Waiting for the Man

January 18, 2007 at 5:19 am (Uncategorized)

Last night, Llew, his parents and I had dinner together, then went to Kaidan: A Ghost Story for its opening night at the Opera House. It was fantastic. The choreography was both whimsical and chaotic, and the design subtle and stunning. But what pinned me to my seat and made me break into a light sweat was the music. The taiko drumming was intense, athletic, emotional, and exhilarating. It was really overwhelming. I was slack-jawed by the end of it, completely caught up in their heart-pounding rhythms. WOW. Talking about it later, Llew said he thought the ensemble deserved a standing ovation – and he’s probably right. Perhaps they’ll get one, maybe several, over the next ten days it’s playing. I hope they do.

Once we got home, we agreed to get up at 4 am to try our luck at the Tix for Next to Nix booth in Martin Place. Tonight is the opening night of Lou Reed’s Berlin, and the booth was selling a few precious tickets for the show, at the greatly reduced price of $25 a pop. I went to bed with Caroline Says playing through my over-active mind, and slept lightly, until exactly 3:48 am, when my brain evidently decided to shake my body awake. Time to get up. Time to get into town. Time to queue.

I lay on my side staring, unblinking, at Llew, willing him to wake up those few minutes ahead of schedule. Nope. No such mental activity disturbing his slumber – he was out cold. I stared and stared and stared, and then finally the rude, pealing alarm went off. “Wakey, wakey,” I added helpfully. He seemed to be in denial, so I got out of bed and turned on the light. “Time to get up,” I said. Llew cried out as though I’d stabbed him, but dragged himself out of bed and hit the shower. He had to get ready for work, and had to put on a suit and tie. How’s that for a rough morning? But, champion that he is, he did it.

We got to Martin Place at 4:45 am. I joined the queue whilst Llew parked the car. There were about 40 people ahead of us. Most had camped out since 6 o’clock last night. Some, like us, had joined the line since 4 am. Nearly everyone was queuing for Berlin. A handful of people were there for La Clique. More people soon arrived – we couldn’t have been last in line for more than five minutes. You can buy a maximum of two tickets at the booth, so I glumly counted about 80 tickets ahead of us – way more than I understood were available. Was it even worth waiting? Who knew?

Llew sourced us some truly dreadful coffee and ham and cheese croissants from Wynard Station at about 5 am. We reminisced about lining up for the Vatican Museum in Rome in October, at much the same time of morning, and with much the same breakfast (except with much better coffee), and looked around sizing up the assembled queuers. The artfully sonic youth held court as they tend to in these situations. They slouched around smoking in retro clothing, listening to their iPods and drinking. One rangy teen loudly, drunkenly extolled the virtues of Pete Doherty whilst sucking on a lollipop and trying to engage the dog, Drusilla, in conversation. Drusilla just put her snout in a leftover cup of instant noodles and ignored him. Some slept on grotty bags, and most of the guys had alarmingly flat arses, their stripey underpants permanently on display. The girls spoke with affected American accents, wore black, occasionally fed the dog and juggled – poorly – an assortment of round fruit. A drunk turned up. He wasn’t there for tickets, just the company and the eternal hope of free cigarettes. There was one other man in a suit. He had a deck chair and a broadsheet newspaper and he was four people ahead of us.

Llew and I sat on milk crates and read. At 6 am, he walked around to GG Espresso on Pitt and returned with some good coffee. I bought a copy of the Big Issue from the vendor who was close to the front of the queue. Lou Reed was on the cover. I read the story and felt a tightening in my throat. I looked at all the people ahead of us and behind us and felt the chances slipping away from me. Shaking it off, I put my head back in the mag and read it cover to cover. Llew went to the office to do some paperwork and kill some time. I started reading a book.

Llew returned. By now I was standing, and the queue had tightened and formed some kind of order. All the sleeping bags were rolled up, and the deck chairs and rugs stowed away. At 8 am the booth opened. The line moved in an orderly fashion. Everything was strangely silent even as commuters started streaming through Martin Place. The Lou Reed tickets kept outlasting all predictions, giving us shot after shot of hope. They moved from seated tickets to standing room only, and I stopped breathing as we got really, really close. Then a girl in enormous white sunglasses held up two tickets and made a ‘V’ for victory with her free hand. Lou Reed was sold out. She had the last two tickets. A Sydney Festival volunteer came out and made it official. I stumbled out of the line, tired enough to be close to tears. There were five people ahead of us in the line, and two of them wanted tickets to La Clique. It seemed too cruel, too close, too utterly predictable to bear. I looked at the couple of hundred people snaking around behind us, too far away to hear, pitied them, then forgot them.

We approached the pretty teen who had told us hours earlier that she would be selling her second ticket. She wanted to confer with her friends and was reluctant to commit. We went over to the GPO steps and looked at her, waiting, afraid of pushing too hard or moving too fast. I couldn’t say a word. She agreed on a price but then backed off, leaving us to go and talk to her friend. I left Llew and went to the nearest ATM so that if (if if if if) it happened, we would be cashed up and ready to roll. I moved like a zombie. A pretty damn fast zombie, but a zombie nonetheless.

Within minutes of my return to the GPO steps, somehow it was done. Their names were Nina and Owen, and they sold us two tickets to Berlin for a little less than the full ticket price. Not next to nix, but not taking the piss, either. Good kids. It was fair, and I was ecstatic. Actually, I was in shock.

Berlin has been called the most depressing album of all time, but I’ve always loved it. And now there’s absolutely no chance it’ll ever be depressing for me. On the contrary. I’m all but clicking my heels. Lou Reed, here we come. Thank you, Nina and Owen, you’re my heroes.



  1. Elvis said,

    I am impressed with your fervour for this year’s festival. It seems that if you’re not a fan of Beckett, Becks or Berlin, you are without hope! I used to love this festival, but since relocating so much out to Homebush (or Paramatta), it hasn’t captured a great deal of my interest. Maybe its just me, but is it slipping? Obviously not if you are prepared to inflict the self-harm described in your blog.

    My particular gripe is theatre with subtitles. It doesn’t float my boat. Especially if the language is Russian or German ie not very pretty. But anyway, I am enjoying your reviews Di, and while I haven’t been to anything, I am glad to know that it is not just an event for tourists!

  2. doctordi said,

    Oh, very much on the contrary, Elvis! Slipping? I don’t know that the Festival’s ever been in better shape. And there’s only a few things out Homebush/Parramatta way, which I’m all for since it’s where most Sydneysiders actually live. Not only that, but it’s extending the reach of the Festival for many people who might otherwise never go to anything. I’m not going to any of the events out there, but I emphatically agree there should be some.

    Yeah, I know what you’re saying, but surtitles don’t bug me unless they’re poorly positioned. It’s usually okay at the Opera House, but I have heard that the surtitles were rubbish at one of the Carriageworks events. Still, it’s just opened, so they’re ironing out the problems and I believe they are aware this is a big one. It’s all about positioning them so you’re not labouring to read and watch. Elementary, I would have thought, but apparently these were way off to the side and everyone got whiplash.

    Most stuff is pretty central. Have you got a copy of the program at home? If not, then Elvis should leave the building (the work one, that is) and get a program from the Information Booth in Martin Place. It’s not too late! There’s plenty of fabulous events in or near town still running for another 8 days. Personally I want to inspect the new Carriageworks space – I don’t even care if I see an event there or not in the first instance, I just want to see the site – and after Lou Reed leaves the stage at the State Theatre after his last performance on Saturday night, he makes way for the exquisite Madeleine Peyroux. I might have to do some more milk crate manoeuvres if I want tickets to that. But I have to disagree with you – I think this program is sensational and the bulging full house at every event I have been to suggests I am not alone. Personally? I’m absolutely thrilled with the quality and variety of the events, and I wish Sydney was this arts mad all year ’round.

  3. Fahrenheit, Festivals and Fear « DoctorDi said,

    […] program annually turns me into an insatiable grunting glutton. I even forced Llew to join me in camping out for Lou Reed tickets a couple of years ago, so determined was I to sniff out those elusive truffles – two tickety […]

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