Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Canberra. It’s really not as bad as you think, Part 1.

Yes, I know, damning with faint praise and taking a cheap shot all in one go. But when I came home from my travels, a good friend suggested I take photos around the city as interesting as the European snapshots I’d been sharing via Facebook.

Now when it comes to PR I’m good, I’m very good, and I’ve had some challenges in my career (a day to arrange a media event on the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for its 75th anniversary and find someone born the same year it opened for an energetic bridge climb? Tick!) but I feared this could be be my Waterloo.

It’s not that Canberra doesn’t have a nightlife or culture. It’s just that on a weeknight these things can be a bit hard to find. Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy summed it up earlier this year when he performed here on a Thursday night. “The biggest laugh I’ve had all day was from the stage hands, when I asked where we were going for dinner after the show.”

But, always game for a challenge I’ve started scouring the what’s on guides for new and previously unknown events to take part in.

Which is how I came to drag BFFs MattyHari and Captain Kangaroo along to The Front Café and Gallery in Lyneham to hear a Gypsy swing band from Melbourne, La Mauvaise Reputation, http://www.lamauvaisereputationband.com/fr_home.cfm

I do love The Front, it has a good line up of acoustic acts that they get to perform, shock/horror, on school nights. It’s a fairly small venue so it fills up quickly, and it usually doesn’t take long for the audience to get into the spirit.

La Mauvaise Reputation had a good reception tonight and there was plenty of clapping and foot stamping to accompany the double bass and guitar in French Chanson versions of Edith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg and Charles Trenet. It was so vibrant and lively and the crowd so enthusiastic that for a while I thought I’d stumbled back to the bars of Paris (as opposed to stumbling from the bars of Paris as I was doing nary a few months ago).

It was brilliant seeing the audience getting into it, and again I don’t want to give the impression that Canberra audiences are unresponsive. It’s just that here in Canberra I’ve witnessed some excruciatingly lame audience interactions.

Like in 2008 during a stand-up performance by British comedian Bill Bailey. Visiting Canberra eight or so months after Kevin Rudd swept to victory with the Kevin07 slogan, Bill Bailey was being gently mocking about the name Kevin lacking a certain gravitas. 

“Kevin07, gone in 11,” yelled out some socio-political thinker from the back rows. While the rest of the audience squirmed in acute embarrassment at this example of parochial commentary, Bill Bailey took it in his stride and got the night back on track, moving on to tell us about his experiences of ASBO culture in London. Pausing to ask if we knew what it meant, he asked what it was called here. “We call them youths!” yelled out the self-proclaimed wit (I’d preface that word with ‘half’ or, more fitting,  ‘f*ck’), and this time his neighbours practically stifled him to prevent any more biting satire.

People of Canberra, I issue this plea, put a bit of EFFORT into your heckles. We can attract world-class comedians to our town, but we want them to come back.

And as for that Kevin07 heckle, in hindsight it’s STILL neither funny or prophetic.

So back to tonight’s gig, La Mauvaise Reputation ended with a song about a metro-ticket collector. As Paul the lead singer explained it for those of us who don’t understand French, I had the chance to relive for MattyHari one of my greatest moments in Paris. “See it’s just like that lovely Parisienne metro officer who thought I was 25 and was going to charge me the student rate,” I stage-whispered to her with pride.

“And the song goes on to say how the ticket-collector goes mad,” Paul continued to the audience.

“But that’s not like my ticket collector,” I quickly assured MattyHari. “He was perfectly sane.”

“Of course he was darling,” she replied soothingly. “Now be quiet and let the nice man sing his song.” 

1 comment:

  1. I went to see Eddie Izzard tonight at the Canberra Theatre, and there was yet another lame-arse heckle. Eddie poured gentle ridicule on him, encouraging him to improve the timing, content and tone of his heckles.