I have never felt very comfortable with my body.
This feels like home. It shouldn’t. The venue is dismal; crap sound and a few punters shuffling around. My shoulder hurts, or is the ache in the pit of my elbow? I stand by the front of the stage, to the left – remembering some of the other times I stood front of the stage, to the left; friendless and impotent, with nowhere else to go. Chris Cornell is dead, and I have nothing to add to the dialogue. I just want to lose myself to the night. I just want to lose myself in rock’n’roll. Rock’n’roll is my home. Rock’n’roll is where I hide. These days I constantly catch myself, I cannot believe I continually forget this. All these awkward people, the beleaguered souls. This is the first time I have been to a show since The Raincoats ten or so months ago, and I only lasted five minutes there. “Wish I’d seen The Raincoats,” remarks Louis, the singer from Brisbane band The Goon Sax. But I didn’t, I patiently explain. I was too scared.
The sound is awful tonight. The guitar and bass… you can hear every note, and who needs that? The drums are somewhere way over there and I have a feeling they might be my favourite part tonight, me rediscovering my home. See those photographers down the front? A few years back they would have been taking the odd surreptitious shot of me as well, just in case. Now, no one notices. For a few short minutes, I am home.
It helps, these songs. These songs of not fitting in and discomfit, with the unsung backdrop of Brisbane streets, the Brisbane rain, the Brisbane sound seeping through every jangled chord. These songs that make me so nostalgic for my chosen home, not the one forced upon me by circumstance. Yet I am home, this evening – nervous outside in the rain, thinking like so so many times before that I will be refused entry to this precious nectar, this sweet music. Friendless, but knowing that here – as bereft and awkward as I feel – here is where I fit in. Give me a drum soundcheck that I can sleep through. Give me a backstage entry with a surly doorman. Give me some of this jangling minimal guitar music, with the acoustic way out of tune and the chords all inclement weather, and the songs unknown (to me). Give me some of this sweet Joan Jett rock’n’roll. This live rock’n’roll and I can dance, and I can bob, and I can sway, and I can trace patterns through the air. I can clap. Yes, I can clap. (I can’t cheer though, not since I lost my voice in February.) This is my music. These are my people, though we have yet to meet. This is my music. My homeland. My despair. My homeland. My love. My reason for living, sense of belonging and other cliches.
God, thank God I can occasionally travel home. The smell of discarded beer is sweeter than loneliness. All the musicians swap instruments, except Riley who drums like a Shop Assistant. James studied Sex Drugs Rock’Roll at QUT, and he says it was his favourite! How cool is that? There are only three musicians in The Goon Sax and they know the value of a well-chosen bass note. They know the value of a Velvet Underground refrain, a Pastels B-side, a Brisbane house show.
They hold value.
I make notes on my mobile because it feels like I need a purpose, a value. Me, who has no purpose. Here is what they say:
I need you around
This feels like home
She knows N change instruments
The End (other 2 sing) N
Stands on tiptoes to reach mic
I want people to know about me (Up To Anything)
Make time for love N
I did not go as far to type in the hypertext links then. That comes later.
Chris Cornell is dead. We once duetted on ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ at the Vera Groningen, and bear-hugged. His band’s tour manager rugby tackled me off stage, and a few years later I was announced as a special guest star in Osaka, Japan. I am so missing my friends right now – in Seattle, in Olympia, in Brisbane, in Melbourne, in Brighton, in Glasgow, my lost friends. I never had that many friends – and now I think on it I am not sure I had any friends, but I still miss them. Not the alcohol (although I miss that too), the people. The people behind the music. It is raining down outside, but it is not torrential, not in this country. This is not Spring Rain, but boring rain as Isaac explained when we first arrived in Brisbane. But inside this venue it feels like home, as cold and miserable and awkward and BEAUTIFUL as it is. Rock’n’roll, as Mr Dave Graney once stated, is where I hide.
The Goon Sax do not play my favourite song (‘Home Haircuts’). I love them for this, and the fact I cannot heckle.
And then… and then it all makes sense.
BRIGHTON: THE JOKER
Brutal, belligerent, WONDERFUL sound. Punk rock, like only Australians can manage it. Punk rock, like only Melody Dog understood. Punk rock.
Chris Cornell is dead and I needed some live rock’n’roll.
The Goon Sax gave it to me.