After a long nap sometimes, you wake up feeling like you’ve been slapped by a different day. A week of stress. It’s a week of stress or it’s a week of nothingness. And that is stressful too. Activity doesn’t always breed value. Sometimes you feel just as hopeless for working hard. I was meant to see Karn this evening. I send him a few texts as a walk around the empty house with no ideas. The thing to do in these situations is always drink. I don’t know what to do tonight. And I’m alone. I have five books on the go at once. I can’t read them all. I didn’t read for all of August. Is my brain still able to put the words in the right place? Words… I need to finish that book. Karn was supposed to come to Father’s Day today. He’s Dadless, like so many. Thankfully, not myself. And I’m willing to share. But Karn didn’t sleep last night. I don’t know the full story. I get a message from Darren. “Have you heard from Karn today?” “Yeah, why?” I don’t want to divulge any information Karn perhaps would rather keep private. I know he’s shaken up. “Did he tell you anything about his night?” “Yeah, he did. Sounds fucking awful. How’d you hear about it?” “Do you know who he was talking about?” “Nah, I don’t. He didn’t mention who it was.” “He was meant to come over today to have a look at my place but sent me a pretty fucked voice message this morning.” “Yep. So, apparently the guy is in a coma with a collapsed lung. I don’t know what was happening for him to have had a seizure.” “Fucked regardless of who it was, but I was just hoping it wasn’t one of the crew.” It wasn’t. It wasn’t anyone I knew. But Karn was driving with this guy, his friend. Then the dude started having a seizure or OD-ing or something. Karn had to give the guy CPR whilst he was speeding him to the hospital, juggling chest pumps and steering through traffic. Pulling over every few hundred meters to breathe into his mouth before jumping back in the driver’s seat to repeat the pumps and floor the accelerator. “I’ve been messaging him. Yet to hear back though. I was going to recommend going to see Longhours at that wrestling gig, but I have a feeling he won’t be up to it.” “I was thinking of going to that too, actually. Good camera content.”
I didn’t hear back. I was listless. Lethargic. I told Darren I needed a drink and that I’d keep him posted about Karn and the gig. If I didn’t hear back, eventually I’d just assume Karn needed time alone and I’d join Darren and go to the show. I walked to Brunswick Green with Sartre’s Words. Passing Daddy Bar, someone sitting waved at me. I smiled not knowing who they were for a moment. A customer. That’s right. He was in last week, on his phone buying wine and beating his lashes at me. He hung up the phone and spoke, making sure to drop not so subtle hints that he was interested. In the same glance now that I recognized him, I looked left and saw Rob. But did I want to drink alone or talk? I walked past and took a piss in their toilets. Walking back the customer was sitting with another customer. Long dark curly hair. Always buys Tezona for Tempranillo for $15. Sometimes two a night. Quite relatable. Curly’s friend smiled again. I walked into the alcove and said hi to Rob. He was glad to see me. sitting there with his pint he asked if I was here to spin some records. I had no idea what he was talking about. “Nah, just grabbing a pint and having a bit of a read.” I said as I reached out my hand to shake his. But being the exuberant extravert, he sometimes identifies as, he kissed my hand. I could feel the eyes of my customers sitting on the footpath burning into the kiss. They’re gonna wanna talk to me, I bet. Still lethargic I order a pint. But, no… I need something with a kick. The nap took the bubbles out of my water. I’m a flat San Pellegrino rolling around the backseat of your car. “And a Tequila, please.” The bar tender pours three shots and I cheers her and the other bartender. They down them and don’t charge me. I sit with Rob and run through the catch up conversation. He was just interviewed for a piece in the Age. On his best behaviour he assures me. We talk about my book and potential publishers – Amphetamine Sulphate, Morbid Books, Un Piano Press, 1111 Press, Soyos Books, etc. He tells me he’ll get into reading it properly tomorrow.
There’s no word from Karn. I tell Darren I’m at Daddy Bar. When he arrives he says, “Hey man,” to the lesbian we’re sitting with and feels like an idiot. I can tell she thought it was meant for Rob and not her. It’s spin your own vinyl night here, so now that part makes sense. Strangely last time I saw a show was with Rob and Darren too, Godtet supported by JK Group. The lil mushroom twinkle lifted that enigma of a set up even further than it was destined to reach already. Darren tells Rob about the show tonight. There’s a few bands on the list, mostly hardcore heavy and heavy metal bands. In the backyard they’ve got amateur hardcore wrestling. I see the two customers come sit in the alcove closer to us and I get another smile so I give another back. None of the event genuinely interests me apart from Longhours who has just released his first vinyl compilation. I hear too that Dharma’s band is headlining – a close friend of my ex. We spent some time tripping in Daylesford writing music. She played a flute and I hacked up the jeans I was wearing with a magic dagger she brought. She’s in a doomcore band and I’ve never seen her play. How many times do I find myself writing about the same damn events though? Amateur wrestling? I already have an article written and photographed by Kial on BCW. Only this time I don’t have any coke on me and I haven’t been promised a publication in Monster Children. Those baked queefs never published it anyway. Covid hit and they turned into soft serve so they can fill their own damn cones. Sogged shits. I’ve already decided I’m writing about this one. Maybe it will be shit. But there’s always something. When you set up barriers to an experience. You put a wall and a door in at the start as though you’re playing the Sims. Then you put in a back wall with no back door. Then you take away the front door. So, everything that happens in that house is now life. That’s sort of how to write this way. I decide prior that I’ve gotta do it. Even if it’s shit. It’s all locked in the doorless house. When you read it, you get to put doors wherever you want. I just give you the made thing with the screaming Sims inside.
Rob hasn’t eaten since lunch yesterday and it’s 7 or so. We drain the pints and jump in Darren’s car and swing by mine. Rob tells me about this guy who pulled a dead seagull out of his backpack when he was waiting for a pizza and chatting some girl up. The guy tied it to his beanie with twine after plucking off some feathers and it sent the girl away. I show Rob around a bit and heat him up some lasagna, still thinking about the guy with a seagull on his head. I grab a six of Stella from the fridge and he eats in the backseat as we drive to Reservoir, stopping at a Thirsty Camel on the way. He gets a six of Pabst because it fits the event, I agree and grab a six of Budweiser because six Stella’s isn’t enough and we will drink after the show when all the bottle shops are closed. I’m certain. Wild Turk or no? If I’m writing this, which I am, the front wall is already built, I need a 101. So, I get an overpriced bottle. Rob has an iPhone for an arm. He’s getting texts from girls and eating lasagna in the backseat. “This girl, I’m not sure about her. We went on a few dates, right. And they were good. She’s really very attractive.” And he shows us a photo on his hand. She’s hot as fuck. A long way off from where he should be fishing. Charming rat has some pull. “Thing is though, right, she kept asking me for discounts on books.” Darren and I both interrupt him, “Nah, nah, nah, fuck that man.” “You’re running a business,” I say. “Yeah, dude, fuck that. I get the same thing with photography. Friends should be helping you if they like you’re work, not taking what they can get for free.” Says, Daz. “Yeah man, it’s like people with restaurants. People always think when they go to a friend’s restaurant they eat for free. But, fuck, if they really liked what they were doing, they’d support them. They’d pay fill and leave a tip. And that shit goes around. Friends should be helping each other out,” I add. Daz nods. “Yeah, yeah, exactly. I agree with yous,” says Rob. “So, everyfing was going fine, yeah. We went to dinner. Went to a nice restaurant, I paid, you know, that’s fine. I picked the restaurant. And, well, when she gets home, yeah, she messages me and says, “You sent me my invoice before I even got home and you didn’t even say, ‘hope you got home OK,’ or anything. Which is not true. Then she says, ‘and you’re charging me full price.’ So, then it turns into this big thing, yeah.” I interrupt him and ask him how much she’s arguing over. “Oh, it was a fifty dollar order. So, not the end of the world.” “Yeah, fuck that. That’s nothing. You don’t want someone who cares that much about money, man.” “No, exactly. I don’t care about that stuff. I don’t really think about it. But she does.” “You don’t need that shit in your life.” “So, anyway, I just told her to keep the money and the books. I couldn’t be fucked with it.” “Yeah, good call man. Fuck that shit. That’s gross.” “Yeah, I thought so.” My phone rings, it’s Steve. He said he drank too much Tequila and had a fight with his wife and she just walked out. He wants to know if we can hang out. I tell him, “not exactly.” “After?” “This is gonna go late man. You just need to chill out. put something funny on and get some sleep. Shit will be fine tomorrow.” They haven’t fought since he quit weed and drinking. But now he’s back into it and she bought him the bottle. Poor sod. He means well, but I’m in no position to deal with this right now. And Karn texts me finally as we’re getting close to the house. The guy is going to live. The doctor said Karn saved his life. Jesus.
By now we are pulling up to the house. The street is lined with cars and there’s a cop car park in the middle of the road blocking traffic with its lights on. There are two cops on the front lawn talking to someone. Everyone is in black leather jackets and black boots or the scummy suburban equivalent. There’s mohawks and greasy beards and bald heads. It’s like a breeding ground for foot fungus and unshaved balls. We get out and Daz’s a little concerned about having ten thousand dollars worth of camera gear on him given the crowd. Rob is still messaging the girl and trying to get her to come to the show. We walk past the cop and hear her saying, “Well is there any way you can please turn the music down?” and the dude replies, “Yeah, I dunno. Maybe.” It’s pretty derelict out the front. The lawns are overgrown. There’s punks standing around drinking everywhere. The front door looks like it should lead to a caravan, not a house. The place is like a school portable. Front door? We wonder. Doesn’t feel right. but we have no idea what’s happening. I text Longhours and ask him where he is. There’s no response. Front door it is. The old wooden thing looks like it’s been kicked down a few times. I open it into a dirty dam of bodies. The music is thrashing. A few dirtbag heads turn and look at us. Fucking hell. This is something. The small loungeroom is packed with people in black or flannel. There’s an abundance of medieval blackletter text. The walls are wood laminate. The floor, well I can’t make out the floor, there are too many Doc Martens. The band playing are unconscionably loud. The singer has a red stocking over their face. They’re screaming and playing a saxophone. According to the poster made, they must be Headlopper. They stop for a moment between songs and say, “I can’t remember any of the words.” I can relate. Despite the look of the freaks flooding this “house” they all politely move out of the way as we shuffle and squeeze past to get to some kind of vantage point. I hear someone say to someone else, “They’re going out the back.” So, this makes sense for us. As we start heading out some guy falls against a speaker and it stops playing music. Someone else comes and picks it up and fiddles with the cable until it’s working full capacity again. The band is pretty captivating with the ski mask and everything but none of us have been to a DIY backyard wrestling match with four metal bands playing inside a fading unit. We walk through what is the kitchen. It’s tiny. There is a woman sitting on a crate by the sink. She looks like somebody’s mum. Sixties or so and dressed in her afternoon nan wear. Her house maybe… but it doesn’t look like anyone could possibly live her. Outback there’s a bon fire surrounded by more folks of the same ilk. The metal from the band blasts through the thin windows and shakes the house, or maybe it’s the jumping around in thick soled army boots that’s quaking. The back is like the front. The grass is overgrown and there’s mud everywhere. I can feel the wet soaking through my chucks already. We stand near a bush and take a piss and drink and roll cigarettes. The three of us feel like we’ve traveled back in time to a high school party. But it’s bellied out and gone sour in the guts like the people that flock here. There’s a lot of fucking people. Daz wants to dump what he doesn’t need back in the car. We walk through the back gate to the front. The cops are still there trying to persuade whoever to get that volume down. I wait with Rob on the footpath for Daz and he tells me more about this other girls he’s messaging. Trying to get her to come. He’s also stoked with the whole situation here, as am I. It’s an odd little culture shock in a city I know well. And we all know this shit happens somewhere, but how do you find it? Longhours plays some weird fucking sets in weird fucking places. I heard about it through him. For some this event is another event of its kind of which there have been hundreds prior and thousands to come. But for us, it’s Japan. Except I know I love Japan. The enjoyment of this gig is doused in a little irony for me. It’s all so ridiculous and over the top. It’s how I feel about most metal music, doom music, screamo, hardcore blah blah blah. And the backyard wrestling, I know there’s something to that, but it’s similar to the music. It is intensely expressed. It’s loud and violent and dramatic because it’s alienated totally from the norm. As much as this is all DIY and backyard, suburban and ordinary in its own way, it is crying out for acceptance, joy, fun, appreciation. There are consciousness here collected in a feeling sought out that reflects their particularity. It is undoubtedly an obscure crossed-over culture that understands each other like cousins sneaking a look at each other’s goods.
We go back in through the front and the band has finished. I see Dharma and say hi. She looks at me uncomfortably. Eyes bulging through black mascara. I ask how she’s doing and we do that whole thing and I ask her if I can grab a photo with her to send my ex. She freezes. I realise maybe she doesn’t know we’re on good terms again. She doesn’t know what to do. Catching it, I tell her it’s fine and it is. We take the photo and I send it because it’s funny. Simple. Nia was going to come. That’s her name now. But she didn’t. Probably for the best. Longhours darts in, setting up in a rush. He has a gig in Sunbury with I Am Duckeye at 11 and it’s 8:30. It’s in the same warehouse Daz and I played with him a few years back when we were all in a band together. From one shit dungeon to another. Longhours likes feeling like he is swimming through the dregs. He finds humanity in the dank corners of things. He doesn’t recognise happiness as a valuable human expression. It’s always around because it’s covering up something else. It’s like stuffing your socks into the holes of your boat. They will soak through and the leaks continue. Better to let the water in and take to swimming. The mics aren’t working and he has to get it all sorted himself. He cordially introduces himself as usual, thanks everyone for coming and having him. He takes off his first pair of jeans to reveal a second white pair. The uniform is all white, it’s a contrast to the self and an ode to this music being the purest he’s ever made. He tells everyone to enjoy themselves etc. He thanks Colleen, the older woman now sitting on a beanbag or something in the loungeroom by a speaker. She has her hands on her knees that are tightly together. She looks like a sweet little thing. Longhours opens with, well, I can’t remember the set-list. At the time it didn’t seem important, but now, in hindsight it sort of does. It doesn’t take long before he’s on the floor spitting at people’s shoes and sliding around like a worm in ajax. People flock to the room. They bounce and move. Rob is ecstatic. He turns to me at some point during Still Born and is singing the lyrics with me already even though he’s never heard Longhours before. The music is that catchy, driven and iridescent. Every fucking foot is tapping and girls are being swooned as per usual. One thing looks like she’s on acid and Longhours takes her balloon animal and uses it as a dick. The humour is high-class and at times the nuance is difficult to understand. He promptly gives it back, I think noticing that it might have been some sort of safety device. There’s also only so much you can do with a long balloon animal whilst crooning in a loungeroom of people. A black dog darts under my legs quicker than a cat. I get a cold shiver down my spine and in my arms. No? There is no dog. I look under Rob and there’s no dog. There’s shadows on the ceiling but none on the floor. What is this house? Longhours takes the egg beater to his guitar and starts raping the thing. “Who needs a guitar when you have an egg beater?” he says, and buzzes it in time with the music. The irony is in his rejection of the instrument and is bastardization of it. He’s been playing since he was seven or something and the hand that holds the neck is significantly larger than the hand that strums. That’s how much of his childhood was spent with it. And now, he sings and screams into a mic, picking up his guitar only on rare occasions for a live performance. The backing track does everything he needs apart from the odd unconventional kitchen utensil or sander. And he’s asked all the time why he doesn’t play the guitar like he used to, this has inspired him to pick it up even less, and when it is, it’s not played nicely. It’s like he’s murdering where he came from each time he picks it up now. Complete disregard for his former self. He is transcended. And when he’s finished he gets a full room ovation, but before he fucks off to Sunbury he grabs the mic and says, “Thanks for having me. I do have one thing to say though. Last time I was here Hex said he didn’t want to have my band Duck Eye back again. I just want to say fuck you Hex. You’re a cunt!” And this huge dude with a beard runs at him and Jules grabs a copy of his vinyl and smashes him over the head with it. Everyone’s silent or chatting amongst themselves. This dude stands up and hits Jules across the face and then spinebusters him. The crowd start laughing with relief. “Talk shit about me again Longhours!” says Hex, or something along those lines and he walks out to the backyard. Jules stands up and says, “treat yourselves to some hardcore wrestling out the back, ladies and gentlemen.” The lounge empties quickly and Rob leans in to Longhours and tells him how much he dig the set. It was unfortunately shorter than usual, but full of all the synthesized disco doo-wop chaos I’ve come to expect.
Out the back a hundred people are circled around a mud pie palace not too far from the bon fire. Someone is put through an ironing board wrapped in barbed wire as soon as we step out. The long grass is a swamp of slosh. One guy is covered in mud and already Hex is bleeding profusely from the face. He climbs a ladder and dives an elbow through the other sod laying on yet another table. It’s hard to make out anything in the mayhem. There’s people everywhere in the front row. Daz finds a prime location with his back to the portable house so as not to block anyone’s view with his 6”5 head. Someone sets a table on fire. And yeah, another dude goes through that. There’s a referee scrambling around in the mud laying the count whenever there’s a pin. He’s eventually taken out and there’s chairs and punches flying around and other wrestlers joining. They’ve got the genuine lace up wrestling boots on. Amateur as it is, it isn’t a couple of kids doing playfights. Someone goes through the flaming table and debris and smoke soar upward to the starlit sky. The neighbours… what must they be thinking right now. Is the Voice still a show? I wonder if they can hear the children sing Shannon Noll over the screams and cheers echoing down the quiet suburban street. We smash the Budweisers pretty quickly and some dude runs into the match with his shirt off. He’s ripped as fuck. Definitely roided and right now seems methed up and ready to take off. He roars and climbs the ladder after flexing his drug induced definition. He leaps onto someone that now looks reasonably unconscious. This is every bit as fucked as BCW. But they don’t have a ring. This must be what Maddog does in his spare time. This is Sabu’s childhood. This little suburb is a royal rumble. It’s entertaining and majority of the crowd is in hysterics in between ooooos and ahhhhhs. There’s as much blood as advertised on the poster. What is the thing that draws people to the raw depravity that encapsulates both wrestling and metal? Digging and digging as deep and menacingly as possible in hope of uncovering what it is to be human and to feel things in a world where feeling is made out to be redundant. It’s a thing that gets in the way of selling other things. The gig was free. The wrestling was free. Daz, Rob and myself are nobodies welcomed into someone’s home to a more than memorable Saturday evening.
After winding down with a cigarette there are two bands left. Or three? Punish introduce themselves inside. Rob and I squeeze into the dense crowd. The guitars start up and the vocalist warps the room. The screams hit back of my eyes. This is fucking fantastic. The singer looks weathered and a little junked and he’s locked onto his thing. The band are fucking good.
We missed the next band in favour of smoking in the backyard trenches. We returned for the last band, Dharma’s band, Isua. The crowd has filled up the lounge again. Somehow more packed than before. There’s people in the kitchen squeezing their heads around the corner, folks are mooshed up against the walls and backed against the front door. From the gear room come the band dressed in full 90’s wrestling garb. I am pissing my pants. There’s Hulk Hogan with the feather bower and stick on blonde mo and bandana, Dharma’s boyfriend as one strap WCW Big Show with his hair ponytailed and his nip slipping out. The drummer is in a full Kane costume hugging his body, skin tight, he has the mask on and his hair in his face. The singer/screamer, is dressed as Mankind with the leather mask and hair in his face with socko on his hand. It’s psychotic and Dharma, the only chick, is dressed as the Undertaker with a long black trench and a Tracey Pew hat, she’s got a goatee drawn on with marker. It’s all fantastic and hard to believe. The effort gone to for this free house party. And the light heartedness of it all. the genuine fun of it all. The happiness I spoke of before, the socks in the holes of the boat. I consider what it is to everyone else. The insanity of this kind of fun legitimizes it because it’s in the face of the status quo. There’s no template for this, but there is a subculture of it. A deep one. And the gloom and doom and angst and anguish and anger in the music and in the wretched screams and thunderous crunching squealing guitars and booming drums juxtapose the comedy, but do they? This music has always been comical to me anyway. But there is of course some kind of legitimacy in its expression. It’s not a farce to the musicians. And wrestling is not fake to the wrestlers in the backyard. Tell them that as their bleeding in mask of barbed wire.
The music is LOUD. And I’m at the front. And I’m shoved to the front and the side and I look at the Rob who starts jumping up and down, phone dislodged from his arm for this one. The mosh pit has begun. When was the last time I was in a mosh pit? I was a teenager. I was now a teenager again. Leather arms and boots are flying around the lounge. Long matted hair is whipping me in the face. Rob is tossed to one side, I’m tossed to another and the mosh moves like a tidal wave of inky limbs. Daz again has found himself the ideal vista with back against wall. Someone falls and instead of being trampled several tattooed hands reach down and yank him back up. This is somehow, entirely secure. Another body drops and the same again, my hand included. Rob goes down and the hands come down again and get him to his feet. He’s grinning enigmatically. I’m grinning back. His long curly hair is sweated and stuck in his eyes and bouncing like a child. So am I. So is everyone. Leaning into backs and against sides, the crowd is on singular force that’s sole purpose is to express itself. It’s tied to the sludgecore. Bound up with the doomcore. The high-pitched screams vibrate the ribs of this singular beast that rocks to and fro in the broken laminate loungeroom in Reservoir. I can’t understand the words in the song, needless to say really. I can’t even make out the chord changes or the drum beats. But I can feel something happening. A freeing of myself to be with the moment. I’m a child. I’m one of many. I’m not an adult with adult things. But keeping this black wave together is integral. And more bodies fall and my hands are the first down now each time. And when I finally take that destined tumble I’m plucked right up into the flow of this before I’ve barely hit the ground.
We leave after the set. We are salty with sweat and I’m out of breath. All my shame had left. I had no concrete opinion of myself. I was not caused nor was I effect in itself. Instead, I was part of a pit that was part of the band that was in tune with the music. I was a violent sensation of sensibility, knowledge, memory and thought. But this wasn’t happening to me. It was in unison. The discordance of the band - the stark contrast of comedy and anguish butted heads as heads banged, jointly instigating a whirring upheaval of feeling, so full of it, that it was as if to be free of it. For a few moments I let go of myself. Is that when I ate shit? I’d forgotten about the lethargy, the new day that started post-nap that seemed to promise nothing. How did something like this make me feel something like that? How was Karn?
We got in Darren’s car and drove. Over and over again, I’m reminded that if something is fucking weird, and you get access to it, you will get something out of it. It will untie something that was previously tied up in you, if you let it be and stop pulling at the knot. It doesn’t matter that I still hate metal.
Written by Sloan James / Photography by Darren Keane