I'm In With The In-Crowd
One of the less obvious things I miss about growing old is you can no longer be part of a scene. I loved a good scene. Nowadays the word “scene” has a bit of a negative connotation as in “it was such a scene” and I am sure the younger folk have a better more positive word for a scene but I like scene as a positive word for, well I guess, a “scene”.
I want add that it is not age itself that stops you from being part of a scene, its just that scenes form for a number of reasons and those reasons are almost always linked to youthful pursuits and youth itself.
I was reminded of this thanks to an outburst of Facebook activity reminiscing about a scene I was involved with in the early 80s around the nightlife at the Surfair Hotel. The Surfair is still at Marcoola across from the Sunshine Coast’s airport runway. In the same way that serious posh casinos give you rooms where you can watch the jets take off and land at Las Vegas’s McCarran airport you can check the planes land from Surfair’s lofty four or five story high apartments.
Surfair looks very different today after being extensively remodelled and expanded and flanked by other five or six story unit blocks. Back then it was the only building there, a glorified pub with some pretensions that also happened to have a beer garden perfect for the hosting of Australia’s pub rock royalty at the height of their power.
Given the Sunshine Coast’s more laidback feel, smaller police presence and a surfie culture as strong as anywhere the ingredients were all in place for a scene. Sure, not a scene like CBGBs in New York at the height of the USA punk and New Wave, San Francisco in 1966 and 67 or The Hacienda club in Manchester in the late 80s but its not the size that defines the scene.
A scene occurs when the following four conditions are being met for the majority of scenesters
· Like minded people gather to engage in their common pursuit/ entertainment
· This common pursuit needs to have followers elsewhere in the world so scenesters can be part of a bigger picture as well as their own scene.
· Those people can get fucked up together
· Their self worth is improved/ enhanced by being part of the scene
· They will get laid by being part of the scene
That’s it. If you got that you have a scene.
Sure, if there is only say four of you then you have a critical mass issue. But that is ok if you are one of the four and the scene subsequently explodes and you were there at the beginning. The beginning of any scene is when you want to be there. The beginning forward to about 75% of the whole journey is the best bit.
After that, like anything in its death throes, a scene becomes a bit pathetic and sad.
A scene should be short in life. Timing is important because if you are there early you might shape or even accidentally or purposefully create the scene and therefore become one of the central figures. All of which help you achieve even more effectively the outcomes from the four conditions highlighted above.
And scenes are almost impossible to build although if you are clever enough you can give a small fire plenty of fuel. Malcolm McLaren was a master of it.
For the every day scenester you might not know you are accidentally there at the start of something when you are. Only time and good luck suddenly reveal that you, without trying, have lobbed into the right place at the right time.
How do you know?
If you go to the scene every night you can and every night is the best night out ever, then you are enjoying the scene.
Obviously during that Australian pub rock glory period of say 75 to 85 which also happened to coincide with surfing’s first big boom any coastal venue named The Playroom, Bondi Lifesaver or The Jet Club was probably going to be a scene.
This might read a bit cynical and sarcastic but I love scenes. Call me shallow but I wish I had lobbed into the Surfair scene earlier but I was a bit too young so missed probably the first 30%. Not that that mattered too much because when the Surfair scene died then another scene subsequently started at the Mooloolaba Hotel aka Thommos so I went and joined that one which was also good. Somehow though the second scene just isn’t quite as sweet as the first.
You never forget your first scene.
As you might have worked out the Arts love scenes. Music, movements in painting and sculpture, writers’ colonies, Hollywood in the 60s and 70s are examples of major scene happenings.
But they can happen in other areas. I reckon the ALP had a bit of a scene going on in the Gough Whitlam era and the English gentry doing the grand tour of Europe in the 18th century was a scene.
Bali has been a never-ending scene since the early 70s but I think it is getting tired and lame now.
You see no matter how long a scene goes for it is a young person’s game. As you get older, work, partner up, start a family those four scene conditions are not as important or are met in different ways.
If you are still walking into the same scene and everyone is ten years younger than you and they only acknowledge your presence because you sell the drugs then you are not a figurehead of the scene. You are a supplier just like the company that is supplying the snap frozen seafood. If you are not even that then you need to have a rethink of how your life has gone.
As we baby boomers get older and clog up dementia wards the reminiscing will fade and great scenes will be forgotten just like the name of that really cool dude who had the best Mohawk or the girl who got up and danced topless to The Angels that sweaty Australia Day eve.
But that’s ok because right now as I write this blog there are scenes starting, peaking and fading. May the four conditions always apply!
Best Scene Song – What’s my Scene? – Hoodoo Gurus
My daughter tells me a scene would be described in her world as “ That club is really lit!”
“England’s Dreaming”, Jon Savage’s history of The Sex Pistols and punk rock focuses on Malcolm McLaren’s scene building and is great reading.
Peter Hook’s book on The Hacienda – “The Hacienda How Not To Run A Club”
“American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis also covers a scene amongst other things not so nice.
My fave shows at Surfair - Midnight Oil, George Thorogood and The Destroyers