Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hey na, la la la la la la, we're the Illawarra Steelers

My Bob Dylan excitement was temporarily surpassed on Thursday night when Emma and I went out to see The Tallest Man on Earth play in Northampton. The rain that had left my clothes completely soaked earlier that day had temporarily subsided, or, was more subdued, by the time we reached the end of the entrance line. S Carey of Bon Iver - a great pre-sleep band - began playing as our position in the line edged closer to the door. Once inside and cleared by security, the Pearl Street Ballroom that I had been to on Monday for Ra Ra Riot was virtually unrecognisable, as it was now wall-to-wall with people.

S Carey's set was what you expect from a member of Bon Iver, but less sleepy when witnessed live. Some shuffling offered some clearer vantages when The Tallest Man on Earth came on stage. At certain points of the night I was stranded behind the tallest man in the crowd, but none of that mattered when the chords were strummed and the vocals exhaled.

Some of my favourite concerts (Jim Ward, Bob Evans) were solo acoustic performances, so I was already tailored to enjoy the show. The set list highlighted some of my favourite songs - Love is All, King of Spain and The Gardner - and at points during the show, the audience was so quietly enthralled by the performance you could hear the air-conditioning vents rattle in the ceiling. Literally.

At one stage Tally attempted a trick I had seen pulled off by Frank Black. It's when you start playing a song/chord and re-tune a string during the performance. Frank's experience helped him pull it off, but a repeat performance wasn't in order. A snapping sound too familiar to all guitar players rang out through the P.A., and with some perseverance Tally continued play sans string.

After the concert I headed into Amherst to meet Lee-Roy and John at Monkey Bar. They had been there for a while by the time I arrived, but we managed to fit in one beer before the club shut. John was using his accent as best he could, but at one stage a girl with a canine-gap-tooth began to flip us both off for being foreign. The ugly lights couldn't turn on quick enough, and John and Lee-Roy headed for some late night pizza. While devouring his slice, John was met by one of his classmates who repeatedly called him 'Dingo'. He offered some cultural lessons, including abbreviating pizza to 'za and left with one of the best outros I have ever heard; "Alright Dingo, I'm going to go jump in some box, do you know what that is?"
The Michael Lean of detergents.
Early Friday morning I met up with Kate and Amanda of Essex as we headed towards the box-office at the Mullins Center. My hoodie was still soaked, but it was the warmest thing I owned and the torrential rain outside was hardly going to hurt it any further. A quick stop for a giant umbrella temporarily delayed the journey but it didn't matter, we were second in line for Bob Dylan tickets. More people trickled in over the next hour, notably Michael, Richard and Sam who despite looking dishevelled, had failed in their attempted all-nighter. At 10 I was able to grab my Bob Dylan ticket for $30US and with that, fulfil an ambition of mine since Bob played Wollongong in 1998 and I couldn't go.

John, Michael and myself traded the rain in for a screening of 'The Social Network' at the local cinema. My lateness met we missed the first bus and my current financial difficulties meant Michael had to provide $1.50 for my ticket, but we made it regardless. After the screening and John's attempt to buy some skinny Levi's we caught a bus to the local bottle-shop. Michael has built quite a rapport with the Indian owner and they exchanged opinions about the current Australia vs India cricket test. To circumvent costly beer laws we divided the beer up 3 ways into plastic bags - one of which included a Bud Lite cap and about 10 bottle openers.

We enjoyed some beers at Michael's hood before heading on a trip to Sylvan to join the usual band of misfits for beer. After going through our rations rather quickly, John, Michael and I headed to the bars of Amherst. I have been informed that Lee-Roy joined us, but it was at this stage my recollections became a little scattered.

 The arrival times and departures became random numbers, and how we filled those hours is a little blurry. We (John) were talking to some girls at a table, as Michael acted like Charlie Kelly on a date. The girls left and were replaced by the Germans. Again, this is a report, not an actual memory. Somewhere between leaving the bar and getting pizza I made it onto a bus, where John was already there and heading to a party. I guess I crashed his gig, but prior to this I had been winding people up on the street and it was best I left as soon as possible

At the party I played my first game of flip-cup and it ended with disastrous consequences. The words were getting lost from my brain to my mouth, and while it was initially put down to my accent, after some consideration I decided an hours walk in the cold would be a brighter option than slurring for the remainder of the night.

In true inebriated fashion, the text messages did floweth. Below is a selection of texts sent between myself and friends. Some names have been changed. Not John's:
Exchange between Dicky Peach and I.
L: Where sm I zv sb am I?
DP: Haha, are u wrecked? Where are yous?
L: Bo idea nro
DP: Haha wasted!
L: Hitxhinf hike

Exchange between Alex and I
L: Wings

Exchange between John and I:
J: Stay safe buddy. I feel the haters here but i've got the ambition.
L: Hily crao! Si far away
J: Just hooked up. Suck it up or call a cab
L: Who? The blonde hot one? Evryone ekse was shoiteeee
J: Yeah mate. Her name. So american.
L: Jump in the box, if you know what I mean.

Exchange between Michael and I:
M: Where art thou?
L: SoaNner gjdu shidfh dhehfu dgsiw djhwoe2r
L: Outside the toilet$

....And that was most of Friday night. Foolishly, John, Michael and I had all skipped dinner that night and had mixed reactions to life the next morning. No matter, Lee-Roy offered sage-like wisdom and helped eradicate my vicious beer head-ache.

Decked out in skinny-jeans and thongs (flip-flops) I met Michael and John at the ice-hockey training rink. There was an exhibition game between UMass and University of New Brunswick. Having never seen a game before I must admit to being instantly impressed by the sport. It's as manic and brutal as it is synchronised and subtle. The skating is delicate, but the hits are rattling. UMass won and my hangover subsided.
Sylvan crew still can't get their socks sorted

Later that evening I met up with lads in Sylvan again, but instead of following them to a party, I opted for the night in. I had a date with an internet stream of the NRL Grand Final. Coming from Wollongong, supporting Rugby League is a somewhat hegemonic interest.

I can still remember the first game I went to at Steelers Stadium in 1994, where Rod Wishart scored the final try off an intercept to defeat the Newcastle Nights. I was lucky enough to meet the channel 9 commentators, who at the time were massive celebrities to me. I was completely hooked and I signed up to play for Wests Wollongong the next year. That same year I received my first Steelers kit for my birthday, a day spent on the hill with friends watching the Steelers play. I still have the kit, but it's now adorned with signatures. The last Steelers game I went to was, ironically, against St George. True to form the Steelers lost, and if I had known that it would have been the last time I saw the team play, I probably would have cried my twelve-year-old eyes out. Instead, that was left for the day they announced the merger with St George. From then my interest in league waned. My heart was broken and for 4-5 years I didn't watch a complete Dragons/Steelers game.

In 2004 my family and I went to the Steelers heritage match, where the Dragons wore the old Illawarra Steelers kit and had the inaugural team parade around the field. The Steelers beat Penrith that day, and seeing the scarlet and white on show at Steelers Stadium (now Win Stadium) that day grabbed regained my attention. As a re-baptised league fan I only missed two Dragons home games over the last two seasons. I was absolutely delighted when the team made it to the grand final, but for the first time since I left, I wished I was back in Wollongong.

Watching the game kick-off at 2:30AM from my bed in Massachusetts was not how I pictured seeing the local team win their first premiership, but you take these moments any way you can get them. As my room-mate tried to sleep I was doing my best to contain my excitement. At full-time I didn't know whether to yell or cry out in happiness. There are oceans between my beloved Steelers Stadium and I right now, but when I come back next year, it will be rebuilt - bigger and better - and for the first time, it will be home of the champions.


The Victors - Taste of Steel
This is the old Illawarra Steelers song. Crafted like a typical 80s fist pumping tune, the song is as much a soundtrack to my childhood as the New Kids on the Block, Metallica and Bon Jovi cds I bought when I was young. Give it a listen, and see how easy it was for anyone from Wollongong to fall in love with the perennial underachieving Illawarra Steelers.

No comments:

Post a Comment