Gareth Liddiard, Rosemount 20 September 2014
I’m listening to Bridget St John again… I wonder why I have heard of Nick Drake and not of her. Very very beautiful, very very gentle.
I was cooking on camp on the weekend. Cooking for 16 little beings that don’t live with their mum and dad. I can’t imagine that, even though I try to. The night after camp I woke up with sore wrists, from all the chopping and scrubbing. All the sun was coming in my window and I thought about little kids chopping and scrubbing and sewing in other places and other times, wishing for something nice to happen to them. I will do something for them, the little working kids with sore wrists.
On one of the nights I left after dinner to go to the show. I nearly wore high heels. I wanted to look nice for a special event, one of my favourite people who makes music was playing, Gareth Liddiard. I wrote him a letter after the show on the internet explaining my feelings but it’s got some swear words in it, so I’ll write you a different version.
Gareth’s album ‘Strange Tourist’ is one of my favourites of all time. The first time I heard ‘The Radicalisation of D’, a song on that album, I was driving around in my car and some great radio host put it on RTR. Something new happened, a new feeling about a song that I hadn’t had, maybe ever. And it went on and on, this song, for the right amount of time. 16 minutes. 16 is the number of baby squid I saw one special day underwater. And 16 is the number of people I go hiking with to show them what happens when you’re away from everything, just under the sky and with The Big. About the time I heard ‘The Radicalisation of D’ I had been looking after a boy sometimes who was getting taken under the wing of a bikie, getting left at home as a year 8 without any food and with holes punched in the walls and with drugs getting injected in him. We used to go to the movies, me, him, and his young aunty, and we played ping pong without a ping pong table, and played UNO and ate lots of burgers.
Anyway, the song reminded me about all of this, and then I talked to Cam Avery about it and he was obsessed with it too and told me about the album. About that time I was meant to go camping with Cam and his brother Elliott, but only Elliott came. We caught heaps of herring at the beach in Margaret River and wandered around in bathers and built a fire in the dunes and became friends forever.
And then one night Gareth came to play at the Bakery and me and Elliott watched him together and I bought that cd and got him to draw Elliott holding a herring in the inside cover. And then we would listen to ‘Strange Tourist’ over and over in the car. Sometimes someone would come into my car who I thought might not like the album, so I’d have to pause it. But then when they left I could put it on again.
So yes, one night after dinner I put a dress on and we all went to the show. Cam was in a suit and talking about making songs for movies, and everyone was in suits from a wedding. And then Cam played like a singer at a wedding, with the lights all going it was like a movie, and with the lovelorn songs also like it was a movie.
Me and Joe and Tristan giggled, and Joe was doing some heckling but I looked around and no-one seemed to mind, til he got up to sing a song with Cam and then no-one minded again and some people sung along.
Then Dirty Dave tried to get a seat up the front for when our man would begin but most of them were taken. “Don’t worry,” I said. “If people are sitting here they must be big, big fans, maybe even for longer than us. Let them have the seats.” There was a man smoking an inside cigarette, and some girls, and some more men. But they weren’t so much fans. They were people happy to talk really loud about nothing while someone tried to pour their heart out on stage.
There’s different customs in the world, about how you shake hands or kiss or about eating rotted fish if you are in Sweden, but sometimes I feel like people are made out of different materials to me. They talked all the way through and I imagined ways to fix it. I imagined getting on stage next to Gareth and taking all my clothes off and then saying “Please, be quiet”, because sometimes something unexpected like that can help. But instead I tried just turning my face around and asking, in my genuine voice. And Gareth tried asking in his voice. But the mystery of rotted fish is easier to unravel than that one, of how to convince someone into reverence and silence. When I thought about it in the week I also thought about getting a gun, to scare people with in general when they do things I don’t think are right, because I’m a human with mixing emotions and misplaced feelings of judgement and violence. But nudity and violence aren’t the only solutions to the world’s problems, and people talking in a show is probably quite a way down the world’s problem list anyway.
So anyway, Gareth sings with his actual spirit. I watched his face very carefully, and kept my eyes open, even though for most things of special importance inside a room I have them closed. I could see him drawing himself back into the songs in the way of meditation but this was not really calm or gentle or nothingness, it was strong and serious and full. When I listen to the songs I make my own images, so I was a tiny bit scared when he told a tiny bit of backstory to the songs. I wanted to know, but also I wanted to keep the stories a mystery, just like I try not to remember all the words to them so I can keep having surprises every time I listen. He played ‘Blondin Makes an Omelet’. He played the song where he is a woman character in it, and lets his voice a little bit become a woman’s but with no hint of levity. He played songs people cheered for at the first few notes because of all their memories of them.
His face looked like an older version of the face of my friend Benjamin Witt. Ben would have liked to see this, because it’s what he would aim for, what most music people might aim for, to be able to make pure songs that some people can fully understand the feeling of even if they weren’t there at the time, and even if neither were you. To make songs where every word and phrase is real powerful and real good.
One day I will be able to feel ok towards people who talk during a solo show of one of the greatest English-speaking songwriters. One day I’ll be able to let these things roll off my back even while they’re happening, and keep up the all-love flowering cloud inside my self and out from my body, and maybe be able to make the talkers quiet with a movement of my hand, or my judgement of others float away like a chilled dove, but for now I’m just grateful to able to buy Gareth Liddiard’s album again because mine’s too scratched, and to have memories of catching herring in my bathers instead of getting sore wrists all day without any breaks.
P.S. If you read last week, I hope you found a place to give money to help people with Ebola. If not, you can today, try MSF.