Oh, Melbourne. How do I love thee. Let me count the ways…
1 year, 2 years, 3 years…
9 years. That’s how long I have been living in Melbourne, and next February 2019 will mark 10 years as a Melbournian.
After so long, and with some annual leave accrued, it was high time I went back to Sydney, even if for a weekend getaway. So when Therion announced their very first Australian tour, I decided it would be a perfect time. I’ve never followed an international band on an Australian tour before (so Therion and The Devil, be honoured to be my first!), and YOLO, so I made it happen.
Just a note: if you choose to fly Jetstar, just note that punctuality is not their strong point, although they will expect it from you. My flight departed about 45 minutes after it was due, because of issues with the aircraft that needed rectifying and subsequent paperwork signed off. It’s not so bad if you’re not on a tight schedule.
I checked in to my accommodation, and zonked out in the clothes I was wearing on the plane. I spent the morning taking my cat to the cattery, then doing a bit of cleaning around my flat so it won’t stink when I get home, so by the time I arrived in Sydney, checked in and my head hit the pillow, I just wanted to zone out. So Thursday night effectively became a write-off.
Day 1: Friday, 14 September
I began the day with a visit to Utopia Records. First established in 1978, it became my go-to shop for metal music after the Hammerhouse closed its doors in the late 1990s. At the time I moved to Melbourne, Utopia was situated at Broadway, just outside Sydney’s Central Business District. Now it’s at premises on Kent Street, and about one-third the size of the Broadway premises. It still has an excellent range of CDs, vinyl and other merch.
George Street used to have an amusement arcade with arcade games galore, now it’s gone and what looks like a luxury hotel in its place. There’s a light rail line under construction on George Street, Sydney’s equivalent of Bourke Street in Melbourne. Whether it will have a mall section like Bourke Street does, remains to be seen, even though Pitt Street Mall exists (but not as good as Bourke Street mall).
There are lots of places to grab a cappuccino, but I was wary. Will they be of the same standard of coffee in Melbourne? So far, the only coffee shop I think meets the standard is the MLC Grind Cafe in the MLC Centre, and a little cafe near Darling Harbour. Sydney’s cafes seem to have lifted their game (and could it be that their baristas got trained in Melbourne?).
Another long-established shop, Raben Footwear, is still trading. Good to see some of Sydney’s iconic shops have survived this long.
Friday night, Therion played at the Manning Bar, one of my favourite venues when I was still living in Sydney. The last band I saw live at the Manning Bar was Testament in 2007. Here is Therion, in pictures:
And the support act, The Devil:
The Devil turned up near the merch stand after the show for photo opportunities:
And I went for post-show drinks at the Town Hall Hotel in Newtown. At the time I moved to Melbourne, the Townie was going on a downward spiral compared to what it was in the 90s. It was popular with touring musicians, but the pub had changed hands a few times and successive owners tried to attract a different demographic of clientele. Its own mother wouldn’t recognise it now, and the vibe in the place was just flat. Did not resonate.
Day 2: Saturday, 15 September
It was a warm day, perfect for catching up with the parents. I travelled by train to the suburb of Strathfield, and was a good opportunity to compare the Opal smart card ticketing system to Melbourne’s Myki. The fare system is different in Sydney – unlike Melbourne, the system calculates your fare depending on how long your journey is (in distance, not time), which makes it necessary to tap off to ensure you don’t get overcharged. Myki, on the other hand, charges $4.10 for a 2-hour journey, capped at $8.20 per day. Both fare systems have their pros and cons, but the card scanners on the Opal system wipe the floor with Myki (unless there are Opal card scanners somewhere on the transport network that make you go “Opal! Why you no tap on?”).
I spent the afternoon with my father and stepmother in the suburb of Burwood, and as it turns out, my stepmama and I have a few things in common – we love op shopping (and Dad, being Dad, was impatient and chomping at the bit while Theresa browsed the Vinnies op shop), sewing and other stuff. Theresa found some good stuff, while I left the shop empty-handed.
Later, I went to the Goth picnic in Camperdown, and caught up with people whom I haven’t seen since the move to Melbourne, then onward to a benefit gig for the farmers suffering from the drought. The gig had a piss-poor turnout, and the vibe not as vibrant as it once was. The lock-out laws have had an incredibly adverse impact on Sydney’s live scene, compounded by stagnating wages and expensive housing, and the ever-increasing cost of living.
Day 3: Sunday, 16 September
Sunday’s weather was 15°C cooler than Saturday, but the sky was clear and the sun was shining. It was a perfect day for a visit to Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
For a nation that professes to be a “Christian” nation (news flash: Australia is a secular nation), it sure likes to venerate very the pagan gods of old (considering how the worship of the old pagan gods was actively stamped out by the early Catholic Church, sometimes violently), as exhibited by the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park, and another fountain in the Botanical Gardens:
The pagan gods never went away, and they will always be with us.
Day 4: Monday, 17 September – homeward bound
Although I made the most of my time in Sydney, I could not wait to get home. But I’m never flying Jetstar ever again. (I hear Tiger Airlines are just as shit, so they’re out of the question too. I’ll stick with Virgin or Qantas, even if their fares are an extra $20. Sometimes it’s worth paying that bit extra.)
Will I ever move back to Sydney? Never. Sydney is great to visit, but Melbourne is my home. Having said that, I won’t let it go a long time between drinks again.