Donny Benét – Northcote Social Club – Melbeernét – September 29 2017
No drinking tonight. It’s been five years since a one month break. Like the weird inability to hold in a stream last month wasn’t a sign. A back injury caused by an inflamed liver should be enough persuasion to let the blubbery bastard residing in the right of my abdomen regenerate for a time. I drive to make sure. Though history indicates that the technique isn’t infallible. Reverse parallel on High Street. People peer over cool beers and hot dinners through restaurant windows, waiting for me to fuck up. I know what they’re thinking, the bastards. I think the same. I don’t fuck up, but I feel the stress. The weather is beer. I mean nice. The weather is beer-nice. But, that’s ok. I walk down the street. Five rather fabulous looking guys leave little room for me on the footpath. I squeeze by almost pressed against a shop window. Their eyes lick at me. Yeesh. Not a lovely feeling. One of them with an immaculate beard carved of black marble, “Well, helloooo there.” Warm spearmint Extra breath on my face. I keep walking with my tail between my legs. Quite literally. The front one anyway, feeling violated and validated at once. Fuck to be a woman would be hell. Men are ravenous creatures. Queer or straight. They’re all wolves. Through the doors I recognise Darren at the bar. He’s wearing an Op-Shop flannelette he was given during a photo shoot for something. I grab his shoulders and shake him and pretend not to hear him ask the bartender to double his pint. “How you doing?” “Yeah, alright. How are you?” “Yeah, OK.” He had a reasonably big night last night, but he looked good. Passes the pint. “So much for no drinking.” “Oh, shit. Sorry man.” “It’s all good. It’s not a strict thing. I just need to ease off. If I want a beer, I’ll have a beer. It’s not a thing.” “Sorry, man.” “Don’t ever apologise for buying me a beer.” We walk outside and take a seat in the smoking section. Outside smoking is a section now. Either a section or a ‘you have to smoke out the front’ sort of thing. Sydney’s PC bullshit has trickled down. I won’t get over it. The beer tastes OK. Does’t give me the love like it normally does. Liquid dreams. Foamy frothy bitter nectar. Taps pulled down like tits and drunk heavy. Nestling infant in a baby blue blanket. Normally it floods me, fills me up good and happy and I feel OK. I felt OK, but I felt OK when I was parking the car ten minutes ago too.
I began to roll a cigarette. “So, I didn’t actually buy the tickets yet. So, we should probably get them sooner than later.” “That’s cool. I finished rolling and put the cigarette in my tin. None Nicer. “Let’s get ‘em before a cigarette then?”
Darren buys me a ticket in exchange for a lift home. Easy. Bolster the willpower. We sit back down out back. I was trying to saviour the beer but noticed I’d already drunk more than Darren. I lit my cigarette. “I’ve been listening to Konichiwa on repeat all afternoon. God, I Love it.” Three girls come over and lean their accents and laughs on the table. Darren is meeting a girl here. He photographed her a while ago and used to have a bit of thing for her, but now he likes her sister. Her sister was meant to come too, but she pulled out. Something about Cherry Bar last night. “How do I tune her sister when I’ve already put in ground work with the one I’m no longer interested in?” “I dunno man, that’s quite a pickle. I guess you have to be ruthless.” Seems to always be my advice. “So, the one I photographed is coming and I don’t know what to say to her because she isn’t her sister.” “Shit man.” “What have you been doing?” “I spent last weekend doing a jigsaw puzzle.” One of the girls leaning on the table spills a beer on Darren. “Oh my God! I’m so sorry!” “It’s OK, it’s OK.” “Oh my God! She always does this.” “I’ll buy you a compensation beer. I’m so sorry.” “You don’t have to do that, but if you want to, I won’t stop you.” Smooth Darren. “She spilled beer all over me the other day!” They began chatting and chuckling. “So, what are you guys doing here.” I wasn’t prepared for any human interaction other than Darren’s. They seemed nice, probably funny, but I wasn’t feeling myself, still hugging a beer that would normally have been my third. “We’re here with our Dad, having dinner.” “Any particular reason? Or you normally have family dinners here?”
“No, we’re all from different places and are rarely all in the one place. So, it’s kind of a celebration.” “Oh, Ok, cool.” One of them was particularly attractive for some reason. Her eyes seemed to project something sweet and considered. I didn’t know what it was but I looked at her a lot. “Are you guys going to see Donny Benét later?” “We weren’t. Should we? What’s he like?” “Cheesy, sexy, 80s, synthy, very synthy, lots of synth, very 80s sort of thing. He’s fantastic. There’s still tickets.” “Cool. What do you do?” The one I was looking at asked Darren. Black denim jacket with a sheep skin collar. Her accent seemed English. She said she was Canadian. “I’m a photographer” “You’re a photographer for a living?” “Yeah. And you?” “I’m a photographer for a living too, and I’m doing a Masters in Architecture.” Darren said cool. I said nice. “What do you photograph?” “Architecture!” Laughter. “Oh my god, she always ends up talking to people that are her twin. The other week she was talking to someone who was a photographer and studying Architecture too!” “That’s pretty fucked.” I said. We kind of talked. I drifted in and out of paying attention. Then two of the girls left to get Darren’s compensation beer. The photographer stayed. I think she was the girlfriend of the one that spilled the beer or something. I wasn’t sure. I kept forgetting to listen to things. “And what do you do?” I looked up from rolling another cigarette. “What?” “What do you do?” “I’m a furniture removalist.” “A what?” “A furniture removalist. I lift up couches and things. Put them down. Pick up other things. Put them on a truck. That sort of thing.” “Oh, OK. Cool.” “Not really.” She tried to say something nice. I shut it down. Darren and her talked about things. I recoiled and smoked. I overheard her talking about her Masters and chipped in. “Where are you studying?” “We were literally just talking about this before” Darren said. “Oxford University.” “Very nice. I’ve been looking into studying overseas…” “Where are you thinking? Germany?” “Ah, yeah. Or Norway. Depends -“ “What will you study?” “Philosophy or – “ “Denmark is one of the best Uni’s for philosophy.” “From what I’ve been researching Norway seems – “ I got bored halfway through my sentence. I didn’t know what I was saying anymore. Talking about Education was a way for me to regain some sort of respect from her and she was aware of it and I didn’t know why I was doing it and I didn’t like that I caught myself doing it. I brought the mood down pretty quick. She said something about going to find her friends and left. “None of the beer actually went on me.” Darren stood up. “Amazing.” The girls came back. “Here’s your beer. I’m so sorry about that. It was nice talking to you.” “You too, have a good night.”
“Fuck this. I’m going to get one more beer.” At the bar, I had second thoughts but they didn’t stick. I got it in a plastic cup. We’d be going into the gig room soon. I got back and a guy I saw traipsing around the smoking area before was sitting next to Darren. He asked to roll a cigarette. I obliged. “He is just the nicest guy. So genuine. So quiet too, not like he is on stage.” “Who?” “Donny Benét. That’s not his real name. He had to change it so he wasn’t ostracised from the Sydney Jazz community.” “Oh, right.” “This guy has played with him.” Darren pointed. “Oh, cool. What do you play?” “Violin mainly. The jazz community is ruthless. Donny probably won’t hang around long. He had a kid yesterday.” “Donny Benét is a dad?” “Yeah. I’m kind of surprised he is playing tonight.” “Daddy Benét.” I said. The guy rambled on a bit about Donny and I didn’t like it. Once again, I found myself drifting in and out of the conversation. Eventually he left. Darren and I went into the gig room. I sipped the top of my second beer and decided I wouldn’t finish it. Two ways to battle my bitterness. Get very drunk or don’t drink at all. I felt better being in the gig room. Nobody would talk to us. Nobody would bum a cigarette. We stood around for a while. Still time to kill so we burn a quick cigarette. Came back and the band was on. Instant elation. Oh, thank you Donny! My mood was bouncing along his bass lines like that little karaoke ball does on words. Treat yourself. I held my beer tight. The plastic cup was doing my liver favours. Beer unrefined. Lifeless. Dirty water that eases pain swilling in a toy thing. Don’t need it. Treating myself was to abstain. My shoulders were moving. Oh Donny! And Darren had already started dancing loose. Gulped his beer and saw the two sisters just in front of us. Middle stage right. They are swaying. The people between us and them are swaying. I looked around and the groove is real. Donny and his boys finish the track. Good to see his face. His hair. His contradictory handsome air. Darren leans toward the sisters and speaks. I hang back. Don’t want conversations. Everything is loud. Between the familiars Treat Yourself and Electric Love, Donny politely introduces the magnificent musicians that are supporting him. I pull my phone out to write down their names but it’s over before I manage. I’m looking at a blank screen of notes. Piss. I’ll google them later. Electric Love is rife with cowbell. Incessant rhythmic clangs. Darren turns, “Bit of cowbell.” Laughing, I nod. The stupidest goddamn instrument, it’s fantastic. It’s whacked with total negligence for the entire song. I feel insane. But the song is too good. But I feel insane. There’s a few humorous words before Sophisticated Lover. I first heard it after seeing Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders one time. Blown away by them and in excess of cocaine, my friends and I went on a Youtube binge after the gig watching everything Donny, Jack Ladder and Kirin until five AM. Donny Benét and cocaine are a hell of a mix. “I gotta piss and grab a beer.” How strange. I didn’t need to. “Take mine. I’m not gonna drink it.” Darren takes the near full beer. I’m glad to have both hands. Darren’s piss is efficient. Only missed one song. Donny explains that he has sent the next song to Nike numerous times and is yet to hear back. He only asks that they give him $500 and a pair of shoes in exchange for using it in their advertisements. It’s a bargain. If they knew what was good for them they’d practice what they preach and just do it. By now I’m writing down track names because I have two hands and can use my phone easier. I find it a little strange that the second gig I’m writing up for Tempus is so linked to the first. But the only other gig I went to in between wasn’t worth the words. I ate too much MDMA and barely remember anything. What else could I say other than ‘Fat man takes off shirt. Swallows birthday boy in sweating orbiting embrace.’ Before Love Online, I hear a girl, “I just can’t enjoy it. His desperation sickens me. I get that it’s for show but it’s gross.” I turned to take a look at the idiot. Short hair. Shaved sides. Makeup à la four-water-bombs. Foundation, blush, shadow, and another thing. Launched from every angle. BANG. WHACK. THOCK. PROCK. Didn’t hide the bulbous nose and bad skin. Eyes closer to the back of her skull than the front. Awful thing, sees it saturated with desperation because of her own latent fears of rejection. Shit, to be so blind to anything other than her own psychological conflict must be horrible! And there’s such jazzy funky tenderness happening! The rest of the crowd is lifted off their feet, arms swingin. I consider telling her that she’s sick. But I’m sober and cured of moodiness thanks to the demure of Donny.
I’ve been hanging for Konichiwa. It’s played next and Darren’s dancing and I’m dancing and it feels good and I forget about the cruel smear a few people back.
Track seven. I don’t want you to leave me on the coast of Santorini. Donny says he met a man in Santorini that suggested he should write a song about the place. So, he took his advice. The synth is hoppy. The guitar is played with unbelievable restraint. The chorus ascends into 80’s Miami nirvana and I think I’ve time travelled. Heaven on earth in a pink suit. And it’s the best song I’ve heard Donny do. I’m laughing and moving. As I smooth out my goosebumps he introduces I love you baby, another knew one. Darren leans in, “This song deserves a whole backing choir.” And it does! Before the band gets into Give me your heat, a relentless pace, mean on a bobbing head, tiring on a tapping toe, Donny thanks his band again. I fumble with my phone and what I manage to write down doesn’t seem right. ‘Harry Sutherland. Kekeamea Wavel. Drums. Dave Sax. Dan Hartman guitar.’ “Did you hear the names?” “What?” The noise is too much. “The names of the band?” “Nah.” They finish with Don’t Hold Back and Body of Paradise after reminding the crowd that they’ll come back on stage as soon as they walk off. And they do. Fantastic. I could have listened to another hour. The sisters come talk. “You didn’t introduce us to your friend. That’s not very polite, Darren.” “The music was loud and things were happening. It doesn’t matter.” I say. We exchange names and smiles. “I’m so oddly attracted to him. I hate myself for it. But I can’t help it.” A better reaction than the Gollum in Doc Martins had. I leave them to talk. I want a cigarette. I ask two girls if I can sit on their table to smoke. “Are you good at rolling? Because if you are I don’t think I can have you sit here.” They were trying to make conversation. I was anti-social again. I guess Donny was a short reprieve. “I am, yeah. Can I still sit?” “I guess so.” I sit. She says a few other things, then talks to her friend loud enough for me to feel I am a part of the conversation, but I’m not. My back is to them. I’ve returned to not being social. I finish the cigarette and someone that looks like Donny’s keyboardist sits down. He’s friends with them. He must be Donny’s keyboardist. Maybe he is the Wavel guy? No, that’s not a name. But I feel like an asshole for being rude now. I can’t talk to him. I get up. Darren walks toward me. “What happened with the sisters?” “They’re going home. The sister, the one I like, had too big of a night last night, so they just left. Cigarette?” “Ah, yeah. Go after?” “Yeah.” We sit back at the table with who is probably the keyboardist and I don’t say anything to him. I look at the dregs of Darren’s warm beer swilling around in the bottom of his plastic cup. I wonder if Donny Benét swims in beer. He could back stroke in there. It’d be fine.