A shared experience at the Forum
By Julian Holcroft and Rhonda Dredge
There were many inspiring moments at this year’s RISING festival, one being the sight of dedicated fans sitting outside the Forum, hours before a concert was due to start.
Two fans, Jemma and Annabell, were from Perth and had flown into Melbourne the night before at 1.30am.
By 10am on the day of the gig they were first in line to see Lucy Dacus.
“She’s such a good songwriter,” they said of the US songwriter and performer. “You can connect with her personality.”
Fans have finally got the chance to express themselves, leaving a city cut off from the world not long ago to arrive at another, also cut off from the world.
Sure, there were many criticisms of RISING, that it wasn’t as good as White Night because it didn’t get mobs of people streaming down the streets.
But many fans didn’t care. This was a “taste and see” kind of festival. You actually had to go exploring to find what you wanted.
We both had media passes for Ed Kuepper with Jim White, also on at the Forum at the same time as Lucy Dacus. We met in the box office queue. It turned out that we both knew a person whose wake was on at the same time as the gig, so we divided up the duties. One of us went to the gig and the other to the wake.
The matinee (5.30pm) scheduling of the show might have created a special intimate atmosphere, if the crowd of youngsters was not queuing under a billboard proclaiming Lucy Dacus in large letters with Ed Kuepper and Jim White underneath. This audience emulated the one in the early days of bands like the Saints and the Laughing Clowns.
In a night peppered with good humour and banter from Ed Kuepper, perhaps the best line came from a member of the audience who shouted during a break halfway into the set, “Ed you are an icon ... but not a plastic one”. Ed was bemused.
The highlight of the set, among an embarrassment of riches, was a beautifully paced and arranged version of Collapse Board, an early Laughing Clowns song which Ed told the audience (to much laughter) had been voted “most depressing song ever written” by Rolling Stone magazine.
With its descending bass lines and poignant pauses, it was the perfect lead into one of the last songs of the night Everything I’ve got belongs to you, for which Ed suggested an audience singalong, duly complied with. This book-ended the opening songs that began fittingly enough with Horse Under Water, as a tribute to the recently passed lead singer of the Saints, Chris Bailey.
Ed and Jim comfortably inhabited the songs as a band in their own right, and compared to the first and last RISING gig from last year, it felt like there was now a clearer synthesis of less familiar tracks such as Pavane (from Ed Kuepper’s solo album Lost Cities) with classic Laughing Clowns’ tracks such as Eternally Yours and Saints’ material like Swing for the Crime and Brisbane Security City.
After an extended period on the road and coming full circle, these songs and (the performers) now had the feel of old friends meeting up and enjoying a celebration after a long period of absence.
After the gig we met up at a wake for artist and educator Bernhard Sachs at Jimmy Watson’s. Many of the artists in attendance were fans of both Kuepper and White, making the difficult choice to forgo the gig to celebrate their friend’s passing.
Both events were a celebration of life and the strength of old friendships, craftsmanship and creativity and the shared experiences that bind us together in uncertain times. •
Caption: Jemma and Annabell, first in the Lucy Dacus queue at The Forum.