Canberra and Me! (BMA – 2012)
I began my creative life in Canberra in 1999, drifting through a Professional Writing degree. Coming from Tasmania, Canberra was like New York with roundabouts. UC wasn’t exactly the thriving artistic metropolis I had imagined campus to be. When I rocked up to the Curio office, the editor was waving his hands around saying “no-one gives a shit!” I was keen as, and immediately set to writing self-indulgent reviews, vox popping friends and hassling record companies for more CD’s. Once, I forgot my recorder but still chatted to JC from Powderfinger for half an hour on the phone, like some old friend
Over two years, I helped Curio bust the big stories. The Students Association were told they could no longer sell cheap bottled water because the refectory had signed a deal with Coca-Cola. We were there. When a girl was attacked walking home from campus, we followed the story. At the last minute, we were told by the Students Association that we weren’t allowed to run it because of ‘legal issues.’ I was furious. We figured at least our headline of “Beer o’clock dropped – Shock” would make waves. Hell hath no apathy like a student warned.
Uni was all about creating your own opportunities. We started the “Harmonica Lewinski’s Muso’s Club” because we couldn’t detect a live music scene – it was all DJ’s and doof. With a weekly BBQ we drew fellow muso’s out of the woodwork, the rest of club money spent on our haircuts. We formed two bands, one funny, one serious and entered both in the Campus Band Competition. One judge wrote: “guitar playing was out of time, but couldn’t tell if this was done on purpose as some kind of musical protest.” It wasn’t.
We played regularly at the Pot Belly – a cosy venue which supported our psychedelic piss-takes. I fondly remember Trouser Trouser leading the whole pub in Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” I entered ‘Pop The Pot’ in 2001 and won my heat. The organiser, Mark, wrote a review on his website: “As a musician he struggles and as a comedian he tries that little bit too hard, but today he came through with the goods.” I’d later play some sweet gigs at Toast, the night ending with Brian getting out his mini-dragster and hooning around the dancefloor.
It’s easy to be negative about a boutique scene like Canberra. I was around in the post Gypsy Bar / Landspeed Records slump, but now there’s The Front and the Polish Club & UC’s new venue. Julian Fleetwood runs a poetry night while Green Faces gives comedy a home. It’s vital to bypass the bitching and find excited people and make shit happen. Think outside the box and try and beat my world record for performing Daryl Braithwaite’s ‘The Horses,’ while riding on the horse carousel on Melbourne cup day (30 minutes). In the words of local cover band ACTC – “It’s a long way to the middle if you want to be a public servant.”