If ever there was a pithy demonstration of what it is to be musically devoted, then surely waiting for hours in a non-moving queue would be just that. I'm well-acquainted with the pointlessness of such a venture, for only 24 hours ago, I stood outside St Kilda's Esplanade Hotel for an hour and a half in the hopes of seeing Icehouse perform live. The bouncer shouted at the queue, stretching back towards Victoria Street: "There's no chance any of you will be getting in tonight! It's full! The band are just about to start! Go home!" But in spite of his warnings, few punters relented. Andrew smirked at me, "I don't believe a thing that guy says."
The truth of it is that I can hardly claim the title of the world's most ardent Icehouse fan. My enthusiasm for their music derives from an attachment I have to a mythical 1980s Australia that only seems to exist on the old VHS tapes stored in our downstairs room. Icehouse also remind me of the brother(s) who influenced me immeasurably, who duly culled the Triple M canon and introduced me to Australian Crawl, Hunters & Collectors, Crowded House and INXS. I was grateful to Andrew for that reason and so I was prepared to stand for as long as he was prepared to stand.
I knew that my passion (and indeed, my knowledge) for the group would be tested by the devoted few who stood around us, shivering. Queue-mate Simon boasted that he managed to see Boom Crash Opera and Icehouse at the Venue, only a few metres down the street, some twenty-five years before. I offered a non-descript anecdote about how Hey Little Girl was recorded in fragments and was largely constructed in post-production. Andrew, however, managed to serve up an in-depth account of Icehouse's then-synthesizer of choice, the Prophet-5. His account impressed the queue-mates surrounding us and as a result, it managed to secure our rightful place within the queue, among the cold and fanatical.
There would be moments, in between the boasting and complaints where we would look at the Victorian bay window above us. We could only see blue and pink lights flicker across a roomful of silhouettes. Occasionally a member of the audience would turn to survey the queue below. It was hard to tell whether he was curious or sympathetic, we could not sustain his interest long.
We would all listen closely, "Hey, isn't that Walls?", one of us would say. We would bow our heads in concentration, tentatively singing along with the band and with each other. These moments would not last long though, the noise band in the bandroom downstairs would start up again just as we were getting into it. We weren't angry or upset or even that frustrated, really. We were actually kind of elated to be standing together in such a way. I don't ever wish to forget a queue-mate's story of how, in spite of her enthusiasm for Icehouse, she accidentally kept on singing Mental As Anything songs as she primed herself for the evening.
Approaching the front of the queue was perhaps the most irritating part of the whole venture. I stood there as quietly and patiently as I could manage it. I was forced to survey a steady stream of people walk out that venue, down those steps and out onto the street. There was no semblance of a "one-in, one-out" policy, indeed the bouncer seemed intent upon completely ignoring me. I looked back at the queue earnestly and I then realised that their entry became dependent upon my entry. Perhaps if I exploited something, a charm or a physical attribute, I could get in, we could all get in. Perhaps then, I could save my left hand from frost bite.
It was at 12.30am when the bouncer finally gave up. Still refusing to meet my gaze, he requested my driver's licence. Once permitted, we bound up the steps to hear the last half of Nothing Too Serious, their last song. You had to stand on tippy-toes to make out Iva Davies against a backdrop of LED lights. As the crowd bellowed for the band's return to the stage, our queue-mates chortled, "At least we got in!". Icehouse did come back to the stage, to play tight covers of the Easybeats' Sorry and David Bowie's Jean Genie.
During the encore, queue-mate Simon insisted Icehouse would play Don't Believe Anymore. With drunken enthusiasm, he said this over and over again, each time scrambling the name of the song. His mistakes triggered something within me, a part of me which demands that recollection of names, dates and releases be perfect and accurate. For a hasty and ironic moment, I quietly questioned his devotion to the band.
When the lights came up, we said goodbye to our new queue-mates. We laughed and exchanged cards and nudged our way towards the door. As we poured out of the venue, down those steps, past the smokers and belligerent bouncers, I thought about that question of devotion and the tests and meanings which fans construct. I wondered whether the queue could ever accurately display devotion, knowledge or enthusiasm. After all, we can all stand in line.
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Mod Podcast #32
Neon Hearts - Venus Eccentric!
Graham Parker & the Rumour - Stick to Me
The Donkeys - Don't Go
The Fans - You Don't Live Here
The Spectors - In Your Room
The Red Squares - All Over Town
The VIPs - Boys of the City
The Namelosers - Do-Ao
Sound Sandwich - Apothecary Dream
The Ramones - Do You Wanna Dance?
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