Melbourne geography in songs. Reminiscing about the vibrant city that’s now in lockdown

Here we go again. Melbourne just entered another lockdown. This time it’s bigger, more serious but definitely not better. All the venues and shops that had just re-opened their doors to patrons were forced to shut them down again. For six long weeks, everyone will pretty much be confined to the 5 km-away-from home radius. And you can only leave your home for work or care purposes during the night curfew. The capital’s streets are deserted again and it’s a bloody eerie feeling.

So this week I’m dedicating this space to my beloved Melbourne and the places I can’t wait to go back to when it’s okay to move around again.

PART 47 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE

Thankfully, Australian (and overseas) musos are really keen on making Melbourne the subject of their recordings. A Wikipedia article alone mentions 20+ songs with the name “Melbourne” in the title.

You guessed it, I made another playlist. This time it consists of songs that talk about the Greater Melbourne area, the suburbs and famous landmarks, and it travels all around the city’s map. Apart from a bonus at the very end, all track titles have clues as to what part of the city they refer to. And the first one is a simple invitation, “Let’s Take A Trip To Melbourne” by Clem Williams (don’t worry, the rest of the tunes are not so vintage).

The songs might be about totally different experiences in those suburbs, but they’re a good excuse for me to reminisce about all the good times in the Victorian capital when things were a little simpler.

GREY SKIES OVER COLLINGWOOD” BY WEDDING PARTIES ANYTHING

Collingwood is hands down one of my favourite inner Melbourne suburbs. It’s because of its proximity to CBD (Central Business District), awesome (historic) live music venues (like The Tote or The Gaso) and its industrial feel. I love the converted warehouses and flat out Smith Street cafés and bars. I used to work with Amnesty International whose offices are just around the corner from Grace Darling Hotel.

The recent gentrification efforts are not doing the suburb any good when it comes to its hip indie vibe, I reckon. But so far Collingwood has managed to maintain its quirky charm. And it will hopefully stay that way after lockdown as well.

Read more about the Wedding Parties Anything band here.

CHAPEL STREET ETC.” BY SOMETHING FOR KATE

The South Yarra side of Chapel Street was my first place to stay when I landed in the Victorian capital. It’s a pretty posh part of town, so I was convinced every corner in Melbourne looked the same (which is not the case haha). I had my inaugural VB (Victoria Bitter – a local, not-so-great beer brand) in a small, now non-existent bar opposite the Temperance Hotel. And my first Melbourne-style latte was in the elegant, (then) freshly opened Abacus.

I used to walk down Chapel Street all the way to Windsor (another suburb), passing Prahran Market, Revolver Upstairs and Lucky Coq. The street is dotted with bars and restaurants that are constantly buzzing with people (well, at least in normal non-pandemic circumstances). It’s a place that hardly ever sleeps and it’s devastating to see it so empty right now.

(I don’t know how but I have virtually NO usable pics from Chapel Street.)

Check out Something For Kate‘s website.

“LYGON STREET MELTDOWN” BY MELBOURNE SKA ORCHESTRA

To me, Lygon Street is two things: the best ice cream in town at Pidapipó and my beloved movie theatre, Cinema Nova. The first one has to do with the fact that Carlton is a predominantly Italy-influenced suburb, with amazing restaurants serving authentic Italian food. And ice cream is definitely one of the sweet highlights of that cuisine. Plus, Pidapipó makes delish vegan options as well.

I used to love going to Cinema Nova on Mondays – they have cheap tickets on that day (below AUD 10) and screen niche, underground movies you won’t see in other commercial cinemas. But they sure have snacks and a wine bar on the premises, which is another perk.

You can find out more about the Melbourne Ska Orchestra here.

“WESTGATE BRIDGE” BY SLEEPY TOWNSHIP

Very good friends of mine live in Melbourne’s West, and they’ve given me a ride back to the East, where I used to live, waaaay too many times 🙂 The obvious way to get from one side to the other is via the Westgate Bridge – an impressive structure that opens up breathtaking views onto the city. It’s also pretty when you look at the bridge from the Docklands perspective, especially when it’s lit at night.

On top of the bridge, there’s a massive Australian flag that often flaps in the gusty winds (which are more than normal for Melbourne). It’s a sight to behold, especially when you’re stuck in the never-ending traffic jams that form on the bridge in rush hour.

Driving towards the CBD from Melbourne’s West. Own video

Here’s some quick info on Perth’s Sleepy Township band.

“THE BOY WHO LOST HIS JOCKS ON FLINDERS STREET” BY PAINTERS AND DOCKERS

Just to put you out of your misery, “jocks” in Aussie English are male briefs or part of men’s undergarments. And it’s actually not surprising that someone might lose them on Flinders Street. Because it is right on the verge of CBD where a lot of partying and shady things happen. I’ve definitely lost too much money in that area on Sunday arvo drinks on fancy rooftop terraces, for sure 🙂

Flinders Street is also home to one of the busiest train stations in the city, housed in a beautiful, historic building. If you live in Melbourne, you’ll spend more time at the station waiting on delayed trains than you’d like, guaranteed.

A quick read about Painters and Dockers is here.

“FROM ST KILDA TO KINGS CROSS” BY PAUL KELLY

In this song’s case, I’ll stick to St Kilda, one of the beach suburbs of Melbourne, fairly close to CBD (Kings Cross is a place in Sydney).

St Kilda is (in)famous for many things: the beachfront (this part of Victoria doesn’t really have nice sand or coastline, so Aussies from outside of Melbourne wouldn’t even call it a proper beach); Ackland Street (where shopping for food, clothes and other not-so-legal things happens); backpackers (a lot of partying and noise) and the Lunapark (whose entrance is the exact copy of Sydney’s). It’s also a good place to start doing SUP, kite- or wind-surfing, and enjoy a nice glass of wine with friends or a partner at sunset in one of the beachfront establishments (I might have mentioned the Espy like a million times already but Republica close to the Baths or the St Kilda Kiosk are also worthwhile).

If you’ve never heard of Paul Kelly, time to change that quickly here.

“MY BROWN YARRA” BY WHIRLING FURPHIES

The name of the river passing through Melbourne comes from the Aboriginal language. Yarro-yarro means “ever-flowing” in Boonwarrung.

Although the river is not very wide (like the Thames in London), it weaves its way through scenic parts of Melbourne (i.e. close to the Botanic Garden or Melbourne Park where AusOpen takes place every year). There are pleasant, easy bike trails on its shores in different places and you’ll often spot Melburnians practising water sports (like wakeboarding or kayaking) there. The lazy yet chilled option is taking a cruise to Williamstown or just down the river towards the parks and gardens, enjoying city views from the water. In the summer, there are numerous bars spread along the CBD (check out Arbory which is literally glued to Flinders Street station) and South Bank’s side, so it’s pretty cool to catch up with mates after school or work before commuting back to your suburb. Often practices by me and highly recommended.

Whirling Furphies are a folk band that you should get to know here.

(On a side note: Furphy is a local beer brand produced in Geelong which is not far from Melbourne towards the Great Ocean Road – another liquid reminder of Victoria’s hops and malt legacy).

“EPPING LINE” BY SCOTT & CHARLENE’S WEDDING

This song is an introduction to my train journey to work in Thomastown, along the Epping and Mernda lines. On the playlist, there are several other tracks that name stops on that line, i.e. Courtney Barnett’s “Depreston”, Candy’s “(thornbury)” or Marcel Borrack’s “Regent to Ruthven”.

From West Melbourne station, where I used to get on the train, to Thomastown it’s a 30-minute train ride approximately. A decent while to catch up on the socials in the morning or afternoon, reply to those put-off private emails or study the surroundings flying by as the train makes its way to the North. You might even accidentally discover where one of your fave bands shot their music vid (Slowly Slowly in this case, along the train tracks between the Preston and Regent stations).

I used to not like the commute in the morning because the trains are normally chockers but I’d pay a million bucks to get on that ride soon again.

“BRUNSWICK” BY WEDDING PARTIES ANYTHING

Next time I’m moving in Melbourne, it’s going to be to Brunswick. I don’t have any constructive argument as to why that part of town. I just have a gut feeling I belong there.

Actually, I do know. It’s because of the Howler (one of the many awesome music venues where I shook hands with Arno Faraji, Kwame and Tkay Maidza all on the same night), the proximity to green zones (I used to go running in Princes Park) and the Sydney Road Street Party in March (no further explanations needed). Let’s not forget coffee, the multiculti vibe and small shops and art galleries. Unfortunately for my wallet, there are also a Kmart (trinkets) and a Bunnings (sausage sizzles) in the area. And for people who don’t cook (like me), awesome food options from around the world are very affordable and available. Need I say more?

BONUS TRACK: “LEAPS AND BOUNDS” BY PAUL KELLY

It’s a bonus track because it doesn’t name the place it talks about straight off the bat. But those in the know will tell you that it’s about the ‘G (MCG – the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground). This is where not only cricket matches take place but most of the Melbourne AFL (Australian rules football = footy) teams play as well. Once in a while, there’s a gig or a massive open-air cinema on the premises. If you’re a Melburnian, even just for a while, chances are you’ll be there at least once for some kind of (not only sports-related) celebration. And this is what you’ll have:

There’s one suburb that I’m emotionally attached to that is not on the playlist. But Richmond – where I used to reside for the majority of my time in Melbourne – is a totally different story. Definitely for a whole new post, so stay tuned.

That’s it – I almost made myself cry. Here’s the full playlist. Enjoy!

References:

  1. Timeout Melbourne

2. The Urban List

3. Mix Down Mag

4. The Herald Sun

5. The Culture Trip

6. Tone Deaf

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