02 March 2007

The Sedition Barbershop Cabaret

You'll no doubt remember hearing about The World's Grumpiest Barber, who I think for future purposes I'm going to refer to as simply Mike The Barber, as he seemed a little hurt when I told him how I'd described him on the World Wide Interweb. He's still grumpy, true, but considering all that the man does for the arts and culture here in Sydney, I don't want to stereotype him as a one-dimensional ball of rage and frustration because, well, he's not.

In fact, I've been spending considerable time down at his Sedition Barbershop Cabaret, and although Mike disclaims any responsibility for the flourishing little scene that is developing there ("Hey, I don't do anything man, it just happens"), the place is developing an edge and a centre that seems wildly out of place in complacent old Sydney town, but is also exactly what's needed around here.

I hate even mentioning that much-maligned (and understandably so) decade, the 60s, but something about Sedition reminds me of the early, pre-hippie days when people used to stage "happenings," which meant basically that anyone could show up and express themselves in any way that suited their fancy, without, in most cases, getting laughed at or having pies thrown at them. Poetry, weird music, not-so-weird music, whatever: the point was more to create a free space in which ideas could flourish and people with something to say or questions to ask could get together and bounce off each other or the walls as the occasion might indicate.

Anyway, that's exactly what's been happening lately at Mike's place, and whereas he started out with just poetry/spoken word events on Tuesday nights, he's not got things going on several days a week. Tuesday I wandered in for the poetry gig and found a collection of people even older than myself sitting around listening to each other read. It looked kind of like an outing from the Old Hippies' Retirement Home, though as Mike informed me after they'd gone, it turned out to be the Old Gay Hippies' Retirement Home, and they'd all been reading poems about how great it was to be gay and/or old and/or a hippie. I didn't catch that bit, so when I jumped up to read my hastily composed thing about what an asshole I was when I was a gay hippie LSD dealer, I didn't get, shall we say, the most receptive of responses. Polite but tepid applause was all. Very tepid, actually.

Of course it also confirmed my long-held prejudice that it's never a good idea to write about drugs, and apparently it's an even worse idea to write about drugs in an uncomplimentary fashion when your audience thinks drugs are just peachy-keen. Or maybe there just wasn't enough gay stuff, but never mind; I came back again on Thursday for experimental music night, and this time the barbershop was packed out with youngish hipsters, the sort who would be equally at home in the Mission or Williamsburg, but because I'm so open-minded these days, I didn't even hold that against them.

There were two performers, both of which were a little deep and/or avant-garde for my fusty old self to grasp the full implications of, but who I nonetheless liked and enjoyed. The first fellow, one Matthew Philip Hopkins, reminded me a bit of the SF combo I Am Spoonbender, albeit in a way more low-tech way, with lots of bleeps and echoes. He told me he'd post a link to his Myspace via his blog, but as of now, nothing but blog there. Check it out anyway, if you're interested. The next guy, whose given name is Alex but who performs as "Always," did nothing but voices and echoes, sort of chanting himself into a ritual frenzy. Apparently there is a deeply gay sub or supertext to his work that I missed completely until I looked at his Myspace, but because these guys are so almost painfully hip, I have no idea whether it was gay or "gay." This being Gay Mardi Gras Weekend here in Sydney made it all the more confusing. Bear in mind that this is all taking place in what normally functions as very manly (and I mean manly in the sense of not particularly gay manly) barbershop.

A good crowd turned out, enough to pretty much fill the shop, even after the two barber chairs had been dragged off to the side and all available boxes, speaker cabinets, rubbish bins, etc., had been converted into seating. In between sets, Mike played DJ, and I had that very privileged feeling you get when you know beyond a doubt that whatever else might be going on in town or in the world at that moment, you're right where it's at and don't need to be anywhere else. Another night or two like that and I might be pegging my own trousers and declaring myself a full-on hipster. Not actually.

As a result, I missed going to see Ian Mackaye and his own experimental music duo, the Evens, who were performing across town, but though I would have really liked to see Ian, I'm not a huge Evens fan. Okay, enough of a fan to pay the $15, but just barely, and Mike's Sedition Barbershop Cabaret admission fee of $0 was a lot closer to my liking. So I reckon I'll be back there again Sunday for more experimental music, this time apparently played on more conventional instruments, though, and at Mike's urging, may make it a multi-media event by reading some story I have yet to write about being a pinhead. Remind me to tell you about it sometime. But right now internet-land is closing down and I'm being kicked out into the sultry Sydney streets. Oh, and hey, I'll be back in the USA soon: two weeks from today, in fact.

1 comment:

kabukiboy said...

hey larry - good to catch up with you at paint it black the other night. i've found your blog (as you can tell) so i can catch up on your adventures in sydney over the last couple of years. hope you make it back again sometime.