spirit of peace to leave there as well.

So yeah I got to ride all the way round the island circumnavigating it in the wind, with my eyes becoming used again to looking far away instead of just ahead of me. And I got to swim in amazing places and make new friends with the people from Shannon and the Clams who were there for a post-tour holiday, and this is how I began to describe it, yesterday morning…:

Another great recommendation from Craig Mcelhinney: Bridget St. John. Her guitar is moving in and out of time with the crickets in the backyard. Two birds I haven’t seen before have come to listen while they get their dinner. They aren’t vegetarians. Me neither for the moment.

Sunday night I was eating steak cooked carefully and expertly by Shannon and the Clams’ drummer Nate. Knowing how to do at least two of the most wonderful things with ones hands and arms – drumming and cooking – seemed like an incredible thing. Maybe the other one I’m thinking about is bringing a person to life again. In Japan they only do the hands part of resuscitation, they say you don’t need to do the breathing, that the breathing just comes if you use your arms in the right way.

On that night, Sunday night, we were on an island of immeasurable parts death and life. I didn’t know much of the story until I came home and looked it all up, just knew it was a prison for boys of a particular feather. But you could feel death in some parts as we rode around it, just little pockets of bad feeling as we rode by, but the other parts felt like the island had started breathing again.

One place I went to with a new friend was a small bay with murky wild water. It was cold and windy but that made going into the water an even better idea. We got sucked in and out of the shore by the breath of the waves, and I spluttered water as my head went up and down in it. I was conscious of my body out there in the air with not much on it, so I walked quickly up to the cliffs and climbed up them and on the top there were of course treasures in a bigger view and more birds winging their way inwards and outwards – no music, but they don’t need that most of the time. Neither do I.

So the music was like this: it was Tame Impala’s show on this strange intermediary piece of land. Nearly their home but not their home. Once part of the shore but not anymore. You know, like them. Now they fly around almost as much as birds. Joey was there early when we arrived in the morning, me and the Swedish beauties, and we saw him in a way I have never seen him before, as in completely focussed on his work so we only said hello and then got bikes and then wheeled our way in freedom all around the island.

I think about it all the time don’t you? How good it is to have freedom but how it can never be completely good until everyone has freedom. It’s still aboriginal people in prisons in greater parts than other people, and it’s still people who have tried to get from one island to another island – “our” island – and our government and the people around us say “No”. So, it’s good to ride bikes with Swedish beauties around Rottnest – very good – enough to make Felix say “My heart is vibrating with so much happiness I can hardly contain it!” but I’m still not satisfied.

So Leure played as we ate nachos on the grass, getting up once in a while to hug a friend coming in. She was confident as usual, beautiful as usual, and as usual every song was the kind where I’d be happy to listen to it for another fourty minutes. Her beautiful brother and sister got up to be near her for some songs and a row of their friends called and whistled out to them in joy. This was a special show to play and it made sense for her to play it.

Then we went away on our bikes for another swim but I only got as far as Julie’s house where Julie and Storm and Rex and Shannon and the Clams were lounging and thinking about heading in to the show. It was a beautiful sight to see, and that was even before I knew how lovely each of the Clams were. Shannon told me a very amazing story the next day about growing up near a feather farm and how she would walk up to the farm listening to the terrible cries of the peacocks that sounded like ladies shrieking for help. We all looked for a while at a peacock on the path and I thought about how incredible it was for all those colours to come out from the inside of that one creature.

And of course because we were there for the show I thought about Kevin, all the beautiful things coming from inside him in terms of songs that can endure a hundred thousand listens by a hundred thousand people, and in terms of his voice, so beautiful and sure and clear as it strode out across the small part of the island and the small part of the ocean it was allowed to touch.

Before his voice though there was Koi Child and this is how their story happened: they were two bands playing a show at Xwray one night who decided to jam together at the end and Kevin saw them being great and said “Hey will you play a show with us?” So Koi Child was reborn, playing their second show with for some of them their heros. This is a “Cool story bro.” It may not be the greatest story ever told, but it’s pretty cool for them. I felt happy for Jamie Canny and Blake Hart, skilled and humble boys, and all their friends who made a little party on stage together and called the crowd into the party as well. Leure was midnight, they were dawn, and Tame were the daylight.

There’s birds in the recording now. This whole album is called ‘Ask me no Questions’ if you want to look it up. It’s got a cover with a lovely face and lots of hair and a waterway and a paisley dress. I guess all the things that fit for Kevin in a way as well.

So the Tame boys played and the rain began to come. It was wonderful, everyone slowly bumping up and down and singing along to the words, and the shelters covering the sound guys bumping up and down as well and shaking rain drops up and down sometimes in time to the music from their vinyl tops. A boy climbed into a tree and did some air guitar and fell out onto all the people, and girls were butt humping against boys near me but even this bit of gentle doochebaggery couldn’t make it any less magical. The rain was great, the show was great – nothing got mentioned about the past, but I held it there in my thoughts and maybe some other people did too.

Later that night after the steaks and shooing quokkas with their glass barbecue eyes out of the cabins and walking round in the rain I had a big talk to Dom about all the big troubles of the world and existential crises and climate change and all the rest. I tried to convince him that we can actually make things better, even if what we do seems like nothing at the time. Maybe the spirit of the island had got into him, the unacknowledged past, but I hope that he and everyone can be won over by the idea that we have something inside us that can make beauty like a million-coloured feather, and that if we put them all together, as completely daggy as it sounds, we are even able to fly. “And I know that I gotta be above it now”.