My friend Mishka, the singer, rang me and told me that there's going to be a practice, with her and the band Positronic, and she invited me to come. The practice was at a rehearsal room called the Bakehouse. It's in a very old building. It's not the sort of place where upper-class people practise, but the equipment usually works just fine. I play keyboard in the band. The leader of the band is called Grainger – he plays keyboard too. So there are two keyboard players, plus guitar, bass, drums and vocals.
Grainger writes the music on his computer at home. Whenever we play live, he wants the music to sound exactly the way he sequenced it in his computer. So he records it onto mini-disc and brings the mini-disc-player along to practices and gigs so that we can play along with it. The recording also contains a 'click track' which only the drummer can hear (in his headphones) so that he can stay exactly in sync with the recording.
The music is very electronic and it sounds like it would be at home on commercial radio. In fact, it already was played on commercial radio once, in Perth, but only because Grainger knows somebody. The truth is, it's very hard to get gigs. The gig we have coming up is very small – it's at a small venue. But the good thing about that is, we will be able to pack it full of people with no trouble.
One day soon, my band will play at a much larger venue, like the Corner Hotel. All sorts of successful bands play there. On Saturday I went to the Corner Hotel because I heard my favourite singer, Jodi Phillis, would be there. She lives in Sydney and she only comes down to Melbourne about once a year when she's touring. Jodi Phillis has a record deal with Candle Records. This event at the Corner Hotel was a gig for all the Candle Records artists, about seven of them. Jodi plays acoustic guitar and sings. It's mellow music. Whenever I hear her singing, I just melt – 'cause her voice sounds so pretty. And the songs are brilliant. I was standing right in front of her as I listened – I tried not to stare at her too hard, 'cause I didn't want to freak her out. Jodi was wearing this t-shirt which was similar to the American Flag, but she had a criss-cross of gaffa tape across it, like crossing-out the flag. You know, if Jodi Phillis told me to eat a frog, I'd do it.
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This weekend was important for another reason – it was the annual Maroondah Festival, in Croydon. What people say about the Maroondah Festival is, it's almost as good as the St Kilda Festival the week before. Croydon is way out east in the outer suburbs. So it's nowhere near my area, but I go to it because I can't get enough of festivals. I'm like a festival junkie. What I like best about the Maroondah Festival is, it celebrates a sense of community.
Croydon doesn't get much of a chance to party on down throughout the year – I'll bet the young people get pretty bored sometimes. I grew up in an outer suburb as well, so I know what it's like – there's not many places to go to have fun. When you see them dancing and moshing to bands at the Maroondah Festival, you know that this is a very special occasion for them.
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The band 28 Days played, they're very heavy and famous and they had the crowd going wild and breaking the crowd-surfing rules with abandon. I was above it all on a raised platform – I couldn't see the band from there but I could see the crowd and that was much more entertaining. There were a lot of nice girls. I saw this one guy who kept throwing his scooter into the out-of-bounds area and asking the security guards to give it back to him.
There was another stage on the west side of Croydon Oval which had more adult and children oriented music, including a police covers band and a latino band and the woodwind ensemble. The headline act on this stage was Vanessa Amorosi, the famous, famous pop star singer. I'm not a fan of Vanessa Amorosi, but I must admit her vocal range is remarkable. When she sang, I walked around and looked at the audience. On a platform near the front of the audience I saw a woman operating a professional quality video camera on a tripod, she was cool. And you know, all the time, I was discovering how great it can be to take photos of people without their knowledge.
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My Nikon Digital camera has a lens that can swivel around at any angle, so you can point it at the person next to you, while you're still facing forward, and they usually don't even notice. That's an advantage that it has over my old-fashioned Pentax film camera, which you have to hold right up to your eyes in order to frame the subject – when people see you doing that, they try to get out of the way. Another advantage is that the digital camera has a self-timer, so I can set it up on its little tripod a few metres away and take a picture of myself. And nine times out of ten, it's in focus. It's very hard to get the focus right on a self-portrait with a manual-focus camera.
girls with the chocolate
On the other hand, the film camera has its advantages. Like, it takes pictures as soon as you press the button, whereas with the digital camera there's sometimes up to two seconds delay. And the pictures are higher resolution on film so when I scan them in they still look good at a large size. But when you consider the cost of film, and the fact that I can take almost a hundred digital pictures without reloading, it's clear which camera is more useful. And festival time is when all my best photos are taken.
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But I don't take my camera with me everywhere. Like, later on that night, when I was travelling on a tram, I didn't have it with me. And I should have, because something odd happened – this old Italian guy sat down opposite me and started talking. I think he might have been a little drunk. I couldn't understand much of what he said because of his accent, but I think he was giving me advice on how to live my life. "Work just a little bit", he said. "Not too much. Collect your pay-cheque, and spend it." I looked at him as he spoke to me, on and on and on, with his meaningless, useless words, and I couldn't help smiling because it was so stupid. He must think he's so smart, passing his wisdom and knowledge on to the younger generation after all the mistakes he's made. But I don't need any advice on how to live my life, 'cause I've got it all worked out.
On Sunday night (straight after the Maroondah Festival) I went out to the First Floor venue in Fitzroy, to see the band Music Vs Physics. It's a three piece band comprising a sampler, a turntable and drums. They specialize in "hip hop" music. What they like best is to get one good bass-loop going throughout a whole song and add rapping and scratching to it, with maybe a bit of singing if they feel like it. It's all pretty simple, but the more it repeats and repeats, the more funky it sounds. When Music Vs Physics is in the house, you know there's going to be dancing.
This Wednesday I went to the karaoke and sang the song "Under The Bridge" by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The crowd were more numerous than usual and they cheered at everything. I wanted to do another song later but the list of karaoke singers was so long, I knew they wouldn't have time to fit me into the schedule before my planned departure time. And on this night I had a glass of wine, for a change. I wonder how many weeks in a row I can keep going to the karaoke before I run out of good songs to sing – it could keep going all year.
That show 24 is cool. It's about this guy who has to stop the terrorists before they blow everything up in 24 hours. When I watch this show, I think, "Please, don't end yet, I want to know what's going to happen next!" It's so exciting, I'm on the edge of my seat. There are always unexpected plot twists. The characters are being pushed to the limit with all the stress that they're under. This show is different from the other dramas on TV – the other dramas don't have that ticking clock.
Wednesday afternoon I went roller-blading down the path beside the beach. That was fun. It was a bit windy, but that was helpful on the way back. I'm so good at rollerblading, I never fall over. But I can't go very fast because my roller-blades are so cheap.