The sound of one man clapping V

•May 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Gr8 Sk8We played skater punk. We didn’t skate, but we figured if The Beach Boys could play surf rock without being able to surf then we could do skate rock.

So, when we were asked to play at the local indoor skate park we were certain our wannabe status would be blown before we said a word.

We said yes anyway. For the exposure.

Entry to the indoor skate park was five dollars.

The bloke on the door didn’t believe we were in a band. We were lugging various parts of a drum kit at the time so perhaps he couldn’t hear us properly over the clanging of the open hi-hats. Fortunately I knew the name of the woman who had invited us to play, so this was proof enough that we were indeed musicians. (It’s who you know, you know?)

He told us it would be twenty-five bucks for us to get in.

We laughed. There was a slight pause. He reiterated, backing up his maths ability.

“Five dudes, five times five. That’s twenty five bucks, fellas.”

He blinked at the five half-smiles beaming at him. Mike broke the silence.

“We’re… not skaters.”

The bloke nodded knowingly.

Danny added, “We wouldn’t normally come to a place like this.”

The bloke nodded just as a kid with a septum piercing pushed past us, flashing the admission stamp on the inside of his wrist.

I shouted to the back of his beanie: “Hey dude!” I sounded like a librarian. He turned around. “Can you get the manager to let us in, please?”

He nodded and wheeled his effortless way towards the woman with the clipboard on the other side of the park.

We didn’t have to pay.

Nobody clapped for us the entire night, even though we could tell they were totally into it.

But we didn’t have to pay. It’s who you know, you know? And it was good exposure.

The sound of one man clapping IV

•May 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Garage Band

I don’t think we got paid for our first gig. Not even in beer although, like all the other high school graduates that night, accommodation was provided. We were permitted to pass out wherever we pleased.

It was the Grade Twelve after-party.

We set up in the shed. Extension leads, gaffa tape, a carpet off-cut to stay the kick drum and floor tom. We had to unplug the CD player to be able to power Jake’s bass amp, but left it to the last minute so as not to kill the mood.

We were spectacular, kinda like an overfilled shopping trolley tipped to one side. Or like a homeless man shouting. Or a homeless man who has lost control of his trolley.

Maybe not that exciting.

Mostly, people stood with one bent elbow and one hand in their pocket. They were watching. That was something. But they didn’t get us.

They just didn’t get us, you know?

Perhaps it is a feeling unique to artists and the mentally insane, that sense that everybody else is wrong, that everybody else is missing the joke, missing the point, not seeing the light. They’re just not listening to the lyrics, man, or they’re too uptight and middle class and mediocre.

But we knew we had found enlightenment.

After the gig, we found inebriation. Jake told me I fell asleep sitting up, like a teenaged Buddha.

The sound of one man clapping III

•March 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

60s Garage Band

In fifteen years, this time of my life will be all soft-focused and vignetted. I will romanticise the hangovers, the howling in my ears and that time we caught the last bus to the wrong part of town and had to trudge for miles and bloody miles.

It will seem like a radar blip, this whole adventure. Meeting and jamming, booking gigs and playing to our girlfriends, designing logos, getting airplay, writing our own live reviews in the local street press – it will all seem so small and pretend.

But for now, this is Big Real.

For now, we are a band.

Me and this guy from the gig at the footy club and his cousin and that guy from school. Shirtless, sweaty, beer bottle floor, Marley poster on the garage door. The guitar is pizza delivery money, the amp is an older brother’s, the bass is all scabbed in stickers and the drums are all tired, bruised skins and stick-snapping rims. No idea where that microphone came from.

We’ll get chips for lunch. I’ve got some coins in my ash tray (cash tray).

The sound of one man clapping II

•October 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Mosh pit

Christ, this house music is loud. The bass is punching my heart and lungs, stabbing my ears; it’s probably loosening the nails in the floor boards. My open palms, face down, keep time on my knees.

I don’t know how long he’s been sitting beside me but suddenly his mouth is up against my ear, shouting its hot and spit-speckled beer breath.

Drummer?” the mouth yells. A finger appears in my peripheral vision and points to my hands, tapping away.

I am. Been learning since the age of nine and tapped pens on benchtops long before that. I make drum sounds with my mouth, use the boomy bus floor as double kick practice, thump my chest and cheeks on the way to school, flip acoustic guitars face down and whackitytacktack the backs of ’em.

And although tomorrow night my ears will still be filled with the ringing, high pitched memory of tonight’s chaos, on quiet nights I stare at the ceiling and hear the whoosh-whoosh of the drummer inside me.

Christ, this house music is loud.

The young man repeats his question, whiskered lips brushing my lobe as he barks. “You a drummer?”

I turn to him and nod for one bar. But I’m not really listening.

The sound of one man clapping I

•September 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Holey Jeans

Sixteen and stoned, I sit with my thin-jeaned arse on the carpet and my back against the side wall of the venue. Four speed freak punksters have just finished their set and another five are gaffa taping their fuzz pedals and cymbal stands to the floor while the house music rumbles. Absentmindedly, I tap my knees in time.

On the other side of the room, three young hardcores are glaring beneath their eyebrows in the direction of the bar. They don’t like to dilute their rage with alcohol. They played last week.

Outside, all the teen inebriates are casting West End empties towards the Police station across the street. They’ll stampede inside later for the headliners.

I wanna be in a band. I have always wanted to be in a band.

I don’t even notice the young man at my side, watching me tap my knees.

Sam’s Hands

•January 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Tent Poles

The town’s camping store was hushed. Except for the presence of the customer before him and the voice on the easy radio, Sam’s shop felt pleasantly empty. He was measuring a tent pole, which the man said had snapped in last summer’s winds. Clutched in his hands with the same ruler he had used for decades, the pole looked toothpick-thin.

‘Ten mill across,’ he said gently, his huge thumbs bracketing the two numbers. ‘Ten mill. Ten mill…’ With his right hand still subduing tent pole and ruler, he reached his left below the counter. He stood with his back to the road.

The customer was hoping the old man would be able to replace or repair the pole so he could go camping again this Christmas. He disliked camping, but only during and after the experience. He was looking forward to this weekend very much.

Sam slid a thick book onto the bench top and, with his thumb already in the middle pages, heaved the thing open to reveal rows and rows of tiny words and numbers. With his heavy index finger pressing on the paper, he began to read through the figures starting from the top. Partway down, he raised his eyes to the air before him as if he had forgotten his present purpose, or had been surprised by a memory.

‘Ten mill?’ his customer suggested. Wordlessly, Sam returned his gaze to the letters and numbers at his fingertip.

The radio sang softly, unselfconscious. Neither man said anything more. The longer they stood there, the more certain the customer became that he would not be camping this weekend. A lovely trip ruined. Cursed winds. He did not say these things, of course, but simply looked over Sam’s shoulder in the way cashiers lift their eyes so as not to see a client’s fingers punching a PIN. His own card was in his wallet. He wished he would be able to swipe it soon and get back to packing.

Behind Sam’s shoulder, across the street, was a woman rapidly encroaching, a thick bundle of fabric on one hip and a baby on the other. Leading with her forehead, she stamped briskly and barefoot towards the shop. The silent baby shuddered and shook with each step, clinging to the dress strap of the woman whose leathery eyelids squinted beneath the sun. The automatic doors parted without judgement.

Her heels thudded as she made her way to the other counter behind Sam, where she whumped the fabric onto the bench.

Sam turned his head. The woman glared, because her face had grown used to doing so. He took the five steps with which he was so familiar – from one counter to the other, past the radio by the cash register – and looked down at the khaki-coloured pile. The woman spoke in quick, low tones, her top lip twitching in indignant and frightening spasms. The man watched as Sam’s rounded shoulders rose, his tender baritone coursing through the floorboards, before falling once more, like rolling waves in a cardigan sea. The conversation was over.

Lips pursed and eyes wide, the woman lunged her chin towards him as she strong-armed the weight back onto her hip. The baby gripped the dress strap, quiet as luggage. Clomping out into the sunburn, the woman’s curses echoed from across the street back into the store until the automatic doors closed behind her.

Without a word, Sam shuffled languidly to his customer. It was as if the woman had just been a thought, a memory. Something to distract him from his measurements.

‘Ten mill,’ he said to his left hand, as it moved assuredly down the page.

The radio chirruped quietly.

The customer smiled. He was looking forward to camping.

The band V

•January 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I Love You

None of us saw it coming.

I certainly didn’t think he had it in him, neither did Adam T or Chris. No one in the school believed he did it, even when they ran, pressed their collective nose to the classroom window gaped, gasped and pointed as one. The mess was everywhere.

It was very clear that somebody had done something very terrible in that room. It was all over the walls.

But Adam D? Inconceivable.

Where had he been, though, that final lunchtime when the three of us were preparing for our show in the Hall? What had he been doing when we were plugging in lights, adjusting our borrowed guitar straps and decoding the manual for the VHS camcorder? Where had he been?

We found him outside the principal’s office. Wide eyes averted to the linoleum, manicured hands folded between the ironed seams of his shorts and his t-shirt covered in… In something. What was that?

Chris broke the silence.

“What’s all that mess on ya top, dude?”

Adam D looked up at us. Whatever the substance was, we could now see it was in his hair too, specks of it on his cheek. The rest of the school was pointing out smatterings of the same stuff on the posters and student projects in our room. Mostly up high.

“You know the ceiling fan in our room?” Adam whispered. We nodded, slow and synchronised. His face broke into a smirk. “I threw bananas up into it.”

We stood before him muted, our mouths wide as sideshow alley clowns. I just remember his eyes, like sunny blue lakes beneath a windy sky. All the diamonds in those tiny pools.

“I threw heaps of ’em,” he smiled, eyes dancing. “Heaps and heaps of ’em.”

Somehow my father managed to get him out on bail, perhaps in exchange for grade five completed in detention, and we finally got to rock that Hall.

We might not have known how to play those instruments, but we knew why we wanted to play them. It was written all over Adam D’s face. And in his hair. So we borrowed a wig for the show.


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