Live Music and The Upsides of Being Poor

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Electroheads from far and wide assemble once a year for epic Parklife festivities. Tomorrow international giants Peaches, Soulwax, and Diplo are a few to grace the stage for Parklife 2008 at Melbourne’s picturesque riverside park, Birrayung Marr. Unfortunately, having exhausted every possible avenue for a free ticket, having failed to form a James Bond-inspired fence-jumping strategy, and having observed the -$13.72 in my bank account, it looks like I’ll miss out this year.
Rather than dwelling on my despair, I’ve decided to look on the bright side and reflect on how else a deprived student can satisfy their live music needs. What I’ve discovered over the last few months is that being broke can actually function as a really good discipline to hone in on some raw local talent.
In Melbourne, venues such as East Brunswick Club, Northcote Social Club, and the Espy in St Kilda are dependable sources of quality live music. With shows that are free or less than $10, it doesn’t take much convincing. Often I’ve never heard of the acts, and I’ve been persuaded to check them out based on a snippet in a street press magazine or a vague listen on their MySpace. I’ve got to say it’s been rewarding – locals Tic Toc Tokyo, Plug-in City, and Hot Little Hands are now among my favorite bands and it’s cost me the equivalent of a Big Mac Meal to see them.
Hot Little Hands
Hot Little Hands
These venues are pretty small, which means you’re close to the action and it’s an intimate experience. I work at The Forum which is an awesome venue for more established acts, but we charge a minimum of $6 a beer and chances are you’ll be wedged in the crowd behind a 7”3 bodybuilder. At smaller venues, you can often get $10 jugs or $3 pots, and it’s much easier to wheedle your way to the front.
There’s definitely a certain quirkiness about such venues. Once, my friend Louis, a small Vietnamese guy who looks about 12, forgot his ID at a certain venue which I will not name. The bouncers, a massive bald man, and a middle-aged pony-tailed woman adopted the sternest demeanor, clasped their arms together, and demanded he does a cartwheel. I’m being serious. Louis performed some panicky rendition of a cartwheel that looked more like a handstand and was granted entry. I think that’s great.
Another time I went to the Spun Rivals EP Launch at the East Brunswick Club with The Greasers and The Papernecks playing in support. After The Greasers played I nipped out for a wee and to see if I could bum a cigarette. On exiting the men’s room I stumbled upon none-other-than Dom Byrne, who leads The Greasers and also plays in Little Red, hanging out with fellow bandmates. I feebly complimented them on their set, and then Dom offered me one of his rollies and we proceeded to chat about 1960’s swing. I felt very cool.
These modest bedrooms and venues seem to be springing up all over the place. And often in discovering a new venue, you unearth some sweet new local bands. A pub near my digs in Carlton just opened up a snazzy new bedroom called The Curtin Bandroom and I randomly decided to check it out one Friday night. I was pleasantly surprised to find The Process rip it up with a blistering set of manic post-punk meets wistful blues.
So when I’m taxed to the ground outside Birrayung Marr I can at least acknowledge that I’ve had my fair share of decent live music without incurring too much wallet damage.

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