On a Return to Live Music

I took my worn down feelings away with me for a weekend, and carried them with me through a couple of days of tour life. I’d forgotten what the six am starts and four hour drives and three set gigs were like, somewhere in the midst of this last year of COVID. I’d forgotten what it felt like to be living on the edge of tiredness, eking out the mental energy to accomplish the task directly in front of you, while staving off the expansive future and its twists and turns.

I spent the last year with a blessed amount of sleep, with mornings spent in bed till nine am, with evenings empty of follow-on tasks, so it’s a slightly rude awakening to realise suddenly life is back to normal and I didn’t get much say in it. This is the reality of life though isn’t it? As much as we cling to the things we can control, the iceberg of inevitability has this vast underwater mass that drags on the edges of what we can see and saps energy just when we feel we’ve started to gain some headway.

Outside of the tiredness, the weekend was a delight. I played two fantastic shows at Ringer Reef Winery in Porepunkah. It was the perfect combination of factors: unseasonably warm Easter weather (thirty degrees for the middle of Autumn), full band shows with a cast of amazing musicians who bring my music to life, and a packed out audience. The crowd was a mix of families, spread out across the lawn. Adults drinking sparkling wine on picnic blankets while kids kicked the footy up and down the hill, on to the band stand, into the band’s champagne ice-bucket (perks of playing wineries hey?). The main draw card was the weather. Its hard to imagine nicer weather, particularly after the last couple of weeks with torrential downpour, cold mornings and the slow slipping away of sunlight as we slide towards the cooler months.

We camped overnight at the Mt Buffalo Caravan Park, a brief glimpse into an odd slice of life. I haven’t been to a caravan park in years, and I’d forgotten of the existence of semi-permanent caravans. The first kilometre stretch of the caravan park is a wide road littered with caravans, each one built into its own structure. Some of the caravans had porches built on the front, some had semi-enclosed living spaces turning a one bedroom apartment into a lush two bedroom space with bunk beds for the kids. One particular caravan was ensconced into a two level palace affair with a ladder strapped to the side to navigate the upper area. As we drove past I peered up into the top layer to see a three seater couch with five children squished into it. How they got the couch up there is beyond me, as is how anyone navigates a ladder to reach their bed after a few drinks, or when the back pain of middle age rears its ugly head.

We set up tents in the afternoon after the gig, drove in to town to eat and then returned to the campsite at the relatively staid time of 7.30 pm. Ready for an early night, we stumbled into a bacchanalian caravan street party. Revellers had set up fire-pits in the middle of the road, surrounded them with camp chairs and circled wooden logs for sitting. Think Lord of the Flies meets middle-class suburbia. As we drove up we were consciously ignored, until I honked my horn. The nearest layer of seats part, the party shuffles wooden logs out of the way, I drive halfway up the embankment to get around and then the party resumes. We had set up in the ‘paddock’, a massive empty field for travellers without caravans. It’s an area roughly a kilometre squared, with four or five small camps scattered across it. As we find our little tuft of tents I turn off the headlights and the vast sky lights up.

It’s a stunning stretch of stars, this Milky Way that has followed me since my childhood. I’ve had a strong love for the sky since I was a child, and I’m pulled back to Yemen, the place where I recall the clearest skies. The absence of light pollution due to our distance from civilisation brings to life the smallest points of light. Each one of these a star larger than our planet, working its hardest to emanate light across the cosmos. A thousand years later these particles of light hit me and disappear, soaked up by my mass. In some small way I am a part of the interminable heat death of the universe, although this existence here, this weekend of gigs, these words I write are smaller than the pinpricks of light that dance above me.

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