Thursday, January 14, 2010

farewell to a Melbourne fixture and sound institution

How often do you walk around your city and notice both the hidden little nooks, be it, a piece of graffiti hidden on top of some balcony on some corner, a newly opened shop, or a big old landmark, and realise it's what gives your city it's character and you your bearings? We navigate through space, we socialise around it, we create and perform in it, it is vital to our existence.
It's a sad day, with the announcement that a Melbourne fixture and institution of sound is closing it's doors. One man down in the army of venues that line the Collingwood/Fitzroy border of Johnston street. I live around the corner from The Tote. I smile every time I make my way past it, then strut along passing the Birmingham, and a bit further up, the Old Bar. On any given night you can find something going on between the postered walls and dirt sodden carpets of these bars.
I run a party called GROUSE. We had our first summer series up in the Cobra Bar. On some nights,  it would reach over 40 degree's. Two old school power fans would try offer relief from the heat, to no avail. The beer garden downstairs, a square meeting ground for the smokers, and a place to gather fresh air. Oh the rants I had out there. The arguments, the laughter, the vodka soda's, cheap as chips, strong as fists....
The rider, kept in the front bar, on the whiteboard, the famous crossing off of boxes. I admit, I did 'borrow' a drink or two from a band or few....
The mighty jukebox. Punk classics, hand chosen by the people. I did find myself some-what frustrated, drunk and wanting to dance  looking for some hip hop on there. None to be seen. But that would always be forgotten soon enough when on came something from any of the many Black Flag records that slept in there.
Oh the classic pool games. How many people I beat on that green pasture. Singlehandedly, or with my pal Lia. I think it might have been my lucky table...
And the very many bands from overseas, interstate and  locally, playing to the swaying people in the pit, the signature dugout that was the room. 
I don't know if this is just the inevitable, the winds of change. Things come and go. Imagine every lost treasured space that has existed through time. What would happen if we saved them all? It's crazy to think; who decides history? They are unaware they are, for they do not know the past they are demolishing. They have not lived in the context of it's structures. They do not walk the streets and see the cultural significance such institutions have. And that is the danger. The law makers, in their routine sweeps, think 'pay up or go', or whatever it is they think, (I don't know because I don't think like that), and have no idea of the destruction of history they are causing. 
I could go on, but this must end, like everything does, even the goddamn Tote.

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