Kingswood rocked so hard it was almost scary.This is about all I can remember from their Red Deer Music & Arts Festival 2013 performance. Not sure if it was the bass bleeding my ears or the BYO beer soaking my brain cells, or both, but the devastation their set wreaked remains but a shadow on my rock and roll soul. Then shit got real hazy. I can vaguely remember my brother hoisting the empty of all but soft drink esky on to his ex-personal trainer and labourer’s shoulders, as we prepared to depart for more alcohol.
Then I recall us saying hi to three couples gathered around a campfire on a property between the festival site and the house we were staying at.They said nothing in return. One of them may have cocked a gun and spat tobacco at our feet.Then finally my brother passed out in front of home base and, despite my best efforts, would not be roused so we went to our beds instead of catching headline act The Grates.I woke up with barbed-wire-wounds on my hands, possible concussion from falling over deer fences and to sunlight hitting my hungover eyes like a truck.
In regard to malevolent figurative or actual trucks, as proof “these things come in threes,” the festival’s story from my perspective began early on Saturday September 7 – while most of my fellow countrymen and women were busy misguidedly ushering in Tony Abbott’s xenophobic and economically elitist right-wing government. Brisbane City had gloriously revealed itself from my mobile vantage-point atop Mount Gravatt, as I steered my car north along the Pacific Motorway. Presently one of those orange-texted traffic conditions signs stated there was congestion on the Riverside Expressway, beside the CBD. “How bad could it be?” I thought of the expressway, that I’d never had any trouble with especially at noon on a Saturday. Margaret, Elizabeth, Turbot and Herschel Streets into the city were all missed as rat-runs I could have used to escape traffic inching along the expressway. I needed Kelvin Grove Rd, which after becoming Samford Rd would lead me to Mount Samson, under whose evening shadow Red Deer would be projecting its progressive vibes north, south and eastward.
After an hour spent feeling the skin on my right arm sizzle in the spring sun I finally discovered the source of the congested calamity, where the M3 split from Coronation Dr and usually took cars north toward the Sunshine Coast. All manner of emergency vehicles had blocked the ramp, where a truck (the first of “these things”) had apparently lost its shit and crashed. Trusting in my metallic-voiced GPS, I had no choice but to continue along Coronation Dr then turn north along Park Rd, Milton, and get back on track. When I was confronted my yet more traffic, and I swear my sun-shrivelled right arm shrieked in alarm. An ALDI truck (second of “these things”) was sitting under the rail overpass, and someone was motioning for it to reverse. “Ah,” I thought, “it’s ok: he’s just waiting for the right moment to back up and deliver his German-owned and probably Asian-made goods.” Then the truck driver got out and wandered around his truck, shrugging. The horrific reality of the truth finally hit me and almost had me returning home convinced the gods were angry with me that day: the ALDI rig had gotten stuck under the rail bridge.
Eventually, of course, I found myself on Kelvin Grove Rd, from whence there were no more traffic related problems. I was frustrated at a service station about 30 minutes later by a fat old guy in full bits-per-inch futuristic army camouflage, who was taking forever to choose his brand of bogan juice (energy drink) and blocking access to the good old fashioned water I wished to purchase. Talk about two worlds colliding. Then at Samford Central shopping centre, I left my wallet open while handing over money for my salmonella chicken wrap to the decayed-teeth late-teen chick apparently in charge of the entire shop at lunchtime. “That’s a nice photo,” she said.
“Thanks,” said I.
“I look like a criminal in mine, because you’re not allowed to smile anymore.”
I tried not to hesitate too long while also trying to avoid staring at her brown choppers, before saying: “I guess I’ll keep mine (taken about a decade ago, when I was 20) until I die, then.” The awful drive had all but killed my good spirits. Had she not been friendly, I may have snapped when after a 20 minute wait I brought the food toward my lips and noticed a piece of chicken at the wrap’s edge was barely cooked. With valiant calm I threw the offending morsel out, took the plunge on the rest of it and continued on to the house I was staying at nearby the festival – while trying to ignore imaginations that my stomach was already sending bad-meat-bacteria to my brain that might ironically render me a vegetable for the rest of my life.
The beginning of the end began as it always does: with that first sip, while we sat on the veranda looking down the valley toward Lake Samsonvale. Red Deer was audibly already in action somewhere nearby. After a short walk down the road the four of us set foot through refreshingly lax security into the dual-stage festival while Bec Laughton was in the middle of shaking her little pink hotpants through a jazz and hip hoppy set. I’d decided to take the $400US Canon I’d bought last year in San Francisco. And it was the catalyst for my being accosted by a Hawaiian shirt wearing rugby union playing type. He insisted on taking my photo, citing the somewhat dubious observation that photographers rarely have their photos taken. At some point during his drunken rambling a young blonde woman poked her head past him to wish me a happy World Beard Day, and disappeared. Then my brother joined us after using the men’s and immediately clashed with the large loud shirted and overbearing photographic sympathiser. Understand, the only “music” festival my brother has ever been to is the pill-popping and flesh flashing Gold Coast Spit event: Summafieldayze. Moments later, I told him he needn’t bring the same levels of testosterone-fuelled defensiveness required at that aforementioned celebration of boganism to Red Deer. We sat down with our two friends as triple j’s Sarah Howells began a very blues and rootsy dj set, and were almost immediately confronted by a horrific sight.
Many people had returned to their BYO couches and beers from the stage-front after Bec Laughton. One young blonde woman, carrying at least 40 kilograms more than was healthy, had also returned to her group which happened to be sitting right in front of us. It was time for her to change out of her party dress into warmer clothes and, my God in Heaven, did we get a show. Details aside, let’s just say we by her getting changed in front of us had unwittingly and not pleasurably been ushered “backstage” to her performance. I tried harder than most around me to avoid looking at, while stifling laughter, the train wreck unfolding in front of us. Think of my reaction as being similar to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, repeating: “The horror. The horror.” Fortunately, a man wearing a bear onesie who had just won Howells’ costume dance competition walked past, and I put “the horror” behind me by congratulating him. One of our number headed off to get and then return with pizza, and we sat in the last of that day’s early spring sunshine washing them down with cold beer while Bobby Alu strummed his way through some folksy reggae grooves. All 1000-or-so of us were collectively aware that Tony Abbott’s iron-budgie-smuggler right-wing reign was about then being ushered in across the nation around our left-leaning, progressive bubble. Such anxiety could have contributed to the couple of scuffles that broke out nearby. Or it could have as usual been about women. Or perhaps some bogans might’ve gotten through hard to spot security. Impossible to be sure. As the sun set behind Mount Samson and the temperature dropped, I headed back to the homestead to collect my jacket – a trip for which I sacrificed listening to The Dashounds’ apparently bunny-suited drummer bash out some tunes.
Turned out the best way to get past the deer fence separating the festival’s VIP camping area and the property at which I was staying, was to simply fall almost spastically drunk over it. Then another couple of barbed wire cattle fences were surmounted, and I was away, my possibly emphysema-afflicted lungs struggling to power me up the hill. I was momentarily stopped by the fact the former serviceman head of the household had locked up the house tighter than a hillbilly fortress. Fortunately, some of the beers were stored outside. Plus his wife ended up responding to my text messages in query of a hidden key, and eventually appeared to unlock the place so I could get my leather. The return journey was vague. Memory had already become unreliable. The alcohol had reached my brain. Chance Waters’ future car commercial indie pop was lulling Red Deer’s crowd into a false sense of security upon our return. I remember by this point we’d lost the other two of our number, one of them being pregnant and all, and the other being her husband. I’d become engaged in a deep and meaningful bromance with the guy sitting next to me on the esky, who was literally my brother. We continued our D ‘n’ M as Kingswood took to the stage and shattered the peace for kilometres around. It was a lot like trying to carry a heartfelt conversation through the first sparks of a violent revolution, so great was the noise and so frenetic the mosh pit. And considering what was taking place in Canberra about then, I wouldn’t have objected to an actual uprising. It was about this time that things had started to become weird, in the form of the attractive lone young woman who had been loitering close to my brother’s left for several minutes. I leaned in front of him and said something like: “Hey, how are you?” And she vanished to our rear in a flurry of blonde hair. Then we had other problems. Kingswood had finished, as evidenced by rivers of blood from peoples’ ears beginning to dry on the grass and in a large pool in front of the stage. The Grates were yet to hit the stage. But alas, we were out of piss. And we both fully intended on returning at the time, but barbed wire wounds to my hands remain better evidence than actual memories that we even tried. And ultimately failed.