Showtime: sex art war & the main man

hang a guitar on my shoulder
check the vacant drooling faces around the room
another heartbreak battle
and I'm only getting older
Jesus help me when I say
I'll give this all up pretty soon
time to fight the morning's headache
gulp an aspirin bang together one more song
inspiration cauterised by years of useless heartache
every shallow night's reaction
sounding twisted up and wrong
these last years
years gone down to the showtime...
- by Don Walker from the song 'Showtime' from the Cold Chisel album Breakfast at Sweetwearts 1979.
It's been a busy fortnight for me just passed. Much live theatre, live music and a couple of live performances over the past week. Tonight being Sunday is my first night in since the week before last when I was dogsitting, and I'm now feeling the wearying effects of not having enough rest or sleep.

Drama School have executed a brilliant season of graduate plays carrying the theme "Sex Art War". Roy Williams's Days of Significance was a modern, pertinent expose on disenfranchised British youth. From what appeared at the outset to be a typical Brit-punk piece of schoolboy/class-war theatre in the likes of Nigel Williams's Class Enemy, Days brought in the element of the boys going off to fight the war in Iraq. The play melds around the life of these boys and the stay-at-home girls who feebly attempt to come to grips with these mighty war issues they do not fully comprehend and are not permitted to have an educated understanding of, thus they take their confusion and uninformed zealousness out on each other. Not much fun to be had, but gripping theatre and performances nonetheless.

Brad Fraser's Unidentified Human Remains and the True nature of love is something of a masterpiece of modern theatre. It's very of its time, late-80s/early-90s, very north American ala Toronto/New York. The characters delve into their amoral, hedonistic sexual obsessions and come through it all in confusion, loneliness and fear, even pyschosis and sadism. Amidst the panoramic set design that made the stage appear a lot larger than it was, the play was directed with a pace and precision that gripped Fraser's terrific script into a most enjoyable night at the theatre. Unidentified Human Remains is essentially a most well-written play. Concise yet weaving with a tight narrative flow and wonderful imaginative flourishes, Fraser really melds into the psyche of his characters and situations. No wonder this play has been a great success for him ever since its first production some 18 years ago.

Neil LaBute has been a rising star in American playwriting & scriptwriting over the past decade. He goes places no others have quite dared to. The Shape of Things is a four-hander, a dark comedy with many laughs to be had. Underneath LaBute's brittle humour is his devastating expose of ruthlessness in the realm of love and relationships. One only has to see the film In the Company of Men to witness how uncomprisingly brutal LaBute allows his characters to be, puncturing the expectations of love with cold, sharp ruthlessness. The Shape of Things centres on an art student and her relationship with an English-lit student. Throughout the course of their relationship he allowed her to influence him to change his hairstyle, lose weight, shed the glasses, don a sportier jacket, have a nose-job, drop his friends and even videotape their sex. All this to discover by the end of the play that she was using him for her art project with their relationship and its before & after photos, its garments, and videotapes, all on display. What is art, and what is love? These were the questions left wafting at the close of this classic LaButian play.
Last Saturday night 11 Oct Brig & I did a nice gig at a classy inner-city venue. Pennie & Bruno made an impromptu appearance and hung around to watch a set which was nice. (Always great to see Pennie & Bruno). I'd warily noticed there were loads of kids sitting on the street as I was packing up and loading the gear. These kids weren't causing much drama except to themselves, loads of beer & cheap wine guzzling with flurries of aggressive language being thrown about wantonly. I didn't like the vibe at all so I pulled up a flurried exit mit haste smoke & fume.

I played on Thursday night at the Raglan which turned out to be a very pleasant, soothing night of reciprical performance and listening to others get up and play. There was even a bit of money to be had, $20 which kindly paid itself for the salad and drinks I bought on the night. The Raglan in Alexandria is the sort of place where, for its apparently non-descript surroundings, you can genuinely relax and lie back as you take in the music and the constant supple sips of red wine.
This afternoon I did a set down at the Kauri in Glebe. The photo above is taken from one of the pub's windows. It was ok, a pleasant afternoon out all in all. In a fortnight I'll be providing the p/a and wearing my mr. soundguy hat. This should imply a few extra bob in hand for me, depending of course on how many beers are pulled during the course of the afternoon. And being the fastidious bastard I am I'll probably take along my whip. I can't stand lackadaisical pick-yer'nose performer types!!!

On Tuesday night I slunk off across town to see the main man play at the Annandale. Now this was a solo gig which is a curious anomaly considering that the Annandale is suited far more to alternative bands weekend grunge gigs. It's a fine live venue housing a large dark, dank room and is not so suited to acoustic singer-songwriters, particularly mid-week. Tuesday was cool and wet and the sort of night you'd just love staying home and being poised within your shelter and blankets. But because I love the main man and try and support him and his blessed music as often as I can, I drove myself over across town to the Annandale.

Parking near the venue was a forboding experience. The place had that empty vibe about it, resembling a bat cave that discouraged probing, attention. No inviting atmosphere to speak of at all. I walked in and spoke to the kid at the door. The main man was scheduled to commence his set at 9:50. It was 9:35. I'm hear the tinny, earnest sounds of young-guy rock penetrating through the drab'n'darkness. I smiled and said I'd be back in 15 minutes. I took off into the street and walked up Parramatta Road, strolling past and window shopping at all those guitar shops. In particular there's a new store called 'Bass People' that specialise in quality bass guitars. The two guitars on window display were an Alembic and a custom Warwick Streamer. I couldn't help but notice the 4-star showroom price tags, was this a spivvy sports-car dealership or a bass shop? The Alembic and the custom Warwick Streamer are the best of the best admittedly, when you're talking bottom end.

I walk around the block, purposefully and briskly. I walk past no one. It is drizzling. The cars whurr through on Parramatta Road in both directions, driven by people eager to be arrived at their destinations of settlement. I finally hurry back into the Anny to pay my twelver and go into the gigroom. The main man is tuning up. I see someone I know and we share a polite chat and I buy him a beer. He's there to see the support act but seeing the main man he tells me, 'is a bonus'.

I loved the set but it was obvious the main man was not enjoying it. Truthfully, it was an inconsonant time and place for this sort of thing. All of us would better off be home that night - that's what was in the air, perhaps to be transported to another venue on another night...the Manly Boatshed for instance which purportedly, I gather from the words of the main man's blog, was a much better gig.

Nonetheless the main man is a magic musician and I felt better and stirred and inspired for hearing those wonderful songs on a rainy Tuesday night. In particular the 'main song' was performed with more of a stark, almost pained, poignancy than I'd ever heard it. Long may the main man keep strummin' that 12-string! Thank you killa, for your gift, and your tremendous music.


Great to see you back bloggin', Ross...I was wondering where you'd got to :)

The play "The shape of things" sounds utterly fascinating and totally macabre. Imagine doing something to someone like that, all in the name of "art"???

And yeah, there are some nights when you think, man, what'd I leave my warm, fuzzy house for? Was it worth it? To me, it usually is in the end, whatever the outcome. Like Richard Bach said, "Bad things are not the worst things that can happen to us. Nothing is the worst thing that can happen to us!"

Take care and can't wait for the next post,
ross b said…
Thanks Mary, yes I've been away a bit, out and about, and now I'm throaty and tired. I just haven't slept enough these past couple of weeks.

Here's something to do, google Neil Labute on Google Images. He writes how he looks. It was a very good play and it lingers with me still.

Hope the leaves are falling gently,
Kind regards, Ross

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