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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Friday on my mind

No easy beat this - I went out, at night, by myself, plenty of baggage but no bags, none of the support equipment necessary as an accompanying parent. The presence of children demands that each journey out of the house involves the logistics of an assault on Everest.

But this Friday all my emergency gear fitted more easily into my jeans than I did. And I was venturing into a different suburb. The Lansdowne is not too far from my part of Glebe in the vague area referred to as Broadway. Most people these days have a shopping complex and in the reworked Grace Brothers Glebe has Broadway. Like a carelessly parked BMW Broadway is slowly being Glebe-ified. The new top floor which opened looking like a Westfield Anywhere has slowly and steadily been Glebed. The toilets, always a concern when travelling with young and old, were sparkly and high tech. Now the remnants of tags can be seen in the grout, the sensors to turn on the taps don't work and everything has that not cleaned often enough well enough feeling that characterises the rest of Glebe.

The Lansdowne is an institution, Sydney slang for more than 15 years old, and on Friday nights has three bands "going off". When I escaped from rehab work I worked in a library in North Sydney as an untouchable, a shelver. Shelving was like a sheltered workshop, you had to know someone to get a job and know which order the letters of the alphabet came in and, more importantly, where numbers came. The entry level pay rate was also higher than community work, at least at the point I'd reached after three years of tertiary studies and seven years experience. One of the other shelvers was a musician - in a band called The Tennants best remembered for their teen ballad 'You shit me to tears'.

Now Greg is "something in television" and one of his bands is COD who played on Friday. COD are like a party mix tape with the musical highlights of the last 35 years of pop music. The drummer aside the musicians are all a bit overweight, balding and troubled by the various ailments that occur with greater frequency over 35. But they play like precocious teenagers. They strut, they shimmy, they snarl, they growl catering to the dags and the dads. And for some reason as the years drop away women, some of whom should be doing their schoolwork and others who should be checking their grandchildren are doing theirs - that age range - are attracted to them. Particularly to the frontman, Greg the ex-shelver.

Men react like men - some of them (or us) want to be in the band or in the band members - some of them can't figure out the appeal or wish it wasn't there or at least hadn't ensnared their girlfriend. But eventually the sheer exhilaration of the show takes over. They're having fun, these fools and inviting us to join them. And they play very well - no Zeppelin riff or Prince wankery too hard - the drummer and bass player often locked in as tightly as Sly and Robbie and the twin guitars of the Thorsby brothers doing that brother thing - "I love you mate but I'm a better player than you". It's like karaoke with talent.

All evening groups of altered youngsters would arrive and stare in bemusement at what may have looked like a rally of gay bikers on acid - at least one in each posse got it and would stay and calibrate their inner rythm to the dirty sounds coming from the stage. The alpha males in each pack would sense the threat emanating from these aging showmen and guide their females to safety, some of the younger pack members would veer towards rebellion and choose fun over face and the sensually orientated would lean towards the stage. The alpha males would then have to choose - these are my people, I am their leader, so I must follow where they go - but how to do this and acknowledge another big fish in this small pond? Sydney is too everything for there to be only one gay in each village. So leave your alpha bits behind and take and give what you will to the night - it is but young even if we are not.

I worked in an ear tag factory in Palmerston North one year - I met a Maori from Te Kuiti who was famous for not being able to play the guitar. At his girlfiend's landlady's home there was a framed poster on the wall "I'm not always as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I always was!"

Go the mighty COD - you guys rock! (see: Australian Idol)

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