Several times now I have travelled to Sidney Myer Music Bowl to watch some of my favourite bands. Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, City and Colour, The Black Keys to name a few and each time without fail they have mentioned the curfew that has been issued to them by the council. ‘Fuck it, we are going to keep playing,’ Justin Vernon casually quipped and we, the adoring crowd believed him because it was he who spoke the words. He who had our undivided attention for the evening. We the audience of people from a multitude of backgrounds, a punnet of different problems we left behind when we entered the arena and a huge variety of different experiences when it came to the artist. But we all believed him when he uttered those words with cutting ferocity.
Unfortunately for us, the council is serious about their curfew. They can’t have complaints from the residents who live a reasonable distance from the sound, which to be fair is rather significant. However, the decision to enforce a curfew at 11PM has attracted my ire. A rather significant ire… at least from my own perspective. I understand that we live in a society where people have to get up in the morning to go to work or to head to the library to read up on the morning news or hit the bong for another day of hard couch surfing but I simply do not agree with placing restraints on creative expression when the expression is only enriching our society. Without music, without art, without live performance where there are individuals and groups taking risks in order for you to be entertained, what is the point of our existence? We survive for several reasons. One, basic instinct. Two, to bring future generations into the world. Three, well, why the fuck not? We thrive for other reasons. For pleasure, for fun, for relaxation, for a desire to experience the spectacular and for, well, the whole why the fuck not rationale.
I know, I know. Life is not that simple. Life is not just about pleasing ourselves but also putting up with the things that were in place a long time before we were even a speck in our parents’ eyes. There are people who exist purely to make money, to gain power, to be someone better than the rest probably to their own detriment in the long run. I get it. But I don’t think that is a beautiful theorem to exist upon. In fact, that could not depress me more.
The fear that sits within my soul is that one day we will exist where it is no longer feasible to take a quiet walk in our neighbourhood without being bombarded with slogans, manic pledges for our money and fast food restaurants that coat our insides with grease and sugar. I get it, we can’t get away from the fact that our surroundings become more and more enclosed due to growing a population of ordinary people and extraordinarily powerful corporations but sometimes I just wouldn’t mind having a coffee in peace and quiet out in the open air. Sometimes the more I am barraged by society, the lonelier I start to feel.
I exist to witness great things, whether I am directly or indirectly part of it. I dislike people who plagiarise without a second thought for the person who was the original creator. And the person who inspired him/her before that. And the person who inspired that person who in turn inspired that person before them. And so on and so forth. If we don’t consider the past what’s the point in creating it in the first place? Everyone has been inspired by someone before them, be it the great Bob Dylan, the quintessential musical genius of Mozart, Liszt and Tchaikovsky, the brilliant minds of Sigmund Freud, Stephen Fry and Albert Einstein and the inspiring leadership of Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln and Aung San Suu Kyi. This is no secret to anyone. Who hasn’t been stuck for words and looked into their memory bank or a search engine for something that inspires them to greater things? To pretend that we are completely and utterly untouched by our peers, our books, our music, our schooling or previous generations is quite frankly fraudulent.
What does this have to do with artists not being able to play beyond an arbitrary curfew time in Melbourne, a city of minor significance on the global scale? Well, at the same time nothing and… everything. Nothing because it really is quite an obscure connection to make, and everything because well, the decision plays with our creative streak, our desire to be spontaneous, our want to live in the moment. To tell one that they cannot play beyond a time because of some ridiculous contract of conduct rinses us of our creativity. We as people are drenched with creative possibility. At birth we are a blank canvas minus the obvious genetic material that accompanies us through the uterus. It is our upbringing that adds to this canvas in both positive and negative ways. The positive can be seen as a sense of moral responsibility to those around us, however while at once this can be seen as a wonderful thing, it can also be the very thing that restricts us.
As we attempt to uphold our moral responsibility to all of those around us, we can forget that some of the measures are blanketing everything that is great about the world. Spontaneity. To be spontaneous is to surprise those around us and even ourselves. To jump onto a train to an area you’ve never been to, to grab the person next to you and kiss them for hours upon hours until your lips are dry and the crowd around you has dispersed, to witness something unique and to see your favourite band play a cover of your dad’s favourite song. These are just some of the possibilities that stay alive when you don’t meddle to the point of mollycoddling.
Bureaucratic red tape is not the only thing to blame for the disappearance of this delicious spontaneity. One of the major bugbears of modern society is our reliance on technology. Who hasn’t thrown up a hypothetical to a group of friends only for one breathless moron to jump on his or her phone to dish out an answer that has no freshness, no direction we haven’t come across before and then smugly whip their hair out of their eyes and look around the table with that self-satisfied smile? We’ve all been to a dinner where there is one friend or acquaintance who just won’t relinquish their grip on their smart phone in case they receive a message from Mum or Grandma or their local fish ‘n chip store that details something truly unspectacular instead of joining in a fruitful conversation about our favourite pair of jocks. It kills the flow, it destroys the fabric of the friendship and it completely stalls the spontaneity that is innately possible in conversation.
It is the on the spot fines that police officers can throw out to any unsuspecting individual, it is the 1 30am lockout from nightclubs with no evidence that suggests it can actually work and the curfews for places that entertain the masses that are boring us. This is akin to our parents telling us we have to go to bed at a certain time to get up for school the next day. ‘But Mum I’m 22 years old and I don’t have to go to school anymore’ I reply. ‘Just do as I tell you young man!’
We still have plenty of things that can please us and entertain but they are restricted by their means. Television with passé programs or constant cross promotion and a constant fear of spoilers. Nights out at venues that close at 1am and charge exuberant prices due to government intervention that is unintentionally driving people away to alternatives. Sure, some may argue that we as a society owe an obligation to drink in moderation but what about for those of us who just want to have a good time and let loose from the constant stress of chasing something we might never get our hands on? It is these very hypotheticals that are denying people with a pretty firm track record when it comes to public behaviour a fair shake of the sauce bottle. I’m not asking for special treatment, I’m just asking for people to take a deep breath and think about what we are throwing away.
Professional sport score reviews, scripted reality television, being overly attentive to critical opinion from people with no real attachment to the end product are just a few of the things threatening our hold of the unrehearsed smiles that sometimes spread across our face. I understand people want to control their own destiny or if they are particularly domineering, the destinies of those in their sphere of influence, but there has to be a point where we say that we are safe and we won’t be killed and instead focus on the opportunity to witness or be involved something pretty special.
That something special could be an hour long encore, an unscripted answer you didn’t expect, a let off from an authority because you made a simple, inconsequential mistake or just simply a really terrific, uninterrupted conversation with a few select strangers about the state of test cricket. We’re not always going to be right and our decisions are not always going to lead to a greater good but if we allow things to just flow sometimes we may receive results that we wouldn’t have dreamed of. Maybe we will come to admire someone we previously despised because of a few candid words you could relate to. If we concede our spontaneity on public matters then it is only a matter of time before our private lives will become inundated by the same speculation and tight control that we becoming more frequently subjected to.
Long live the man or woman who speaks out of turn.