The Vitruvian Man: Yardstock and KFC, or Other Attempts at Perfection
PHOTO BY AMBER BATEUP
today i’m putting together an album out of old crappily recorded songs. it’s like doing most art things – some of the time you think it’s total shit and some of the time you think you’re a genius. the truth is always somewhere in amongst there, being relative and cute, swimming around under the waves in a spangly bikini sipping on seaweed thickshakes.
this time what i’m putting together is closer to the ‘shit’ column, but i’m having plenty of fun doing it, with the radio up (shout outs to adam christou and rtrfm). nick is messaging me drawings for album art while i sit here – one of me and a dog waiting for him by a river, and one of a crab on a rabbit on a rabbi, just what i wanted. he’s just doing them pre-soundcheck for arctic monkeys shows, so it’s not his magnum opus but they’re bringing me as much joy as if i were in the spangly bikini, with sixteen baby squid at my finger or fintips.
see, it’s always worth it, even if what you make is a bit crap. it’s worth just putting stuff up and out and letting the five people who’ll like it hear it, see it, in their own bedroom. it’s not the renaissance, we aren’t vitruvian men spreading our perfect arms out across the globe. we’re just making shit and sharing it, and anyway – i’d prefer to save aiming for perfection at good deeds, done dirt cheap. if i find the deed that will free all the people behind razor wire and bars, i will chase after it and do it right, but maybe it’ll turn out that that’s a DIY home job as well…
three people making music that’s closer to genius at the moment though are dianas. at their show on thursday they killed it. i played with bibby and david craft and we were only ok, hamjam and flower drums were good, especially aden’s guitar and james’ drumming, but dianas ruled over everyone that night. they were like great destroyers conquering everything in their paths, and surely no-one could deny it and surely everyone was fine with it. they had all the weapons at their disposal and tore through the end of night – energy, harmony, power. i was blown away and everyone else was getting schooled and being in awe too.
then two days later more genius shit happened in the form of yardstock 5.0.
in between, on the friday though, i’d ridden into the city to watch my friends have their court hearing for sitting in julie bishop’s office, praying quietly and not leaving in civil disobedience, trying to ruffle the unruffleable into DOING SOMETHING about kids being in detention specifically, and more generally saying ‘what the actual fuck’ about people being left to flounder in pain and distress and ignored turmoil in our ‘care’. orphans, widows, refugees. it’s killing me.
yardstock was a different expression of the same spirit, i believe. ray and pete had different agendas for organising it, and some people may not even have known that the money tin being passed around was destined for the vaguely identified ‘indonesian farmer’s network’, but something about the day said ‘freedom’ louder than i was expecting.
i got to the first yardstock house late, but early enough to hug bibby, tahlia and stephen, narrowly avoid sitting in dog poop, look around at everyone in the yard who looked rumpled and sleepy even though it was midday, and get the feeling just poking out from the imaginary clouds that this was going to be a magic day. this first yard was where years ago i met several crucial people in my life, being the ex-house of an ex-student who introduced me to 1. leonie v. brialey; 2. brad prestipino; 3. emlyn johnson; and 4. kurt vonnegut; 3 of whom i ended up playing music with at various times and becoming tight friends with, and the fourth of whom became my favourite writer of all time, aside from ‘god’. i told steve how i used to sleep in the front room of the house, burning with unacted-upon passion and chain smoking as an alternative outlet for desire. teeheehee. i heard half of one song by the band playing, with a great title to do with elvis farting, but had to get moving to bulwer street to plug things in.
at the second house i started setting up. the two girls who lived there were sweet and lovely – they’d swept the yard and gathered extra toilet paper, and slowly their back paving filled up with other sweethearts, ready to listen. the paving, the couches, the fences were all brimmly packed with people and as more came the call was made for people to stand and make room for new arrivals. i played and it felt like a great panacea to the show two nights before that had made me not want to play again for a long time. a canadian man asked for my autograph on his cigarette packet and peter bibby cried a bit and stephen bellair sung the song ‘waterfalls’ with me so it all felt very good.
then felicity played my favourite show i’ve seen of hers. all the seated and standing people – in my mind people who would usually watch more experimental or more hardcore or more other music -were with her in a way i haven’t seen before. she was resplendent in neon. steve, andrew and jells all jelled resplendently with her and they lifted the yard up a little way into the sky. she told me later she was nervous, but really she looked and sounded on neon fire. mudlark kept everyone up there in the sky. i sat with my hair hanging down onto my bare legs, letting it brush against them in time with the music, and letting myself imagine angels all around the house and also all around all the other houses in the city where people and families would be going about their own business in other ways. i felt in love with our own tribe, these people, but also tried to feel love for every tribe, the ones just feeding chicken nuggets to their children and watching today tonight or planning a trip to bali or bunnings. mudlark always make me feel big things and see further into the world than just what’s right there. what a weird line-up at that house, the three of us, but it felt so good.
then everyone kind of wandered across the road to the park, and trickled towards the next house. me and stephen bellair went in the car and got there just in time to see the last half of shit narnia. in my mind i summarised them like this “shit narnia – not shit”. the other wordplay that kept happening was people saying to me or me saying to them “i love hugh” in funny voices and then giggling. it was true both ways. hugh is a 100% engaging and loveable presence. in pink boardshorts, “laurel fixation” necklace, pink rose earrings, topless soft nipply torso, spectacles and floral cap he was the exact being that from a glance might look like pretension if he weren’t so perfectly wonderful and really really real. (‘really really real’ was the name of a song by my friend cherry, who was in the first popstars reality tv series and then got a dodgy record deal where they took her to spenno dinners, made a cd for her and then let it all fade off to nought. shit narnia won’t get a record deal probably but that’s just how it goes.)
a middle aged man in a great mustard jacket stood by the doorway near us while shit narnia played, and when we caught each other’s eye, he motioned to me to a book tucked into his jacket – it was ‘howl’ by ginsberg, and when he jiggled it a little and then pointed toward hugh with a little grin i knew exactly what he was saying without words, and i nodded and grinned right back.
the rest of the band were making kind of slow smooth punk music in my memory, but it could have been far from that and my brain’s just mustarded it all into what i want. but they were all great together, it was just hard to take one’s eyes off hughey.
at some point i tried to climb up onto a fence and a wheely bin to stand next to irish shane and lovely duncan but in the end i was where i always am, at the front, with earplugs in and sloshing my hair about or holding onto my heart so it doesn’t explode as shit narnia finished and doctopus began… doctopus summary – not shit either.
then me, bibby and tahlia drove to dan murphy’s. i ate a chicken fillet burger from kfc – don’t judge me – in the spirit of nostalgia for road trips from albany to perth, when we’d leave albany after school and arrive in perth in the dark after a car ride of listening to ‘smash’ by the offspring on headphones from my walkman with my forehead pressed against the cold window, looking out at trees and stars and feeling true teenage melancholy. they bought tequila and beers and we drove up to house number four, missing the procession of walkers who followed brown’s homemade instruments and other buddies beating on the sides of eskys they were also using as a mode of transport, if photos and videos can be trusted as evidence – in this world goonbags can be pillows or western suburbs coastal art, and eskys can be instruments and go-karts to creatify a journey.
anyway, blah blah blah, it just got greater and greater. i broke a fence in my enthusiasm to see my friend chloe. fucking teeth played all the hits except medicine. hayley looked like she wanted to die but everyone loved her and brendan’s set even if she hated it. reptilluminati were loud and weird and great and danny is a babe. splodge’s speeches before each band played made more sense than ever and his call to peaceful arms seemed like serious advice this time rather than eccentric rantings – not because he had changed, but because we had changed. in fact, it was partly the spirit and outworking of camp doogs that could still be felt in the fact that acquaintances were now friends and friends were deeper friends, even just from dancing and standing next to one another by a fire in the drizzle at night. even if people hadn’t been there they were feeling the effects of doogs at yardstock.
at the fifth and last house smrts tore the night apart like dianas had at the other show, except this time there was a 200 strong pit of grinning sweating bodies to soak it all up and spit it all back. and when i finally arrived home, 14 hours after i’d left my place for yard #1 yeah, yardstock was siq, perth right now is siq, but we’ve all still got more of a calling to follow if we want everyone to be in on the fun.
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