All posts tagged centre

  • Qweekend story: ‘Muscle Memory’, December 2013

    A story for the final issue of Qweekend for 2013. Click the below image to view the PDF, or read the story text underneath.

    Muscle Memory

    Mates on a mission to nail the essence of manliness find that the Aussie bloke’s a hard character to pin down.

    Story: Andrew McMillen / Photography: David Kelly


    A dozen men stand quietly, with crossed arms and firm expressions, surveying the martial arts demonstration. There is silence as two men dressed in white robes grapple with each other on the floor of the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. After several thoroughly awkward minutes of grunting, throwing and painful-looking choke holds, the two men bow to one another and head backstage, seemingly dispirited. I clap my hands out of respect for my fellow man. I am one of few to do so.

    There aren’t many people at this Man Expo but I’ve come along to try to find out what it is that makes an Aussie bloke. I don’t consider myself to be particularly masculine, so I’ve brought my manliest mate with me on this fine Saturday morning in mid-October to see whether two heads are better than one.

    Craig Johnson is a strongly-built engineering student with a beard and a fondness for barbecuing, bourbon and thrash metal. He is mechanically minded and fond of fixing things; he spent a year working as a truck driver in an underground mine. We share a birth year and an enthusiasm for soccer and playing guitar, but otherwise we’re completely different men. My writer’s hands are soft, my facial hair negligible at best; my home improvement skills are limited to changing lightbulbs, and my brain is more suited to asking questions than knowing answers.

    Two halls down, past the Craft & Quilt Fair – very few men there, too – is a doorway flanked by smiling models distributing showbags, blinding strobe lights and a billowing smoke machine. It’s a fitting hero’s welcome to an event billed as “the ultimate man-cave experience”, but one at odds with the rest of the brightly lit space, which is filled with stalls marketing products – beef jerky, hunting knives, bar fridges, fitness equipment, rum – and experiences with names like “Blokes Weekend Off”. The entry fee is $17 for men and $3 for women.

    Sports cars and fishing boats are positioned on the outer rim of the room. Tabletop arcade-style video game consoles occupy the centre. Golf, cricket and beer pong are the sporting activities on offer. A barbecue demonstration proffers steak and brisket samples. Many manly eyes follow the four slim women in red bikinis and high heels as they slowly walk laps around the stalls, posing for photographs and flashing megawatt smiles at the mostly middle-aged crowd in attendance, some of whom have brought their young sons along.

    “Sometimes I still feel like a boy in comparison to my Dad,” Craig tells me while we sit on couches within a cordoned-off space dedicated to matchmaking. We are the only ones here, besides a bored-looking young bloke guarding a beer-filled fridge. “I look up to him because whenever he’s faced with a tough situation, he just hits a six and gets on with it. I try to do the same, but I haven’t got all my ducks in a row just yet. I feel that when I finally do, I’m then a man.”

    I’m struck by the realisation that I feel much the same way. Both of us were raised in loving homes by parents who married decades ago. Our fathers – mine a primary school teacher, his an electrician – remain positive influences in our lives, to the point where establishing our own identities is still something of a work-in-progress. Perhaps this is how it has always been for young men raised in the shadow of strong fathers.

    Both of us are unmarried and childless; I am in a long-term relationship, Craig is not. We are 25 year-old men who rent our homes rather than owning them. Neither of us has any significant personal assets. Earlier, an interaction with a financial planner had left a sour taste. “Money can’t buy you happiness, boys,” he told us while grinning like the Cheshire cat. “But it can buy you a bloody big boat to take you to the place where it is!”

    One of the bikini models sidles up to us, proffering back issues of the men’s magazine she was hired to promote today. “What do you think makes a man?” Craig asks her.

    “I like a good, old fashioned, manly man who works on the house, and in the backyard,” she replies. “He drinks beer, knows how to cook on a barbecue, lift weights – and has to know how to make a girl laugh, too.” Tara Mills, 23, tells us that she only landed this promo job a few hours earlier, after seeing a call-out for models on Facebook.

    “I can’t get over how different this atmosphere is to [annual adult entertainment exhibition] Sexpo,” she says. “I was a body paint model. I did it for free for a friend; I got painted and walked around. Five years later, I still do it. It’s so much fun there; you can talk to everyone. Here, I’m really struggling to mingle with the crowd, because there’s not much of one.” It’s true; for most of the day, it has seemed as though there are more salesmen here than paying men.

    I ask Mills – a recent graduate in the health services field, who is here today simply to earn some extra cash – how she feels about being objectified by the men in attendance. “I don’t have an issue with it, because I’ve put myself in this position,” she says. “I don’t think it’s sexual. It’s fun. Guys like girls in bikinis; I have no issues with being in a bikini.” She gives a coy smile. “I look good, so why not?”

    As the thin crowd of men disperses and stallholders begin packing up, I spy one of the wrestlers who entertained a crowd of dozens earlier in the afternoon. “Hey, Wolverine!” I yell. “Can I talk to you?” A stocky bloke in unremarkable clothing and a green-and-gold full-face mask strides over. As we shake hands, I introduce myself by my first name. “Luke,” he replies. “Oh, that’s my real name.” He pauses, then laughs. “I shouldn’t have told you that!”

    A few hours ago, Australian Wolverine did battle with Rufio, a lithe, shirtless young man in red-and-black trackpants. Though the wrestlers weren’t making full contact, their sheer physicality was among the manliest displays of the day. I ask the 30 year-old OfficeWorks night manager what a manly man looks like. He jerks his thumb at a nearby strongman, a strapping specimen of masculinity who stands posing for a photo with the petite frame of Mills sitting atop his outrageous biceps. With a cheeky grin visible beneath the white fangs that hang from his mask, the wrestler says, “Maybe that guy, with a couple more scars from knife fights – or from breaking his arm in the middle of a match.” He rotates his inner left forearm to show off a gigantic scar.

    I’m impressed. Clearly, this is a man willing to put his body on the line for entertainment’s sake. What other traits define a man? “His determination and dedication to whatever passion or work he does,” replies the Wolverine. “And just being a very genuine person, too. I find that’s a good manly trait, because I find being fake or lying to be very catty,” he says with a laugh.

    So where does wearing a mask fit into that ideal? He’s momentarily lost for words. “You’ve got me there!”

  • Mess+Noise story: ‘The Lost Weekend: How A Festival Featuring The Drones, Dinosaur Jr Went Down’, March 2012

    A story for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    The Lost Weekend: How A Festival Featuring The Drones, Dinosaur Jr Went Down

    Almost two years to the day since he pulled the pin on his fledgling festival, the founder of Brisbane’s Lost Weekend speaks for the first time about what went wrong and why punter apathy is the biggest threat to would-be promoters. Interview by ANDREW MCMILLEN.

    Billed as a three-day camping event located at a conference centre 45 minutes south-west of Brisbane, a 2010 music festival named The Lost Weekend seemed a worthy contender for the interests of Queensland rock fans who couldn’t afford to head south for Golden Plains. Headlined by Dinosaur Jr, The Dirty Projectors, Wooden Shjips and Nashville Pussy – among Australian bands like The Drones, Tumbleweed, Little Birdy and Whitley – the festival shared several of Golden Plains’ bigger names. Unpowered camping ticket prices ranged from $166 to $207, for a two- or three-day pass, respectively. Hardly a princely sum, considering the ever-increasing costs of competing events on the annual calendar.

    Alarm bells began ringing three months after the initial announcement. A month out from its debut, The Lost Weekend was downsized to two dates and relocated to the Brisbane Riverstage due to apparent licensing disputes. The two-day ticket cost dropped to $150. A M+N news story reported that organisers were determined to make the event in March the “perfect end to the festival season”, and not another Blueprint”. And then, just days out, organisers pulled the plug citing “insufficient time to achieve critical mass”. Unlike the aborted BAM! Festival, an overly ambitious camping event that was set to be hosted at the same venue, The Lost Weekend at least had the foundation of an appealing event by booking a strong, rock-centric line-up.

    It also had festival promotion brains and experience behind the operation. Founder Michael Kerr, 38, had hosted the Sounds Of Spring festival at Brisbane’s RNA Showgrounds in 2008 and 2009, and appeared to be slowly growing the event: the second year saw 14,000 fans take in artists like The Living End, Tex Perkins, My Disco and Giants of Science (the latter two in the midst of a rare dust storm). Yet as The Lost Weekend disintegrated, Kerr went to ground, and hasn’t publicly commented since the public failure of his latest festival attempt. Sounds Of Spring has yet to return, either.

    I meet Kerr for the first time in March, two years and two days after the event would’ve debuted – if only he’d sold a few more tickets. He sips a hot chocolate while we sit at a cafe outside the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. During a wide-ranging conversation, I find Kerr to be quite upfront about his mistakes, slightly disdainful toward the unfortunate habit of Brisbane concert-goers to postpone buying tickets until the last minute, yet optimistic about the possibility to organise future events here in Queensland. He also laughs a lot, even though the topic we met to discuss isn’t particularly funny – or so I thought.

    What was your original desire with The Lost Weekend?
    There was nothing going on. Generally, you try to do events because nothing comes to Brisbane, and we miss out. So we got onto the guys at Golden Plains, and agreed to share some bands but not all, and grew from there. [Laughs] Just to make a good weekend. It was never going to be that large. Never wanted it to be that large. [I wanted it to be] something I want to go to.

    So the Golden Plains connection was pretty integral to making it all work?
    Yes, and no. We probably picked that weekend so we could [make it work], but if nothing happened there wasn’t a big issue. There were enough bands around otherwise to make it work. We did pick up seven or eight of their bands, but not all of them. And that was a deliberate thing we spoke about, because we didn’t want to just do what they were doing, and they didn’t want us to do what they were doing as well.

    Why Ivory’s Rock [Convention Centre]? Had you looked at a few other locations before that?
    We looked at a number of places; particularly it was a really good site. It had all the facilities, had an undercover amphitheatre, had everything; places for food stores, toilets, loos, showers. [It had] everything, everywhere to deal with; where everything else was getting port-a-loos and sleep in the bush. It had proper, flat, perfect camping areas. And no neighbours to disturb.

    How did you come across it in the first place? I had never heard of it until The Lost Weekend was announced.
    Neither had I, actually. Ipswich City Council, who actually were really supportive of doing something, and I originally spoke to them because I was interested in using the Archerfield Speedway area, and they said, “Oh, you should check this place out.” So I checked it out and it worked. [Laughs] Nothing will ever happen there now, though; they don’t want to do anything. They had a change in management and the new managers – it’s run by this religious organisation. The guru from India comes out and speaks there every couple of years and they have like 6000 grannies there. Well, not just grannies but all these people come and hang out there, and pay 500 bucks to hear him talk for five days.

    That sounds interesting…
    The manager at the time wanted other things to go on there, and he pushed really hard to get events in. He’s gone, and the new management don’t want to do a thing.

    So they don’t like the idea of a rock music festival?
    They don’t like the idea of anything else. It’s their little land just for them.

    As you know, after you, BAM! Festival tried to go there. It’s interesting to know nothing at all is going to happen there now.
    Nothing’s going to happen out there.

    To read the full story, visit Mess+Noise.

  • The Vine live review: ‘Tool at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre’, January 2011

    A live review for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    Brisbane Entertainment Centre
    Monday 24 January 2011

    First, a confession: I am guilty of taking Tool too seriously. Throughout my adolescence, they were my one and only; my idea of modern music’s apex. I took the ride, I swallowed the pill. I bought the shirts. I’ve listened to Tool’s music more than that of any other band. Theirs was the first proper live show I saw, in 2002, aged 14. It blew my tiny mind.

    So it’s with a continuous sense of melancholy that I look upon tonight’s proceedings, and with fresh eyes and broader musical experiences, realise that there’s not a whole lot about Tool that’s remarkable. Having bought into their idea of reality – the anti-image, the mystique, the overwrought psychoanalytical component of it all – so heavily in my formative years, to step back into their world is to question past allegiances. Theirs is a musical rabbit hole deeper than most bands are able to conceive, let alone dig; sift through the smoke and smug, though, and you’re left with a handful of unwieldy hard rock songs that mean a lot to a lot of people.

    The band play ten songs in nearly two hours, beginning with the last track from 1996’s Aenima and ending with the same album’s first track. Timothy Leary’s“Think for yourself, question authority” spiel resonates around the room at the beginning of ‘Third Eye’, a 15 minute-long trek through some of Tool’s weightiest subject matter, and heaviest musicianship. It’s intended to be an eye-opening beginning, no doubt, and it succeeds: yellow lights flash into the audience during the song’s chorus-of-sorts (“In / Out”, sings Maynard Keenan, over and over), while the screens behind the band swirl with violent colour and movement. It is the longest, and probably most difficult song in their repertoire, comprising many different suites which require complete attention from each player. They nail it, though, and thus set the bar high for the set’s remainder. To their credit, nothing they play tonight is met with anything less than their best, and when they’re in lockstep – as in the thunderous midsection of ‘Jambi’ – they’re pretty much untouchable. Adam Jones’ talkbox guitar solo in this song is one of their most inspired musical decisions. It takes me back to the first time I heard it, having bought the album – 10,000 Days – at a midnight launch in 2006. (Remember when people used to line up to buy music? Jesus.)

    For the full review, visit The Vine.

    I am mainly posting this review because of the amazing comments attached to that article. Please click the above link to read all of them; 30+, at time of publishing this blog. I got this amazing hatemail from a Tool fan in a private message on The Vine, which I just have to share with you verbatim. Thanks to ‘DR-HAZE666’ for the feedback.


    Your review is a Joke my friend….. Good for a laugh, and an exceptional insight to your intelligence & taste in music. But, i guess thats why your a journalist & not a musician. AND THANK GOD FOR THAT!!!

    WHITE NOISE”- For future reference,white noise is the sound an old analog T.V makes when turning it to a channel that has not been tuned in to a particular frequency. You know, like continuously moving sand paper, “SSSSHSHHHHHHHHHH” What u heard was 3 “Access Virus” synth’s, in unison. Being utilised to create a trance like,state of concsiousness, & show casing new CGI art, created by Adam Jones. Leaving the band to have a well earned 5minute breather. Also, adjustments to Danny’s kit were done, snare changes etc, whilst this was happening. And tracks ‘ Jimmy’ & ‘H’ (2 tracks played @ Aenima tour) are well beyond 5 minutes in there duration. Which is gives us another insight to your attention span. But hey, each to there own. I was stoked to hear them play tracks like right in two, & intension, as they haven’t played these tunes in previous tours. And intension did not have ANY sequenced parts at all. THEY PLAY EVERYTHING LIVE!!! Stop with the sweeping assumptions, and do some research you fool!!!

    You just saw the smartest, most innovative rock band of this generation, on the biggest stage & light production they’ve brought out here for any previous tour, and you missed it completely. Congratulations bro!!! You may be only a freelance journalist, but you certainly have the ‘BULLSHITTING’ gift of a professional journalist. And yr another reason why bands such as TOOL, & majority of the rest world, detest the media, and the uneducated opinion’s spread to the “TINY MINDS” of the general public.

    So let me get this right…Your a TOOL nerd that has no appreciation for the composition,musicality & musicianship of “SCHISM”. Your high point of the gig was when Justin wallowed a slightly out of tune vocal part, over the chorus of a song, thats originally by “Peach”. A song that consists of 2, maybe 3 chords and a chorus riff, & travels at a tempo of around 60-BPM. And whilst Adam Jones varied the intro notes of ‘Lateralus’, & into an extended version, that proceeded to a world class drum solo, that is virtually impossible to replicate by almost every other drummer on planet earth, YOU FELT NOTHING??? YOU FELT NOTHING???? WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU GET INTO BRO????

    No wonder you had a feeling of melancholy. What you experienced was something similar to say, a 3 year old child, sitting in on a university chemistry lecture.Your in the wrong class buddy!!! The “WOLFMOTHER” workshop is being held down the road, next door to the generic,banality,regurgitation workshop. Put your pen down, and do the world a favour….  kill yourself!!!

    Kind regards.


    Elsewhere: a conversation with Tool frontman, Maynard James Keenan.