Sidney Myer Music Bowl27 February 2013
Kevin Hawkins explores new ways to keep yourself entertained in a city you thought you’d exhausted.
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is like a red flag to a bull to a cheapskate like me. The amphitheatre with its wire fences and unobstructed sound just begs for me to find a way to beat the system.
While most events at the open-air venue attract a cover charge, one doesn’t necessarily need to pay for them.
I tested this theory out over the summer holidays when Weezer dropped by Melbourne for the first time in 16 years. Most Weezer diehards willingly sacrificed their hundred-dollar bills (plus an unnecessary $5.95 surcharge) to the Ticketmaster monopoly. But I had better ideas.
Much like those vying for front position in the mosh-pit, I began the evening skirting the perimeter of the Music Bowl, scouring for the best vantage point. From one lookout point, I caught a glimpse of the drummer’s hat and his waving arms. From another angle, I found myself in the line of fire as four men relieved themselves against the fence. When I finally decided on a position, I could see both electronic screens and zero penises.
When putting the Bowl together in the 1950s, architects evidently had cheapskates like me in mind. The amphitheatre’s structural design only accommodates the views of those burrowed within the grassy bunker. Those standing on the other side of the hill—and subsequently partitioned off by the security gates—have their view obscured by the silhouettes of standing patrons and rolling hills.
What can’t be controlled is the noise. In the decades that have since passed, the legendary voices of Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, and Bob Dylan—among others—have leaked into the Royal Botanical Gardens surrounds. The price of a concert ticket may be too much for some Melbournians, but music will always be free.
My eagerness to capitalise on this open-source sound saw me spend the night among a society of 200 loiterers. Their tactics varied.
Some groups treated the concert as background music to their evening BBQ, and were content with relaxing on the nearby lawns. Others squirmed around the front gates, ready to jump on any opportunity for free entry. Understandably, the venue staff didn’t buy the “I just want to go to the merchandise store” line used by one stingy Weezer fanatic.
A nearby huddle of teens took it in turns to climb a tree, each one convinced that the extra metre of height would give them an unhindered view. Then there was me, listening out for all the band’s mistakes, as if to justify my decision to have not bought a ticket.
True to my nature, I eavesdropped on the departing crowd at the show’s conclusion, curious to hear the thoughts of the paying customers with whom I had kind of shared this night.
“I really enjoyed it,” a twenty-something woman said to her boyfriend.
“But I spent most of the night watching the screen.”
I patted my wallet, imagining a crisp hundred-dollar note sitting inside. I felt vindicated.