Saturday the 31st of January 2009
Bimbadgen Vineyard in the Hunter Valley
Let me start by saying, I did not step on a bindi in the week leading up to the concert.
An anvil didn’t drop on my head from a terrible height above either. Nothing happened which would stop me from attending the night. I didn’t get an ear infection, or go blind before hand, by means of an awkwardly placed eyelash, that had fallen into annoyance.
What could possibly go wrong?
Sub-titled: the long way around.
It was a pure coincidence…
Coming across some information about Leonard Cohen touring the Pacific.
I mean, sure marketing devils have their claws into my back, like everyone else’s…
but they never actually send me want I want, only the finest crap for my spam email folder. So good old ticketmaster sends me an update of events (like pink!). In some poor design,
there I see it. Leonard Cohen. Small print. Right up until that point, not only did I never think id see the guy live, no thought at all entered my mind – not even to deny a possibility.
Just never thunk it!
From the link, I found that I had missed the start of a pre-sale by a good two days.
Went to the promoters website, registered, and awaited my password. Half an hour later it arrives via email. Three hundred bucks a pop. Damn that’s not cheap. By pure chance I have just over six hundred in my bank account. Tried to call my brother’s mobile…just to be sure he’d buy the other ticket from me. No answer. They don’t give one long to accept a seat offering. I take what I can get, for the Bowral gig, as I live an hour north of the site.
Row F or G…front and centre. Not too bad really.
I’m going to see Leonard Cohen.
My brother calls back after the missed call and I let him know that all is cool.
Later that night he says it first. ‘Pity you didn’t get a ticket for dad.’
‘I know, I know’, I say. I only had enough for 2 tickets! But what a shame hey.
It must be around the start of December.
I notice that David Byrne is coming out. He plays the Opera House the night of Bowral.
What a damn shame, despite a lack in funds. Another guy who never had one thought of my own…when it comes down to seeing someone live.
By mid December I start to think a little. Just a little. But make a big move,
I decide to throw my absolute disgust for scalpers aside, and buy my dad a ticket to the Hunter concert. Front row. When I thought about my dad, I wasn’t exactly going to send him along alone. The first person to come to mind was his partner. I get her a ticket as well. Fucking scalpers. I know I shouldn’t deal with them. If I’m honest, the tickets cost four hundred bucks a pop. I borrowed money from a friend to make it happen and I still feel a shame for dealing with a scalper! Profiting from a fan. What is lower? Yay Capitalism. ‘You stole my virginity!’ So it goes.
Then a couple of days pass by. I can’t help but think about shifting things around. I could sell my tickets for face value…and cop the extra two hundred for buying two more tickets in the front row. To be with my dad and co. I do it…
Around Christmas time, I call my dad for holiday wishes and a happy birthday. It will be a late present, you see. My family has never been big on gifts. I felt nervous about telling him, ‘hey can you and Kimberly keep the 31st of January open?’ Such mystery, he asks why. Until then I was thinking of keeping the event away from him, till the actual day, not sure why…maybe for an element of total surprise. But instead I tell him. Tickets for you and Kimberly to see Leonard Cohen, Jerome and I are coming too. ‘Are you serious?’ Sure I am…oh and here’s the cherry on top…front row dad!
Also, in buying the best for him, it reminded me of when he last saw Leonard Cohen, back in the 80’s. I remembered him saying he had awful seats, with my mum. And the guy barely behind him was drunk and vomited. It ran down under my parent’s seats. Oh terrible shit, to be blunt. So after telling him of the tickets, we go on to talking about some things, and he mentions that vomit incident. ‘Yeah, we were seeing Neil Young at the Entertainment Centre.’ Ohhhhh Neil Young! When did you see Leonard last? ’78.’
Or was it 79…I can’t recall. Possibly at the Capital, or State theatre.
The tickets arrive mid January. I look up the PDF file of the seating plan.
Fuck me…front row centre. As long as these aren’t dummy tickets…
Around mid January still, I notice some David Byrne tickets on Ebay. I put in an offer for something less than face value. The gig is so close, the seller accepts. Saved about sixty bucks. What a weekend, it’s going to be! Psyched. Seventh row stalls. Satisfied.
My brother also picked up a big day out ticket below cost. Probably the ONE positive when it comes to scalpers…who are so greedy they buy more than they should, and are forced to sell low, or lose it all.
I did end up selling my Bowral tickets. Bloody Ebay fees and Paypal fees! I lost around 22 bucks. So off they went to a guy in Canberra. Hope it went off! I couldn’t afford to go to both concerts. In the end, I couldn’t imagine going to the Hunter with the best seat in the house, to only be demoted the next night. I could do it the other way around, where id constantly get closer and closer. So kept an eye out for any tickets for Sydney, but nothing took my fancy. Plus I ain’t made of money!
I was curious as to the sound of the winery gig. No walls to have sound bounce off of.
The Friday before the gig arrives. My brother who works for the RTA (road works) tells me, he has a shift on Saturday morning. We live in South Western Sydney by the way. He’ll start at 5am and it’ll be for a couple of hours, then we’ll head up to Newcastle, where my dad and partner live, pick them up, and head out to the winery. Easy right. Right! Saturday morning my brother gets home. ‘What time does Leonard go on?’
Why, I ask. ‘I’m really tired, I’m going to have to lie down for a few hours.’
Time rolls on and on…
oh and of course
my mum finally decides
it’s time this shoebox house
had an air conditioner,
so my brother did some extra
running around that morning.
Again, time rolls on and on…
I know roughly how long it takes to get to Newcastle from my home.
I’m starting to get rather pissed off and annoyed and sad.
My family always runs late…and as one can say with black humour,
at least we are consistent! I still don't have my license, that's also me being consistent!
There go the Triffids!
my dads calling up…
wondering where we are…
But a tired driver is a no go situation.
If I had of known, id have jumped on a train the previous day
and one of us could have jumped out of our seat
and met my brother at the gates, most likely with a smile.
In the car on the way up, it looked like Paul Kelly was disappearing.
I was yet to see him live. Thought the supports sounded great (in theory:)
Finally get to Newcastle. We might catch the last of the Paul Kelly set.
Ate some pizza in the back seat of the car.
I love Newcastle. It looks like a memory of say,
one of my parents. The old houses…auto-shops,
The Hunter Valley is beautiful isn’t it?
Go past some vineyards,
that one there has Eric Clapton coming up…
that one over there has Simply Red…
Do the locals in run down houses realise
what’s going on here?
Later, the Cohen gang will drive their bus past said houses…
perhaps while infomercials run on the tubes, or while
an old couple sit on their front veranda…in silence.
Ahhh who knows.
We get to the makeshift car park.
We are very late.
I can hear Cohen and the music and the women singing,
I can’t believe I’m missing that!
My brother mentions something about maybe its
just the loudspeakers playing Cohen before Cohen goes on.
Yeah real funny! Though yes. From the other side of the hill,
it all sounded pitch perfect.
A little golf buggy driven by a young man comes along,
and we get a lift to the top of the hill. Handy.
‘Take us to our seats!’ Which would be very comical,
though impractical. My brother jokes about how we look like those damn idiots who turn up late, to a gig…missing out on the support, likes that’s the thing to do.
We laughed and he said… ‘I’ve seen Paul Kelly twice before.’
You bastard I thought. I wanted value for money, and my ears to hear
the Kelly sound live, my brother it seems was slightly indifferent.
Lots and lots of people around
We have turned up…roughly in the first song. Or was it the second?
Down we go. My brother takes a trip to the bar. Yeah, I could do with some wine.
Though all I’m thinking is…get me to my seat. I can miss no more.
I was somewhat amazed that the workers there where sort of blasé about seating.
Once you get through the reserved seating gate…it becomes an honesty kind of trip.
Funnily enough, as I shuffled past people and their legs in our row…there were some people in my dads & partners seats. Thankfully! So glad someone ANYONE used them while we were running very late. Not sure where that couple disappeared to, but again, can’t stress enough, how good it is to see someone taking advantage of empty space, in a positive way. I still can't beleieve i turned up late for a Cohen gig hey...crazy.
Deary me. This is amazing. Emotional strings playing one huge chord now.
AND like that, the thought of being pissed off about arriving late disappeared. Gone.
Later on, I found that to be quite amazing.
My dad and co. didn’t know just how good the seats where until they sat down. Front row is good enough. But centre! They were stoked. I knew how they felt. Brother gets down with the wine, and he’s stoked. We’re all stoked, and there is a fire. It is right in front of us, and all around.
Out of curiosity. Some of the best gigs I’ve been to have been in places where there are no barriers. What was with a huge lump of steel down in front? Would someone really rush the stage? I mean, maybe I did have a bouzouki in my back pocket, but I wasn’t about to pull it out, and attack anyone.
I drunk some wine, but not too much, as I hate nothing more that a full bladder at a gig.
I hate missing any one song, and once you break that seal…it’s a slippery slope.
I check the whole band out, and what I notice first,
are the women singing. Truly amazing. The presence of their sounds,
the depth, delivery and the pitches…hitting every mark.
Then the sax playing next…hearing that live, made me want to buy a saxophone.
I think it’s important when someone can move another to want to pick up a new instrument, or a first instrument, if that was to be the case. Great skill.
I considered the amount of practice one must put in to get to that kind of performance level. Adding in the European leg of the journey. Actually this thought goes for any of the musicians on stage.
I first started playing bass, so to get up close to those Cohen bass lines was rather cool. Though I play a 4-string…it was a nice chance to hear some of those low low bass notes, on a 5-stringer.
The organ man, sublime. The drums, awesome/cool kit. The other instruments the wind man played…great expression. The guitar work of a man with a tele, well…what a compliment, to the overall sound. Another high point has to be the man who played the classical guitar and mandolin etc. Unfortunately a cameraman blocked my view of the body of the guitars the man played, but I did see his fretwork. Amazing. Id never thought about a 12-string classical guitar before…but I want one now : ) the sounds from that, ahhh, so satisfying.
Does anyone know what make/model guitars were used? Same goes for the Cohen black beauty. Who is the maker of those instruments? Id love to know.
Leonard Cohen. I loved his guitar work. For his age…his fingers moved like some youth. Really, I mean that. How common is it, for one to get old, and for joints and whatnot to get stiff! Just did not come across like that at all. Also, always interesting to see the chords/finger picking style. That was a real treat. Looked slightly non-conventional. hat was endearing.
At intermission, I ventured for my little sisters camera, of which I borrowed. Told my brother, ‘it’s going to feel awkward taking pictures here, up front, where they can see you. Just a slight invasive feeling about it. Started off by taking a couple of pictures of the empty stage, bar the set-up and the backdrop. Planned on taking two photos of the band…and leaving it at that, with the flash and without. My sister’s camera was nothing too special. I love photography, but it’s not exactly my craft. I took some snaps, but my timing was off…and the mic stand for Leonard was blocking a nice uninterrupted photo.
In the end, got some cool Leonard ones, and I tell you, in one, he looks so so young. I’m young, and the camera display is small, and my eyes are fine, so I could be wrong…when it’s put up on the computer. Just looks vibrant, to me. I’ll figure out how to upload them later. It has to be said, as soon as you get behind a camera, you lose touch with that connection one gets from participating in a concert. Interesting to think that in years to come, when family can sit and view said pictures, they’ll be seeing the moments where I was kind of disconnected from the happening! None the less, there are camp fire stories.
The second set was, dare I say, better. Like a well thought out plan, basically, which when one considers how well the first set went, it can blow the mind hey…
I could probably brake down every song…but that would be unnecessary (maybe like a pre-show introduction: )
The bass line from A Gypsy’s Wife. Ahh love it.
The Partisan, as a whole…I always dig that song.
Boogie Street. Deary me, Sharon…a constant perfect presence.
Democracy – for how it moved me, and the main melody, via harmonica.
First we take Manhattan – love the bass line, and of course the lyrics.
I really am not being precise here, for all the songs I am missing here,
and all that is not being said for the songs listed above.
I did try to not go in with any expectations.
The sound guys and gals produced a more than decent sound,
for the audience, and I suppose the performers.
I pretty much have a basket for all the concerts I deem to be the best ever.
This goes into that basket. In good company with a few others so far, no doubt.
Didn’t find a problem with the audience up the front.
After it was all said and done, I found leaving a hassle.
By foot and car. Some people just can’t leave a place in an orderly fashion. Just, to some extent, a total disregard for other people, who are also trying to leave. So as my little party was stopped in its tracks just inside the seated area…my brother points out, that he hasn’t really seen any young folks around. Everyone bar us, seem to be in their 30’s +. Interesting, never did notice myself. We're 25/26 respectively (yes, some have slept more than i have wee lived!) But I looked around, and that’s what I saw. Young in heart. BUT as we approached the top of the hill…that’s when the young one’s seem to be present! How? Why? Ha…and they all seemed to be so darn intoxicated. Each to their own I guess. Getting out of the car park was long and tedious. Sometimes I wonder just how many people know the rule of…if there are two makeshift lanes…in busy traffic, one from each lane goes, and gives way, back and forth. So simple. Just about eloquent. Yet not always the case.
Oh and my fathers partner, mentioned two things. She had messaged her son during intermission saying, ‘I’m at a Leonard Cohen concert in the front row, in a vineyard!’
In the car, she mentioned she got a message back, which made it sound like he thought she was kidding! Ha. Seems like a Leonard Cohen concert can potentially blow the mind of someone who is not even present at the gig. Powerful stuff indeed. She also asked how I got the tickets after customary thankyous and whatnot. My brother jumped in and said (after I mentioned eBay, but didn’t want to divulge the processes at work) that she best ought to not know, then went on with some humour, of how I’m a really bad guy, because those seats were set aside for a bunch of disabled children, and I had stolen them. Cue the idea of black humour please. I also joked about how the day will come when I’ll have full blown dementia, and someone will show me the pictures I took, and I’ll say, ‘wow, I wish I could’ve been there!’
Unfortunately my brother got the call half way through the concert, saying he had to work the next day at 5am…so back to Sydney we went. I have a firm grip on the memory from start to finish…from when I awoke, till the moment my head hit my pillow at home.
Pity I can’t write in a more lucid style. Or at the least, develop a draft, rather than simply posting such a sketch.
Also, my dad took some pictures (I noticed) so when I get them, I’ll see what’s what, and try and post some up.
Again, what a tight band! So tight, my head exploded…and I feel just about allllll-right
Oh and what a charming skipper, Mr. Cohen can be.
Oh and you know you’re at a really good show,
when you catch yourself thinking, that this song here and now, live,
is superior to the album version…and when you’re caught saying that
about a song on an album of Cohens, which in and of itself is pretty amazing as is…
well…I’m so glad we evolved and stuck our ears outside of the primordial ooze.
Apologies to the band members I didn’t name by uh name.
I’m more of a face type of person. Never forget a look.
Though the Webb sisters rings a bell! or two or three………
I’ll have to dig in one day soon,
and find out what other sounds/stuff they have put out there
for others to hear. Loved the small harp. La la la
The End (of this draft: )
The David Byrne gig the next night at the Opera House.
Well that's a whole other story.
"Now off to bed children, before the big gruesome monster from under your bed decides to come out and eat you all up."
Pointofviewpoint1983, can you leave the light ohhnnnn...