Saturday, June 18, 2005

Show Time

There is a story Sammy Davis Jr told, about flying out of India after a concert tour on the day the local police decided the weather conditions were right to burn all the ganja they had confiscated over the past year, tonnes of the stuff. Only the wind suddenly changed direction, & most of Mumbai, Bombay as it was called then, ended up getting stoned.

I was reminded of that by the memory of a Dylan concert I went to in the early seventies, held at the old Sydney Showgrounds less than a week after the week-long Easter Show. Held in the actual showring, which for about five days had been subjected to horses & dogs & sheep & pigs &, quite possibly, even elephants, parading round & round, crapping, tearing up the grass. & then, for the intervening time between Show & concert, it had rained solidly. The showring was basically a mudpit.

But nobody minded because (a) it was the great band that Dylan had at the time, on fire, as was Dylan, with a great sound system; & (b) it was a night of, at the very least, contact highs. None of this shit about failing to inhale – if you breathed, you breathed dope. No avoiding it, no one even attempting to. Any other audience, any other performer, & there would have been a riot so atrocious were the conditions.

& I was reminded of that by a trip last evening to the final day of the local Show. Friday night is concert night, where for the low show price entry, $8 this year, you not only get to see all the prize-winning cakes & cross-stitch embroidery, the crappy stands & junk jewellery outlets, sideshow alley with its grinning clowns & pained pink panthers, the food outlets who haven't changed their frying fat for three days, but you can also hear some aging rocker who's staying alive doing one-night stands on the large-pub / club / local show circuit.

Last year it was Jimmy Barnes, still in pretty good voice. This year it was the 'Super Band', four singers who had all fronted well-known bands in the seventies & eighties, the halcyon years of Aussie rock. Two & a half of them I could do without, though the fourth I quite liked. Unfortunately, a couple of days ago, I had caught part of the tv recording of a club gig he'd done recently, & any enthusiasm I still held for him went out the window singing an off-key song. Still, it was a rare chance of non-country music entertainment.

So we wandered around, found some good coffee & some food where the grease-trap didn't stink, &, as the winner of the Rockhampton Idol competition was announced, approached the arena. To find it covered in the dirt the animals had been parading in over the past two or three days, partly covered in straw & more being brought in. Nowhere to sit, nowhere inviting to even stand. An immediate contact low, with nothing in the air except rancid fat & foecal smells.

We left.

There is a story Paul Desmond told, of how, after finishing a concert with the Brubeck Quartet in a small city somewhere in the mid-West, he got in to a cab & asked the driver to take him to "where the action is". & was taken to an illegal fishing spot.

After last night, I can relate to that.

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