Today begins as a museum extravaganza: Art Gallery of New South Wales,
State Library of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art, and the
Outback Centre by 5. All are worthwhile, at least for my
fly-throughs. Coolest is the journalism photos of the year at the
library, amazing shots of conflict, triumph, and failure. My favorite
is the little guy sitting on the fourth place stand at a wrestling
tournament, crying over his last-place finish. As expected from the
others: all kinds of classics at the art gallery, freakiness at the
contemporary place, and some dude playing the didgeridoo at the
Admission that pop culture doesn't always suck: I finish "The Da Vinci Code" today. I guessed Teabing was involved and that apple might be the password to the inner cryptex (apologies if you haven't read it yet), but it was still enjoyable. It's probably a fairly surefire bestseller formula to loosely base a novel on secret societies, filling in the details with whatever sounds exciting enough to sell and adding a bumbling her who happens to find romance during his quest. Tell people some stuff they don't know about powerful institutions they place a lot of faith in and, if you're Dan Brown, you're about set for your book tour.
The real excitement of today's the concert and its aftermath. While driving the Great Ocean Road, I heard songs by and an interview with the Detroit Cobras on Triple J, the nationwide rock station. They sound solid and will be playing in Sydney while I'm there. I book a ticket a few days later, and that brings me to The Spectrum for their show tonight. It's a surprisingly small venue, capable of holding a few hundred standing max. the first band tries and sucks pretty hard, especially with an attempted improv about playing with the Detroit Cobras that proves the lead singer won't be winning any freestyle rapping competitions in the near future. Next up is the Booby Traps, whose 3 femals singers, with their thigh-high boots and silver miniskirts, remind me of the Fembots from one of the Austin Powers movies; if the Fembots had older cousins into heavier rock, these would be them.
Finally, the main act. The Detroit Cobras are nothing too amazing live, about as good as on the radio. It's almost worth coming just to see the lead singer alternate puffs from an asthma inhaler with those from a cigarette. It's a quality rock sound with a bit of twang, maybe a raspy lovechild of The White Stripes and Shania Twain that somehow developed an Australian accent. Drinks are overpriced and it's smoky as hell, but the music's good enough that I thoroughly enjoy myself.
I am amazed by what can happen if you act like you belong and aren't afraid to ask. A great case in point occurs after the show. While onstage, Rachel, the lead singer, stops smoking long enough to announce something like "I know this is highly unusual, but if anybody, especially a man, would like to escort me up to King's Cross after the show, I'd really appreciate it." "Yeah, me too," adds another band member. I happen to be staying in said sketchy neighborhood and have nothing better to do the rest of the night, so I figure it can't hurt to offer a walk.
After the show, me to Rachel, nervously: "if you seriously want somebody to walk you guys up to King's Cross, I'm staying up there, so I'm headed that way anyways..."
"Do you know why I'm going up there?" Rachel looks significantly more fucked up offstage.
"Umm, it's King's Cross, so something sketchy I'm guessing?" Me, more nervous, trying to think of how to handle this strange encounter.
"OK, if you don't mind staying up there".
"Come on." I follow Rachel out towards an emergency exit, wondering exactly what I'm getting myself in to, reassuring myself that I can just run out if things become too sketch.
We head up stairs, and I find myself at an after-show party. There's a whole club upstairs I didn't know about. I sit on a leather sofa in an area labelled "PRIVATE FUNCTION" with the band and assorted other people I don't know, trying to look like I belong. There's free alcohol and assorted snacks, so I'm definitely OK with the situation as it stands. I get an important question answered: when you're onstage playing, and you're drinking, what do you do if your drinks are a little stronger than expected, you don't quite pace yourself, and you realize you're really fucked up. You deal with it and keep playing is Rachel's response; judging by how fucked up she appears right now, I'm guessing she has some experience with this. Most of the time I'm sitting there, I drink and try to look cool / like I belong. It works well enough that the lead singer of the opening band, also named Luke, asks me if I'm a "sound guy" with the Cobras.
After a few hours, the interesting people I was talking to have left and the alcohol's running out so I'm about set to call it a night. I tell Rachel I'm leaving if she still needs a walk up, more than half hoping she'll say no so I can just job back and not have to worry about keeping an eye on a drunken rock star. Some random girl says she'll take her up later. I can't remember if I asked or she just told me, but Rachel tells me she was going up to King's Cross to "get some dope, some smack." Wow. Considering I'm not even sure if those terms refer to marijuana, cocaine, or heroin and I have no desire to be anywhere near any of these, it's definitely time to make my exit.
Walking down the street, I'm half expecting to get mugged or hit by a car. I just talked my way into a party and free drinks with a band that I paid $30-some AUD to see perform, and I'm making it back to my hostel with no negative consequences. Well, almost none: I manage to run several blocks in the wrong direction. After reversing course, I make it back, alive, happy, and cured of any desire to see rock stars offstage.