how do you create a utopia? apparently it takes about six months and a lot of meetings, but it’s possible. some of my friends did it and it existed for one weekend down near nannup. the utopia happened before, in 2014 and 2013, and each time it was two and a half days where no-one got bombed, everyone washed themselves in the waters of the blackwood river under ‘the tree’ at spliffton, with music only for love and music’s sake, and hundreds of faces of hundreds of friends deep-smiling at you through the bush and across the big ditch of a dusty dance ground, nose getting full of black soot and spirit getting full of yellows and browns and greens of all nature and the clear idea that this is actually what life could be/is/was/will be.
well, we drove down for four hours, listening to mississippi records cds from jake from when we were true friends, and mixtapes from my old love with many tracks to jump over. a big fire had arced up over the country and we saw a tsunami, an actual tsunami of biggest smoke of all colours we’d ever seen, a big storm cloud coming, dark as doom to white grey of death bones, and then all the colours in between, oranges and reds covering and uncovering houses and weeping willows til i thought there was no way the whole world was not ending. the sky was black, fire orange, purple. we stopped and took photos on our phones at the edge of the world and i sent some to my love in france hoping for apocalyptical sympathy.
and then i was over again, we were through the smoke and fire and out the other side, and in fact later we learned from nick it was a ‘controlled burn’, but truly, i never saw a thing like it. the whole world up in orange, the whole sky turned to vapoured lava.
so anyway, next driving, with that memory behind, came the part that’s always the best, between balingup and nannup where hills come straight out of the ground all green with pines dotted across that has made me think the exact same thoughts each year. and sections where the road is all tree lined but the trees were there before the road and have the energy of their hundreds of years and the thousands and millions of years of the soil they draw from and the endless energy of the infinite waters they call into themselves and breathe back out again.
when we go through those trees i think already about all the people who’ll be on shrooms and ecstacies and mdmas and think how they’ll get to feel this thing that’s already there waiting for them, the shimmering of every leaf and every tree, the endless love that can flow from and to them from each face they see.
well, when you arrive it’s tent time, finding the perfect place, reacquainting with the river and beginning the stream of greetings that will last two and a half days and then into the community life that’s changed forever afterwards: nat, tera, joni, first three women to draw their smiles up and outwards, knowing special things about each to already feel thankful for…
kids already, tents already, food vans already, a newly flowered stage, CAMP DOOGS proclaimed in wood and fluouro tubing waiting to be lit, and vines and flowers wrapped all round it, and a million art pieces waiting to be lit or touched or listened to or moved across when everyone was finally in place for the weekend’s wanderings.
and so started the weekend of everyone choosing their own adventure, and everyone’s adventure mainly ending in something wonderful. mine took me back and forth from the stage, missing some of my favourite friends’ music and catching others but always moving with whatever felt like the persons or places to be at the time. missed hootenanny but took a special photo of hootenanny’s nan with her tiny child and bigger man behind her grinning face. saw methyl ethel, eyes open, eyes closed, some of the songs bringing me shivers, letting my mouth follow all the words to all the songs i already know and have deep down in me. missing mathas but smiling at him too each time we passed in the campsite, hiphop town boys under gum trees and beside only just waterproof tents. and big sounds from mutton and DEAD but i was in the zone of moving, swimming, tenting, watching boys jump from the highest branch over the river, taking photos of amber b and axel kissing with half their bodies in and half their bodies out of the water, ellen’s face lighting up and breaking into laughter at them hamming up the aquatic romance.
that first night i wore lipstick, ruby woo, big red, like essential tomato sauce on a hotdog. i was in the tent of ash baroque, drag queen, and his friend aaron, who became a friend too. the next night they’d both be in g-strings, spreading their cheeks toward amber bateup’s camera, ash whirlying his willy and little grey nuts and ginger hair across the stage and flying at me off the stage to dance me into the dirt. he took the fall though, flinging his white bodyback to the ground first to protect me from the impact. loren chastised him but he said “i protected her! i wouldn’t let amber be hurt!”
this is part of the freedom we were afforded, in this paradise made by the hands of friends – to be sexy one night, lipstick, lace, and the next day to walk along the forested dirt paths with dust encrusted bare feet, dirty tshirts, dirty shorts, sun-red noses. mei, finally making it to a doogs, and with her band it was the first moment of many to look out over a night-time crowd, CAMP DOOGS spelled now in pink light over us all, and see everyone together, dancing for the joy of pride of our place, time, sound, love. mmm.
i danced to brett murray djing and then wandered again with matt, him leaving me mid-d and m to make me go dance in the party van, and in comes laura, kucka, to get down lo together, gyrating and putting our hands to the ceiling which for once in this tiny club bus we could touch. and past deep doogs, which would go all night, all the next night, but which i’d pass by like a thousand other possible treats and conversations. but like i said, every adventure leads to wonder.
and so also with lipstick on we watched kirin callinan. i stood at the side with my friend shannon to bathe in kirin’s emanating heat and unbridled giving. when he sang the words “and god is in the water” it made my whole spirit shake at a fast and tiny pace, like it did when he played that same song at the Death of the Bakery(RIP). he asked if everyone knew donny benet and one boy did and started shaking visibly and so kirin got him up on stage. the boy kept shaking as kirin did perhaps a cover, and then called for all to come on the stage and so everyone rushed it, even shannon and i from the sides, til eventually kirin made us all hoist his glistening body upwards to the scaffolding of the tiny stage, and he hung on the railing posing for photos with the wild mess of people he’d created almost taking care where they were treading below and also spilling beers and happiness all over the stage.
i think i’d been dancing that night near little alby from shit narnia, in his long overalls, grinning like a country banshee, gentle and wild too, like almost everyone seemed to become. overflowing love, overflowing gentle spiritedness, overflowing baccanalian ecstacies where it’s all glow and glitter rather than vomit and tears.
there are always tears too. my friend told me about taking shrooms and crying for his mother, sick with dementia, and crying for feeling alone, even though his friends took care of him, whisking him kindly into some first aid arms til the shrooms were gone.
little rory too, shroomed or mdmaed or ecstacied, coming up and telling me his true feelings, his overwhelming love feelings of gratefulness, which made tears choke up into my own throat.
i felt toddy’s beating heart too, holding him close on saturday night as his body tried to work everything he’d poured inside it out without dying, the fastest beating heart, drooping eyes, words of affection and a body dripping into give-up.
…….but all the rest of that will come later, part II…..
well, that part one was way too fruity, so this time i’ll just do you the highlights.
nick odell of alzabo brought his children, and his children brought everyone joe. little cuddle-pie zen masters, being cool always as in, being in the moment always. me, nick allbrook, and tiny archer walked around the grounds like a little glowy family. archer fell asleep with his tiny arms around my neck. we walked to the river, sharing holding him and nick stripped into his little undies and i stripped to my little white undies and we took turns swimming and watching over the tiny sleepypie daytime child of archer. boys were jumping off the big branch again, this time i think leigh from flower drums did a back flip off it. what is it like to have a family? i don’t know. but having a 2 hour pretend family is just grand.
nick had arrived earlier. the odells picked him up. i was waiting for a hamburger but then i got the feeling in my spirit ‘nick is here’ so i left the little burger ticket with some friends and ran to where i thought in my spirit they would be and there was nick, all glowing and ready for a day of wandering round as a pretend family and later playing one song with me by the river for the bigboy river set and later again getting up on the shoulders of steve summerlin of alzabo and me up on the shoulders of will stoker of will stoker and the embers and the bachelorette and half dancing half shoulder ride wrestling and nick getting so turned up that he jumped on stage after ben protasiewicz of pat chow played such a beautiful set of songs with his lovely eyes darting round the people up in the deep energy-brewing van he was playing in, people watching from inside and people like us watching from outside up on shoulders or down on haystacks. yes, great songs just him and his eyes and the guitar and his beard being great. and after nick got up and sung one alain bashung song called ‘osez josephine’ on ben’s nice guy borrowed guitar.
anyway, back to the very morning i was sleeping alone in my tent. friday night had turned into saturday morning and i had turned into what i am, a woman alone in a tent with dirty and clean clothes and batteries and musical instruments and a toothbrush somewhere and a little light hanging from the top of the tent, all this in a tiny sea on top of a body and a doona and a sheepskin jacket as a pillow.
then outside the tent i heard “AMBER FRESH, where is amber fresh?” and it was my two adopted brothers, jacob and matthew aitken, who helped put the whole thing together, and big burly emlyn johnson of emlyn johnson and kirin callinan of kirin callinan all wide and fluffy eyed and talking like charred steaks around the camp fire. i crawled out and there was talk of the river, but instead we went and go coffees and kirin and i finally became friends because he wasn’t able to talk having got heavily on all the pills and powders offered in the evening, night, early morning (this is just hypothesis).
everyone was wandering round, some people would have seen leure and erasers and sui zhen and alzabo and injured ninja but i was wandering and swimming and having stephen bellair help set up some little amplifier on top of the big leg root of the big special tree down by the river. i was so tired and slept in my tent while kitchen people played, but from my tent i could hear how great they were. it was just the same as last year when big blondey dean’s other band hideous sun demon played. that year i was laying out flat in my tent too and hearing too how good they are, always good in tiny places but even better with big boy speakers and out in the woods with nothing stopping them from being 100% real. yes, i like them bands, and they like to play great music it seems. all that big bass coming all the way down the sandy paths through the trees and to my tent by the river.
outlordz i got to on time, and stayed long enough to see hamish throw a can that hurtle struck beautiful toby in the nose and cut him open, big drops of lovely bright blood jumping straight out of his face and hamish feeling sorry and toby feeling surprised to suddenly be opened in public like a can.
then i had to run to the river. people came and sat all around and i tried to wait for stephen bellair to arrive but then had to just start playing, the river flowing just like it had when emlyn played the year before and when peter bibby played the year before, and everyone listening like then too as i sung, for once with my eyes open, hoping to give something very good to people and sipping on vb and nick coming down to sing one song in the middle about his grandmother gone and underground at karrakatta cemetery. it felt very special in the way that it seems like a glowing dream, a sea of faces and a big tree under us all.
i went to see that tree on sunday morning. i had almost forgotten how good it was, even though it’s roots stretched all the way out across the weekend. when i looked at it, with the river behind and it stretching all the way above everything, it started sparkling again and giving power. all it takes is to be by that tree for a moment, free, and it talks to you in a way you didn’t realise was possible, like extra ears opening up inside your body for a new kind of music.
and, missed lots of the other bands, even dear catlips, beautiful katie campbell who i like to just smile at as well and hope she thinks nice things back. she had dancers, but i missed them. and tim richmond band with the boys in it who became friends but i got to see them five days later at mojos all great songs like melbourne without sadness, just the good bits and tim the singer teaching me how to make beef stroganoff just by explaining it. and superstar – missed. and scott and charlene’s weeding – just two minutes of seeing them to make me in love. strong songs, the blonde man real and sweating out reality and true words and everyone in the band rising up like an australian castle. and then grace barbe. oh grace barbe. the doogs people did the right thing, to give honor to Real Musicians and to have someone humble and a star and making the crowd actually do dance moves at the most special time of the night. we all danced a lot, during the bands, between the bands. when i wasn’t dancing it felt like “i can’t possibly dance another moment” and when i was dancing it felt like “i can’t do anything but dance every again”.
when no zu played i was by the side with dom from injured ninja and with chloe from true dreamz. we couldn’t help our bodies moving and didn’t want to. at one moment the beautiful boxer shorts singer with a face like george foster from moist oyster sung the words “one touch and i live forever” and the words actually shot through me like a true shooting star and my hands went straight up in the air as if i were on some great drugs that made my body move in shooting ways to music, and i looked and chloe’s arms had shot straight up in the air at the same time. my mind wasn’t strange with anything except the music and the moment, and it shot my arms up like that. woh. NO ZU everyone loved it.
well. i could tell you a terrific number of things more, but there’s a tiny taste, of one person’s choose your own adventure of doogs. if you don’t like it, you can spit it out. if you do like it, you can take it to the river and make a little sail for it and send it out across the water and see if it comes back next year.
photo Aliza Caruso