Friday, January 23, 2009

What can be wrong about two Japanese girls rocking out?

topI knew who I wanted to see and how. I showed up for the earliest boat which I did not have a ticket for but jumped into line as soon as the organizer said there were twelve extra spaces. We were headed out to Cockatoo Island. On the island there would be a number of events.

First there were three stages. The Foundry stage was the main event rightstage set up in front of the old foundry building. The Ship Builders Stage was overlooking the harbor and where the ships were constructed. The Barracks Stage was on top of the island overlooking the harbor. It was in front of the old guard house. The islands various construction buildings and working points where built by convicts. And this is where they decided to have a rock concert.

Aside from the three stages there were four food courts set up in various locations and also four bars. Slightly above the Barracks Stage in one of the old prison quarters they were having a movie exhibition all day long. Alongside the Mess Hall they were having an art exhibition featuring art by Louis Wain. It was an event to end a lot of events. It was brilliant.

I knew that this was going to hurt me. So I planned the first day well as soon as I got on the island and realized the third stage was up a steep incline I decided I would see everything I wanted to see up there on Saturday so on Sunday I could be more laid back and just walk back and forth between the two lower lying stages. I was worried for only a moment that there would be sound interference between the three stages when they were all going at once but soon realized that whoever had planned this thing was masterful. If you were at one stage you couldn't hear what was going on anywhere else on the island.

I was alone the first day having traveled by myself. It seems like everyone else on Saturday came with a large group of people. As with many festivals people got of the boat at ten and headed towards the bar tents to start with the drinking. I wasn't drinking I had a plan. I scoped out all three stages and headed up the hill for the first act, Hunter Dienna at the top of the day. As soon as they were finished I had to run down the island to get back to the main stage for Bridezilla who I had to hear the first day. Once that was finished it was one in the afternoon and I decided to break for a quick bite to eat at one of the tents and wander about a bit as the next show I was desperate to see was Afrirampo and they weren't on until two. So I wolfed down some food and headed to look at the island.

The island was huge. The big Foundry building had DJ Jack Shit on all morning and so was mostly empty. I walked through as this would be the site of the rave later on and I wanted to know how big it was. Then on the other side was the Doglegg Tunnel that went under the big mountain on the island. Inside the tunnel they broadcast a history of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds which made for interesting listening. The tunnel was short and came out near the Ship Builders stage so I made my way over to wait for Afrirampo who would shortly come on.

As I was waiting I heard people talking in English all about me. This may be why I didn't make that many friends on Saturday. It freaked me out. There is an even weirder kind of culture shock when you leave Korea and head to an English speaking country that is not your home country. It's almost not quite exactly like home except that it is so obviously not home. And yet it is equally so obviously not Korea that the brain spins.

I was near the stage for the concert waiting for the sound check to finish and I listened to the talk around me.

"Hey, you made it," said one mate to another.

"Yeah, yeah, what we watching here, mate."

"Aframpo, or something. Two Japanese chicks."

"I don't know about this one, the description sounded kinda out there." Said a girl accompanying them.

"Sure, ya right, but what can be wrong about two Japanese girls rocking out?" Asks mate one.

I smiled. I'd checked into the Afrirampo catalog. While the recordings were alright I suspected they were one of those groups that will just astound live. I saw them earlier in the crowd, they were the only girls that looked like home to me. But I knew they were not Korean so it wouldn't help me at all to try to strike up a conversation.

They where introduced offstage. The drummer for the Laughing Clowns was in the wings to watch them. They ran out painted in red war paint with silly straws and boa constricts in their hair. They raised two beers to the sky. They started to chant.

" I want.... to have a party.... at Nick Cave's house... in Melbourne." They started it slowly quietly and let it build up until the crowd joined in, which of course they did laughing and giggling the whole time. The girls tried to open their beers but they didn't have a key so instead they put them down and continued the chant spinning it into the first song. I was near the drummer and her legs moved like a mad rabbit intent on pounding the earth to warn everyone of imminent danger. The guitarist grimaced and cheered. They sang a song called Hari-kari. The jammed and were exquisite in the red velvet jumpsuits.

For the last song they explained that they had lived for a year in Africa with the pygmies and they wanted us to enjoy a pygmy inspired tune. They started to chant in unison some exquisite tribal tune, lovely, uplifting, to the heavens, to the crowd. The guitarist turned and grabbed the drum bringing it down off the drum stand to stage level. Then before the crew realized what was going on and before anyone could stop her, she unhooked the mikes, grabbed the drum and lifted it over her head and jumped off the stage.

She jumped over the barrier with the drum overhead and the drummer, still singing, jumped off the stage and over the barrier after her. They ran into the crowd and the crew ran to the front of the stage starring out in shock at what was going on so obviously unexpected. The girls put the drum down in the middle of the back of the crowd and started to beat the rhythm again while chanting the wild pygmy song and the crowd started to dance and spin.

"They've gone tribal." Someone said almost in disgust. I felt a bit cheated for being at the front of the stage. The crowd danced and spun for ten minutes before finally the drummer beat the last beat throwing a handful of drumsticks into the air before taking a bow. They walked back through a parting crowd carrying the drum overhead and back to the stage. The crowd roared the whole time.

They took the final bow and cleared out while the roadies tried to fix the mess they had made. I prepared to run off to the next stage and was amused when I caught a comment from behind me. It amused me for a lot of reasons, the most because I teach youth in Asia.

"That was great," they said, "And the broken English just really did it for me."

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