“Think I’m going down to the well tonight
And I’m going to drink till I get my fill.”
Glory Days, Bruce Springsteen.
We’re in through the gates; into the Hanging Rock concert area.
Not a scrap of shade on the gentle grassy slope. We’re looking west. An enormous stage holding monitors, sound, gear looms from the paddock with all the visual likelihood of a freshly landed spaceship. Behind lies the ancient jagged peak of Hanging Rock.
We’re looking to claim a patch of grass.
This morning, battling, the prospect of seeing Bruce Springsteen seemed tantalising, but too hard. It would have been the first time for either of us. For any of us. But there seemed too many hurdles to jump; pieces to fall into place.
But CJ got it done.
“Let’s just do it. It’s the only life we’ve got.”
And so the four of us are in the car. Up the Calder. And so the four of us re-fuel at the Woodend bakery (beef, bacon and cheese pies as ‘Pie-of-the-day’ claim two young converts (“my first ever pie, Dad”)). And so the four of us park inside the Hanging Rock race track. And so we carry blankets, sleeping bags, hats, food. We’re going to see Bruce.
“Gee, Dad, it’s a bit hot.”
And it is. Probably over 30 degrees, sun pretty much unimpeded by wafts of high cirrus cloud.
CJ takes the buds for a walk, back outside the perimeter fence, to rest under a eucalypt. I’m lying on a pair of picnic blankets, holding our spot on the hill. We’re up the back. Hardly a covetous patch of lawn. Johnny Diesel plays a few, JET play a few. It’s terrific.
The crowd is building. The sun seems to be, too. Lying here is sweaty work. By 6pm CJ and the buds are back, somehow bringing licks of cool breeze with them.
The cloud overhead is thickening. A cheese platter and a quiet drink accompany us as nature swirls around; temperature suddenly dropping; sun lowering; it will later set behind the stage, behind Hanging Rock.
When the curtain of a shower starts to fall, I reckon on collecting our raincoats from the car. Buddy Yum (9-y-o) wants to come with me. “I’ll run, Dad. Let’s run together.”
And so we do. But we’re not half way back to the car when Bruce takes the stage. We stop, look at each other. “Oh, he’s starting.” And it’s a happy, joyous, look-at-us-holding-hands-and-running-in-the-rain-to-the-sound-of-Bruce kind of run, to collect the coats.
As we re-join the lawn, the throng, the shower passes. We’re hot and wet, in audience to Bruce Springsteen’s show under the Australian summer sky and life is pretty damn fine.
Bruce is the consummate big stage, big show performer. He’s 67. Telling us of his first guitar. That in the shop it was going to cost $18. And that he’d never even seen more than $5 in one place before. And that he soon learned that while the sound was important, so too was the “look.”
And he’s singing, playing guitar, running, high-fiving those in the expensive section, up against the stage. He’s harvesting people’s signs (“with Jake I believe in consensual sax”) and holding them up to the TV cameras. And all the time he’s smiling. It looks like smile of someone who can’t quite believe their luck. It’s magnificent.
There’s Jungleland, there’s Wrecking Ball, there’s a square-dancing version of Johnny 99. And there’s a rainbow in the east as the setting sun catches those showers. Perfect.
It’s a monumental show. Our buds have started the show lying on a picnic blanket, playing games on their iPods. But now they are up and dancing with their parents, swept up in the energy, the vibe, the happiness and the music. Always the music. It’s way past any ordinary bedtime, and they’re grinning like criminals, now wrestling each other to Dancing in the Dark.
A full moon rises now in the east. What trick of the Gods has given us sun, heat, showers, rainbows and a full moon?
And this is a how-good-is-this kind of life moment, an “ass-shaking moment.” We crack out the chocolate, swaying, leaping to Born to Run. This show has been more than the sum of its parts.
Band members are cavorting. We’re eye-smiling as band members are each introduced and the show rises to its rousing and hand-holding end. Kangaroos stand in the neighbouring field.
And as we bend to pack up sleeping bags, our patch of lawn, Bruce returns under the night sky, alone. He brings with him guitar and harmonica. And he sits himself on a stool.
“One more for Hanging Rock,” he says, raspily.
Cheering breaks out. And the night is given it’s perfect close:
“The screen door slams; Mary’s dress waves…”
Thunder Road; pared back. Thunder Road as sand and gravel track.
Today’s, tonight’s was a wonderful life experience. I’m so thankful to have gone, to have gone with CJ and the buds. Unforgettable. Thank you Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
“I was eight years old and running with a dime in my hand
Into the bus stop to pick up a paper for my old man
I’d sit on his lap in that big old Buick and steer as we drove through town
He’d tousle my hair and say son take a good look around this is your hometown
This is your hometown
This is your hometown
This is your hometown”
My Hometown, Bruce Springsteen.