One night in February my good friend Dave called and asked if my wife & I would be interested in coming to a gig at The Espy next month. "It's.. aghh... on a Wednesday night" he cautiously added. Years ago we had become accustomed to the mid week gig request, as Dave being a talented musician, was nearly always playing. However, as the years rolled on, he had invariably got more punter friendly nights so this did seem a tad unusual.
Perhaps sensing the hesitation in my voice he continued on, explaining the gig was in fact a tribute concert for George Kristy, a fellow drummer & well known muso in the local Melbourne scene. Just before Christmas last year George had sadly taken his own life.
Barely hearing Dave as he continued on with the details - ticket proceeds going to Beyond Blue, sound / lighting guys & musicians all donating equipment and time to help commemorate one of their own - my family has been directly affected by depression so there was no decision to be made. "Certainly mate. Put me down for 2 tickets".
I wanted to help more. I wanted to help cement this night in the memories of those attending. I wanted this so that the reason for the night would be remembered and discussed. I started asking myself 'What can I contribute?' For sure there would be many photographers covering the performances - but what about backstage? In my naivety I actually started thinking about Annie Leibovitz & the Stones, them just coming off stage, all sweaty and drained from an adrenaline pumped gig. The next night I called Dave back with a plan.
On the 5th of March the night finally arrived. The backstage area of the Gershwin Room at the Espy is actually a car park / storage area shared with the restaurant next door (rock'n'roll is sexy aint it), so I secured my spot between the ice machines and front-of-house road cases. If you've ever been backstage at a rock gig, well… you can times that by ten. The number of musicians had grown to around 40. There was even a video crew there from Channel 31.
To say it was an amazing night would be trite. But in my experience there were some profoundly amazing events which unfolded. 1: Each band & every set ran on time. 2: There were no prima donnas (At least as far as I was aware & I was right there. All night). But perhaps the most profound event was quite an unexpected one.
The thing is, generally musicians are a kind of semi-solitary bunch, in contrast to their on-stage extrovert behaviour. They practise alone, they rehearse with their small group of band mates, a lot of them even have families & kids, so the times they do meet up with other players outside of their own bands it's usually a beer or two in passing at a gig & it could be months before they're on the same bill again. All this is to say, the conversations I overheard taking place that night were of a deeper nature. People were going there. There were long hugs. Tears. How are you doings. Talk of counselling. The positive vibe in the place was almost tangible.
Thank you to everyone who made this night special. Thank you Voula. Thank you Zakk. Thank you Dave.