Wednesday 30 July 2008

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Guitar Star

© John Sawyer – July 2008

Wah wah wah WAAGH wah, Wah WAAGH wah, Wah WAAGH wah …

The guitar stops abruptly. “What the fuck’s that man?”

Yes it’s ten thousand miles from Madison Square Garden, it’s even a long way from the Tennis Centre, but a bloke can expect the bass player to get it right.

Well it is actually only 8K to the Tennis Centre, but an old factory near the Richmond Housing Estate might as well be a million miles from Geoff’s dream.

It is a mid-winter’s night and Melbourne has turned on a cold southerly wind that blows through the gaps in the old corrugated steel wall. The dilapidated tar paper was meant to keep the former factory fodder warm. It’s given up in protest at the exported jobs and just flaps in time to the wind. Rain pelts against the roof. Enough to break up a band’s sound but surely not enough to break the drought.

“Shit man, that’s not what we rehearsed…”

There’s quite a crowd for Geoff’s first public gig, but it’s not the crowd from Geoff’s dream. The primary school kids who had crashed away on the communal drum kit during the interminable set up. The collection of too old adults; parents; community workers, volunteers and the occasional god botherers. The teenagers just being ever so cool.  Everyone snuggles together in their coats, scarves and silly woollen hats. They wish cotton jeans could keep you warm.

It’s not a sophisticated late start, but the sensible time of 7pm so that kids can get home at a decent time for school tomorrow. The signs on the wall say it all. “No smoking” “No alcohol” “Fun without drugs!!!” No, not the venue of Geoff’s dream. It’s not even the Corner Hotel.

“Righto, lets start again. Together this time…”

The warm up acts were OK, but not from Geoff’s dream. A folky trio of uni students; prepubescent girls giggling and dancing in unison to a Hi-five classic; four Somalian teenage rappers led by someone called “Boy Soldier”. They are dressed for all the world like they’d just left the Bronx, Yankees baseball caps at just the correct incorrect angle.

“A one, two!  A one, two, three, four ...

Geoff picks out the famous ‘Angels’ riff. The same riff he’d picked out a million times in the bedroom he shares with his brother on the 12th floor. The riff that he only hears amplified on the one afternoon a week that his grandmother goes to the shops. The bass player and the drummer join right on cue.

Went down to Santa Fe, where Renoir paints the walls,
Described you clearly, but the sky began to fall
Am I ever gonna see your face again?

Geoff takes in the crowd. That grey haired old bloke is mouthing the traditional crowd response: “No way, get fucked, fuck off”

Am I ever gonna see your face again?

Did Geoff really see his lips move?

Geoff and his band drive on. Verse, chorus… Yeah the old bloke is singing but Geoff can’t hear him above the amp.  Solo riff, verse, chorus… Yeah, there’s a few adults singing now: parents, workers, was that the priest? Geoff can just hear them. The band drives the song to the end. Geoff lifts the neck of his guitar and waves it up and down. The drummer smashes his drums and symbols to Geoff’s beat. The bass player does whatever bass players do. A final wave, the drummer stands, the bass player and Geoff jump and they all blast the last chord. Geoff doesn’t notice the old bloke jump as well, ever so slightly.

Geoff yells at the bass player: “Fucking awesome man; just awesome!” No it isn’t Geoff’s dream, but it‘s a great buzz to hear the crowd cheer as they bow and clear the stage for the next group.

The crowd thins out as the reggae band groove out their Marley classics. Geoff wants to remember his first public gig. He stands to the side of the stage and takes it in; a grin from ear to ear. Boy Soldier attempts a reggae/rap crossover. The old bloke just smiles and taps his foot.

“… Yeah, just awesome man! Just bloody awesome!”


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