I decant my feelings to the page. A cheery Sydney morning, the King St Cafes pulling a roaring trade from the milling crowds of early shoppers and kid-toting, lycra-wearing café hoppers. I’m camped out in a two star hostel, but where these two stars have come from and who awarded them is suspect.
The sheets are clean and the room smells moderately fresh, but that’s where the stars end. Both beds sag in a desperate attempt to allow gravity to return themselves to the earth and the materials they were moulded from. The fridge hums softly in time with the fluorescent light’s incessant flickering and after ten minutes of idly attempting to focus I rise from bed to unplug the fridge and switch off the light.
I’ll work in relative darkness, the laptop glow providing most of the room’s otherworldly light. One would expect the window to furnish some illumination, but a combination of accumulated dust and what appears to be a life-time supply of bamboo poles stacked against the side of the building distil the light into one single beam that shoots across the room and highlights Tom’s empty bed.
We played last night. An hour set of gin and soda inspired blues ramblings. Its always tough to work a crowd, and this crowd was in the particularly tough camp, their attention split between two screens displaying alternate games of rugby league and a pokies station with greyhounds achieving some form of life purpose by running in circles for human enjoyment. We start in middling territory. Boogie blues with a strong beat. No chord changes. None of that twelve bar crap. We sit on a chord and thump out quarter notes. If we can maintain this long enough, people will start to pay attention.
Over the ten minutes of the first song, the games end. The lights dim. The bar staff turn off the screens, the greyhounds end their race, and the attention turns to us. The audience slowly realize we know what we’re doing. Competency bred from experience. We’ve done this before and we’ll do this again, a thousand blues riffs repeated a hundred gigs a year. Over the course of the year we probably play in front of a collective three thousand audience members, and while it would be nice to have that entire audience at one gig, we’ll take what we can get, and winning over a crowd of thirty people is where its at tonight.
Two people start the dance floor, and then another two stumble in from the beer garden to join in. There’s a vague sense of appreciation from a drunk couple air-drumming on the side of stage. Whistles punctuate the end of songs and toe-tapping turns into hip-shaking and a crowd of thirty swells to fifty. A girl steps on to stage mid-song and staggers over to me to ask if she can stage-dive. I shake my head, an emphatic no. She takes this as tacit approval and shoulders Tom out of the way to jump face-first into the crowd. She takes the mic stand with her, one foot idly kicking it off stage as she flounders on the hands of the crowd. Not large enough to support any real attempt at stage-diving, the crowd drop her to the floor and I next see her getting piggy-backed around the venue, wildly cheering to herself.
Our set swells and sways. Old classics separated by TK originals. None of it is familiar to the crowd, but its interesting music and played with feeling. If you have enough energy you can sell anything, Tony Robbins providing the perfect example of high-class BS shadowed in a cloak of ‘you-can-do-it’ mentality. But our music isn’t a self-help manual, and this isn’t an exploration of spirituality for aspirational Millenials. We finish on a high, back pats all around and I return to the hostel, dropping Tom off at a late night venue to continue the celebrations.
It’s midday the next day and Tom hasn’t returned home… Should I be worried?