Many of us have a favourite local musician whom we stalk from pub to pub, year after year, hoping they’ll eventually recognise us, thank us profusely for our loyalty and support, and buy us a drink, which will be the first of many drinks and the beginning of a long and meaningful friendship. Of course, said friendship will become so important to chosen musician that they will write a song about it – a song that becomes an instant Aussie classic and reaches number one on Triple J’s Hottest 100.
My stalkee was (is) Angie Hart: singer-songwriter extraordinaire; electric lyricist; former frontwoman of Frente!, Splendid and Holidays On Ice; and solo artist of the century. My adoration began in Grade 1, when I first saw the video clip for ‘Accidentally Kelly Street’ – what seven-year-old could resist an enormous moving pot plant, a bunch of guys dorking around in brightly coloured suits, and a singer in white hot pants? I begged my parents for the cassette tape. I listened to subsequent Frente! and Splendid albums over the years with an attentiveness akin to obsession, and asked for a bass guitar for Christmas in Year 10, mainly so I could teach myself to play Horrible and sing along in front of my bedroom mirror.
And as Angie and her songwriting grew, so did I. She sang about relationship breakdown while I went to horse-riding lessons. She wrote lyrics that hinted at domestic violence, and I lamented that I still had braces on my teeth for my high-school formal photos. Despite our obviously non-parallel lives, there was one major indicator that suggested we were destined for BFF-dom. She starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer – twice! – AND recorded the song ‘Blue’ especially for the show.
Something happened recently, though, which changed the way my Angie-friendship-fantasy worked. I saw her perform live at the Toff, as part of the Going Down Swinging 33 launch. This alone was not unusual – I’ve seen Angie wax lyrical as part of numerous projects and on her own more times than I can count. But the musical and spoken-word extravaganza at the launch a few weeks ago was perhaps the most resonant and moving show of hers I’d ever experienced.
My revelation began with Modern Giant’s Adam Gibson, who performed a spoken-word piece called ‘Angie Hart’, which had originally been published in Going Down Swinging 21, ten years ago. The piece looks back to 1992, where Gibson sees himself as being ‘out of control’ and fantasises about moving to Melbourne, where he would ‘fall in love and drink coffee and sit in cafes and drink beer’, become a member of the Fitzroy pool, start smoking, feel like ‘this was really home’. And what drew him there was Angie Hart:
Angie Hart from the band Frente! may have been involved
Somewhere I may have just accidentally bumped into her
… Angie Hart made me want to move to Melbourne. She did. Like nothing else. I would’ve got in the car and just gone.
Gibson’s performance was heart-wrenchingly honest – a tragic, hopeful, wistful account of wishing for a life full of control, peace and familiarity. There is something about spoken-word performance that, when done well, touches the soul – a type of sharing that only comes through the sheer power of storytelling. And I realised I wasn’t the only one. Angie had a way with words that changed you. And Gibson had been changed as well (even as I was being affected by his words).
Then Angie Hart came onstage, and responded with her own spoken-word piece. She described how she herself had been out of control, but how in this mindset she had deserted Melbourne, rather than been drawn to it. She spoke of her marriage to a man that turned out to be devastatingly destructive, her life in a city (Los Angeles) that never stopped and was never quite real, and the humbleness she felt when she was welcomed back to Melbourne. She mentioned, several times, hearing about ‘some guy’ who had written a piece about her in the 1990s, and longing to have been friends with him instead of going down the path she had taken. Her speech – more like a conversation with perfect rhythm – had excerpts from her actual songs interspersed throughout, each picked to complement the mood. The crowd went mental when she finished with a few lines of Frente!’s cover of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle.’
Adam Gibson had not met Angie Hart when he wrote his song. Just as I never have. And I realised, after hearing him share his stories, and after hearing hers – I don’t need to meet Angie Hart or have a deep conversation with her to cement the importance of my admiration for her. She, and artists like Gibson, have already given us everything, through the simple act of trusting their stories to hundreds of people whom they will never meet. To demand more would be to disrespect all that they have shared.
Julia Tulloh is a Melbourne-based writer. Her essay ‘Lana or Lizzie? Vintage Videos and the Del Rey Debate’ appeared in Kill Your Darlings No. 10.