what the tote taught me that my parents could never have.

monday night was the final gig at the tote. if you’re not from melbourne, here’s the back story and apologies for the local jargon.

i was one of the lucky peeps to get a ticket to the last hurrah and it was amazing. so much nostalgia, joy, sadness, anger, love – all in one little venue. that place, the bands it supported and the melbourne music scene shaped who i am.

and here’s what the place taught me that my parents couldn’t have:

what goes around, comes around.

take this for an example. wally meanie (née kempton) booked spiderbait’s first gig. at the tote. they made a massive impact on the australian music scene. he played bass for them on their last song. at the tote. [cue angels voices!]

on a smaller scale i lost my glasses in the mosh during the last song. at the end of the set, i had 5 people helping me look for them, by mobile phone screen light. i found them, unscratched, unbroken, on the carpet stairs. that’s love that is.

and then, as we left before the drones started, the security guard let us give one of our passes to a guy outside who couldn’t make it in. he probably did someone a good turn earlier that day.

chaos is vital

a venue like the tote is messy. it’s filled with loud music, shit spilled on the floor, band posters in various states of degradation, graffiti on the toilets, tattered clothes, messy hair, shouty voices, smashed glass, missed beats, foggy windows, quasi-violent dancing and people jostling and wrestling for a spot to see.

it’s not very 2.3-kids-with-a-white-picket-fence-and-an-SUV.

but thank fuck for that. chaos (even in a controlled environment like the tote) is a catalyst for change in all kinds of ways. and, as any scientist will tell you, all systems have an inbuilt element of chaos. it’s called entropy. and it’s needed for change. without change, things grow stagnant, you can’t generate movement, or friction, or any of the other things necessary for innovation, progress or inspiration.

investing in culture starts from the ground up.

meanies fireballs underground lovers

30,000 bands have played at the tote over the last 30 years. that is a helluva lot of rock and roll. no doubt a stack of them were local artists who have gone on to make successful careers. the other chunk were surely a whole bunch of international artists playing their first or second shows in melbourne.

as an aside i remember seeing the white stripes play there before they were massive. they played 7 shows in a week in melbourne (i saw 3 of them) – starting at the empress and culminating at the tote. the difference in the crowd numbers even between the trans-am show and the tote on the following friday was 5000%. pretty much after that, they went gangbusters. and have only played massive venues here since. and who brought them out here? if my memory serves me correctly, mr bruce milne had a lot to do with it… i’m just sayin’ you know.

anyway, all of those bands and all of those musicians, who worked behind bars and cafes and sold records and made t-shirts, flew interstate/overseas, bought petrol and started businesses. and their audiences all buy records, t-shirts, alcohol, coffee, books, art, bikes – they start businesses, attract tourists, customers and spend money in victoria. all of which then flows back into the economy and the “cultural capital” that the government leverages their promotion/trade/economy on. if the government was closing the supply chain for 30,000 businesses (like major banking institutions), there’d be something to say about it.

also known as ‘what goes around comes around’.

commitment is sexy.

30 years. that’s as long as most people commit to a mortgage/marriage. it’s a long time for rock’n’roll. the tote has become the sweetheart of melbourne’s music scene because it has stuck around. it has continued to plug away at putting on bands, giving peeps a place to hang out (the stories of romance from digger and the pussycats at the tote was hilarious!). that kind of consistency is hot – i don’t care what anyone says.

the tote has also taught me the value of continuing to follow my heart/instinct/principles/dream. the tote has become what it has because richie and bruce and amanda and wally and all the people involved that venue believed in the importance of live music to melbourne.

hell, they probably put on some really shit shows. i know i saw a few! but if they closed the doors every time they only had 5 payers, or the PA fucked up, or a microphone was damaged, or there was a bad review; then no-one would get the benefits of the times that the place was overflowing with people, the jukebox was pumping, the vibe was jumping and the times were good.

what else is dead sexy.

the tote, and the kinds of bands that played the last gig, and all those who played there over the course of the last 3 decades are pretty much responsible for my taste in men.

flannel and/or checked shirts, tight black jeans and skinny legs, winkle pickers, converse sneakers, band shirts and broad shoulders, crazy hair, facial hair, dancing like a maniac, suits (oh my god, link meanie was the first man to prove how hot a man looks in a suit.), lust for life, tattoos, jewellery, husky voices, a love of music, piano-playing fingers. and men hugging. nothing cracks my ice-queen heart like seeing two burly rockstars showing public displays of manly affection.

i guess my mother will be pleased that the tote is closing now. 🙂

girls can do anything.

ok, so my mother always told me this and i kind of believed it in theory, but until i saw people like janet english, claire moore, brody dalle, bands from collingwood’s rock’n’roll high school, kim gordon, pj harvey, courtney love, meg white and my best friend sarah barber get up on stage and kick arse – i never really believed her. you think it’s an accident that half the crowd on monday night were some of the most amazing, inspiring, creative and beautiful women in melbourne? no way.

always finish with a rock’n’roll ending.

bruce’s farewell speech was eloquent, powerful, graceful, steady and brought together all the vital parts of the tote as a working venue. my personal highlight was the ‘palmer, palmer, palmer’ chant that went up for venue booker amanda palmer. champion.

rather than die out, fade away, lose momentum with frustration, or completely implode, the tote went out in fucking style: 20 bands, a great vibe, awesome music, the jukebox in full swing, plenty of love in the air and mucho respecto. a seriously awesome party.

here’s hoping for an encore.

photo credits:
clem bastow x 2
sarah barber
shutterspeed photography

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

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