One-off Act for Charity A Reminder of our Ties

Jeremy Smith, of Hunters and Collectors, writes about the band reforming for Sound Relief.

Author: Jeremy Smith in The Age.

Date: 14 March 2009.

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As A child I often kicked a footy around the backyard and imagined that I was playing in front of a huge crowd at the MCG. Now I find myself about to do just that, albeit in a completely different way.

Out of the unthinkable tragedy of the Black Saturday bushfires a profound and overwhelming sense of charity and compassion has been born. Not only has it inspired the broader community but it’s also had the effect of drawing our band — Hunters and Collectors — together to play again 11 years after what we swore was our last show. Like many, recently, we had wondered what we could contribute. This felt like the least we could do.

There’s never been much room for sentimentality in Hunters and Collectors. The same goes for vanity. We’ve always had our own form of self-regulation in that regard: mockery. In recent days though I haven’t bothered resisting the temptation to be nostalgic. At our first rehearsal last week we set up our equipment facing each other in a circle as we’ve always done since the earliest days of the band almost 30 years ago. The circumstances now couldn’t have been more different. Back then we faced each other seduced by the many possibilities, an unknown future and the creative wrestling process otherwise known as songwriting. Now, so many years later, we faced each other looking back at our own history and where we’d been.

I swear there were times in that rehearsal room that my mind struggled to comprehend whether there had actually been a gap of 11 years since we had last played. Despite such a long hiatus, after so many years together, even the smallest of gestures could still convey volumes. The subtle nods. The sideways glances. They were all immediately familiar.

As we sat down for a meal and a few beers afterwards, the conversation, not unusually, began to take the form of anecdotes and recollections from years gone by.

Someone mentioned Gus and Andy, the bus drivers we once had in Europe. Gus and Andy had figured out that, if they slept in the luggage hold of the bus, they could save their accommodation allowance and spend it on beer. Consequently, it wasn’t unusual to see them stumbling out from an unventilated hole under the bus in the mornings.

I remember one of the guys offering me money if I’d get their attention and then ask them, while looking towards the cloudless blue sky: “What do you reckon? Any chance of a shower?” (A question that had nothing to do with weather and everything to do with personal hygiene.) I never did, though. These lads gave every appearance of knowing how to handle themselves. They were covered in tatts from neck to toe before it’d become fashionable and, when it came to teeth, I had more to lose than they did — combined. If things had turned ugly, I didn’t stand a chance.

Later on someone made reference to Sushi on Sunset, a Japanese restaurant in Hollywood where we ate a lot and drank a little, or it could’ve been the other way around.

The waitresses there were mostly wannabe starlets with disturbingly perfect noses on faces that had been cosmetically paralysed into “the look” they hoped would launch them to stardom. Yes, I have no idea what they thought of us either. Not that you’d be able to tell from their expressions. Someone made the call that these waitresses were the product of Hollywood’s leading cosmetic surgeon, Sir Eli Candy.

I don’t want to create the wrong impression here. It wasn’t fun all the time. There was an endless sense of waiting around that I’m glad I don’t have to endure any more.

I remember waiting for a plane to take us to a city where we would then have to wait for a sound check and then, later, wait to go on stage. I looked over at the cover of the book Mark (lead singer Mark Seymour) was reading as he sat by the boarding gate and read the words: Waiting for Godot. “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” I thought to myself. “Hasn’t he had enough?”

This concert is a one-off for us, but in so many ways it’s served as a timely reminder of the profound ties that exist between us.

Jeremy Smith played the French horn and keyboard with Hunters and Collectors.