At the end of the first panel of the very first ever Rock & Roll Writers Festival in Australia (Brisbane), the very wonderful author, Nicole Hayes, told us, from the audience, that she learned the pattern and rhythm of words as a young girl, by listening to the lyrics of Don Walker‘s songs. This pretty much summed up why we had all gathered, on this humid, sticky-frickin’ hot weekend at the Brightside in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. The audience and the speakers were all there to celebrate the primal, healing, exciting and passionate rhythm and pattern that we find in words; in novels, music memoirs, song lyrics and the critics’ examination of them. Words have power and my golly god we had some fun talking, lots and lots of talking; having blistering, hilarious and emotional conversations about the words that swirl in and about rock & roll – from the songs to the memoirs to the reviews and commentaries.
The inaugural Rock and Roll Writers Festival was in one word – a triumph (‘a’ doesn’t count as a word does it?) It was a glorious celebration and jollification of diversity in music and the literature which surrounds it. The two day festival buzzed and crackled with a vibrant and sexy energy, in true rock & roll form!
In the sultry hub of Fortitude Valley (a character in itself), tucked away in the the very chill, very funked-up Brightside Hotel, a collection of ragamuffin writers, musicians, performers and commentators joined together to create a weekend long party to revel in what we love most – the rhythm and pattern of words.
After a pointed but warm welcome to country by Bob Weatherall (yes Australia – we can do better!) the festival opened with My Back Pages, led by Sean Sennett, which produced some fascinating banter between rock-writing veteran, Chris Salewicz, the absolute legend, Ritchie Yorke and musician Don Walker, who would later teach me about the Oxford comma. (I have clearly grown up because as a young groupie I’d be snorting cocaine and undressing rock-stars….now I’m having conversations with them about punctuation!)
The day was warm, the sky was blue but man oh man there were a lot of cool cats roaming the venue.
The highlight of Day One for me was the Freakin’ and Peakin’ panel which examined the cliche of drugs and alcohol in rock n roll. Do they help or hinder the creative process? Well jeeez…that was always gonna open a can of worms but who would have thought those worms would be so outrageously entertaining!?? Geoff Corbett led the discussion (some reviewer called him wizened…I would opt for wise in a super cool guru Yoda sort of way). On the panel we had spunky Jake Stone, who is now kick-boxing away his demons; the irrepressibly hilarious wookie, BC Michaels ( BTW BC, I watched the punching bong clip last night and …well…I’m equal parts disturbed and impressed); Andrew McMillen who wrote a great book on the subject and looked eerily like my son (I actually did a double-take) and Jenny Valentish (I’m her greatest fan said in a really stalky, creepy voice). This panel took a delicate subject and rattled the crap out of it. It was everything a rock & roll panel should be. Awesome.
We all got a bit rowdy out the back in caravan/green room world, but please forgive us Joe and Leanne as we were all just…. well…extremely excited to be there. There were birthdays to sing about (the lovely Kate Hennessey and the above mentioned Chris), cake to eat, complimentary booze to drink and the occasional cigar to smoke. The vibe was electric and when the didgeridoo came out….well…there was no holding us back. It was there… backstage…..in the beer-soaked sunny afternoon of Day One, that some of the more unspeakable/not-for-public-consumption stories got told. But what happens at the Rock and Roll Writers Festival stays at the Rock and Roll Writers Festival. I traded some gems with Mandy Nolan, Don Walker, doco man, Justin, Jenny, Jake, BC and Geoff. Some of the greatest conversations I had were with the amazing volunteers.
We partied late into the night at the Black Bear Lodge where we were entertained by three of our amazingly talented panelists – Deborah Conway, Jess Ribeiro and Jackie Marshall. Just wow. Their performances were so powerful they made me wanna cry with joyous abandon. The champagne flowed. Kate Hennessey sampled some birthday Kraken. Sally Breen and I fell a bit in love. And then I also fell a bit in love with Jess R. And then Tammy Lee Rock and …..so on and so forth. By the end of Saturday night pretty much everyone loved everyone else and that, my friends, is a good thing!
My panel on Sunday explored the pleasure and pain that comes with the lust and sex that is wrapped up with music. Led by the one and only Bec Mac, we careened like mad people through our conversation, taking the mickey out of each other, sharing…well oversharing like nobody’s business, reading soft porn to the audience…stuff like that. My boobs seemed to try to steal the show…they do that….and Jackie Marshall owned the stage in the world’s sexiest MuMu, delivering the very strong and important message that ”everyone deserves a root!” Along with Nicole Hayes and Ben McLeay (aka Thomas Violence) we titillated the crowd with our bawdy silliness/deeply astute observations on human sexuality.
In History Never Repeats – Leanne Kelly deftly led a great conversation with Clinton Walker (who told me he thinks I’m a bit weird), Andrew Stafford (one of my new favourite people) and Chris Salewicz (who after a few Monkey’s Shoulders later in the afternoon, began to remind me of a young Robert de Niro). This panel looked at how music reacts to social change and upheaval. It was Sunday. I was sober. This sounded like the most intelligent and eloquent panel but that was probably because I was so focused and attentive and…sober. I also loved listening to Noel Mengel, Bernard Zuel, Kate Hennessy and Dave Faulkner and many others.
I am so grateful to have been invited to this special, unique and exciting festival and I’m sure it will go from strength to strength. I have made some wonderful new friends and laughed more than I have for a long time. My face hurts.
Being a writer is mostly a lonely business but the first weekend in April, 2016….made it all worth while.
LONG LIVE THE ROCK & ROLL WRITERS FESTIVAL. LEANNE AND JOE – I SALUTE YOU!!