Camp Doogs 2017


i'm sitting at a chair where heaps of hits have been writ. sitting on a ground that was once cleared of all the big trees. c.y. o'connor used to bring his horse through here, tether it up in my bedroom.

when i go to the land that new doogs is on - cleared paddock, the trees kind of in the distance, the 'big tree' being just the one tree left - a meeting place - well, i think about what it was like before. most trees that are left in paddocks are just there because their insides are twisted. no good for making furniture or all the houses for the settlers to take over where people and sacred trees were.

camp doogs happens a few tens of ks away from where there was a big massacre in our past. captain stirling, who stirling highway is named after, ordered it, when the nyoongar people got upset at not getting rations, which they had thought was a kind of rent payment for the land all the ghostly white people were using. the rations stopped, they started getting annoyed, stirling found an excuse to send a party in to kill a whole lot of people - that was at pinjarra.

well, that's the land we're on. i missed the 'welcome to country' for camp doogs because i was sleeping off a camp run for kids with parents in prison. i was asleep while a representative of the nyoongar people sang over the land and actually welcomed the artists and audience members of doogs to the land. matt aitken told me later that the representative said he felt the spirit of the water while he was on that land, talking. and it had said that at that place, everyone is equal. what a thing for the water spirit to say, given the past, present and future.

well, doogs is no longer like it was before, just friends camping with friends and playing music to friends, amongst big trees with the big blackwood river going through, and "two 'n' glenn" doing wild shenanigans like lighting up a bonfire that threatens to rip the whole place apart, and everyone in it, by fire. instead it's in a big paddock, but it was a paddock blessed. and it does mean a whole lot more people can be there.

the first night started with the joy of being on a couch beside redheads, and really, redheads were one of the highlights of the festival. there seemed to be so many of them, setting my heart on fire, as it was. kate daniel, doing her job backstage so professionally some people might have blushed; dj jack dutrac aka lockie, doing cool physical comedy where you pretend to trip when you're walking along with people, or when you see them in a distance and are waving, and talking deep physics with me. A+. rose k.b., providing an incredibly moving few hours of talking and panels and a first-time androgynous "drag" style show that ended in a one-song joyous dance party; sam martin and kate representing 'safer venues wa', an organisation begun in xanthea's backyard, and now potentially changing a few things around here; amber bateup, making people perform their friendships in front of her camera, her pure heart swinging at the tips of her golden orange locks. yeah. redheads are my favourite.

as well as redhead representation the albany representation was high and righteous - drowning horse (kim and robin are from albany) drowning out albert pritchard (albany) singing solo in the red tent, rory glacken -tourist kid-(albany)'s deep greenhouse draining all his energy while being a place everyone kept talking about in hushed and reverent tones - i never made it there. i let the team down with my set, but someone has to be the one each time to just get pulled along by the strength of the others. this time it was me.

the best thing about doogs still remains, even though i long for the tiny times where all the existing friendships could wind further and further around each other, in the deepest possible way, as we floated down the blackwood holding onto one another's legs; the best thing being that around every corner there is some great thing happening if your eyes are open to see it.

i liked watching toddy's mushroomed face, flecked with powder, stumbling around his friends, in dirty white overalls on saturday morning. i liked seeing emlyn johnson and albert play a game i called 'thighing high' where they took their pants off and slapped each other in a strange coded sequence with their feet against the other's bare legs. i liked going on the river with a guy named after the festival and getting pulled off the boat into an upside-down piggy back where my face was at his legs and my legs at his face. i liked sitting beside stephen bellair, lyndon blue and other fantastical friends as a.a. matheson played and sung.

in fact, a.a. was one of the highlights of the whole camp. while my mate byron gave a talk in the red tent about the future of our land, via the prehistory of australia, via his knowledge of biospheres of small and large and mystical kinds, via knowledge of soils and leaf types and root types, aaron (a.a.)'s voice rang out. i couldn't resist it, and went and sat on the dirt while he poured his emotions out. he stopped in the middle of his set to talk about 'consent' and to remind all the men folk to not be terrible. it was a sad necessity, and also a relief that a guy would talk about it instead of always us having to.

another best musical thing was reef prince, everyone so excited in deep doogs and stephen in the element he has created with a team of legends, playing the show in the tent in the festival that he's made with his and others' own bare hands.

after reef prince i played a terrible set and then fell asleep listening to erasers play a great set at 11pm on saturday night, and woke up again and fell asleep again and woke up again to walk into a teepee full of wall-to-wall friends plus strangers all of whom just wanted to say that they looooooove perth, they love wa, and everyone here is so lovely and amazing and they want to stay forever. that's what you want to hear. that the strangers like your house.

richard ingham brought out a packet of marshmallows and the night descended further into cosmic rightness. - well, sometimes i have low expectations and can be lit by simple pleasures, as we all can.

umm, doogs was wonderful, rain, rain and shine. hearing the voices of your friends, and feeling their voices pull your heart strings, and pull you over to where your friends are speaking - whether to one another or through a microphone, or through their art: this is the pleasure of camp doogs.

Amber Fresh