Wednesday, July 28, 2010


My trip to Melbourne hasn't been all shopping and spending. I've also attended the opening of a friend's art exhibition, gone to the launch of another friend's new album, and listened to a bunch of live music in the busy open mic scene. At the suggestion of yet another friend, I also went to a poetry jam at the Dan O'Connell hotel on Saturday afternoon.

Like many of Melbourne's inner city hotels, the Dan does not appear to have ever been more than partially renovated, with every attempt ending before it's quite complete. It's a rancid old corner pub with exposed wiring in the light fittings, a grease mottled ceiling, and subtle evidence that structural repairs are being done by some bloke in exchange for free beer.

The beauty of these wretched dives, however, is that they discourage shallow sorts who go out only to be seen, and instead service the locals. I sort of wish that we had more neighbourhood pubs like this back home in Perth. All we have are beer barns, where the pissheads of half a dozen suburbs congregate to drink themselves into a belligerent frenzy, or upmarket bars that are crowded with young urban professionals, and are thus loathsome.

The poetry performances were a deliciously mixed bag. Some were, frankly, terrible. They were terrible because the poet had no skill in speaking, or because the poem itself was unimaginative, or because the poem was entirely too imaginative and didn't make a blind bit of sense. But the rest were engaging and fun, and there were several noteworthy performances. A man named Gavin decried, in the rich and fruity tones of a well-cultivated man, the poseurs in the Tour de France. A couple of old men told comic narratives with deftness and aplomb. But feature poet Sam, in a green velvet waistcoat and Bernard Fanning hair, generated the best reception. He began an epic poem of seemingly jumbled words and psychedelic concepts, which was dull and difficult to follow at first but imperceptibly evolved into an overblown, almost baroque paean to his sexual prowess. He fell more and more into his narrative character, running his hands up and down his body and mouthing the more exotic words as if he were peeling a grape with his tongue. The character he created was so enamoured with himself that it was difficult not to like him, simply for his uncomplicated braggadocio.

The applause, when he was finally spent, was rapturous.


Blogger MC Etcher said...

Well said! I can almost imagine I was there.

7:58 PM  
Blogger TimT said...

Oh, I love the Dan all right. It's one of my favourite haunts. The building itself is fabulous, and they have never made the fatal mistake of turning themselves into a generic Irish-themed pub.

They had a refit recently which I'm still reconciling myself to - hence the 90s style bar and the seating. Prior to that the walls were lined with plus red vinyl seats, and their stuffing was perpetually vomiting out onto the floor, while the bar was plonked halfway between the pool room and the main room. I can see why they chose the refit - it is more open and hence makes it easier for customers, and there's more room for the bar staff to operate, and the design itself was cheap. More an economic decision than an aesthetic one.

I discovered the day after our dinner that someone who'd filmed at the Dan a week ago had just put video of me on the web. Here 'tis.

6:57 AM  
Blogger TimT said...

PLUSH red vinyl seats.

10:30 AM  

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