The longest part of a long flight always seems to be the minutes between landing, standing, waiting, and finally getting the fuck off. The place we aim to be is so close to grasp, but so many factors stand in our way. All was well and good leading up to this point. Both her and I had settled into the necessary mental zone of acceptance that the hours were going to slowly and painfully creep by. But now that they have, the stress of disembarking the aircraft amounts as certain abrasive idiots hurriedly stand, rip their baggage from the overheads, and place themselves in the aisle as if it will result in some sort of head start to immigration. Everyone else falls in line with the same unavoidable, stupid mentality, and eventually we all find ourselves pointlessly afoot and motionless, ducking beneath the overhanging compartments. A man of stress, I find these moments of trying patience seem to affect me more than others, but this is not the way I want to start a new chapter. I place one bud in my right ear and the other in her left, letting music do what it does best – remove us.
The minutes fade, and eventually her and I are walking down the long, floating tunnel to the terminal, free of the cage that is a plane and the people on it.
It’s our first time in Australia, which seems particularly odd for two young people so well-travelled. After the long months in a far less relatable and welcoming environment, we’re excited for what will predominantly be a mental escape and a much-needed decompression.
A step outside shows us early kindness with a temperament neither warm nor cool, but perfectly median. It’s Springtime here in the Southern hemisphere, a confusing fact that I, a longtime citizen of the Northern, have forgotten about or swept aside until this moment.
As we make our way North into the city in the back of a cab – one of those cabs that graciously allows us to play our own music – a contrast of color palettes creates a clear hierarchy between the man-made and the natural. A place of great wonder, the fierce colors that have graced this land for millennia make a play for the eyes, snatching the attention from the human scale, which itself gives a soft, harmless palette of pastels to the infrastructure and buildings, offsetting and giving way to the exuberance and flamboyance of organic Australian beauty in an endless circle of give and take. The music we play to accompany the views, a continuation of our listening from the plane, offers a similar contrasting circle of vibrancies and pastels.
Gold Coast is supposedly more beautiful than most places on Earth, making it, in modern times, undoubtedly driven by tourism. But as tourists ourselves, we have no room to complain about such things. We check in with the owner of our AirB&B located in a central neighborhood called Surfer’s Paradise. Though not heavy partyers in the sense that we once were, the scene and the scenery were too attractive to pass up, and perhaps in the good graces of the Australian beach town, we’ll find the call of a drink or two far more attractive than in our previous lives. With such assumptions in mind, our gracious host leaves us with a collection of recommendations. Between the electronic clubs, the bars that attract older tourists decked out, god knows why, in Hawaiian shirts, and a very keen middle ground of relaxed vibes and local live music, a clear frontrunner emerges.
A brief half-hour of settling in and cleaning up calls for a soundtrack, so I rig my phone to the speaker system and pick up where we left off in the taxi. Again, something about the music feels so at home here. Being born of this environment, it should be no surprise that the two artists are influenced by and able to encapsulate its vibes so well, but Australian artists in particular seem to boast a knack for auditory geographic representation.
It’s getting dark, so we head out to explore the neighborhood. Through our stroll around town, we see that at night, the natural and the man-made switch their roles. While bright lights illuminate and color every building and sidewalk, the beaches and the trees are subdued to darkness and the sounds of the ocean drowned out by the passing of cars and loud music. We cross bridges where at day an inlet of the ocean passed beneath, now blackness suspends us over nothing. We walk below streetlamps that create odd oases of faux daylight, passing between them as checkpoints of safety against the unknown.
Upon one of the streetlamps, we find an impossible flyer, directing us just a few blocks away to not only a local art gallery, but one playing host to the same names whose music has provided the rightful soundtrack for our entire day of destress and change. There is no choice to be made. We follow the flyer.
Each subsequent post assures us we’re heading the right way, and eventually, we stroll into a park. Just a few steps down its sidewalks, the city, though all around and above, seems to have slipped away. It’s quiet here. At the end of the path we approach Gold Coast City Gallery – a small and rather humble museum that was transformed into the more impressive and globally attractive Home of the Arts as its central location proved a valuable destination for tourists and locals alike.
Inside, an interesting combination of aboriginal, islander, and more modern Australian works leave no space uncovered on the walls. Walking slowly through the maze of people and artwork, we eventually come to bar, grab a seat, and a shared bottle of cheap, local white wine. In a prime position to do so, the people watching naturally begins. There is such a clear distinction made between the seldom tourists of the group and the locals. Being somewhat off the beaten path for tourism and playing host to local art and local tunes, tonight is obviously catered for the local style, bringing with it tasteful fashion of the same diluted pastels as the architecture. Muted yellows, reds, blues, and greens dot the sea of people meandering around the space.
She checks her phone and signals that we should probably head to the viewing area. We down the glasses already poured, slide the stemware forward on the bar, and remove ourselves from the stools. I pocket the half-drunken bottle into the back of my jeans, storing it for safekeeping until we find ourselves rooted for the show.
Upon a lone stage, underneath a grand vaulted ceiling, and surrounded by art sits a keyboard and a mic stand. Nothing more. Nothing less. The lights, unlike any show I’ve ever attended, do not sim, but remain heavier lit than against the artwork than on the stage itself, allowing a balance to be struck between both the visual and the auditory aesthetics of Australia.
Two young men, one bearded like a wizard, the other clean cut, make their way onto stage, taking their two positions at the only two possible places. Sans introduction and with full respect again to the art, the instrumentalist – the producer – whose moniker is Golden Vessel, begins calmly playing away in a manner reminiscent of the modern Australian cityscape. Ripe with the auditory colors of man-made pastels, his ability to silkily bring to life a soundscape reflective of the gallery’s architecture is uncanny. His music draws some, but not all of the attention in the room, as others still find themselves instead drawn in by the visual experience. When the young man at the microphone, whose name is Emerson Leif, begins belting smooth, vibrant vocals reflective of the Australian natural landscape so sheer and alive, some, but again not all of the room is drawn to the performance.
A series of balances are alive in perfect orchestration. The human and the natural touch of the local environment, the artistic stylings old and new hung on the walls, the visual and the auditory aesthetics working in tandem, and the instrumentalist and the vocalist existing as further representation of it all. It is nothing short of elative and creative – art in every form of every age working together to create experience.