Friday, July 02, 2010


I went down to Mojo's in North Fremantle last Monday to see a friend perform at their open mic night.

Mojos is a great example of a neighbourhood bar. It's scrubby and down-at-heel, with low lighting to hide the stains in the mostly broken furniture. But that's the way that the hippies and ferals of North Fremantle like these things, and there was a warm atmosphere, a crackling fire in the fireplace, and a friendly crowd intent on enjoying the performances.

I arrived and ordered a drink from the bartender, only to have him scurry away halfway through the transaction to introduce the next act, then dive over to the mixing desk to check the levels. The act on stage at the time was a duo; a chunky man in black leather ugg boots taking care of guitar and vocals, while some weathered old homeless man pounded away at the drums, with an intent expression that suggested either he was lost in the music or he was tossing up which alley he wanted to sleep in that night.

I eventually got my drink and found my friends, and sank into an old sofa that had given up on the idea of resistance and just let its occupants sink to within a whisker of the floor.

In between acts, while the musicians fussed with their instrument set ups, a couple of performance poets from out of town did their work. I actually rather enjoy performance poetry. I hate reading poems, but hearing them is another matter entirely. It helps that performance poetry tends to be lively and dynamic and witty, whereas the sort of poems I see in books and magazines seem to be about squeezing as much pretention out of as few words as possible. Good performance poetry is like stand-up comedy without the tyranny of having to make people laugh, or like rap with more self-deprecation and rather less emphasis on popping caps in asses.

After the poetry my friend performed his small set of five songs, along with his absurdly young keyboardist, about falling in love, walking in the rain, and strychnine poisoning, which made sense in context. They were both very good and, as I mentioned to him later, I was also very impressed by his stage patter. Patter is a subtle art, but one which must be mastered by every performer who wishes to be taken seriously. It's all very well to get up on stage and demonstrate your musical talents, but if you just stare blankly at the audience between songs and mutter something about how great they are, or worse, nervously waffle about nothing, you're unlikely to make a connection with them. I've seen great performances undone by the witless prattle bubbling out of the lead singer. It destroys the mood.

They were followed by more poetry, and then a tall, thin, dreadlocked man named Joe who pounded an electronic drum pad with his foot while blazing away at an acoustic guitar and blowing his didgeridoo*. He was very talented and an excellent choice to close the evening, mainly because he wasn't so ostentatiously over-talented as to make the preceding acts seem weaker. Rather, he was a gentle upward inflection on a long evening of good music.

I felt very at peace with the world as I drove home through the empty midnight streets. I credit the power of seeing a diverse range of artists at work. Although the scotches I had probably helped. Not to mention the thin haze of pot smoke that eternally hangs over North Fremantle.

*not a euphemism


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