End of the Line Music Festival at Belgrave. The event promised 70 bands, a makers market, workshops and art exhibits over one massive day.
Aside from an excursion to Puffing Billy in my youth and a few weekends in Upwey as a teenager riding my skateboard on the ageing basketball court at the local high school, I have not been a regular visitor to these parts. Driving into the town, I felt immediately charmed. It wasn't just the steep, bushy walkways though they were lovely, or the puffs of chimney smoke drifting lazily over the town. The Cameo Cinema sits on the main drag like a stately monolith, a dark cave of visceral excitements and solitary pleasures. Everyone has a touchstone for what constitutes civilisation. For some that's a public library, in my case, it's a cinema.
We didn't have a plan, other than to hear some music and head home when we tired. Sometimes being on foot with the pram is not too different to a mobile shanty town: drinks, snacks, warm clothes, toys. Heading into town with my pre-schooler and pre-teen in tow I was hoping we could make the day work. When they started asking if we could go home in the first half hour I began to have my doubts. But kids are not that different from grown-ups. Faced with a new environment their instincts is to get back to familiar turf. I was having none of it. Guys, I reminded them, we are here to hear music. Let's go find it.
What did we hear first? The pounding of drums. Turning the corner in the the Station we happened upon a dozen local kids channeling Africa. Is anyone doing Aussie bush ballads on that vast continent?
We got a kick out of seeing the garbage bins pasted over with artwork – what a good idea. And toodled along the train track stopping every now and again to watch the graffiti artists shake their cans between drags of cigarettes. At TBC stage, where a few turned over milk crates made for seats, Harmony Byrne sang a sweet set. She had the small crowd enthralled with her strong voice in perfect pitch. I felt moved in equal measure by the vulnerability and courage of her performance and the fortitude it takes to stand alone on a stage.
We pushed on through the excellent maker's market where we found ourselves in tie-dye heaven. In a stall that might have been made by elves, the kids picked up a necklace each: a sparkling unicorn's horn and multi-coloured mushroom. With these talismans around their necks the monkeys seemed re-energised.
At the very end we reached the Green. Here we settled on the lawn on soft cushions under a billowing silk canopy to watch the belly dancers, chow down some bliss balls and have our faces painted. I had the opportunity to do some people watching. It was a colourful parade. There were some good Alt Country outfits, a family of medievalists. But the day belonged to the Rakia Gypsy dancers. With their fingerless gloves, silver jewellery and felt hats, those ladies brought Frida Kahlo flair to the occasion.
On Sunday over brunch at my local cafe – wedged between chino and sports wear brigade – I thought: I have to get out more.