Almanac Music: You Arrive in the Strangest Ways.

Mikey, hi.


How’s the music? How’s your winter?


I took my little girl bush on dusk, straight from work, in mud and rain, trying to beat the council slasher to rainforest saplings on the banks of otherwise forgotten mountain tracks.


I’ll use what I get for re-vegetation jobs. They’ve told me, back in townships, it’ll be jail if I’m caught, stealing an endangered species, yet they’re the ones killing them. Bureaucrats.


They’ve done me a favour, with their pathetic 7-to-4. I cut and rummaged between blackberries and wiregrass, while a blood moon rose through dusk’s still, prehistoric trees, and quiet, swirling clouds.


As mists fell, we greeted night’s first glow-worms, owls.


My girl, not yet four, sung Latino songs from her seat in the ute. I drank a bourbon, only the one, dirty arm dangling over the wheel, cruising in second, just to feel un-caught, and free. To show her a relaxed father.


“Papa, radio,” she said, when we stopped, this pocket Heaven.


I motioned her to it. She pressed every button twice.


We slowly wound our way up a now dark old growth track, 250 foot trees towering over us, as wide as houses, while sifting through static, until a commercial station appeared. Violent ads, overbearing DJs, delirious weather reports, everything about it jarred.


After two cardboard tunes, she announced; “I don’t like radio, Papa”, so I turned it off.


In the following silence, she watched the moon duck and weave, chasing us, while I remembered, randomly, being 19, living alone, lonely, in a beat up old dairy shed, in snowy nowhere, gaping cracks in the wall.  A place so remote there was no radio reception.


On nights too cold or lonely to sleep, I’d tune it to gamma rays, just for something other than nothing. Sometimes catch the two-way radio of poachers down off the coast, pick up the throb of their boat motors. They’d never spoke in English, I had no idea what they were saying, but envied their purpose.


One 2am, a sound grew from weeks of white noise, a song. My beloved Captain Beefheart. ‘Orange Claw Hammer’.


‘Orange Claw Hammer’ – Captain Beefheart


Then, in perfect reception, The Unstrung Harp playing ‘Sticks and Stones’. Then, on the fade, Tav Falco’s ‘Cuban Rebel Girl’.


Then static.




That strange window that passed, somehow, without words. Another world, filled, to the needle’s eye, of a taste unspeakably rare, precise. Working by myself in the bush, it had me thinking for days.


On the track, as I gathered one last brace of saplings and rain began to fill the night, I thought of that memory, then of you. And knew, despite a couple of those artists not meaning to me now what they did to a 19 year old, with your bands, and love of music, even if you didn’t know what all the questions were, you’d understand.


More from Matt Zurbo can be read Here.


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  1. Malby Dangles says

    Wow just thinking of hearing Beefheat at 2am when you haven’t had radio for awhile…I guess it really would make you feel like you were on the edge of the earth.
    THaaks for this, Matt. Your love of music is only surpassed by the love of your family…’this pocket heaven’ – a beautiful phrase for your daughter

  2. Matt Zurbo says

    ThANK YOU, Malby. I wish one of the bands was Dynamo!

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