Category Archives: nonsense

[Audio] #LLKYA Episode 2 “Noah’s Ark” – All new comedy podcast featuring Syntax, Mules, Haunts and Tactic One

Episode 2 of the new #LLKYA podcast is now available. in this episode there’s not a Mule to be found, Adam & Alex go beyond Thunderdome, I do a terrible Pacino impression, and we create the greatest Craigslist romance ad of all time. Download now at http://www.soundcloud.com/llkya

Confessions of an Agony Aunt – Humanity, Religion, and Shepherd’s Pie

Syntax The Musical PBS Cypher

I’m somewhat blessed with a multitude of jobs – Marketing Manager, app developer, graphic artist, copy writer, website designer; but none are more eye opening or indeed as fun as my daily adventures in other people’s private lives.

You see, I’m an agony aunt.

Albeit far removed from the gin soaked graying lesbian man eaters of community radio, or their polar opposite, the overt blonde 40 somethings, whose lives revolve around discussing erectile dysfunction and justifying copious amounts of liberal sex with anyone or anything that has two legs or a strap on.

I’m the man up front and centre for a series of ‘help’ related iPhone applications, ranging from relationship issues, through to the mind numbing mundane-ness of sport and trivia.

I already know what you’re thinking; yo dawg, sport? What do you know about sport? You’re about as sporty as an Albanian washing machine, and about as knowledgeable on the subject. Well, when it comes to sport there isn’t really much to know – I normally just rattle off a list of muscles that I invented (Bleets, Trutes, Biffords) and mention something about monosodiumhypertention – the lack of electrolytes in the underlying muscles of your running and lifting mass index areas.

The more attuned of you will realise that last bit was nonsense.

A steaming pile of number two in a broken toilet; a pork pie 400 miles high, filled to the brim with whoppers. Absolute bollocks so large that a small army of Chinese child workers will have grown up, raised a family, suppressed capitalism, and died long before they get a chance to sew together a pair of pants large enough to house them.

I was fibbing.

That goes to show the value of my counsel. It also shows the value of those receiving the advice; most of my rambling is met with positivity and admiration. Like we’re so eager to pass on the burden of bettering our own lives, we blindly leap into the suggestions of people that have absolutely no pre-conception of who we are.

However it’s not the sport, the trivia, the science, or even the relationship issues that disturb me the most. One such app I oversee is responsible for fielding questions from the religious community; I play the part of a Preacher, with my character firmly supplanted deep in the roots of the American Baptist Church ideology.

“But, you’re an atheist aren’t you?”

I am. I’ve made the definitive leap across the agnostic divide. But deep down I understand the folly of religion; ordinary people experiencing ordinary problems, interpreting them in a completely unique, and sometimes misguided way.

This is how you deal with questions regarding religion – the same way you deal with any question from a rational and desperate human being.

But before this careens off course into a long lost Shakespearian monologue, let’s dive into the meat of the article:

In the Confessional

I’ve come to understand a lot about religion while working as an agony aunt – not so much about the blindness of faith, but more so about redemption and concept of the soul.

Example: “The Bible says if you don’t believe in him you won’t go to heaven. What if as a kid I didn’t believe in him?”

God Kingdom of heaven children

I’m confronted by these confessions daily; individuals anxious and concerned about the mortality of their souls. My conclusion is that the concept of heaven has had a negative impact on those who were taught to fundamentally believe in the concept. Amid the lessons and selflessness evidenced by Jesus, are stapled on the selfish idealism of saving our souls. We witness it each day – confession itself was designed to absolve people of their sins, surely a pursuit that only has the motive of selfishly saving the soul of the wrong-doer?

Heaven has become something to attain, like a promotion at the workplace, with better pay, a better view, and the overwhelming knowledge that your mortal soul has been cleansed of sin for the express purpose of ‘keeping up with the Jeffersons’.

“Can a person be saved and still have no desire to read his bible?”

Saving soul bible

What has happened to acts of kindness? Where is this metaphysical rule book with attached yard stick for measuring the amount of times they read their bible, or the amount of Hail Mary’s they’ve recited as a child?

More importantly who are the people interpreting the words this way, and then preaching falseness to a bemused and bewildered flock?

Why has the focus become things that ‘I’ can do to be saved? Like a Titanic passenger in the freezing water shouting to passing row boats “Save ME, save ME, I’ll give you anything you want”.

“Is there a sin God cannot forgive?”

Forgiving sins

You mean apart from selfishness? Apart from the obvious fact that your belief system has become based not on how to better society, but on how to make sure you’re on the right side of the fence when the rapture comes, so you can wave to sinners saying “See you later losers” as you ascend into heaven?

To be honest it’s wrong for me to paint all Christians this way. To be honest, my family is deeply rooted in the Catholic Church – I don’t ever deny their faith or cast the same aspersions upon them. I can only present you with evidence from my place of work and hopefully reach a conclusion on the reality of Christian Baptists and how they seek help.

And why.

These people aren’t reaching out because they’re evil, or even really because they’re selfish, it’s because their religion and the ideologies of the people that taught them values are askew. It’s the only life they have ever known – a life that constantly makes them fearful, not just of displeasing God, but also for fear of displeasing the only Earthly people that love them – their family.

Naivety

My conclusion is that self preservation of the soul is driven by naivety and a misunderstanding of the world that they are connected to, but don’t interact with. It’s an amazing thing to consider; a sub-culture of deeply religious individuals entrenched in the same neighbourhoods and city districts as the rest of society.

Example: “Despite the bible says don’t be engaged with non-christian people, I’m in love with this person. I’m missing the church and I’m not happy about it. What should I do?”

non-christians

A genuine cry for help – an individual forced to choose between the person they deeply love and the notion that their church will turn their back on them for expressing that love. Several examples of this reveal themselves throughout the lifetime of the app.

In this instance the individual was convinced the Bible preaches segregation, making special reference to the notion of ‘Christians’ – an amusing thought, considering the Bible was written before the advent of modern Christianity. But the pain is real.

What we have here isn’t a cry for religious guidance, it’s a heartfelt outpouring of emotion over flying in the face of family to love whoever our heart desires; a cry that is heavily veiled in the cloak of religious doctrine and ideology. Every day people are forced to choose between existing peacefully and happily, and saving their souls from damnation:

“Is it wrong for a female to marry a female no matter how deeply in love they are?”

gay female marriage

On the surface we could easily mistake this question as a folly; the random rambling from a curious mind. But the phrasing “Is it wrong…” makes me instantly think of a cry for help. A young woman that has already committed what she thinks is a crime, and is trying to justify her actions by seeking counseling from the man that can tell her right from wrong, in a religious counseling app that bypasses her need to discuss the topic with her pastor, or even worse, her parents. My answer was thus:

“The Bible is a quagmire of opposing ideologies on the issue – we’re taught homosexuality is wrong, but we’re also told to respect God’s creations. Respect love. Love is a beautiful thing and is God’s creation; they may not be able to marry in a church, but their existence is sanctioned by God”

No, I’m not a Christian, but all I can do is answer these questions with respect to both their religion, and also respecting how society truly thinks. The intention here was to take the argument out of the ‘Gay’ arena, and put it up there with the framework of “That’s how God made us”.

My only hope in all of this is that I’ve helped this person accept that how God made them is who they truly are, and the love she feels for another woman was given to her by who she sees as her creator.

My job isn’t to tell them the truth, it’s to tell them what they want to hear – to stop them from teetering over the tipping point and deliver them to a place that they feel their religion could never deliver them to – being allowed to be what God made them to be.

They turn to counseling for help, for a warm hug that reassures them that they’re not broken, that they’re not freaks that are destined to be outcast by the friends and family that up until now have sworn to care for them and protect them.

“Is gay marriage wrong?”
“ Catholics believe during communion that the wafer and wine is actually the body and blood of Jesus, is that possible?”
“As an umarriage [sic] couple can u hug, cuddle, n even kiss as long as it’s nothing inappropriate?”
“Will marrying a non believer effect my relationship with God and my future kids relationships with God? Will he go to heaven with me?”

Questions from curious minds, all of them completely oblivious to the world changing around them, oblivious to the doctrines of other religions beside their own, and scared of loving someone outside their religion for fear of falling from god’s grace.

I can never judge these people; in many ways I feel pity – the countless souls flittering through the app all seem to share a similar story. That is, a group of individuals trying to justify the values they have grown up with, all while living life in ordinary society.

These aren’t idiots these are real human beings, all of them attempting to answer questions that we see as mundane by objectifying the only reference they’ve ever known; God.

And every now and then you get a message that tears away at your heart – something that brings the stereotype of crazy Christian fundamentalism down to everyone’s level.

Humanity

“I heard on TV that a baby that died before being baptized would not go to heaven, but to limbo or purgatory. Is this true? My baby girl died of SIDS 1 week before her baptism. Where is she?”

baby baptism

And here we come to crux of the article, the meaty globule at the centre of this slow baked shepherd’s pie. Under the slow burning outer crust of religious doctrine and mashed potato is the bubbling meat of humanity – the effervescent alarm that booms loudly in all pre-conceived notion you’ve ever had of religious zealously.

Quivering in the centre of the pie is humanity – a family that throughout the most interminable hardship anyone can imagine have kept to their faith. They never dared question God’s rule, God’s law, or even God’s existence. It is the summation of everything I’ve spoken about here: Naivety, yard sticks, and the concern for the soul.

This question is merely the justification that an atheist is the best person to take the reins; a delicate situation that requires going outside religious ideology. In this instance we aren’t simply speaking to a Christian, we are speaking directly to a mother.

Ironically I prayed my response held weight:

“I am so sorry to hear that, you have my heartfelt sympathy. This is delicate. There are no rules to God’s love – your baby was innocent, she was loved while she was still with us and is still loved. The concept of purgatory is unsupported; heaven and Earth are truly one and the same. God is everywhere and is everything. So in death your child is with him. Take heart.”

I was angry, I wanted to find whoever made this ridiculous television program and shake them violently. The selfishness of church control had stepped beyond governing the lives of souls old enough to make their own decisions and was busy supplanting fear into the hearts of parents with children that couldn’t even feed themselves.

I wanted to line up the Westboro Baptist churches of the world and shout at them – I wanted them to stop their purile vulgar attempts at righteousness, and as an atheist I wished more than anything in the world that God truly existed if only for him to see just how far the interpretations of his word had sunk into the depths of depravity.

And in this moment it somewhat made sense – I started planning this blog many moons ago, with the intention of showing just how cooky and bizarre religious zealousy can be. But along the way I learned a valuable lesson in humanity.

Before I was filling a role that a more qualified counselor wasn’t available to do, and by the end I realised qualifications aren’t even needed. When we genuflect, touch our palms and look to god for guidance we know the answer will never come, and our prayers are simply a reflection on our own humanity – a way to find a sane voice in a world that religious ideology is finding it harder and harder to keep up with.

We pray not because we think God is listening, but because we hope someone more earthly is.

[Video] Goonbag Radio – M16 Freestyles #6 ‘Syntax’

So after a few months of setbacks, I finally got a chance to drop my M16

Props to Bwiv on the video tip, Nevs for being a top bloke, and also Bad, Meet Evil for the headwear…

The last two tracks are a little out of sync, but you get the idea

The Syntax Memoir – A gorilla in the corner

DJ Gorilla Music Hip Hop Rap

A gorilla in the corner

It’s not uncommon for me to consistently put my foot in my mouth, and as you thumb through the pages of this journal you will soon discover an underlying theme of embarrassment and humiliation that reeks through the text and into your pores.

I half expect you to stop reading, and hastily retreat to that little shelf you have in the cupboard under the sink that is filled with ancient roach traps and metal scourers, all in an effort to retrieve the fetid rubber gloves you have stuffed beside the bottle of armour-all, just so you can stop that icky feeling whenever your fingers dance across the keyboard and read these pages.

For me it’s always been natural to eat my own words, or recoil in absolute horror at the useless tidbits of information that occasionally pour out of my well fed cake hole; no more so then when I casually walked around Robina Town Centre.

To those uninitiated with the Gold Coast, Robina Town Centre is a gargantuan eyesore, smack bang in the middle of an extremely busy thoroughfare that extends from the Pacific Highway all the way up to the back roads of the Northern Gold Coast.

It is a shopping centre that has undergone numerous transformations, and in an effort to survive against other centres, RTC’s latest incarnation scrapped the traditional layout to cram in as many pretentious over-priced fashion outlets as possible.

I’m convinced in the future that’s all human beings will use as currency, fashion. Stroll through your average shopping complex and count the number of fashion stores in comparison to other retail outlets. I predict a day when social economic boundaries no longer exist, and the traditional methods of detecting ones social status will be through the type of car they drive, no longer in how they present themselves aesthetically.

The upper class is slowly disappearing.

Think about it; political correctness and social equity means that nobody can be excluded from shopping, dining or even visiting certain places. We no longer save money how we used to, and have a lot more disposable income. We splurge on expensive restaurants more frequently, and even those people who were once excluded from high society now have a place at luxurious nightspots, sat next to Gordon Gecko.

The boom in media, agriculture and property also means that people who come from less desirable backgrounds now infect cultured society.

Fashion, once the last bastion of urbane sophistication, is now blurred and shares the same air conditioned strip as Sportsgirl, the Apple Store, and Borders Books and (shithouse) Coffee.

Once Mercedes drops their price it’s all over red rover.

Alas, it was among the homogenised fashion strip of Robina Town Centre that some friends and I decided to pop into a uselessly named men’s fashion store; you know the ones, with a double syllable name that sounds like it’s meant to be foreign, but is actually just a mish mash of nonsensical phrases.

Litche.

Phonetically I think it is pronounced Lee-Chay.

Wow, pretentiousness has reached new heights.

The thing that annoys me about pretentiousness is when the people instigating the snootiness have absolutely no reason to do so, other than to appear that they belong to a different social or economic grouping.

Newsflash, Tusk on Chapel St is very average; it takes too long to get served, the coffee is no better than anywhere else, and the prices are inflated because the owners realise that dumb schmucks like you will pay extra to be sat there.

It’s an amazing social phenomenon that says more about the consumer than it does about business.

Again, I digress.

As we walked past Litche, my other two friends conversed.

“Jeff”, Antonio remarked, “There’s a really cute girl that works here that I think you would really like”.

We all stopped, looked at Litche, and with the promise of a cute salesgirl drew as closer to the shopfront.

As we approached we noticed huddled into the corner of the window display was an extremely muscled man in a shirt so tight it looked like he was being strangled by blue-green algae.

It seemed odd; his hands danced over the knobs of the mixer, and occasionally his hands would move backwards and forwards over the CDJ’s and spin the decks backwards.

He certainly looked the part, well, he looked like he had been watching other DJ’s in clubs and was copying action by action what he had observed the night before at a techno trance neon super rave.

As his hands danced over the equipment, nothing happened to the music.

Ok, well obviously he’s previewing the mix in his headphones first (which in true club DJ style was glued between his raised shoulder and his ear) I thought.

Seconds later the next song awkwardly shuttered into life, and without so much as any sort of mix at all, he simply pressed play on the CD player and switched the fader from one side to the other. As he did so, his hands danced across the knobs of the mixer once more, and he began to play with the CDJ’s like he was Qbert defending his title as one of the most awesome scratch DJ’s ever in existence.

I giggled, and as I did so the cute salesgirl who we had been warned about approached out of the gloom.

“How are we today guys?” she asked.

Jeff, being sickeningly shy and coy offered up a simple “Good thanks” and casually browsed the brightly coloured men’s shirts that were adorned with price tags so ludicrous that they bended the very laws of physics and the universe.

The salesgirl, noticing my complete disinterest in any of the clothes (not to mention the fact that their XXL was really only a traditional L) turned her attention to me, and offered me a passing comment.

“Do you like our DJ?”

I turned and looked at Popeye, he still had one ear of the headphones off, and his dancing hands resembled those of someone whose oven mitts had caught fire putting a pizza into a wood stove.

“Yeah, he’s, errrr…..” was all I could say.

The girl smiled politely and began to walk off.

“He’s not actually doing anything” I blurted out.

Did I just say that? It was in my head a second before, but somehow I just blurted out exactly what I was thinking to the back of the salesgirl’s head.

She turned around, still with the polite smile on her face, “Sorry? I missed that” she remarked.

What do I do? Do I continue telling her what’s on my mind, or for the sake of Jeff do I just keep my stupid mouth shut and pretend that I said something completely different? I mean, this guy could be her boyfriend for fuck’s sake…..but, in that case then do I really need to keep my mouth shut?

“He’s not actually doing anything” I said louder.

Yep, fuck it. Enough small talk, I’m telling her exactly how it is.

“You don’t like him?” she asked.

“Well I mean you can’t really miss the Gorilla in the corner” I blurted. Wait, did I just call him a gorilla? Why did I do that?

She awkwardly smiled.

“I mean, he’s pretending to do stuff on the mixer” I continued. The music was a little too loud at this point, and either she didn’t hear me properly or she was pretending to have misheard me so she could get a clarification that I had actually said what I just said.

“Sorry?”

“I SAID HE’S PRETENDING TO DO STUFF” my voice boomed over the top of the loud tune.

Whether in defense of the DJ or just in general interest, she casually asked me, “Do you want to have a go?” and swept her hand towards the DJ like a girl on the price is right motioning towards an overpriced set of gold clubs or a jet ski.

I didn’t know how to react, and just casually shook my head, gave her a slight smirk, and shifted uneasily on my feet.

“Are you a DJ?” she asked, and turned herself around to walk back towards the counter where she had just emerged from.

I cast a brief glance to my left, where my friend Antonio was watching me with a smile on his face. He shook his head, baffled at my small talk, and continued to browse clothes.

The girl hadn’t got more than two steps away before my brain decided my foot wasn’t lodged firmly in my mouth far enough.

“I’m kind of a DJ” I sheepishly responded.

KIND OF? What did I mean by that? I’m not a DJ, the closest foray I’ve ever had into being a DJ is getting drunk and making that ‘wicky wicky’ noise with my mouth as I stood over someone else’s Technics 1200’s.

She turned back, and again, awkwardly asked me to repeat myself.

“I’M KIND OF A DJ” I shouted back. Why was I saying these things?

“What does kind of mean?” she quizzically asked. Her question was valid, I mean, I didn’t even know what I was talking about. I had no answer, in fact, for a millisecond I asked myself the very same thing.

“No it’s ok, it’s nothing” I joked, and began sifting through electric blue button up shirts on a rack in front of me. I pretended to take a keen interest in them in the vain hope the girl would turn away and walk off, however somehow I had piqued her curiosity, and she began to probe me some more.

“Are you a DJ? Do you want to have a go?” she asked.

“No no it’s fine, I’m ok”

“So you’re kind of a DJ?”

She wouldn’t let it go.

“If you want to have a go, just go and jump on” she barked back at me. I used every ounce of my strength to not throw in “That’s what she said” at the end of her statement.

She began to walk off again, and for some bizarre reason my brain decided that it was at this precise moment to respond to her question.

“I’d rather be doing something more constructive” I said, “like save children or something”.

Speaking to the back of her head, she turned around and asked me to repeat what I had just said. To be honest I’m not entirely sure what I had just said myself, all I could remember was the line about saving children.

“I WOULD RATHER BE SAVING CHILDREN” I shouted, trying to be heard over the top of the music provided by the gorilla in the corner.

The awkwardness was compiled by the fact I had to shout my responses back to her, at the time I felt like all the magic had been lost as I had to repeat myself more and more.

Magic? Was I kidding? Looking back it was the most uselessly awkward small talk in history. I would have got the same reaction had I simply said “I’m a kiddy fiddler” to all and sundry and went about sifting through the racks for bargains.

This time she didn’t respond, she just murmured “Saving Chidren?” softly under her breath, gave me a strange look, and cast her gaze in the direction of my friends.

“Right, let’s go” Antonio grabbed me, and motioned Jeff towards the exit.

As we passed by the gorilla, I received a slap across the head.

“It’s been a while since you’ve spoken to a woman huh?”

As we stumbled awkwardly into the distance, I looked back over my shoulder and caught a glimpse of the ape. His hands continued to dance across the decks as though he was channeling the creative spirits of Grandmaster Caz and Kool Herc.

As I watched him slowly fade into the background of people, I came to a sad and frighteningly real conclusion:

Even a simple simian had a better grasp of social intercourse than I do.

The Syntax Memoir – “Welcome to Silent Hill” The ups and downs of Newcastle

The Syntax memoir – Welcome to Silent Hill

Syntax Memoir Silent Hill Rap Music Girl Newcastle

It’s amazing how much impact you can have with a single show; as I would later discover, the word ‘impact’ has implications and meanings that go beyond the very nature of the word. When it comes to spending time in Newcastle, seemingly the concept of ‘impact’ is a very real and physical thing to experience.

This particular story begins harmlessly enough with an offer to support Vents in Melbourne. Another act had to pull out of the support lineup, and after some text exchanges with DJ Flagrant, I bundled my shit together to put on an impromptu set at the Espy.

I say impromptu, however that doesn’t really cut the mustard. To be honest, tsunami and earthquake victims get more warning than I did. In all no more than three hours separated the moment from when I got off the phone until I was expected to walk the boards and perform that night.

I’m always nervous before a show, and the confidence that I’m quite often known for rapidly dissipates in that golden 10 mins before show time. I lose all ability to recall a single lyric, and on most occasions even as I step onto the stage the opening line to my entire gambit is as foreign to me as a makeshift Indian toilet is to a rich kid from Toorak.

“Wait, where’s the seat?”

Somehow despite the issue of little time I managed to pull an impressive set out of my arse, one that managed to turn a few heads and create a few more Syntax fans.

My manager urged me, “Hit up Adfu for more shows” and after several beers and an indeterminate amount of slurred speech, I had somehow scored another support slot in Newcastle.

I had only ever been to Newcastle once before – passing through the town in the front seat of my brother’s 4WD, casually watching the greenery of Northern NSW undergo slow and tranquil metamorphosis into the soot covered brick veneer of the steel city.

We had taken a wrong turn and somehow ended up on the main strip – a single train line slowly dissipated, and the forlorn shops soon melted away into a rocky cliff face overlooking a flurry of boats slowly circling a distressed Pasha Bulker.

While the locals flocked in droves to watch the ship resting calmly on the beachfront, we came to the conclusion we had come the wrong way, and quickly circled around and left the town as quickly as we had come.

Needless to say, when I booked my flights to support Vents, my knowledge on NSW’s second largest city was limited – about as limited as the options in a Tasmanian fish and chip shop.

“Errr, fish or chips?”

The plan was simple and fiendish – book an early flight in the morning to save money, spend some time wandering around experiencing the highlights that the inner city has to offer, and then party on until the early morning, where hopefully I’ll be leaving the local bars and pubs just in time to jump on the first flight at 6am.

Fiendish, simple, easy.

Of course when it comes to anything Syntax related, the concepts of ‘Simple’ and ‘easy’ are about as likely to be a reality as Jessica Alba falling into my lap out of a passing plane while demanding from me non stop rigorous anal sex while rolling around on a bed of cash……that she would give me afterwards.

The first thing I would come to discover about Newcastle, is that Newcastle Airport isn’t actually in Newcastle.

Oh, your ticket will SAY you’re going to Newcastle, but you will in fact be landing in a completely different town, one that is nestled closely on the outskirts of the city. Of course, being somewhat rural NSW, the public transport to and from said airport is barely registerable. The roadkill that littered the small and inoffensive terminal was out in greater numbers than any of the buses that were said to frequent the premises.

After leaving the gate I found myself face to face with a bus, and after a brief discussion with the driver I was told I had to wait for the next one. Seemingly it was only then that a passing mother of six whispered softly in my ear that the departing bus was indeed the bus I was meant to take.

“When is the next one?”

“About an hour”

An hour? What the fuck am I meant to do for an hour? Do you know what goes on in the space of an hour? Entire empires rise and fall in the space between the airport shuttle bus. Even Gold Coast Surfside services, complete with nonchalant drivers and crystal ball evoking timetables are more effective than the ‘not-so Newcastle’ airport buses.

Somehow a Taxi had ended up at the airport like a lost dog wandering from house to house, and after pushing over an old woman into a bin I ran into the street and threw myself across the windshield.

The polite elderly white man behind the wheel presumably wasn’t used to the fancy ‘Melbourne’ way of getting a cab, and after a round of expletives coarse enough to make a randy sailor blush, he let me into the front seat and proceeded to tell me that my destination was over 30 minutes away.

“Exquize me? Baking powder? How far away is it?”

“About 30KM”

I sat and watched the money slowly rise, and with each and every turn leading to another long winded road with no end in sight, I began to curse myself for lacking patience enough to endure a single hour of waiting.

$70 later I was deposited at my destination, a dimly lit and dilapidated strip of shops that I was assured was the central hub of Newcastle.

As I looked around, all I could think was that ‘Newcastle’ had been spelled incorrectly on the street signs, it clearly should be spelled “S-I-L-E-N-T-H-I-L-L”.

I blinked and rubbed my eyes – all I could see was a single street, carved on both sides by row after row of empty shop front. Most shops were barren dank shells, while others boasted stale bread, advertisements for scratchies, and discounts for concession card holders. The brightest store in town was a modest bridal fashion store, with dresses in the shop window that looked like they had been stitched together by blind Estonian immigrants in second rate working conditions.

I spent four hours wandering backwards and forwards, looking in vain for something that resembled 21st century design and manufacture, and after following the trail of a single row of modern looking shops, I found myself out the front of a modest KFC.

I sighed, and spent an hour inside looking at my phone, all while trying to avoid the stares of acne ridden Lowes polo shirt adorned workmen and their overweight and rum stained girlfriends.

My plan to set the day ablaze with the sights and smells of inner Newcastle had faded away faster than hypercolour t-shirts, and after five hours of wandering I had seen nothing more than a bookshop, a strangely designed shopping centre, four thousand empty shops, and the confines of an under-staffed and underwhelming KFC.

I looked at my watch and thanked god that Sound Check was imminent.

Well I say that, I actually had no idea at all, the brief on the show was practically non existent, and my plans for soundcheck had been gleaned by eagerly reading the twitter updates of all the protagonists involved.

“Oh, they’re at the venue” was all I could mutter as I trudged slowly towards to the small and inoffensive pub where the evening’s events would take place.

I would soon discover that my presence wasn’t needed – and after wandering a boring and empty city for several hours, I was deposited back on to the streets to wait for another few hours in the rainy and bleak conditions that had suddenly formed over the inner city.

Seemingly I had also underestimated the cold – I had left Melbourne on a balmy early spring day, and although it was a touch nippy I had opted to take very little with me in the way of clothing. I mean, let’s face it, my barnstorming idea for an early flight early departure negated the need to pack anything more than the clothes that adorned my back.

It soon became obvious that my thin and unflattering hoodie just wasn’t cutting the mustard – as far as mustard cutting goes I was attempting to sheer a rainforest with a pair of hello kitty safety scissors.

The rain bellowed down, and I wandered further into the cold abyss than I had done all day. The empty streets had suddenly come alive as workers were cut loose from their employment, and a swarm of umbrellas spilled on to the pavement eagerly pressing themselves into buses and waiting trains.

All the while I wandered, wet, cold and with nowhere to go.

My feet ached, but I pressed on.

Soon the inner city clutter disappeared, and before me opened up a part of the city I hadn’t yet experienced – tiny roads splintered across steep hills like thinly split veins splattering themselves over the grey landscape. They wandered between the buildings, which were modern in construction, and boasted an array of modern stores, cafes and interesting knick knack emporiums.

I was gobsmacked.

It was like a passing Persian had whispered “Open Sesame”, and the chain smoking gaunt faced thugs had instantly changed themselves into beautiful young tight jean wearing bubble butt women, all the while the barren shop fronts rolled up like garage doors to reveal a modern and attractive city scene.

Apparently I had spent all my time in slumsville, and only after had all the stores closed had I discovered the true pounding heart of the town.

I found myself a café, purchased a flat white’s worth of wall space and iphone recharge socket, and sat and waited until showtime.

After another hour, I was confident that I had enough power pushed into my phone, and slowly trudged my way back across the main road down into the ghetto.

I passed a dimly lit and equally grim “Public Housing Office”, and all I could think was that Newcastle’s public housing crisis could be easily avoided by giving waiting families the keys to one of the many empty shops that infested the entire cityscape.

The first act was Kerser, who had made the trip up from Sydney, and soon shouted the lyrics of all his songs to a confused and slightly reserved audience that seemingly were backing away in fear at his over the top attitude and forceful demeanor that resembled a stab wound attached to every bar.

Johnny Utah had also put in an appearance, and after exchanging pleasantries and nerd infused chit chat I clambered on to the stage to kick off the set.

One thing was definitely on point that night – I don’t think I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with a mic that sounded as awesome and crisp as the one I held in my hand that night. Normally as the music bellows I find myself shouting over the top of a flat and empty stage. This night however I felt confident.

I had also dispensed with a DJ – relying instead of operating the CDJ that had been placed on to the stage by the stage manager. It was easy enough, press play, the track ends, I press play again when I wanted it to go.

Nothing could go wrong.

“Wassup everyone! HOW ARE WE NEWCASTLE?!” I shouted. The crowd responded.

We were off to a good start.

I mentioned who I was, people nodded in appreciation, and the spectacle of the Syntax stage show began.

To say I was off to a flying start was putting it lightly – I felt so on point, so precise, every word was timed perfectly and the mic and the fold backs were doing me all the favours in the world in making sure the entire process was easy, simple and crowd shattering effective.

That was until I fell off the stage.

Like a lion standing atop a rock I strutted, and then all the majesty and ponce that is attributed to the king of the jungle slowly faded into the ether; the big cat proved itself to be a kitten and tumbled down the side of the rock face in front of the rest of the pride.

Two large speakers had been attached to the stage – well, I say attached. In fact two large holes had been cut into the stage to allow the speakers to fit in nicely. Of course, the holes that were cut into the stage were not perfect, in fact, you could say that they were made a foot too big.

‘My’ foot too big.

While strutting backwards in a display of swagger and pompery, my foot had got caught in one of the holes and wedged itself between the speaker and the stage; I tumbled backwards mid song with all the grace of a lemming falling off a bridge into a lake of molten lava.

The music kept playing.

There was no DJ to stop the show.

The entire crowd stopped and looked, I heard an audible laugh, and the allure and mystique of Syntax burst like a refined English gentleman had just been dacked in the centre of Piccadilly Circus.

I dusted myself off, skipped to the next track, and the show went on.

I slinked off the stage and licked my wounds, there was no ‘backstage’ area, no rider, and I was eating into my savings by trying to drown myself in cheap bar purchased schooners.

Among the chaos of Vents’ set, I surreptitiously muzzled myself up to one the venues many wall sockets and proceeded to charge my phone – I looked at my watch, it was 11:30pm. Still another six and a half hours until my flight.

Well, I thought, everyone here is having a good time. Usually the show will go on till about 1am, there’ll be drinks after, chilling out with the punters, maybe a bar or two to visit afterwards.

Things were panning out just fine.

It was at this point that a young lady sidled up next to me and started conversation.

Alright, I’m on here.

I adjusted my metaphysical tie and made nice with the talky talky.

My thoughts of riding the stinky mattress train until 6am were soon interrupted by a drunken swaying man that proceeded to plop himself in between myself and my impromptu date.

“Errr hi, how are you mate?” I blurted.

“Fuckkkknnn good aye”, he muttered with speech so slurred I felt the entire time space continuum had collapsed and we had wandered into a passing time bubble, “awesome fuckkknn show aye buddy”.

“Cheers mate” I replied.

Hiro Nakamura, the man who could control time and space, then proceeded to put his arm around the young girl and the two kissed tightly.

Apparently, it was his girlfriend. I retreated to the opposite facing sofa and wormed my way out of the situation by making idle chit chat.

We talked calmly and nicely until midnight, when my entire world was shattered when a passing security guard ordered everybody to vacate the premises.

“C’MON EVERYONE, OUT YOU GO, WE’RE CLOSING UP”

Wait, what? It’s midnight. What do you mean closing up? It’s Friday night, we’re in a town populated with nothing but drinkers, smokers and sex addicted factory workers, what do you mean you’re closing up?

My plan to stay at the venue was blown to dust.

To complicate matters the polite couple invited me back to their house.

“It’s ok, we’re not going to rape you” he drunkenly assured me. Alarm bells ringed loudly. When someone has to re-assure you that rape isn’t an option, more than likely rape is imminent.

I declined their offer and stepped into the cold, dark, rainy night.

The streets around were empty, I wandered up to find somewhere warm to rest and have a beer, but every bar, pub and speakeasy had closed its doors at midnight, presumably so the townsfolk could gather in a paddock somewhere and burn some heathens in the Wicker Man.

I slumped into a chair, frozen, underdressed, defeated, and looked at my watch.

It was 12:30am.

I still had another 5 and a half hours to fill until my flight.

My iPhone buzzed its low battery warning once more, and I admitted ultimate defeat.

I hailed a passing cab, slid into the passenger seat, and told him to take me 30km out of town to the non-Newcastle Newcastle airport.

“Airports are open 24 hours mostly” I told myself, “Yeah, I mean there are red eye flights all the time going in and out of Melbourne. I’ll just sit myself down in the warmth of the empty departure lounge, plug my phone into a wall socket, and have a peaceful sleep until my flight is ready to leave”.

Simple.

Of course as we have already established the words ‘simple’ and ‘easy’ mean nothing in the world of Syntax.

The Taxi driver deposited me out the front of an empty and darkened terminal, only a few feet away from the bus station that had begun my long winded downward spiral into the underbelly of NSW’s second largest metropolis.

As he sped away into the night, my dreams of a warm and comforting sleep exploded into nothingness when the automatic doors of Terminal 1 failed to open.

After I had scraped what remained of my head off the closed door, I sat down on a bench, cursed myself till I was blue in the face, and waited.

Of course I didn’t have to wait long until I was blue in the face – the temperature had dropped to 4 degrees.

At that moment in time I would have murdered a family of ducks for warm clothing – I toyed with the possibility of catching and skinning a passing rabbit for its pelt, and as it ducked under a nearby Mazda I fell to the ground a broken, spent, sore, cold and tired human being.

I sighed, huddled behind a bus shelter for warmth, and reminded myself that every artist goes through this on their way to the top.

Yeah, they must.

They must.

The Syntax Memoir: Cheesecake are performing

Cheesecake are performing

Cheesecake rap music syntax gigs

We’ve all done terrible gigs, every big name will tell you their horror stories. Those nights where no matter how many people you tell, how many posters you effortlessly glue to walls, and how much press you can muster, the sounds of pins dropping echo hauntingly through an empty venue.

An under-attended and over budgeted gig is seemingly just one among the many yellow bricks that every musician has to lay in the ever lengthening road to the wizard of oz.

I’ve got incredible bad luck.

It seems to be woven tenderly into the fabric of my clothes, and even when I go to sleep at night some evil bad luck demon seems to spoon me and drain any sliver of good fortune from my slumbering person.

My friends have seen it too, and on numerous occasions they often remark, “That could only ever happen to you”.

It seems to be a theme that runs through the pages of this memoir, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I discover that upon reading this your hard drive crashes, deletes all your un-backed up data, and you lose your hidden stash of pornography.

You know, the videos and pictures you keep inside an unmarked folder, in another folder, in another folder, in a robotically boring folder you’ve named “Drivers”.

“This plan is brilliant. Even if someone opens the folder by accident, and hey why would they it’s only a folder filled with drivers, they wouldn’t keep clicking another three times to find what’s contained in the adjoining folders”.

Sure.

Back on the subject of terrible shows, it’s always the early shows that prepare you for the uncertainty of the local hip hop industry. Coming from the Gold Coast, the small town and small scene syndrome is magnified a million times, and the very first shows I ever performed were terrible and characteristically boring.

At one such show with the Winnie Coopers, the boys and I were able to walk around the venue while we performed and shake the hands of everyone in attendance that night.

There were two people there, and one had only come because she really fancied my good friend Antonio and wanted to get off with him. At least somebody had some luck that night.

Sometime in 2001 we were approached by two local show promoters; shady characters that had the appearance of bikies, and when they spoke they struck the kind of fear into your heart that’s only reserved for army drill sergeants who call you a maggot and ask you to do 100 pushups.

To this day I’m completely unsure how they found us, all I remember is that we were very young, and very afraid to say ‘no’ to the two men who were now standing in our living room telling us all about the show they would soon be putting on.

“Oh it’s great, it’s a local show case” one man bellowed, his beefy tattooed arm jiggled as his hands flew around in front of him in excitement.

“We’ve organised over $10,000 in radio and print promotion” the other chimed in. It was like a routine that was choreographed to perfection. As we pondered our response, the man with the beefy arms leaned across the table and gave us a wry smile.

“Cheesecake are performing” he said though a crocodile smile, one eyebrow raised like the wind had changed direction and left him with a look on his face that resembled a Jim Carrey sex scene.

Somehow that was meant to be the clincher, the promise that Cheesecake were performing was the star studded carrot that was dangled in front of the Donkey to get it moving. It was like his trump card, the metaphysical rolling up of sleeves as he brought out the big guns.

We all sat in our seats completely dumb founded.

Cheesecake….THE Cheesecake were performing on the very same stage that we were soon to grace with a presence of our own.

The two burley men tipped their hats, bid us good day, and as their car crept its way out of the drive way I leaned across to the others and with every ounce of conviction I could muster, boldly asked the question I’m sure everyone was thinking:

“Who the fuck is Cheesecake?”

It was the first of many lessons we would learn, that being never trust anything anyone ever says about a live event. The second thing we learned that was Cheesecake were obviously very much clued in with the first lesson, and as the four of us trundled out of our car for soundcheck we were greeted with the news that Cheesecake were not performing.

No Cheesecake, not even a lemon tart.

It appears that they had the incredibly good fortune to be able to smell a rat, and the $10,000 in radio and print promotion either didn’t exist, or it was the biggest waste of money since the Irish Traders Corporation banded together to sink all of their funds into waterproof tea bags, pedal powered wheelchairs and submarines with screen doors.

Our first hint should have came when we turned up at the venue; the Runaway Bay community hall. Not only was it on the arse end of the Gold Coast, but the promoters were not able to secure rights to use the large and effective stage area, and we were forced to set up our equipment in a tiny portable DJ booth that had been hastily assembled on the side of the tiny indoor basketball court.

Apparently acoustics could go to hell.

The inevitable glimpse of hope came when the other group members uttered the immortal words, “It will sound different when the place is filled with people”. Those are quite possibly the most comforting words anyone can say during soundcheck, and I’m sure it’s a legal requirement for all sound technicians in every venue across the country to lean in at the appropriate time and softly mention it to every person who takes the stage.

They must be the most widely spoken words ever heard at a gig, well, apart from “$6 for a pot? You’re joking”.

Unfortunately the place wouldn’t sound better when ‘the place is filled with people’, because the place never filled with people.

In all about 10 punters strolled through the doors, most of whom spent the entire time hanging themselves out the side door, puffing on as many smokes as their underage lungs could handle before their parents came and picked them up and ruined their cigarette filled dreams.

Frustrated with the event we threw our hands in the air and casually strolled out of the hall towards the car. A puffy event organiser with jiggling tattooed arms caught us in the doorway.

“You can’t leave now, all of these people have come all the way to see you”.

We surveyed the scene; a handful of youths wandered around the empty basketball court looking dreary eyed, perched on the fence between boredom and tedium. As the tattooed arms jiggled with intense ferocity, the guilt trip was set upon us, and the thoughts of those few individuals leaving the venue without getting their money’s worth created a sense of remorse within us that I haven’t really felt since.

We lowered our heads and strolled back inside.

To compile matters, only one corded microphone had been provided for the evening. Simple mathematics died slowly that night as three emcees had to make do by passing the singular mic around to each other after each verse.

Picture the scene, three young rappers passing around a corded mic while standing on a dimly lit basketball court on the back end of the Gold Coast. Behind them a florescent yellow DJ booth spluttered and crackled, while an embarrassed looking DJ tried his best to not look like the driver of a mardi-gras float that was driving its way up the hall to dock with the navy vessel HMAS Blowjob.

All the while 10 uninterested youths walked between the toilet, the kiosk and the smoking area while deliberately sticking their palms in the faces of the performers in defiance of the show.

Perhaps they were Cheesecake fans.

I often wonder if it would have been more effective to have an actual cheesecake perform than the band with the same title. After our act, the man with the jiggling tattooed arms could easily have placed a cheesecake atop a bar stool in front of a microphone, and easily have gotten a better response from the crowd than any of the music.

More people would have been left satisfied that night.

So the next time in passing when you hear people talk about their nightmare gigs, spare a thought for Syntax.

Spare a thought for the man who created less impact at a live show than a slice of fermented dairy product on a compacted biscuit base.

Even with $10,000 in radio and print promotion.

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