Friday, April 22, 2022


I had to go into the city centre relatively early to catch up with a friend over breakfast, which then gave me plenty of time to just wander about the city doing a mixture of window shopping and actual shopping. I tried to buy a new pair of sunglasses, but Melburnians are not traditionally sunglass wearers, so there was little variety in the stores and I couldn’t find any pair I liked. I also looked in some clothing stores for a new suit, but ten days of cafe breakfasts and gelato have made the idea of buying a sleek and slim-cut modern suit a little… optimistic.

About the only place I was able to find something to buy was at Muji, a store selling the concept of Japanese minimalism. Also the products of Japanese minimalism, but primarily the concept. Your life may be messy and chaotic, but you can buy a simple bamboo tray, plain linen sheets, or a wooden propelling pencil and momentarily grasp the beautiful feeling of having all of that dross in your life gone. Marie Kondo is probably behind it, philosophically if not actually. She’d probably be very disappointed that I bought some pens and a notebook that I don’t actually need and thus added to my dross. Oh well.

In the evening, with nothing better to do, I decided to make use of the fact that I’m living a 20 minute walk from one of the best jazz bars in the country. It’s kind of a waste that I haven’t been there every night, but then again one can only be so hep before one morphs into Johnny Depp or something. So off I trotted to the Jazz Lab to see The Pearly Shells, who provide further evidence of a certain Melburnian paradigm I’ve noticed: older musicians here just keep on playing. The members were aged between 40 and 80, as far as I could see, and clearly still had the talent, and inclination, to keep getting out there and performing. Although every second song or so they’d invite up a guest drummer, or pianist, or rhythm guitarist young enough to be their grandchild to sit in for a song or two. Whether they were proteges or actual grandchildren was hard to tell, but either way, it was wonderful to see this music as an intergenerational affair spreading from Boomers to Zers.

There was also a burlesque hoop twirler, because hey, why not? And she added a vaudevillian flair that suited the music and the atmosphere.

They played a mixture of the own compositions and standards, including a remarkable rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ as a swing dance number. If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible. But it certainly got the crowd up and dancing. Given the average age of the performers, it’s perhaps not surprising that many of the audience were in a similar demographic. We got to witness the majesty of elderly white people cutting loose and jitterbugging around the dance floor... at least until their hips gave out.


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