As part of the NGV Friday Nights Program I had the pleasure of attending a performance by Augie March in September of 2016.
The performance took place in The Great Hall. Featuring high ceilings decorated with stained glass murals the venue providing a magnificent space reminiscent of a cathedral.
A large and enthusiastic crowd representative of all ages and backgrounds had gathered in the Great Hall – the atmosphere was dynamic as persons filled the room directly from the (connected) Degas Exhibition. Others dined in the Pop-Up Restaurant whilst the gaps at the front of the stage gradually filled.
Enter Augie March.
It has been repeatedly stated that the music of Augie March is hard to categorise. And indeed it is. Yet the performance was seamless in that it effectively blended a range of musically diverse songs into a repertoire that was unified by the lead vocals of Glen Richards.
Augmented by a string and wind section the effect was a magnificent blend of orchestral and jazz sounds – merged with the quintessential indie/folk sounds that we have come to associate with Augie March.
Glen lead (although by no means dominated) his ensemble. The band were joined by the flamboyant Dan Luscombe from The Drones who accompanied Glen on piano and vocals. The multi-talented Dan similarly undertook the role of conductor for the instrumental sections.
Conversations took place across the stage among the performers. Glen – as is his style – provided a range of stories and anecdotes which were a pleasure to hear. With evident intelligence he continually interacted with both the band and the audience – lending to the performance a familial intimacy.
The actual songs selected spanned the career of Augie March. Opening with 2002’s The Vineyard the band played several songs from their Glimjack album Their single Pennywhistle from their 2008 album Watch Me Disappear proved to be particularly popular with the audience. Included were a selection of (avant-garde) covers debuted recently by the band at Dark MOFO in Hobart. They completed their performance with two tracks from their 2014 album Havens Dumb – Caroline: notably A Dog Starved and Never Been Sad.
Ever the multi-taskers the band stayed after their performance to sign vinyl copies of their recent album Glimjack (and sell other merchandise too). A wonderful evening.
I was extremely fortunate this year to enjoy a performance by the enigmatic Ed Kuepper and Mark Dawson in July of 2016. Whilst familiar with his music I had yet to see a live performance. It was a truly wonderful evening.
The venue was Belgrave’s Sooki Lounge – a premise that deftly creates an intimate setting. Decorated in the style of an Edwardian Parlour it offers an assortment of seating arranged before the (slightly vaudeville) stage – complete with long velvet curtains and fringed burgundy pelmets.
The setting perfectly accommodated Ed’s intimate style of showmanship. He engaged directly with the audience incorporating each person into his performance. The atmosphere was familial and warm and characterised by a diversity of age groups. The banter between Ed and percussionist Mark (Dawson) was typically witty and added to the approachability of this extraordinary musical talent.
The quality of Ed’s live work was impeccable. He drew from a comprehensive collection of songs ranging from his days with the Laughing Clowns to tracks from his recent album (Lost Cities). All tracks were united by the fact that within each song could be heard the ebullient origins of punk underpinned with a variety of influences – rock, soul and avant-jazz.
One particular highlight of his performance was a version of Collapse Board by Laughing Clowns. Introduced by Ed as the most depressing song of 1983 (as declared by Australian Music Magazine) his rendition was vibrant and evocative. He completed his set with two hauntingly atmospheric songs from the soundtrack he wrote for the 2015 film Last Cab to Darwin.
A truly remarkable musician.
What can justify the current trend for middle aged ladies of a certain body shape to take up tap dancing? What drives these women to throw age appropriate behavior to the proverbial wind and take on the coquettish demeanor of a Ziegfried Follies starlet – without the talent?
The answer: the modern privileged and middle aged female living in our gentrified Inner Northern suburbs is in need of attention.
Having worked full time in her chosen profession prior to having children she then – despite all her proclamations of being a feminist – creates a highly conservative model of gendered labor within her home. Hubby works full time and she either does not work or works part time. Working hours are carefully chosen to ensure she is available to collect her children after school and carry them to their various and compulsory activities. Invariably the ageing starlet works in a feminized role where she can legitimate her decision to relinquish all economic equality within her home by her low salary. Isn’t it dreadful that women are paid less than men?
But the children are getting older. They don’t need her time and attention to the same degree. They are gradually resisting the ideological framework she has imposed upon them since their birth. And she needs to fill the void. What better way to reclaim the validation associated with her (ever diminishing) status as a Yummy Scrummy Mummy than promoting her new found hobby – Happy Tapping!!
For the Happy Tapper is now an ENTERTAINER. She has rehearsals and dress rehearsals. She has performances. She is part of an energetic and fun dance troupe populated with women JUST LIKE HER!! But the greatest joy awaits – the ability to promote her concerts on social media and then upload the photographic evidence. Self-promotion simply doesn’t get better than this. An added bonus is that the Happy Tapper becomes a girl – again. She and her troupe of ageing follies are able to re-live their school musical years with aplomb. Without being held back by an audition process. They haul their middle aged bodies and Max Factor Pancake slathered visages through their routines – blissfully unaware that they are NAFF.
Look. Craft is fine. I have no animosity toward the women of the CWA (an acronym I am reclaiming as Cunts With Attitude but more of that in a later Blog). These women are now rather elderly and are of a generation that was generally denied educational and professional opportunities and choices. They are ostensibly members of an agrarian working class – they had to work in order to ensure that their farms were successful and that their children were clothed and fed. Craft for these women was both a practical pursuit and a creative outlet.
Craft has historically – and cross culturally – enabled women to create objects of meaning and beauty in addition to practical items. Women –historically excluded from the mechanisms by which great art has been produced – have turned to the domestic arts of tapestry, weaving, lace and dress making.
The resurgence of ‘craft’ among the white female bourgeoisie of the West is of itself not necessarily concerning. But I have found in my experience that the keenest ‘re-claimers’ of craft often gather in all female groups where they delude themselves that somehow their knitting circle is actually contributing toward the advancement of women. It’s not. And the reason it’s not is that they are producing objects of no material, cultural or political value. Does knitting a scarf raise the minimum wage for working class women? No. Does crocheting squares (for a rug that will never eventuate) combat domestic violence or result in legal reforms to provide greater protection to vulnerable women? No. Does yarn bombing a tree actually increase the availability of affordable housing for single parents? No.
Women created craft in the past from necessity or because of the restrictions placed on their options for expression. Wealthy and university educated women are creating ‘craft’ in organised groups because they want attention and validation. Deeply neurotic, they are desperate for the continued validation they have received since their birth into privilege. Validation that is compromised by their lack of visibility as Stay At Home Mothers.
Many of these women promote their ‘craft’ with a shrill narcissism that I find alarming. They hawk their mediocre products to all and sundry – and promote it as ‘fabulous’ despite it being extraordinarily average and impractical. Look at me – I’ve got a market stall where I crotchet cupcakes! I’ve hand sewn a twee apron that will fall apart after several washes! I love my life!
And wouldn’t it – just wouldn’t it – be more beneficial for the white middle class women that dominate our social media and impose their diabolical offerings to us at every market opportunity – to use their (state funded) tertiary education to GET A MEANINGFUL JOB? One that actually enabled social, technological or economic change. One that mattered to society.
But whether the market stall and online shop is financially viable is of no consequence. Wealthy hubby will fund the gap (he works so hard!!). Whether these feeble offerings make money is irrelevant. They are a hobby. And hobbies are nice. But they are not an act of feminist empowerment. Not ever.
Welcome to my Blog. I am a restless woman – I have my combat boots on.
I am an unapologetic feminist and socialist. I hate lots of things. This blog will be dedicated to things that I hate. It will also feature (at somewhat random intervals) creative writing and music reviews.
But mostly it will be about things that I hate.