Tarago Diaries #23 – Tropeless in Tassie

Fitting in, identity and tropes from Tasmania.

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 7 February 2020.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial/posts/2498588153580842?__tn__=K-R


Article Text

Tassie’s ‘different’. You hear that a lot. The air’s cooler. The sky’s a softer blue. The twilights are longer. Mountains loom dark and heavy. There’s no horizon. Old colonial buildings scattered across a land. Stone memorials to lost wealth once wrought by the suffering of exile and massacre. It feels deserted. At a certain hour people vanish. In the middle of Hobart you’ll hear night noises that aren’t industrial. Like the wind in the trees.

How you define what Australia looks like, the red dirt, road kill, tortured gums gasping for water, glittering sandy beaches…

None of that applies down here.

“You gotta go to Tassie.”
“Dunno. It’s sort of different.”

What? How’s it different? Come on. Think!

Lame I know. But it could be the start of something. A whirlwind promotion. Beginning with “feel’s kinda..” or “dares to be…”

A phrase that catches hold with common usage and leads to a shift in thinking. People head south to see for themselves and spend money in the process.

What every media guru dreams of.

From poverty and exile to gothic, bearded glamour.

Transformed by a trope. Several actually.

‘Trope’. Now there’s a word. It hit the runway about a decade ago but I missed it, along with ‘meme’, ‘optics’, ‘hyper local’, ‘organic growth’, and ‘resonance’.

Then informed people started using it so I had to pay attention.

It’s the ‘theme’ attached. In art, song and selling power tools. To transform the raw prawn into something mysteriously attractive. A symbol of collective desire.

It can go the other way too. You can get troped to hell and never recover.

Bands get troped. Big time. It starts organically then gathers force. Like calling Tassie ‘different’. There’s truth and there’s bullshit. People invent stuff. They tell stories. Exaggerate. They can’t help themselves.

“Oh yeah. Them. They’re kind of acid, indo-celtic. Right?”

“They’re what? Wow. Really? Yeah. I know what you mean.”

I’ve been guilty of it. In my belligerent youth. Dare to be different to be the same. Just for a while.

Wouldn’t have been seen dead at a Fleetwood Mac gig once. Not that the opportunity ever arose. But still, if asked, I would’ve said, ‘bunch of friggin’ hippies..’ or something as equally informed. Bugger the songcraft. The sheer intelligence. The compelling romantic drama. I was in some dark St.Kilda flea pit at the time, with they who had interesting hair. Lacquered. Full of spite.

Desperate to fit in.

And you thought music was the language of the soul right? Nuanced. The food of love. Well, it can be. But there’s all this other stuff you’ve go to work through, right? To know who your tribe is.

To be loved only to be outcast later.

The pointed finger. ‘You sold out man!’

And the fear of that..It eats your soul.

So the churn never stops.

Go the one-liner. Or even better. Embrace someone else’s. There’ll always be someone ready to tell you why it’s cooler to spend your dosh on that band and not on that other one. Who’s bling is more informed? Which schools did they go to? What suburb do they come from?

I’m here now, listening, on this balmy night. Does this music move me? Does it recall some distant memory, a kiss, the warm summer wind, the smell of the sea in winter or do I simply the need to belong? Maybe it’s just that.

Go tribal. I don’t blame you. I’ve done it many times. We all have needs.

Still, you’ve gotta wonder how line ups ever get worked out. Right? When even the bands are looking sideways with contempt. Ugh. Wouldn’t been seen dead on the same bill as that mob.

Tropes cutting in all directions.

Still, someone’s gotta play ref. Who’s a good fit? And who are these people anyway? In straw hats, bellowing ‘no way get fucked fuck off!’ Are they my people? Or should I shun them?

One day you wake up and realise how wretched it all is. This cry of:

‘I’m not like everybody else!’

Shirts, hair, footwear, cars, holiday destinations. What choices are right? Well who the fuck knows?

I climb on stage believing I deserve the benefit of the doubt.

From them.

In that case so should they, from me, for just turning up and paying their money. Punters. They’re just people FFS. And they’re here right?

Good enough. I’m in.

Still, the scheming goes on. Make no mistake. The conjecture. The straight out snobbery. I’ve been hearing it for decades. But I’m over it. Call me old but the novelty has worn off. I’ve taken to wearing a T-shirt with ‘BE KIND’ on it. (Pic attached)

Which is also.. A TROPE! Not a bad one either.

I remember when H&C were, to coin a phrase ‘big news’, there’d be the odd group who simply wouldn’t do the support, for whatever reason. The raucous audience, the masculine vibe, the bogan shirts. Too vulgar perhaps. A bit ‘everyone’. Not beach enough. Or maybe too ‘beach’. Who knows? I’m guessing here. Problem was, the music wasn’t ‘attached’ to anything in particular. No point of reference. There was no actual ‘trope.’ ‘Great live band’ for sure. But being ‘Great live’ just isn’t that interesting in the end. It sort of runs out of puff very quickly. And what young, hungry rock band wants that kind of invisibility to rub off?

I remember two conversations vividly. One shortly after H&C got started. A Crystal Ballroom slammer studying Film and TV said:

“Yeah.. but what kind of statement are you making?”

And then near the end, twenty odd years after, from a journo who went on to work for EMI..

“Yeah, but what kind of statement are you making?”

Hmm. The ‘resonance’. (Ha. There’s another!) I might’ve said something lame. About H&C being a democracy. That everyone shared in the song writing ..

His response was like the tolling of the bells.

“Yeah but we’ve heard all that all before.” Just short of saying ‘Well, woopy fuck.’

So what was it again? The statement I mean. I’m still wondering.

Hobart Botanical Gardens. It’s an exquisite spot. A view of the harbour through towering gums. Seven bands in an afternoon.

Bring on the long Tassie twilight, the exquisite turquoise glow reaching across the water, gums waving gently, back lit by a rusted sun. And something on the breeze. The scent of wet eucalyptus. People are smiling. Safe. Relaxed.

“Isn’t this a Lovely spot?” I call to the upturned faces, trying to illicit collective belief, the power of a moment.

But the response is strangely muted. Only vague rumblings in return. What the hell’s he going on about?

Hmm. Maybe ‘lovely’ just isn’t rock enough.

‘Lovely’ is the WRONG TROPE.

I’m right on the brink of going the full Scotty. The full


then think better of it..

After all, they must know how good it is. Or maybe they don’t. Relative to what? Johannesburg? Who’s been there? I’m about to ask that very thing. Nah. That’ll just sound insane. Quick. Think of something else.

Then it hits me. It’s so obvious.

“Come on you lot! This place is bloody fantastic. Surely you know that?”

And for some mysterious reason the word ‘fantastic’ pops. Something in the way it came out. Quivering on the edge of frustration and irony. Who knows why? But there it is. The sudden roar of enthusiasm.


Nice trope.