LANA AT SUCCESS
hello! i’m sitting on a grassy knoll. from here i can see boys playing soccer, men playing football, and the place where me, nick and jules became better friends. we climbed the peppermint trees and rolled little clumps of cut grass into pretend truffles and a pretend chicken dinner. i guess the reason is shooting memories down from here and not bullets is a matter of luck and sustained luck.
i never got taught to hate anyone and i never had to watch anything bad happen to my family or my people. i just saw my friends playing guitars and flutes and eating pretty much whatever they wanted for dinner. my grandparents came here escaping the destruction of war and the name of their ship is printed into concrete just down the coast fifteen walking minutes outside the maritime museum.
one time a lady chased me down there for “lookin at her man”, but that’s a much longer story involving c y o’connor blowing up the reef that helped her great great great grandparents collect their food in the season of bunuru when whey would travel down the songlines to the coast with their belts made of the hair of generations of their people who had all gone this way, waiting for the right time to catch the mullet and salmon all trapped there by the destructible ancient reef.
this week i saw music that really truly made me listen. it was a woman going by the name of “lana”. the first time on the weekend i saw her she played after me and after erasers (oooh so good) at paper mountain in an event called “how to love a mountain”. i made a song about it – about how to love a mountain, about the way in california you can actually hear the mountains crumbling as you walk by in the moonlight, as trees talk to each other and you get to hear them. they were saying “i am here for you” which is part of the words of the song, song which also has the sound of my mouth crunching toast at the start and at the end, an unintentional sonic reference to the crumbling mountain of the song. anyway it’s easy to love and save a mountain when you’re on the victor’s team, someone else shooting on your behalf – oil, armies, multi-continental corporations acting for tax purposes as individuals etc – and not a people with hair belts and only spears to defend yourselves. so lana started playing and this first time i was transfixed. it seemed really truly strange which is something that makes you attend. it seemed simultaneously good and not good which makes me attend and also is the sign i’m going to love something completely eventually and also a sign to me that something is wonderful but i just don’t quite get it yet. it was like the emperor’s new clothes but where at the end of the story the thing is that the clothes are in fact marvelous because they are the pure naked man, stripped of all artifice and resplendent in an unexpected divine suit of his own self.
anyway so that was the thing. it seemed good and not so good all at the same time. she was using a drum machine but the rhythms were not making sense, there were background loops of feedback going that were too loud and then too soft, she was singing with this sincere, straight but trained voice that no-one really sings with here, that was mainly strong and melodious but occasionally pitchy, my mind chimed in from watching too much ‘the voice’.
“rupert this is really really weird!” i said into the ear of erasers’ rupert. “i’m pretty sure it’s on purpose” whispered rupert back into my own small ear where all these things, lana, drum machines, two great strange oldnew keyboards, rupert’s trusted friend voice go. “have you heard of blah blah blah?” here rupert gave me the musical references to make sense of what was going on but the names were new so i can’t remember, and anyway my mind was taken back over again by this weird beautiful thing and then there was a beegees cover, the strong rained (yes rained) voice floating over, and me and matt aitken slow dancing with our eyes closed but at full arms-length to show we’re just funny friends slow dancing on some special night.
then the crowd went crazy. lana stopped and tristan and matt djed everyone into some collective euphoria. i took one photo and it just looks like a handful of people being lame but it’s like, how does a baby take a picture to show how wonderful and strange and alien it feels inside the late-term womb, becoming a someone discovering sound at the same time as its ears are forming?
well, another time i wrote a piece called “this is success”. it ends with a true story scene of my friend at the psych ward in royal perth hospital, freshly high after scoring heroin on a brief foray into the city, so high and almost nodding off, his cigarette falling from his mouth and his eyes almost closed, but him still almost beating me at table tennis. at the end of the story is the refrain “this is success”. so, the next time i saw lana play it was at ‘success’, great wide dark cavern underground gallery dimlit music space art land in fremantle. there was a work all about a maybe fake meteorite coming to hit the earth in a country town in australia in the late 1980s – that’s my time frame – with rocks everywhere and headphones to hear wonderful static and music and a girl talking, the artist closest being the ex-boyfriend of my neighbour who giggled at my questions and tried to explain it through his shiny brown rock eyes.
but in the other room lana was playing again, and this time i could just understand it all and let my mind sink into it. it was still so weird, still unpolished “mistakes” but that’s what i like in rocks and music, and still so delicate in the feelings it called up. behind lana’s own fluffy helmet a projected man in a movie with a helmet to stop bullets was kind of following her around the drum machine, to the keyboards, some medieval film, unaware of what he now, suddenly, with the voice of lana all around, could become.