Leafy Suburbs on the Lawn, One Band of In the Pines, Race to Your Face
sometimes i write a “three best things in music this week” – that’s what i’m going to do right now, almost.
but the best thing in australian political life this week is png saying it’s illegal to detain refugees on manus island. here is a quote from the judgement and from abc news:
‘“Both the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments shall forthwith take all steps necessary to cease and prevent the continued unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum seekers or transferees at the relocation centre on Manus Island and the continued breach of the asylum seekers or transferees constitutional and human rights,” the judges ordered.
In one of two lead judgments, Justice Terence Higgins said the detention also breached asylum seekers’ fundamental human rights guaranteed by various conventions on human rights at international law and under the PNG constitution.
“Treating those required to remain in the relocation centre as prisoners irrespective of their circumstances or status … is to offend against their rights and freedoms,” Judge Higgins said.’
some people might say this is irrelevant to perth music, but of course, as all the large political questions of our time are, this is completely relevant.
on friday i was to play on a grassy flat outside the new perth library, outside the big cathedral. lyndon was there to play too as leafy suburbs. while i played the sun beat down in the most white heat way it possibly could, i squinted through the tiniest slit of eyelids for the times i had my eyes “open”, except for a few moments to look up up at the blue and white sky. the clouds were going crazy. my spirit was going crazy as i played, but in the best possible way, all the songs being resung back to me by the spirit of the earth and sky, saying “this is how this song is about me, and this and this”. i sung for my friend who watched another friend become braindead by overdosing in the car next to him, he was visiting the hospital while i played. i sung into the few people watching who i knew, wondering if they could feel what i was feeling at the time. i sung into the bright white heat of the sun and up through into the clouds. but from the outside it might have just looked like a small person squinting and sweating in the heat with a guitar pressed to their arms and torso.
that wasn’t one of the best things i was going to write about. the best thing was lyndon playing next. lyndon started to play at the end of the big grassy flatlands. to his left and to all our rights was the cathedral towering up, but in a perth way, so not outrageously impressive, into the sky, and to the other side the new glassy perth library, slitted windows all the way, mirrored glass impenetrable unlike every book in there waiting to be opened. it’s at the same time welcoming and dont-come-in ish. we are meant to be impressed, we are mildly interested, we are put off, but we are allowed to move freely at least. so, lyndon started playing and from the first beats i turned to rupert on the grass and said “i like this already”. then the special thing happened. an old man, in long rumpled pants, a wide akubra with the aboriginal flag colours twined around the head piece, emerged from the side of the stage area. he looked like someone playing his role in a play – even though we were spread a long distance across the grass rectangle, everyone could see his facial expressions and were all responding too them. he staggered a slight bit. he theatrically cocked his ears towards the stage, while still facing all of us. and then he pipped a harmonica straight into his mouth and pipped out one single blow which was exactly at a good timing and exactly in tune.
everyone’s bodies, eyes and ears became more focussed. we looked at the man, we looked at lyndon, this was classic theatre and we wanted to know what was next. the man edged closer to lyndon, still faced us and pipped again – again on time, again in the right key – magically as every harmonica is in a different key. and then he headed to the microphone. the next moments were tense… lyndon was creating loops of a song, beats and synth melodies, and this new staggery man was at the mic. he pipped the harmonica again and lyndon nodded and everybody took out their phones. then came bird noises – you know, you don’t want to turn the scene into a ‘mystical elder character’ scene, but that’s actually what it was like. the bird noises and then the man’s talking turned lyndon’s music into something bigger and yes, more like ancient sounds than the references might already have been.
and then the man started touching the synth. what would lyndon do? roll with it, be put off? did this piece of land belong only a few generations ago to this man’s family and now a bunch of foreigners were all seated on the fakely placed grass, between the monoliths of european invasion – church and library? hmm. well, the scene played out as it does in our country. the sound man felt obliged to step in, taking a long time to convince the man it wasn’t his place to play on lyndon’s equipment, but clearly not convinced himself, every other person on the grass watching with their own private thoughts about just the music, the coffee they were drinking, the history of their country, etc. etc. who knows. and after a while the man ambled away, lyndon kept playing, and everything went back to beigely normal.
second ‘best thing’ – benjamin witt’s last song at in the pines. his whole set was fine, good, great songs, but the last song i believe many people in the crowd were transported up and outwards and something special was happening. i actually thought “i never want this song to end” as the music took me elsewhere entirely, and after ben and his band finished playing dimity who had been next to me said “i never wanted that last song to end, i was in a different place!” so at least for two of us the same thing happened.
third ‘best thing’ – race to your face at mojos on sunday. they were playing for shit narnia’s end of tour launch show, and they were beautiful. the drummer, lee, covering his shirt from the inside with the sweat of true performance, majestically locking in to the loops created by the f-off good guitarist chris – drumming to loops is so so so so so hard, getting loops tight enough for someone to drum to them is so so so so hard. i wanted to see them paired song for song in a battle (but where both are on the same side) with mudlark. intricacies, effort, all of it. it reminded me of michelangleo painting the sistine chapel, im not being ridiculous, but just that thing of watching people who are putting in true effort and making something you couldn’t even dream of appear before your eyes. i was embarrassed to play after them, and didn’t do a great job, but then got cheered up by foam who i have loved from afar since the first time i watched them…
imagine one day if we could all make music in a country where there’s just the necessary injustices – like a few health problems and a bit of romantic heartbreak to deal with – instead of the big time fucked things like incarceration of refugees and people from poorer areas of the country, and insidious corporate and military power, and human created climate change, and an unrecognised and unredressed invasion history. that would be sick.