Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dead Cats, Puckdefenders and Buying Ponies

Now that I'm 30 I'd like to think I have the maturity to reflect on my youth with some degree of objectivity. 1997 was, undoubtedly for all who experienced it, a wonderful year. Bill Clinton was sworn in for a second term (arguably his best and most honest work), Jordan led the Bulls to greatness again, Versace was shot, Stuart Diver survived Threadbo. Colonel Tom Parker, Notorious BIG, Jeff Buckley, Mother Teresa and Princess Diana all died. Rebecca Black was born. OK, so maybe some people had a shit time and indeed one of these tragic events is intrinsically linked to my fondest memories of 1997.

A group of us braved the late spring heat and headed to Shed 14 to see a host of local Aussie music. It's a restaurant and function center now and, without Etihad Stadium giving it a boutique stadium shadow, it felt dangerous to be down that close to the docks. It felt, at 16 anyway, like the perfect place to see rock n roll. The day started with a local north-west band called Delirium. (Personal connection time- the guitarist was my best mate Rob's cousin.) They were great and were one of the few bands who brought a prop. Despite the occasionally aggressive lyric ("THAT GUY AT WORK IS FUCKED!") they wore singlets and bounced on a trampoline during solos. They were from our neck of the woods and were playing on the biggest small stage we'd ever seen. They weren't going anywhere (see the above lyric) but brought an enthusiasm that you just don't see anymore.

The day flew by with out incident. We say Dylan Lewis front Brown Hornet and discovered The Living End. This was before Prisoner of Society blew them up all over Triple M. So minor were they that they played early and didn't even headline the small stage. That was left to up-and-comers Grinspoon, who pre-'Chemical Heart', really just had this killer riff about a cat. (DEAD CAT! THREE TIMES!- how they got so big may remain a mystery.) Actually this was pre-'Just Ace.' What we saw was the best Aussie Hard Rock band since the original AC/DC. Big fat riffs and a front man with a bit of swagger. But they weren't the headliners either. That was left to ARIA winners Regurgitator and Finley's finest Spiderbait. They were at the peak of their powers in 1997- all 'Kong Foo Sing' and 'Calypso'. They were wonderful. A packed, sweaty shed on the docks with what felt like several thousand teens.I crowd surfed for the first time during Spiderbait and hit the ground with a wonderfully hard thump. It was everything I thought it would be.

The afternoon though remains the defining memory. Around 2pm, or maybe earlier, I passed the Triple J tent on my way to see Jebediah. Now later that year we would form our own band and play our first show in 1999, with mostly Jebediah covers. Clearly me seeing this band for the first time was a significant moment in my musical evolution but it is the trip to the stage that is burned into my head. As we passed the Triple J tent we noticed a sign with crudely, quickly written texta. That was the moment I first heard that Michael Hutchence had died. There it was, literally, in black and white. I was not the world's biggest INXS fan but I remembered the hoopla over their Wembley performance and, in the middle of a national tour, there seemed to be a rebirth in Australia's love for the band. It seemed strange that on the day I was discovering more about Aussie rock, somewhere a significant piece of its history had died. I liked their 80s hits, the song they did with Ray Charles and even their newer song 'Elegantly Wasted' made me tap my toe in between Martin-Molloy sketches.

Sometimes you immediately recognise the significance of an event. Pushover 1997 represented the best and worst of that year. It was, quite simply, the best Aussie music I had ever been exposed to. Soon after I was clamoring for CDs by the 'gurge, the 'bait and the 'spoon (Guide To Better Living is one of the better debut albums you'll ever here- even now.) This extended to discovering Powderfinger, Superjesus, Silverchair, You Am I, Tumbleweed, Magic Dirt, Frenzal Rhomb, Something For Kate and Shihad. These were one hell of a collection of rock bands. Raw. Honest. Not like that shit the kids listen to now.

And maybe that's how some people felt about INXS that day in November.

Maybe I can't take off the rose coloured glasses after all.

From my memoir "FUCK YOU I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME (and other stories about me getting my way)"