Appetite for distraction

Axl Rose

Axl Rose ranting at a concert


If you’ve been to as many concerts as I have – and even if you’ve been to a darn sight fewer – you know the feeling.

It’s the big night. You and Suzo have scored two tickets to the show, the room’s packed, you struggle through the support acts and finally out comes Steaming Hot Music Idol #1 and their drummer goons. Suzo shouts something inaudible at you over the roar of the crowd, and you shoot back an idiot grin. It’s going to be great!

Except it’s not. Halfway through the set, disaster strikes. Steaming Hot Music Idol #1 loses their riff, fumbles around a bit, then yells at the audience before stalking off stage, muttering obscenities. The drummer goons are left levering their sunglasses like 90s surfer bros and trading quizzical eyebrows with a discontented crowd.

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Look, audiences are important – without them, there’s no show at all – but sometimes the musician-crowd dynamic can go wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. There’s even an entire reddit thread cataloguing people’s worst concert behaviour stories – half of them featuring repeat offender Axl Rose for whatever reason.

Who knows what goes wrong in these moments? Does the crowd psyche out the musician? Does the musician piss off the crowd? Whatever way you slice it, things happen. As Austin Powers said, it’s not my bag, baby.

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Do you have any stories of your most memorable concerts, good or bad? Text ‘em in on 0411 111 112 or call up! All this week, White Dude and Broski will be recounting YOUR worst and best concert memories on Breakfasts and rating them!

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[Fiction/feminism] The Truthtellers

me at Vees house

I am a Truthteller: doomed to insinuate certain facts about the world with words and motion.

Sartorial truths are among the hardest of all. My existence in public spaces is mediated by ineluctable subtext draped across our perceptions like a shroud. It’s impossible for me just to be, save in those dark and dusty spaces where society’s tendrils have begun to rot: dank music halls with shitty speakers; my friend’s bedroom (where the rent’s gone up the owner grins unable to hide their glee at a housing bubble that will not burst); Newtown and dim indie theaters in cancerous symbiosis with more successful mainstream venues. The Truthtellers always have existed in the interstices, tolerated or not.

These interstices are cramped and overwhelming, packed already with the moldy human crusts society has thrown out with childish pique. Thoughtlessness is always far worse than intention.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Ella Enchanted, that patriarchal wet dream of feminine subservience. Cursed at birth to always obey orders, no matter what they may be and no matter who has issued them, she is tugged through life by puppet strings dangled by a mother who only wants the best for her.

Always these orders are couched as what is best for us, but society’s real success is in its subcontracting out (what a triumph of capitalism!). Its manifesto is absorbed by osmosis into human immune cells guarding against invasion with homophobia, racism, intolerance. They repel attacks by Truthtellers that threaten to undermine the whole. It’s an allergic reaction, leaving the skin of our society red and swollen in self-destructive violence.

Humans pine for change only in abstractions.

To become a Truthteller is very easy. Simply undergo years of social conditioning and allow yourself to be molded into the ideal worker drone: anxiety-ridden; sleepless; always yearning for something better so long as that happiness can be purchased or stolen from someone else. Then wake up one morning and realize – naked and shivering before your mirror – that dressing yourself has become a political act, that leaving your house has become a political act, that your existence in a public space has become a political act against your own volition.

Cultivate a voracity for veracity. Wallow in it. Congratulations!

Safe spaces are a threat, not a luxury, and our society will not tolerate them. The upper-class white blood cells, aged as they are, must be allowed to wander where they will. Otherwise the Truthtellers will think themselves accepted and poison our society one mind at a time.

[Fiction] They come in bags

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Image credit Dessins-Fantastiques on DeviantArt

They come back in bags.

The spokesperson’s words rang in my ear. Of all the warnings he’d issued – fire hazards, mob mentality, grievous bodily harm – this was the most ominous. The bags. What did he mean? The phrase had been haunting me for the week and a half I’d spent at this crazy carnival called the Royal Easter Show. Royal. Ha! Like the monarchy was anything more than an empty throne invoked by our most callous of politicians.

The name’s Sam, Pyjama Sam. Two-time nominee for best presenter at a small community radio station. I don’t expect you’ve heard of me – fame don’t come so easy anymore, not unless you plop out the next big steaming pop sensation on 2DayFM or make it huge as a YouTube celebrity, critiquing the iniquities of our corrupt social system from the comfort of your bedroom. I was here at The Royal – as the locals called it – serving my beat as a two-bit student reporter for a pop-up radio station.

Hey, everyone needs a hobby. It’s never too late to learn.

Today I was the field reporter, forced bright-eyed and bushy-tailed out through the door of our sub-arctic studio to roam the 40 hectare grounds of Sydney Olympic Park, sifting for dirt. This wasn’t just figurative, either – a couple days before I’d found myself discussing soil quality with a passionate farmer from way out north. My directive this afternoon was clear: get me a story on pigs. My producer ordered, and so I obeyed. Tomorrow it’d be my turn. Pig pro quo.

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[Fiction] ACMA Attack

radio ACMA 2

Image by 600v on DeviantArt

“Shut it down! Shut it all down!”

Chelse burst into the tiny studio, arms waving wildly, a look of panic smeared across her normally calm features. Zed and Heather looked up from the equipment, surprised.

“Shut it down?” Heather asked. “But we’re nearly done for the day anyway. We’ve only got, what, ten minutes left to go?” Zed’s finger hovered uncertainly above the panel, a battered old Kreubsig 700 they’d bought third-hand from a junk dealer. Zed seemed anxious, but then, they always were. A legacy of a corporate past.

“Right bloody now! ACMA’s practically at the door!” Chelse shouted. Why weren’t they moving? 2PLY FM definitely did not have a license to do what they were doing. If ACMA – the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the broadcasting watchdog – caught them transmitting on an illegal channel, they’d not only confiscate the audio equipment they’d begged and borrowed over the past few years, but slap an injunction on them so fast it would make their heads spin. Hell, for all the talk that ACMA was a ‘toothless tiger’, Chelse knew better than most just how ruthless they could be. Just ask her Uncle Greg – if he ever made it out of prison.

Still, it seemed her urgency was getting through. Heather gave a terse nod and signalled Zed, who faded out the current song – Little Mix’s latest banger, Shout Out to My Ex – and flicked on the announcer’s mic. Heather remained cool and collected as she spoke into the cardioid, a picture of professionalism. She didn’t rush her words or stumble; it was important to maintain 2PLY FM’s brand even in the face of crisis.

“And that’s all for this afternoon. We’re ending a little early today, but tune in tomorrow for more fresh mixes and unsanctioned opinions from 10 till 2. I’m Hetch McKinnon on 2PLY FM saying: talk soon.” Heather nodded and Zed cut the signal, their pirate transmitter whirring strangely as it shut down. Like everything else in the room, it was old and failed constantly, but Chelse had managed to get it up and running again every time it refused to start. She might not have finished her physics PhD, but she’d still learned to navigate a circuit. Chelse spoke, flustered.

“Okay, the guy who called said a representative from ACMA’s due any moment to investigate a few complaints they’ve received from this neighbourhood. Obviously, someone’s ratted on us.” Heather’s face darkened.

“I’ll bet it was Mrs Logan. She never could mind her own business!”

“Look, pointing fingers at this stage isn’t going to help. Yes, it probably was Mrs Logan because she’s a nosy retiree who complains about everything, but it doesn’t matter. What we need to do is -”

The doorbell rang. Everybody froze, darting nervous glances at each other. Zed whimpered.

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[Fiction] Killing softly with sorghum

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Image credit purple-grey-fox on DeviantArt

In a rural town that had broken its bread and bad habits, bread had finally broken them. Amidst arid plains and a burst of health-consciousness, the town of Gumtree Flats in the Northern Territory, Australia, had taken the plunge and switched over to the gluten-free life.

No more would wheat darken their tables at breakfast or dinner. Barley, rye and oats were tossed in the trash and their suppliers politely informed further deliveries would not be necessary. Grains were swept from the pantry and scoured from the supermarket in an attempt to root them out before their determination faltered and they thought better of their plan. Perhaps hardest of all, fridges were thrown open and their doughy ales and bitter, brooding brews disgorged to general lamentation; Holly Robbins was spotted wailing upon her lawn as her neighbor Drew solemnly poured her latest batch of Hotchkins’ Malt Special into the thirsty grass.

Grain was purged, with all the word implies.

Little Calvin Quinn, the two Quinn dads’ kid, marveled at the town’s anti-grain campaign with all the wonder that a six-year-old can muster.

“Look, Cal,” dad Brian said to him. “Everyone cares so much about your health that they’re chucking the grain so you don’t get sick!”

“Is that cause I’m a seal yak, dad?”

“A celiac, Cal. And yes! Isn’t it just swell of them?”

Of course, the true reason behind the grain purge was far different. A string of health-food ads on television had sparked concerns in the Gumtree Flats mayor’s office. Alarmed by the severe threat gluten posed to their longevity with scary things like gut inflammation and escalated intestinal permeability, Mayor Wrigley had called for a debate around a possible ban on the dangerous substance. Citizens from both sides had weighed in, arguing in circles until eventually, by some miracle, the town agreed to try it – just for a little while.

People streamed from the town hall that evening in chattering droves, but only one left in smug silence, smiling softly to herself.

She killed softly with sorghum.

Naturally, a substitute had to be procured – some of the residents of Gumtree Flats didn’t have much more pleasure in life than a good strong hunk of bread and a dark, cool draught out upon the patio. Sorghum was settled on as an alternative: a few farmers in the region already grew it, and it could be cheaply imported by some health-savvy suppliers who knew a sale when they saw one. Within a week, artisan sorghum beer was flowing at the taphouse and people began to joke that soon they’d go all the way and maybe be a vegan next month as well. There were even tentative, self-conscious jabs about gentrification and how it was really time Gumtree Flats got its own modern art gallery on the go.

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[Review] Nosferatutu or Bleeding at the Ballet

nosferatutu

Tommy Bradson as the vampire Kevin

Griffin Theatre Company
Until 21st January

“Oh, go on! Play something sad! Play! We need music!”

A ballet dancer, clad in elaborate costume, takes the stage while the three-person orchestra starts in on the first haunting strains of Swan Lake. For a moment all is silently-amused peace while the cavalier dances his melodramatic way through the palace gardens, exaggeratedly miming out the scene. Then, the lights flash red – and the vampire strikes!

“Shit! Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. Why does this always happen when you go to the theatre, Kevin?”

Nosferatutu is part stand-up comedy routine, part performance dance routine, and part musical drama. Tommy Bradson plays the anxious, impulsive vampire Kevin, a poor soul who wishes he could just once enjoy a performance without jumping the performers and sucking their blood. The show isn’t over as the jam-splattered dancer topples, though, because Kevin is determined for the show to go on – even if he has to do it himself. Luckily for him, he manages to prevent the musicians and the tech crew from fleeing, and enlists Sheridan Harbridge – the usher who saw the audience in – as his reluctant co-performer.

This show is packed with energy and talent. Bradson’s Kevin never lets up for a moment, flitting from despairing, self-pitying lamentations to dizzying musical numbers to vaudeville-like comedy in the space of seconds. The audience is left in a state of perpetual laughter and excitement, because it is truly impossible to predict where he’ll take the show next. Even amidst the chaos, Bradson ensures we never lose sight of the core idea of Swan Lake as a comedy of errors performed by a very sad and lonely man (sorry, vampire) and a coerced usher.

What deserves particular mention are the vocal talents of both Bradson and Harbridge. Their voices are beautiful, both spanning the full range from deep thrumming bass to stunning soprano. Nosferatutu is packed full of spontaneous little numbers that, quite frankly, could form an impressive piece of musical theatre on their own.

So if an eternally-dying physical prop of a ballet dancer, a half-assed Swan Lake with some truly quality headgear (from jewel-encrusted swans to shaggy demon horns) and a nervous, wise-cracking vampire who just can’t stop tearing down the fourth wall sound like a recipe for a great night out, do not miss Nosferatutu. It’s bloody good!

[Poetry] a royal vizier in ladytown

andersonville-chicago

Image credit: The Mash: Andersonville, Chicago

twisted
under blankets, untold stories fill the screen
we’re cuddled close to velveteen
(she smells faintly of onions)
implausible contortions of an old familiar tale

Ladytown looks nice this time of day

we didn’t have to go this way
up and down a street filled with salons and antiques
some cushy veggie eats
fluffy clothing stores less dear than home

Ladytown has parapets
a patio too many –
one patio is too many for castles such as these

we will live here, you and i + our little son
calcifer! lord of fire!
king of sinks

friendly dyed-hair waiter brings the drinks

sweet Ladytown brings friends and big v i b r a t i o n s
a tiptoe past a tulip station
full of soft pink phalluses

a song is just a dick dressed in sheep’s clothing