Posts Tagged ‘syd barrett’

Bruce and Fran have many fond memories of Smith Street, from their first day of house-hunting when they wandered down from Fitzroy to see if it still deserved the sobriquet Smack Street and chose the road next to Safeway where the 24-hour drunks were holding court to the day, six months later, when – Fran’s initial fear of Collingwood overcome and a lease signed around the corner – they made their way to Safeway to shop for the first time.

As they approached along the pavement, they could see it was peak hour for the drunks with maybe a dozen gathered around the benches and bins next to the traffic lights. One man was particularly fired up, screaming incoherently into a woman’s face with such force that you half expected his emaciated, rotten frame to be thrown backwards Newton’s Third Law-stylee into the pane of glass behind. And, had the object of his rant not worn her hair in a manner only reasonably described as “beyond dank”, it would surely have been standing on end.

‘Best keep an eye on that one,’ thought Bruce as they approached, ensuring, like a chivalrous knight of old, that he kept his body between the loon and Fran.

At the moment they passed, the aggressor turned from his original prey, let out a neanderthal yelp (along the lines of “Nnnnyeeeeeaaaaaaarrrrrrrhhhhh”) and lashed out at Bruce, connecting with a force somewhere between a ball of cotton wool brushing one’s leg and a lamb nudging at its mother’s teet.

“Did that man just punch you?” asked Fran, unsure whether to laugh or show concern.

“Yes,” said Bruce. “I believe he did.”

Since then, Smith Street has offered a seemingly endless stream of incredible beards, men talking to inanimate objects, early morning drunks, tragic fashion victims, the most flamboyant of gays and the butchest of lesbians – even a man standing at the traffic lights in a giant foam hat with a plastic bag at his feet looking for all the world like he was about to cross but, in the time it took to drink a coffee, never actually stepping out.

Today may have taken the biscuit, however. At lunch outside Provenance, Bruce’s companion remarked regularly and with delight at the sights that passed them by, wishing Collingwood would lend some of its freaks to her North Fitzroy neck of the woods. She left too soon.

[Another tenuous youtube link]

As Bruce made his way home the VB drinkers outside the Punter’s Palace turned to heartily greet a friend. Said friend fitted the usual Palace look: blue wife-beater; greying, patchy ponytail. But he had one standout – sorry, two standout – features. On each shoulder he had a rat.

That’s right: rats. Not one, but two. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they were both dyed green.

Smith Street and all those who bestride thee: we salute you.


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Blatant plug for fantastic Melbourne band

Websites promoting the charms of this Collingwood punk rock institution are keen to highlight its sticky carpet. Don’t be misled, the carpet is long gone; all that remains is sticky. Sticky and a lot of facial hair.

On our second day in Melbourne, we asked the friendly homosexual opening our bank accounts in a suburb south of the Yarra what it was like on the other side (of the river, that is, not of the sexual divide).

“A lot more of your type,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“More beards.”

He wasn’t wrong. At least seven in every ten men at the Tote had one or more of a full covering, Noddy Holder sideburns, patchy bum fluff, lippy, goatee or perfectly manicured porno moustache. They also seemed not to have eaten in days if the stampede for the free bbq was anything to go by.

If you don’t need everything pristine, sanitised and branded and prefer your nights out with a little more grit, the Tote’s great. Six bands, from the faltering and experimental early acts to the genuinely captivating Kes Band (sometimes people have no choice in what they are and Kes’s Karl Scullin couldn’t not be a singer songwriter with his haunting Jonathan Donohue / Syd Barrett vocals and love of oddly beguiling melodies). There’s Coopers Sparkling and Mountain Goat Hightail on tap (and the Goat’s marvellous IPA in bottles) and people aged 30 and under having genuine, well-informed and passionate debates about the merits of Roy Orbison crescendos.

Just don’t expect the staff to smile.

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