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Rock and Roll Queen: top gigs of 2017

When compiling this list of gigs attended during 2017  that was 2017 there was a great deal of feelings that emerged. One of these feeling was gratitude, gratitude for camera phones that helped you remember dates and venues. Happiness that I have the pleasure to get consumed by the beauty of the collective conscious that is available at a concert either big or small. It does help to have a sweet hearted person who can take non blurry photos of the gigs that are attended together.

Writing down by hand using a fav black pen and visual diary I made a list of the gigs that formed my year in music.   It is not too shabby. There is some variety and  I feel very fortunate to be someone lucky enough to be in a situation that allows me to go see live music both completely unknown, independent, as well as a few bigger names. On average i have managed to see at least one band a month. These are just the ones that have photographic evidence.

There will be no video recordings of any of the gigs I attended I am morally opposed to doing this. It cheapens the experience that is meant to be all consuming. Plus phones held up throughout entire shows have a habit of getting in the way of your fellow punters. Nobody wants to see your blurry and unfocused 50 second film in thier facebook feed, reminding them they are too broke to see gigs as cool or as big as the ones you do. Note: I know I am doing that by writing my gig high lights. But, this is classier than a shitty short film you blindly filmed by holding your phone up. That takes seconds, this is taking days.

You can take a few quick snaps, with your phone, and still spend the rest of the time experiencing the wonder that is people playing music in front of you, below you, to the side of you, what ever way you are situated in regards to the band.

It has been such a terrible year for so many people so I hope that this at least introduces you to some new fav bands or at least reminds you of a long lost or forgotten previously adored band.



The gig was amazing but it was a school night and my gig buddy had to get up before 7am. Stayed to the back and avoided the crush of very enthusiastic fans practically bouncing out of their skin. A young woman got pulled up stage and sang all the words to Queen Speech.  Lady Leshurr is a pint sized dynamo as she manages to fill the whole stage with her energy and passion. People actually came with tooth brushes as homage to her lyric BRUSH YO TEETH! From ”Queens Speech Ep 4”.

Photo credit Leong Chan16601613_10154855282535149_760518493937530040_o


This was a great gig with great friends and there is even a little video of me dancing my ass off that my friend secretly took and showed me later. There was much dissing of exes who claimed this band as their ”all time fav.” suggesting yet again that it is because of men that we cannot keep all the things we enjoy untainted by their association.





This was my xmas gift and this time the gift giver got themselves a ticket so we could go together. This the same person who got me a special VIP  ticket to The Descendents, instead of two tickets, I would have preferred  their company. Not that I am one of those people that hates doing stuff alone. I love it. The fact that I would rather this particular person’s company than solo gig going is a testament to my affection for them.

This particular Patti Smith show was the album Horses performed with a full band from start to finish.  The album was released over 40 years ago. It was so lovely to have a comfortable seat and good vantage point.




This band are fast and furious and full of fun. A band two friends started that are not getting nearly the exposure they deserve. Oh, do I sound less than objective? Thats because I am. I met these two at a street party that took place in the car park behind Moreland Centrelink. We have been firm friends ever since. They wrote a  very short and loud song about my new kidney. Thats the level of friendship we are talking about.  This particular gig took place over a two day free live music festival. Sigourney Beaver were performing after Mannequin Death Squad and they were kind enough to lend their drum kit.

Ness and her vocals guitar playing is the love child of Dillinger Escape plan and The Distillers. Tim drums like a demon even though he has a splendid beard do not for one second think he is anything other than kind and funny. Demon musician angel friend. and to see how much tighter they have become as a two piece, both in stage banter and sonically, has been a freaking honour to witness.





It is so fitting that this band perform the spooky and other worldly soundscape that is the musical back drop to the Twin Peaks universe. Experiencing the music performed by a band that has existed and produced experimental music over 15 years. Jamie Stewart accompanied by Angela Seo and Shayna Dunkleman did not simply recreat the music of the television series. They reimagined it and incorporated the inner chaos simmering below the musics surface. It was eerie, unsettling. It reached and receded from emotional peaks and surrounding fears. The music had an undercurrent of differing levels of sensuality. When the diary of Laura Palmer was performed it was almost too much to bear. So raw and with the juxtaposition of sound and girlish voice work that rose in hysteria, spite and rage.





Releasing their American Dream album this year. Its been seven years since This Is Happening.  LCD Soundsystem fans have grown up and grown hungry for this much anticipated live in concert happening.

what? I mean that. Sorry if it sounded sarcastic. I love this band. It was a much anticipated gig.  It never occurred to me to even hope that this band would ever tour again. They went on hiatus/broke up.   James Murphy announce they are touring again a few months after this tour.



Ten years after the first disappointing attempt to see this band live with a former boyfriend: read about it here I was triumphant and got to see Placebo live with someone who loved them as much me. Someone who had a better understanding of their own sexuality thanks to Brian Molko. Just like me. The night was not even dampened by the fact we were pushed into a front yard fence by a drug addled random who was convinced his photo was being taken. The gig was

The fact that Placebo a band that has never wanted to slip easily into the heteronormative or conventionally masculine music categories ( and thank goodness). A band with a lead singer who spurns gender binaries and has done for a long time. It did not escape them that they were performing in a venue that is named after a vocal homophobe in a year that the human rights of Australia’s LGBTIQ were being put up for national debate.

They did have a small act of defiance and you can experience it here. It was quite something  beautiful to witness it in the flesh.

They played Nancy Boy and avoided Every You And Every Me: which pleased me a great deal. They were phenomenal and even though Brian warmed he had a sore throat he still managed to soldier on like the androgynous elf king he is.

photo credit leong chan25498404_10154895835291750_1478012864336842395_n




This was one of the best gigs of the year and this was due mostly to the venue and my vantage point ( front and right of centre stage). The crowd was considerate and kind. Yes this band could be written off as whiny white boy music. It is so much more than that. It is quite obvious that this has been a big year for me and nostalgia bands. Dashbourd are no exception. You could find it odd that a band that has such ties to a past relationship would ruin it for me. It does not and did not. Now it is just funny and seet that the boy i lost my V to put Hands Down by Dashboard on a mix cd for me. The song is about not having sex with someone special and ignoring all the nasty high school rumour mill. It was the encore song and everyone one sang along with gusto, all these fans who were no longer young and idealistic, happy to pretend and remember for a little while.





To experience such greatness in such an intimate setting was exciting. I was so close. I could see! the sound was excellent. The gig was free. You had to be a Triple R subscriber and quick to call in. I was not that person. The person who was likes me enough to share the experience. I really am saving the best till the near end of this list.

Shonen Knife have been around for 36 years and have released eighteen albums. They sing bubble gum super fun pop about chocolate bars and ramen. They are a joy and I danced so hard. This line up included Naoko with original member Atsuko back on bass with new drummer Riza ( who stole my heart).   Fav songs would have to include  ”I wanna Eat Chocolate Bars” from 1996 album Pretty Little Baka Guy  and ‘Wasabi’ from their  recent studio album release Adventure: a super fun song about one of my fav condiments.  Perks of such a small afternoon gig is that I had my photo taken with them and they signed my poster. They were so nice. They are up there in my list of possible tattoo inspirations: like cute representations of all the snacks they sing about.

photo credit leong chan 25445990_10154895835066750_4476739132240084433_n


Showed up not knowing what to expect and honestly it made me realize how important it is to do this. Excellent live show with much theatricality and costume changes.




The Ramones inspired pop punk wonderment Australian adopted from Japan, has not graced a live music stage for ages. The band did their last Australian shows in August 2007 and  in Japan a month later.  They were one of my fav bands back in the day ten years ago and so it was a must see. The show did not fail to deliver. Atsu who plays bass and sings is now a father of three and works at one of the two major Australian guitar building establishments. An apt profession.

They supported their best friends and band brothers Guitar Wolf. A band who is less pop punk and more heavy heavy cacophony of sound. A bit much for my pop punk heart.

Situated up the front for the whole show allowed me to see the moment where Atsu removed his black biker leather jacket ( the exact kind of jacket I always wanted ) as it ‘basically weighs 30 kilos and its too hot.’

They played the classic cover of the song Ursula finally has tits originally by The Queers. It was while my gig buddy was in the loo that a person came up to me and placed thier face inches from mine. They referred to me by a name I have not heard since uni and after I leaned away and looked confused they looked hurt. ”I thought you would jump into my arms” the puppy dog looked person said. Then I remembered and hugged them. It had been ten years and they were now with wife and sprog. I was shown baby pictures. I am not married. I am not a home owner and I have not moved to the suburbs.   I tell them. It was so strange seeing them. ”You still look so punk” they tell me. I say its because the clothes still fit and I am too broke and happy wearing them to change. They demand my number and i give it to them, knowing already they are drunk and wont remember or care so much in the morning.  It was nice to see them and chat for a bit though.


photo credit leong chan25439026_10155795504165149_996364407908939679_o


Some bands that I saw and loved that have no photographic evidence










Fight Consumer Driven Christmas with Picture Story Books

It is christmas and I have nieces and nephews. Being an aunt at christmas is a darn sight easier than being a mother. I have no idea how my mother managed to organize christmas presents for five children. It is even more amazing as we lived over an hour from a town with a shopping centre and there was no internet shopping to help her out.

For the record I believed in Santa until I finished grade six. My mother cried as she told me. I remained dry eyed. It was for the best as high school was going to be hard enough for me.

It did not feel like a betrayal to me at all. It was also very important that I did not tell the secret to my younger siblings.  This also made sense. It made them happy and so excited to believe.

The reason my siblings and I  believed in santa so easily was it simply did not seem reasonable that my parents could afford to buy christmas presents for all of us. It seemed like the only plausible explanation was some sort of charitable old man with a silly suit and boundless wealth to share around.

What was unique to my christmases BT ( before truth) and AT (after truth) was the book swag that we all got. Every year my siblings and I would get a small stack of books that my mother would have spent ages in Bendigo trawling the Dymocks but mostly  op shops for.  From a young age the act of reading was not something you only did to get through school, it was used as a form of gift giving and an act of pure love.

Which is why I am happy to uphold that tradition even if it does not make me the funnest gift giver at christmas. I mean if you are 6 years old and get a picture book and a water pistol, you are more likely to get excited and want to play with the water pistol.

Books play the long game. Books plant seeds of empathy and understanding and emotional intelligence. They also last longer than a plastic thing with batteries. They do not take up much room and do not make any annoying sounds to give primary care givers a head ache or rage black outs.

The other day I got the tram and made my way to the Readings Children’s Book shop on Lygon Street. I could afford to buy brand new books for three children ages 2, 4 and 7 because I am not a home owner with any dependents. The book shop was very air conditioned and an old woman was complaining about it as I walked in and felt the lovely icy air on my bare arms. It was so refreshing. The shop assistant complimented me on my excellent taste. That uni class devoted to children’s literature was paying off.


The very first book was one I had wanted to purchase for a while. It did not escape my attention that the book was hard to find and I needed to ask for assistance. The children I am buying for live in a rural area and so it is important to me to gift books about all kinds of children and all kinds of the lives they lead. Maxine Beneba Clarke is an award winning writer and her children picture book with the  brilliant and beautiful illustrations by Van T Rudd shapes a window into a world that is set in a place very far from us but also very familiar: a oldest sibling with ”two crazy brothers” and a ”fed up Mum.” That is the magic and joy of this. Its familiar to me because I came from a family where you made your own fun and it was not store bought.



When I was a little kid I was given the non christmas version of this book. A collection of written letters between fairy tale characters. It was so fun to be able to open other peoples mail and read little letters and cards from the Big Bad Wolf to the Three Little Pigs. I was obsessed with that book. This version is themed and will seem so weird to kids growing up in a digital world. It will show my age and thats all fine. It is just a sneaky way of introducing my niece and nephews to the art of letter writing and snail mail.


Oh, Pig you amazingly sans guile creature. You have done it again in this story about how you go about creating havoc out of jealousy and a need to be the centre of attention. Pig really flips the script of the likability and cuteness perception of his breed. The favourite dog type of Maria Bramford in her Netflix series Lady Dynamite and Abby Jacobs from Broad City. It could be argued that Pig shows what can happen when unearned and unchecked privilege goes unchecked and unexamined. Of course in real life we know that nothing happens to these people. This is a book for children so Pig experiences very satisfying comeuppance. The question remains though: did Pig learn their lesson?


25152421_10154888153306750_8625780436969276751_nJon Klasson uses hats in their picture story books to illustrate more complex social ideas and ethics to children. Before this there was I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat. The first is about a lost hat and the second is about a stolen hat. 

This third instalment is about two turtles who find a very fetching hat that they both like and look good in. As usual the illustrations show the animals with very expressive eyes that help tell a story with few words but immense meaning. These two turtle friends both want this hat and if you have read the previous books you expect one thing to happen and get delightfully surprised.



This book made me almost squeal in recognition when I saw it. This one is going to be given to my Father. He was a dairy farmer all through my childhood and has a love of anything to do with space. He also created the myth of how I came into existence: Aliens who are my real family dropped me in one of my father’s cow paddocks. They did this on purpose as they did not appreciate me and my weirdness. My father found me in the middle of the night as he was checking irrigation. Its a miracle I didn’t drown or get eaten by a wild cat.

This book for children is also inspired by the 1976 Nicolas Roeg’s iconic science fiction film starring David Bowie called The Man Who Fell To Earth. A film that has a R rating for high impact nudity and sex. I have seen the film at ACMI and purchased the dvd of said film to accompany the picture story book.  I should have checked the rating of the film before buying it. Even though not a little kid anymore and should be able to watch an R rated film as a grown up with my parents. Not sex scenes though.

The picture story book is an adorable child friendly adaptation that involves a baby cow who falls to earth and is found by some friendly sheep.  It held my attention longer than the film did.


My leather jacket is eleven years old and still a staple of my look. It has not grown too small. A obvious and distinct piece of luck that is not taken for granted. I actually wanted a jacket more like a biker jacket , all my pop punk friends had them. They purchased them from the vic markets and I was so filled with envy every time we would go to a concert together at The Arthouse or The Tote to see bands like Mach Pelican, Guitar Wolf, The Queers, No Use For A Name, HBLOCK 101and bands formed by friends of friends who I don’t know anymore.

You could even get the Black biker leather jackets for cheaper if you went to the market as everyone was closing up for the day. You could haggle. Unfortunately the jackets were all made for people who had a body type that was taller and meatier than a pre teen with boobs. It was not only the fact that the biker jackets did not fit me, it was also the fact that even if I could have haggled near closing, I still would not be able to afford one. The desire for one burned inside of me. I felt that if I had one on my shoulders it would show that I loved The Ramones and Sex Pistols and was no longer the naive little girl from the country. Just try and call me cute now, schmuck, my jacket would snarl at everyone I walked past.

Trawling as many op shops as I could, yielded no success. It was very disheartening. My beloved black leather belt with the silver studs needed its best friend. The studded belt had been purchased over many weeks on lay by at a goth and punk store that existed in Ballarat where I went to uni in 2002. The belt was a made to measure one and had taken weeks to be made as the kind goth girl who ran the store told me that the punk who made them had an an erratic work ethic. When it arrived and I tried it on with a pair of black shorts I was in love and sad it could not be taken back home then and there.

I would have had to have waited even longer had it not been for the kindness of my punk friend and crush who paid the out standing fifteen dollars that I had left to pay. He grew impatient with me as he stood at the store’s counter watching me count out my coins to pay what I could afford which was five dollars. I felt so grateful and embarrassed. Grateful that my hot friend cared enough to help me out and embarrassed because I was so much less financially secure than him and many others. I was happy to live on toast in oder to eventually have that belt. Priorities!

Four years later it finally happens. I do not suddenly grow into a normal sized woman who can buy reduced price leather jackets from The Vik Markets. It is four years later and I have disposeable income from being an emergency teacher. One Saturday morning in June I wake up my boyfriend with exciting explaining of my urgent mission. We get the Broadmeadows train from Kensington station and go to the place in the city with all the leather goods like jackets and belts and bags that are not very punk. It is there that an old Italian man measures my arms and inner arm and bust with a tape measure and a silent look of determination. My boyfriend stands and watches like a six foot two dark haired statue.

The level of excitement of this impending wardrobe addition had not been experienced since my studded belt. The likes of which exceeded the night I met my then boyfriend. I did not tell him this as we sat in a train taking us home. On the train he mentioned why he had been watching the old man measure me so closely. He wanted to see if the old man spent too long measuring me bust area. ‘’The man is a professional.’’ I say with indignation. ‘’His passion is making well fitted leather jackets, not creeping on perfect breasts.’’

Two weeks later I returned to the store with the second half of the payment in cold hard cash fresh from an ATM. As soon as the old man helped me into the black leather jacket and I felt my arms slip into the black satin lining, it was all over I was in love. I stood in front of the full length mirror and stared at the person staring back with a big goofy grin on their face. The love was wrapped up in how this item made me feel, deep inside my guts. That jacket made me feel like a grown up, tough and capeable and sexy. Not the kind of sexy that was comprised of an invisible male gaze. This sexy was the kind that I felt in my own mind regardless of any man regardless of how my boyfriend felt about it. When I turned to him and grinned I did not ask him what he thought. I simply said. ‘’I fucking love this.’’


Photo taken in my sister’s bedroom by annoyed but helpful teen aged sister while I was a fill in english teacher at her regional Victoria high school for two weeks in 2007.   ”Hey, Miss! Where’d you park your Harley?”

There was an article published on the satirical website The Onion in 2012 that explained how the ownership of a cool leather jacket proves to be more rewarding than having kids. Many friends shared it with me and I was touched. That they read it and thought of me. At the age I got my leather jacket my sister would be married with two kids and not own a leather jacket. Who is happier you may wonder. It really comes down too perception. I don’t have children and must attest that the ownership of my jacket feels pretty rewarding. Also it is very apparent that the up keep of my leather jacket is far cheaper than keeping a child alive. You can get these leather wipes from the supermarket for under four dollars. These cheap and cheerful wonder wipes give your old leather jacket a whole new lease on life. As the oldest of five children I can be sure that the upkeep of all of us was a great deal more expensive and arguably rewarding. ( my parents are adamant that we were all very rewarding, thanks mum and dad!) I am sure there are people who have kids and have a cool leather jacket. This seems astounding to me in today’s current economical climate. Where working a full time job no longer ensures you have disposable income child free or not.

Wearing that jacket made me embody the swagger of Brodie Dahl, Alisson Mossheart and Viv Albertine, Marky Ramone and Polly Styrene, and one of the members of a little known Melbourne punk band The Spazzys. The jacket had a great secure silver zip and a pocket on either side that I could shove my fists into as I walked around town on winter days. There was only one thing missing and that was band badges on the lapels. I wanted to add band badges from live gigs I attended but until then I needed some to tied me over until then. ‘’Wont Badges ruin the leather?’’ My boyfriend asked. ‘’That is an expensive jacket.’’ I rolled my eyes at him as we looked at the badges in Off Ya Tree at Highpoint Shopping Centre. He did not get punk at all. What was the point of something if you couldn’t stick a pin through it? The first badges that pierced the flesh of my fresh leather jacket were a music trifecta: Sex Pistols, Pixies and Ramones. There was also a badge I got for free after buying a black t shirt with a dead raven motif on the front. The raven had a trickle of blood coming out of its mouth. The badge said BERSERK on it.

As I write this I have the beloved jacket nearby on the couch. It is too hot to wear it. Every summer is so sad and less punk without it wrapped around my narrow shoulders. I look at this item of clothing with deep affection, still kicking against the pricks with me after all these years. There are little but noticeable differences, The satin lining is coming undone, the cuffs are wearing away. The badges have had a feminist metamorphosis. The Ramones, Pixies and BERSERK badges remain. They now have badge sisters in the form of a badge imploring you to Support Women Writers, a yellow badge from a Melbourne band called Shrimp Witch, showing an illustration of a woman pissing on the ground while standing. There is a badge made by a friend who has a recycled clothing label called CRAZY UGLY, the badge says We All Want Things and there is a tiny skull accompanying the words, I love it. There is also a badge from a band I saw twice with the boyfriend whose love did not last as long as my jacket. The band called The Matches a pop punk outfit from Oregon USA. I had a huge crush on the lead singer. Listening to them now I notice a few lyrics that don’t sit well like when Sean sings about how if a girl says she’s seventeen he has to say ‘your too old for me’’  or when he sings the song called Say Eighteen. I always just interpreted that as being about women like me in their early twenties who look illegally young but aren’t. Like how my boyfriend at the time got treated like he was a creep at certain venues even though I was actually 23 and an innocent school girl at all. My boyfriend was not a predator he I was just very short and small. Even when wearing my leather jacket.

Now I am not so sure about The Matches. I quickly do a search on the internet about the band members of the band and feel a little relieved when I find nothing. My theory could be true. I met a girl at a Matches gig that I attended with boyfriend number one and she had many stories of her and her boyfriend meeting the band and them all being super nice. For now the badge stays on my jacket. It is on parole. While other emo and pop punk bands have been relegated to the ranks of a life sentence of avoidance and heart wrenching disappointment at their unbecoming and predatory behavior around underage girls who did nothing wrong except love their music.

The NO badge on my jacket was a gift from a friend a couple of years ago. A cheeky nod to my readiness to share what I disagree with. I took it off during the whole terrible same sex marriage plebiscite because I did not want the badge to be associated with the heartless and conservative no voters. Now that that is over, the badge is back on as there is no end of things going on that warrant my own personal and wearable expression of no. The horrible treatment of the men on Manus Island, the constant horrendous treatment of our very own indigenous people, Men’s rights activists, white supremacist taste and white washing of history and so on and so forth into infinity. No to everything that lacks inclusivity, love and empathy. No to caring what most men think more than what I think and feel.

The boyfriend left, The lead singer of Brand New turned out to be a creep but the leather jacket stayed and never  betrayed. It hugged my torso and protected me from the lonely winters in Melbourne. It kept me warm and dry at Green Man festival in Wales where I drank so much cider from a friendly British guy that I vomited before lunchtime. Vomit is very easy to clean off a leather jacket. It kept me company while I, dressed as a Real life Emily The Strange, french kissed a complete stranger on Halloween night at Camden’s Chalk Farm.

One day while working at a school holiday program I let a ten year old girl try my jacket on. It fit her very well and she ran around the playground gleefully shouting, ‘’Look at me! I’m a punk!’’ I laugh at her exuberance and after a few attempts I finally convince my wannabe doppelganger to hand the jacket back. Gold star to me: for being such a valuable influence on impressionable young girl minds.

If you divide the cost of my leather jacket by how many years I have had it and loved it, the jacket has cost me about forty five dollars a year over eleven years. I still have the studded belt as well. And the friend I had a crush on who helped me pay for it? We no longer speak and I deleted him as a friend on social media, not from my mind. The beloved jacket didn’t go the way of MySpace. I wish I had kept hand written copies of all the bad break up poetry I shared on my MySpace page and the very emo photos of myself with a lot of black eye liner on, wearing the leather jacket while holding a giant pink stuffed horse that belonged to my sister. I remember one poem describing how I hoped my ex and his new girlfriend died in a plane crash while flying to their japan holiday destination. I wrote in anguish of how while drowning in the ocean there would be no mermaids or friendly sharks to save them. The ex did read the poems and messaged me on MySpace Your poems are fucking awesome. He wrote. I would hate to be the guy they are about, oh… wait. He would not be the first guy fascinated when my writing was about him or referred, even briefly, to their existence.

The jacket has stayed and changed along with me on the inside and the out. Do I still want my ex boyfriend and his now wife to die in a plane crash? Not at all. I am embarrassed that I ever gave any of my anger to a woman I didn’t even know, who had no loyalty to me. Do I only listen to punk music? No way. My musical taste is much more broad and less narrow and white boy heavy. Non white boy music is much less likely to disappoint. In Melbourne alone I have seen so many bands over the past year that have enabled me to rock the jacket and jump around in much safer spaces. These bands include but not limited to: Two Steps On The Water, RVG, Shrimp Witch, Sigourney Beaver, Camp Cope, Sampa The Great, Shiny Coin, Maureen, Broads, Veruca Salt, Sleater Kinney and so many more. Actually if you want technical truth the jacket is worn to and from gigs. It is usually too hot to keep my jacket on inside.

I guess this whole thing has been my round about way of saying I love you tiny black leather jacket, here’s hoping we spend another eleven years together. I will hopefully wear you to Mach Pelican at The Bendigo Hotel on the third of December but we both know it will be summer.































the protein responsible for growing fingers in-utero is called Sonic Hedgehog

The party takes place at my friend and his partner’s apartment that overlooks Swanston St in the city. He has borrowed a fancy overhead projector from his work and set it up in the small living room. As guests arrived he had the old film Nosferatu playing on the projector screen with no sound. Grimes was playing through the speakers. My partner helped with loading our respective slide show contributions onto my friend’s laptop. We got drinks: white wine poured into red cups like the ones used during frat parties in American college films. The party rules: bring a usb stick of a collection of photos with any theme you wanted.


Three days before my friend’s ‘Slide Party’ themed birthday party, I decided I was ready to show a certain collection of photos from my youth. I asked my mother if she could please find photos from hospital stay circa 1996, take photos of each of them on her phone and text them to me, please. My mother comes through and sends me the photos on Sunday morning of the party day. There are nine photos in total.


The first photo my mother sends me is a school photo taken at the end of the year after my operations and back brace wearing is over. There I am in my green and white checked summer uniform dress that looks a bit big on my tiny frame. I have lots of long dark brown hair and bright blue eys that look a bit sad. My face is yet to loose the chubby cheeks that my parents still gush over when discussing me as a little kid. I stare at that photo and want to jump inside it and give her a big hug and whisper that it gets less lonely particularly when she discovers intersectional feminism.


As I look at each photo of me in my cramped tiny hospital room full of medical machines I feel my heart hurt and sing at the same time. I was my Dad who had to convince me that it was a good idea. At the time I didn’t want him or anyone commemorating this sequence of events in photography.


He knew something that I didn’t yet understand as a thirteen year old. That this was worth documenting and that when I grew up to be the amazing young woman he knew I would become. When that happened, I could look at these photos and they would remind me that I was and always will be a bad ass, and how far I had come. Most importantly to me it would help me write better about it. These photos made long forgotten aspects about that time come to me in a collection of flashes so bright and clear in shape and form, it was like being back in that room all over again.


The first time my parents showed me these freshly developed photos I was a year older. It took that long for them to convince me to even look at them. I hated the photos and I hated the girl in each and every one of them. She is so ugly. I remember thinking. What a sorry and pathetic looking girl. Why couldn’t you just be pretty and normal. I silently screamed at the images in my hands. I cried a lot and begged them to be put away. My father was perplexed. ‘’They are great.’’ He assured me. ‘’They show how great you are.’’


I didn’t want to be amazing for those reasons. I didn’t want spine surgery and halo traction to be the most ‘great’ thing about me. Of course that is not what my father meant at all. I was too young to get it and he was unable to use the wording I needed to hear at that point. But what does matter is that he and my mother tried. My parents didn’t doubt that I was strong and capable. I appreciate that now.



I look at the photos and remember a television in the top right hand corner of the room. A constant sound of the various athletic events taking place due to the Olympics. There is chatter about the swimming and other sporting events between the nurses and my mother. I simply lay on my back and watch the world happen around me and lots of stuff happen to me. As nurses and my mother chat, they check my blood pressure and various tubes. They ask if I am comfortable enough. I press my button for my morphine drip to deliver marvelous pain relief every 4 hours. I can still remember the smell of eucalyptus oil overpowering my nostrils as the nurse used two whole bottles of the stuff to help remove the six layers of bandages covering the ninety-nine stitches on my newly reconstructed back.


My friend’s slide party starts. One person shows a collection of photos of their ill-fated sneakers worn on a three-day hike. Each photo shows the shoes with different landscapes: green foliage, dry cracked earth. It is the stories and comments that accompany the slide show that make it great. Lesson? Do not wear sneakers on a three-day hike. These sneakers got wet on the first two hours of walking.


Another friend shows a collection of photos of their top 5 works of architecture seen on their travels around the world.   On her 8th Christmas my friend Jas is given a camera and a cute book of photo prompts with illustrations of bears in the corner of each page. We all got to witness the collection of photos she took as an eight year old. Some of the photos are of relatives that she no longer has contact with. The photos are imbued with extra meaning when she tells us that this particular Christmas was the last time she and her family spent time with these particular relatives. The photos show that she was a talented photo taker even then. ‘’This was the Christmas we played scuba cricket.’’ Jasmine tells us.


The night showed the vast and amazing breadth of personal stories that each of us walk around with every day. It was the stories that showed true vulnerability and courage to share that I loved the most. But is was nice to witness stories that were light hearted. As the night progressed and people got tipsy audience participation stepped up a notch. I was up first in the second half of slide shows after a cheerful and chatty intermission.


There is a mix up with the intended order I want the photos to be shown. The first photo that is blown up on the projector for all to see is the school photo. Some one calls out that I look like a tiny doll. There s many exclamations of how adorable I am. It is nice to hear. It makes me feel warmer than 100 Facebook likes. I think, I have never had that many Facebook likes.   Observe the cuteness and ready yourself for what is to come next. I say. This photo was taken in December, one month after I no longer had to wear a back brace and two weeks after I went back to school.


The next photo is a close up of my sleeping face with my head in halo traction. I have one hand peeking out from the white hospital blanket. One finger is resting against my cheek.   I explain that the halo traction was held in place by screws that went into my skull. ‘’I still have the faint scars from the drill holes.’’ I explain lifting up my fringe to show everyone. ‘’Two in the for head and two in the back of my skull.’’ I say. ‘’I used to reach up and play with the for head screws to freak out visitors.’’ I say. ‘’It made one uncle nearly want to throw up and he had to leave the room and fight his nausea.’’

My friend Harry comments that the scars on my for head could also be from when the devil horns were removed. ‘’Of course.’’ I say. ‘’I had many operations and cannot be expected to remember them all.’’


The next photo I show is of me sitting up in bed, still in halo traction. I explain. ‘’A young woman is holding a physio-therapy device for helping kids clear out their lungs after surgery to stave off infections in the lungs and chest. I am leaning slightly and blowing into a straw that uses my breath to make small balls move up small chutes.’’


‘’That lady was very kind to me’’ I explain. I was in a lot of pain when blowing in that thing and was a bit grumpy. One of the first times she made me do this exercise I was still unable to sit up and I blew once into the contraption before promptly throwing up all over her.’’


I explain to everyone how in the first operation involved going through my chest in order to fuse my spine and stop it from curving and twisting any further. In order to do this they had to remove my lungs from my body for a few minutes while they did the spine fusing. Then they put my lungs back where they belonged. There was a beautiful young surgical registra who explained to my parents how beautiful my lungs looked as they puffed back into life. ‘’They looked like beautiful pink cauliflowers.’’ She told my parents.


In the next photo I am sitting up in bed with my halo traction on and smiling straight into the camera. There are more exclamations at my cuteness. I am wearing my thick lensed glasses, my long hair is in two pigtails that are poking out of either side of the traction. I tell of how this photo was taken on a Sunday afternoon. The nurses were bored and decided they would like to wash my hair for me. It had been a while and the nurses knew that clean hair can have massive positive affects on a young girl in hospital. They lay me down flat and pulled my head to the very edge of the bed. They got my long hair and washed it as slowly and gently as possible without getting any of the metal and pulleys of the halo traction wet. They even blow-dried my hair. I said. I wore my glasses at my parent’s insistence. This was the photo I always hated the most. I explain.   Looking at it now with friends, I felt nothing but pride and affection for the little weirdo in the photo. ‘’I can still remember how much cleaner I felt after I had my hair washed.’’ I say before moving on to the next photo.


I am sitting up in a chair by my bed and reading a book. There is my dinner tray in front of me with some toast and a cup of juice with a drinking straw sticking out. My head is in halo traction but it is not stopping me from having a bit of a read. One of my skinny legs is up and my foot is resting on my other knee. I am glancing out of the corner of my eye at the camera.

‘’Ignoring food while reading.’’ my partner calls out. ‘’Nothing’s changed.’’ Someone asks what book I am reading. ‘’ The book is a collection of short stories published in 1995 called A Bit Of A Hitch.’’ I say. ‘’I cannot remember reading it. I can remember reading the Sweet Valley University books volume 1 and 2, though. And my goodness young Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield don’t experience any less drama in university. They finally have sexual relationships. But, I digress.’’


The next photo shows me without the halo traction screwed into my skull. I’m sitting in a chair wearing a much too large Sportsgirl t-shirt: one of my mother’s opp shop finds.   It was the 90s and Sportsgirl t-shirts were Oh-so-on-trend: thus too expensive for my mum and dad to pay for a brand new one. I have my hands in my lap. There are white plastic hospital identification bracelets on my tiny wrists. There are no needles in my arms connected to morphine drips or various other iv drips. You can see the fresh round scars from the halo traction. I did not have a fringe then. My hair is pulled away and tied up in a low ponytail. I am staring at the camera with a quietly determined smile.


My final photo shows myself with the man responsible for my bionic spine. It is so awful but I cannot remember his name. He is in his 60s in the photograph, which means he may very well be dead by now. It’s impossible to know how many kids he helped get better and stronger spines. He would come do rounds with a large group of medical students every morning. I said. He would come alone every evening at about 9pm. Once my slide show is over there is applause and cheering. My partner is next.


He shows an album from a 2010 fancy dress party where he went as a witch resplendent in a velvet black and purple dress and a black witch’s hat. He makes a very attractive witch and the photos get appreciative whistles.   He also shows another album that has never been shown anywhere before called Dogs Jess Met In Japan.

He shows 6 photos of me with different but equally adorable dogs, that I met in Japan. One of them was wearing tiny purple pants. My outfits are so much better in these photos. It is not a competition but if it was, I am pretty sure my person and I would have won best and cutest slide shows.


There is an episode in season seven of Buffy The Vampire Slayer called Conversations With Dead People. In it Buffy is hanging around the graveyard like she does and meets a newly turned vampire who happens to be a former classmate. This is not unusual. What is unusual is that this guy is a psychologist now. He and Buffy have quite the heart to heart in the moonlight as she tells him stuff that she has not even really told the people closest to her. About dying and being brought back by her friends, falling in love with people who are bad for her and quietly feeling superior due to the whole being chosen as the slayer and all that comes with that power. He psychoanalyzes her in the following way ‘’You have a superiority complex.’’ He says. ‘And you have an inferiority complex about that.’


I can relate. When returning to school after the surgery, wearing a back brace for three months and recovery time, it was a bit worse than before I left. I was never popular but I spent more and more time alone on my return to school. I found everyone in my class to be difficult to identify with or relate to. They certainly couldn’t relate to me. It feels similar now after more recent hospital stays, though my friendship groups are way better. I fluctuate between feeling infinitely stronger and more bad ass than those around me, while other times find myself panicking that perhaps when my body experienced yet another life or death situation and/or malfunction, the doctors should have written me off as a failed experiment Survival guilt? Something very much like that plagues me at times. Just like it plagued Buffy. Unlike her I haven’t saved the world a bunch of times. Like her, I’m just doing my best.







A Mormon Apostate goes to see The Testament Of Mary

In all my time growing up in the Mormon faith, going to church and listening to intensely friendly and faithful grown ups tell me how wonderfully lucky we are to be living in ”the last days” I never heard much talk about any of the women in the bible or in The Book Of Mormon. Women were very important as back round support to the men doing all the exciting and dangerous stuff. It was a women who was so unfaithful that she wanted to see concrete proof of these golden plates that her husband claimed to be translating.  Because of her demand a section of the golden plates was lost. She was meant to simply believe all her husband told her. How annoying of her and her critical mind.  There was the woman who was turned to salt because she could not resist looking behind her one last time and catching a final glimpse of her home burning.  Women were special and a requirement of gods great plan. It was a shame they never got more than a word in edge ways. I could not count how many times I was shown the  Church Of Jesus Christ  Of Latter Day Saint’s version of the crucifiction of christ on VHS.  With very little talk of Mary as anything more than ever faithful and subservient.

It was with excitement and a little trepidation that I sat down in the front row a few moments before the show started. I was not scared that I would be offended. It was more just anxious excitement that this time I was ready to experience this sort of story without the pressure to believe it as a fact. I could watch this play and react to it as I chose or as I was moved to by emotion or intellect or both. This could be enjoyed as fiction. You do not need to believe a novel is true in order to enjoy it on a deep and meaningful level. It can feel as though it shines a light on an aspect of your soul you did not previously acknowledge or have the language for.

The older women sitting on my left with perfectly done make up and hair asked me to watch out for her cup of water. She was quite excited to see this play as well. Have you seen the Book Of Mormon Musical? I ask her. She says she has and loved it. I tell her I think that this production is going to be more serious. I tell her I was raised Mormon and her face lights up with interest and curiosity. The house lights dim and we turn to the stage.

There are 9,312 words spoken in this production and Jesus is not one of them. This could very well be one of the reasons this play spoke so much to the little girl inside of  me that was thirsting for stories about strong female characters in my religious education. Unlike the crying Mary I saw so often in my Sunday school teachings and family night scripture readings, this Mary was fiercely intelligent, poetic and dry humoured. Pamela Rabe does a brilliant job of creating a Mary that is able to hold your attention for the entire one hour and fifteen minutes. You do not even feel that time has past. She is able to weave the past trauma of her sons death with the anger and impatience of a women who is forced to tell her story to men with very strong self interest. They tell her this story will change the world, the whole world. They want to make a god of her son. While she is simply mourning the loss of someone very dear to her. According to this mary, the fact that her son will change the world is not worth what it cost him, and what it took from her.

This play is set a couple of years after Jesus was killed and it is unexpectedly moving to hear Mary describe watching her son struggle to move or dislodge the crown of thorns from the top of his head. You can feel the sharp thorns and the weight just by the description and tone of Rabe’s voice as she embodies the pain of a mother forced to watch thier child suffer and know they can do nothing to help.  It made me wonder how many women in the audience were thinking about a time in which they had to do a similar thing: watch a child show pain or anguish and know they could be there but not take the pain away at all.  It is trite but it did make me think of my own mother. All those times she had to watch me hooked up to things in hospital. At least she could trust the people looking after me. If Mary had called out to her son, she would have been taken away.




The stage is set up like a room but modern with blue lighting and there is a feeling of the type of room where criminals are kept for questioning, that same unforgiving office room lighting.  We are told that it is here that the men come who want to writer her story down for the benefit of mankind. They dont like how she tells it though. We are told that these men do not care to hear her poetic asides about the wind or stars. As a person who was forced to read the bible and hear it read aloud as well as read The Book Of Mormon, this part of the play spoke to my boredom of these two texts. They are not literature, Perhaps if more women were aloud to have their say, these books would be more interesting. Regardless it is through this production that we the audience are given the gift of what the ancient bible stories lack: the truth as told by Mary herself. She is telling us her most precious truth and it is tinged with understandable rage. She is not unquestioning or subservient. She is a mother mourning the loss of her boy. She is grappling with the guilt that she could not save him.

Has his death changed the world? You could argue that it has and not in a good way. So many institutions have twisted and manipulated this story for personal and political gain. Believing in jesus does not make you more empathic or sensitive. Some of my most painful memories have been cemented by people who believe in a certain kind of jesus. While some of my happiest memories  involve people and activities I was raised to view as impure or sinful or simply ”frowned upon by The man upstairs/” I am done living a life for  that man or any other. .

When Mary is pleading for strength she is not doing so in the name of the Heavenly Father and her son she is calling on Athena the goddesses of wisdom, Nike the goddess of strength. The goddess Minerva of intellect and may other ancient and strong diety that are not mentioned in the Bible or The Book Of Mormon. I feel I would have read more intently if they were.

When The play ends I feel disoriented and foggy as if waking from a dream. As it is opening night my companion and I get some finger food and free sparkling wine. As we are leaving my companion pulls me to a bench that is shrouded in shadow. There I meet Pamela Rabe who is sitting there smoking a cigarette like she is a regular person and not the mother of Jesus.  I tell her she was wonderful. My friend tells her that I was raised Mormon. Pamela raises her face to mine in interest. ”You didn’t find it blasphemous? She asks. I shake my head enthusiastically. We chat and it come up that myself and my friend are in a program to write plays of our own. ”I am terrified.” I tell this amazing actress who responds that the fear is a good thing. I say how I would like to maybe write a play from the perspective of a young mormon woman or an old one who have lived a live by all the rules stipulated to them by the man upstairs and the large group of men here on the lower level. The Book Of Mormon is a great musical but it says nothing of the women in the church and how they feel. ”I think you might have a play right there.” Pamela says. I leave the theatre that night feeling inspired and wishing my mother lived in Melbourne so I could take her to see this play.






Not your imaginary friend. Go-Go Sapien at The Tote 5/11/2017


The band G0-Go Sapien has been around for six years. They were formally called The Great Apes until another band with the same name contacted them. I showed up to this gig because my friend has recently started dating the younger brother of band member  Emily Jarret. I would just like to state here and now how in awe I am of siblings that are so creative and supportive of each other. It makes my heart all gooey and slightly envious. I mean, whats that kind of sibling relationship like? Also these two particular siblings are quite attractive in that they seem to have brilliant chromosome alignment.

I had no idea what I am in for and am quite excited. No research into the band prior to arriving at the tote had been undertaken. Save for finding the band’s facebook page and quickly pressing like.  This is one of the great things about living in Melbourne and retaining a love of the local music scene and maintaining  your live music curiosity.

This particular gig was special as it was the launch of their third album Love In Other Dimensions 

They performed the entire album on stage for the crowd. I was enthralled from the very first moment. There was amazing lighting decisions and a sense of anticipation. It felt like something from a sixties science fiction film. The band member appeared on stage all wearing white outfits. This was to be the first of many costume changes.

Will Hindmarsh even had a spider costume that he wore while performing the song Victorian Spiders whose lyrics could have been from a HP Lovecroft story. The sense that the band members were in thier element up there is an understatement.  Thier joy was infectious and its been ages since smiling idiotically with joy has been a impulse of the mouth muscles. This band is fun and this band if dramatic and theatrical without taking themselves too seriously. They reminded me of what my drama teacher said in our first year twelve class, ”If you want to succeed here, you need to leave your inhibitions at the door.”  It would be very surprising if some of their inspiration came from the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its song Don’t dream it be it.  Emily Jarret’s red sparkly get up was the epitome of a living dream.


Sexy Kiss, the second last song on the album is performed with extra surreal zeal. Will and Emily perform the song wearing home made masks of giant lips.

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It is when I hear the song Winona that I realize I have heard the song played on Triple R and loved it from the first driven beat. It is an even better song played live. In fact the whole new album is brilliant fun to witness live. But not so scared that I wont do it. You should buy the album as it is quite beautiful. You can get an ear taste of what they sound like by going to band camp:

As my friend says:  G0_Go Sapien are the perfect love child of Ween and the B52s – an eclectic bundle of joy wrapped in spandex ready to infect you with dance and solubiouse metaphor.


Behold the mind-blowingly SUMPTUOUS cover art for our new album, designed by visual genius and great-mate Kashka Hardy!!!
New album ‘Love in Other Dimensions’ available for digital download + Vinyl & CD preorders
 — Go-Go Sapien is  Kal SalterEmily Jarrett,Callan James WalkerWill Hindmarsh and Iain Wilson.


Being born is an accident of chance.

Imagine being told that You decided to be born. In the pre existence. You were given the opportunity to be born into a human body. You were one of the ones who jumped for joy at the prospect of living in fallible human skin and bone. You chose this. Be grateful. You knew what you were getting into.

The day I was born was exciting, so I am told. Being the first born is pretty great. You are the one born before all the others. You parents are not distracted by the needs of other offspring. I am one  who was told they were wanted from the very start.

When I turn seventeen, my best friend throws me a party in her parents garage. There is alcohol but I’m mormon so dont partake. It is my first party with friends and no annoying little sisters to keep away from my friends. I am drunk on freedom and the beauty of my best friend. A boy tries to trick me into drinking lemonade with vodka in it. My best friend intervenes and gets very pissed off at the boy. I simply watch her give him a piece of her beautiful mind. Its at that party that she tells me I might might like a band called The Sashing Pumkins. By the time I turn eighteen she will not be my best friend. She wont even be a friend. The heart ache is all consuming.

On the birthday I turn eighteen it is the day I take my final English exam. The plan is to have a small party with my family that evening. Instead i end up in the front seat of my parents Nissen while my mother lays in the back quiet and falling asleep. My father drives her to St Vincents hospital in Melbourne. The day I turned eighteen almost became the birthday my mother died. If she had fallen asleep in the car, she would not have woken up.  She receives life saving brain surgery on the day I turn eighteen.

When I turn twenty – one I am no longer a good mormon girl. I drink. The second time a boy spikes my non alcoholic beverage, there is no best friend to intervene. Just a large group of accomplices. I have two parties. A family one and one at university. The family one involves a giant ice cream sundae served in a brand new and unused pig trough. My cake is in the shape of a flying saucer, a cheeky nod to mu childhood fear of extra terrestrials.  My fathers speech includes words about not being overly thrilled with some of my decisions. There is uncondional love there still.  The uni one is pretty rubbish. I was only doing what I thought you were expected to do when you turned twenty-one. I did enjoy being free to get drunk with my friends though. There was no booze at my family party.

when I turn twenty 4, it is the first birthday spent with a boyfriend. I get a music festival ticket. Having a boyfriend seems cool after five months. I think. The friendship group has changed. There are no friends from high school or uni. It seems that I am quite good at reinventing myself. And burning bridges. My share house where the party is held, is falling apart. It is near Brunswick St. Im starting to know about how my body works and what feels good. My boyfriend does not want to spend the night and this makes me sad. There is a fight and he ends up staying.  It makes no sense to me at the time.

When I turn twenty-five I still have the same boyfriend. I get a pile of gifts including books, voucher for my favorite clothing store: Vicious Venus. I am young, in love and spend my birthday drinking and dancing at The Rochester Castle. Two days later I will be hit by a depressive episode so bad and for so long that I finally seek mental health help.

Twenty six. I am single again and live in a house with a guy who smokes inside and stays up drinking scotch until they pass out on the couch every night. I throw a party and make all sorts of treats for my guests. A throw back to childhood parties. I make fairy bread and rum balls and chocolate crackles.  It is a good party but in all the photos, I look sick and skinny and sad. My eyes do not lie. You can see in my face that I know the truth: I have been replaced so easily. This is the birthday I decide I can sleep with other people and I do.

Twenty seven is spent in London. I get a package containing three illustrations from a beautiful boy in Melbourne. They arrive on my birthday and I take it as a sign that we are meant to be together. He misses me as much I miss him, I am sure of it. I put the three framed drawings in the centre of the mantle piece in the room I share with a friend. She agrees this is all pointing to true love.  We get drunk in our room and I let a Spanish girl cut my fringe for me so I can kiss British boys while out in Camden. She nips my right eyelid a bit accidentally. Its not until  Im on the train with my friend that she notices my eye lid is bleeding a little bit. I wipe the blood away while laughing and take a swig from the bottle of vodka. I was wrong. Drawings were a red herring. I end up destroying them when I get home to Melbourne. Im not one who takes being played with with poise or grace.

I share my birthday with Sylvia Plath and John Cleese. Which could explain how I walk the line between humour and poetic emotional extremes. Im so self involved I cannot remember any of my siblings being born. Should I have two birthdays since I died for four minutes that day in july? Or is that just a death day that didnt stick technically speaking?  My most recent birthday was rife with existential dread and anxiety.  When I voiced this to a friend they sent me the following message.

Its great that your in the world for another year. You’re such a ray of sunshine, cheeky mischievousness and I love your contempt for men. 

This cheered me. As did having a small dinner party with friends and being lucky enough to have a double birthday cake birthday.  Cake is great and being alive is greatly varied.