Back at the house we passed around another couple of joints in the dusky backyard and fell to the grass or the couches inside. The walk back through the city not to mention back to the house had been devastating. It had become that day, the day that comes every year, where you truly break your feet into thongs for the summer.
I’d been lying on the couch only half an hour when Darcy laughed, ‘You’ve gotta head into the city for that gig soon, hey?’ I checked my phone. Explosions in the Sky would take the stage at The Forum at 10pm. I’d need to leave by 9pm to be sure of making their set.
It was 9:05pm.
I fastened my shoes, grabbed my wallet, phone and cigarettes and made for the door. I’d seen Explosions before in Barcelona and they’d been amazing. I’d been in the seating a few hundred metres from the stage and resolved to be closer at their next set. I’d come all the way to Melbourne to see that through. I ran to the train station.
I was thirsty and grilled as I made my way up Flinders Street towards The Forum, pulling the last legs out of a cigarette. Inside I squeezed through the people massed towards the bar and ordered a beer for each hand. I found a spot in the crowd and took in the venue.
The Forum is quite beautiful. There are large faux-Roman architectural settings around the stage, lit softly in purple and gold. Roman statues stand nobly at the sides and the grand, blue ceiling curves elegantly away above. I pictured Explosions in the middle. Like venturing to the cinema alone, going solo to a gig is risky.
Explosions were amazing. Their guitarist made a short announcement at the opening of the set thanking their support act and announcing that they were Explosions in the Sky from Texas, USA. Then they were in it. Their thing is they take the stage and don’t stop playing and don’t do encores. They just play their fucking hearts out and leave. It’s powerful, incendiary instrumental rock.
I spoke to a friend of mine in June 2011 after he’d seen them. He said simply, ‘I cried.’ I knew why. Though they began melodically they suddenly released a sound so intense, so violent and wonderful it felt like someone had ripped my chest open and was pouring molten joy into the gaping wound. They would reach this pitch only three times in the show and each time it brought me to the brink of tears. It would build and build and they would relax and repent and then plunge, violently tearing the guts out of themselves and their instruments for a minute or two of ecstatic, insufferable brilliance.
When the gig was over I sat on Flinders Street a while smoking cigarettes and watching the crowd flow past. Eventually I took my daze across the street and found the train back to the house. It wouldn’t leave for ten minutes but I felt air conditioning and followed my nose. Sitting in the metro car, I zoned out at the lights of the city through the window. The car was silent except for the rustle of the occasional newspaper.
‘BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS!’
A guy had jumped in the rear door of the carriage and was announcing in the tone of a town crier, enunciating emphatically the punch line of every sentence to nobody in particular.
‘HEATH LEDGER IS DEAD! HEATH LEDGER IS DEAD! HEATH LEDGER IS DEAD AT TWENTY-EIGHT! TWENTY-EIGHT! TWENTY-EIGHT!’
The man began to make his way up the car.
‘Not twenty-seven like Janis-Joplin-Jim-Morrison-Jimi-Hendrix and Kurt COBAIN! COBAIN! COBAIN!’
He reached an empty row of seats and sat down in the aisle seat, continuing his speech in lower tones.
‘Heath Ledger is dead at twenty-eight. Ledger’s final role in Christopher Nolan’s award-winning film The Dark Knight as the Joker! The Joker…’
He trailed off and slumped onto the seats. ‘The Joke…’
By the time I arrived at the house I was so exhausted it hurt. The house was quiet and dark, the bedrooms full of early nights. I settled on the couch and slept till midday.
Catching the train home later that day I contemplated moving to Melbourne permanently.