170 Russell

170 Russell is a music venue in the Melbourne CBD. UK band Daughter played Monday the 11th April. They made us beautifully and unbearably melancholic. Click to read the short story by set in Melbourne

– 11.04.16 –

Raj had arrived late to Daughter, his friend Sarah was already inside 170 Russell and had text a moment ago that he had missed one hell of a support group. He hated missing the support acts, both because he loved music and because he liked to inform others of this fact. His family dinner had carried on longer than he had hoped. His mum and dad were both visiting from New Jersey. They visited once or twice a year as both he and his sister, Aditi, were studying in Australia. They had been here last in February so he was not overly excited by their visit, plus he suspected that their recent trip had more to do with the Chinese male that had recently become a more prominent feature in Aditi’s Facebook pictures.
Daughter had not yet started playing when Raj entered the venue but it was noisy and crowded. Sarah said that she was standing towards the right of the stage. Raj moved his way through the crowds but got stuck behind a petite girl on crutches who was hovering at the top of the stairs leading down to the standing area in front of the stage.
Raj tried to move past her but she stood still, perhaps having trouble finding an appropriate spot to stand. For a petite girl, she took up a large amount of space with the extra two crutches towering by her sides. Raj considered helping her for a moment but soon a friend, equally small in stature, was by her side and helped her manoeuvre down the stairs.
Raj spotted Sarah standing next to two guys a small distance away from the stairs. He walked over to her. When Sarah saw him her eyes widened and a forced smile spread across her face. She placed her arm around his waist exclaiming his name above the noise. Understanding the situation Raj moved her in closer for a hug and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, “hey babe,” he said, “sorry I’m late, glad you found some friends to keep you company.”
The two guys looked uncomfortable. “I was just about to get a drink,” Sarah said and took Raj’s hand leading him towards the bar. The bar on the right of the stage was mostly empty so they were able to order quickly.
“Ugh, Raj, what have I said about leaving me to wait in public venues!” she said with a hint of annoyance in her voice.
“I know, I know, I’m sorry, dinner with the parents ran late,” he replied recalling the dinner at Red Pepper. The food still sat heavily in his stomach having consumed three times the amount he usually eats as his mum kept insisting he have another serve.
“Weren’t they just here?” she asked to which he nodded.
“Have they found you a girlfriend then?” she smirked.
“Yeah, I’m getting married day after tomorrow,” he joked, “nah they’re not like that, they’re pretty laid back.”
“Maybe they’ve just given up on you?” Sarah teased, “You died your hair again so they must still have some influence.”
Sarah was right there. Raj had been sporting a blue set of hair since the end of February, which he had died back to black after finding out last week about his parent’s impromptu visit.
When the girl at the bar had given them their drinks, Sarah turned to Raj, “hold this,” she said handing him the wine that the girl had just given her, “I’m going to the loo before Daughter come on.”
Raj moved a couple of metres away from the bar to let others through. He didn’t want Sarah to loose him when she came back so he waited awkwardly holding his beer and her wine. Raj spotted the girl on crutches just a few feet away. She was alone again, her doppelganger friend presumably at the bar or perhaps having a conversation with Sarah in the bathroom about lipstick or makeup or whatever it is that girls talk about in bathrooms.
An unusual burst of confidence, possibly fuelled by the 2 glasses of wine he already had at dinner, flowed through his body and he moved closer to her. “How’d you wind up on those,” he asked when he stood next to her.
The girl looked at him surprised by his sudden appearance. “I uh,” she stammered and looked at her crutches, “well Aerial Flow Yoga actually,” she said more collected.
“What’s that?” Raj asked curiously.
“You know the Yoga that you do in the air with slings?” she explained.
“Never heard of it,” he admitted.
The girl was very pretty. She had beautiful green eyes brimmed with eyelashes of quite extraordinary length. These seemed to dance around in their sockets when she spoke to him.
“Where are you from,” she asked changing the subject.
“New Jersey,” Raj said.
“That’s where the accent is from,” she said picking up on his American drawl, “who are you voting for?” she asked.
Raj guessed she was referring to the elections currently being played out on every news source in the States and here. “I just don’t care about politics anymore,” he sighed, sick of hearing the name Trump, “I’d rather vote for Donald Duck than Donald Trump!”
“If Donald Trump was more like Donald Duck he’d probably have a better chance at winning,” she said seriously.
“He would undoubtedly make a better president, although he might need to start wearing pants,” he joked,
The girl laughed.
At that point Raj felt a tug at his elbow, “Oh my god Raj you’re being creepy!” said Sarah now appearing next to him. “Leave the girl alone,” she continued, “this is literally exactly what you are here to be saving me from.”
“Sorry,” Sarah said to the girl and took Raj by the arm, ‘I can’t even leave you alone for 5 minutes!”
“You are the worst wingman of all time,” said Raj when Sarah let go of his arm after dragging him through the crowds towards the stage.
“Raj she wasn’t interested,” said Sarah
“How do you know?’ he asked a little offended by the comment.
“She looked awkward,” said Sarah matter-of-factly.
“Maybe she’s just an awkward person,” reasoned Raj.
“No, Raj she’s not,” said Sarah turning towards the stage. Daughter came onto the stage to a wave of applause and with that it was too noisy for Raj to continue arguing his point.
Daughter played with little banter between songs. When Elena Tonra spoke, her voice was a soft whisper and she left most of the “between song talk” to the two male band members. Raj recognized most songs although he was unfamiliar with the latest album. When the stage lights turned blue, Elena Tonra’s dark top blurred into the black background and all that was visible of her was her pale face and arms strumming the guitar strings; she had an ethereal beauty.
Right of the stage, a little far back were mirrors, which reflected the faces of the crowds. Raj looked at the faces and wondered if this is what the band members saw, a mass of faces, each with such different expressions with different reactions to the music. Raj spotted the girl on crutches in the mirror. She had her eyes closed with a serene expression on her face. Her head swayed a little to the music and the corners of her mouth were turned up ever so slightly.

Blow out all the candles, blow out all the candles
You’re too old to be so shy,” he says to me so I stay the night
Just a young heart confusing my mind, but we’re both in silence
Wide-eyed, both in silence

Elena Tonra’s melodic voice was certainly reaching her. Amongst the wide-eyed crowd she looked tranquil and dialectically both out of place and exactly where she should be. Raj looked back towards the stage. He too closed his eyes and wondered if he now also looked moved by the music.
Standing in blackness the words to Youth sweetly crawled into his ears and swirled around his head, moving down his body to the very ends of his fingers and toes.

And if you’re in love, then you are the lucky one,
‘Cause most of us are bitter over someone.
Setting fire to our insides for fun,
To distract our hearts from ever missing them.
But I’m forever missing him.

He opened his eyes when Elena Tonra finished the song with, “you caused it.” He wondered if anyone that beautiful would ever miss him that much. Recapping his dating history in his mind in the space of 3 seconds he decided probably not. Raj considered going to get another drink. He looked back towards the bar at the right of the stage and noticed the girl looking at him through the mirrors. When she spotted him noticing her gaze, she quickly looked away and said something to her friend. The friend shot a glance in his direction and then quickly averted her gaze. The two girls then became engrossed in conversation and did not look towards him again.
He looked back at Sarah who had tears in her eyes. He knew that song would have made her think of Charlie, who was the sole reason she now had a new found hate for men. Raj hated Charlie, he also hated who ever lover Elena Tonra had written that song about. Before Charlie, Sarah would have encouraged him to chat up the girl on crutches, but now even he was labelled as an ass hole.
He hoped someone would come along soon to make Sarah forget. He wondered if the pretty girl also had a Charlie, and who Elena Tonra’s Charlie was. Sometimes he admired Charlie with his effortless charm. Charlie would never have to die his hair blue or know Daughter’s support band to be interesting, he just was. He  never had to worry about being labelled an asshole, because he already was an asshole.

– The End –

170 Russell
170 Russell St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000

Image courtesy of Vevo – YouTube

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