Melbourne is a music town and thus makes markontour feel very much at home. I am writing this over the Atlantic Ocean on the way to New York a few weeks after leaving Melbourne, but still listening to the music I discovered there (right now it's Antenna's 'Come On Spring'). In particular, I love Brunswick, Melbourne's Dalston/Greenpoint/Williamsburg; I love its vibrant community radio; I love the free tramway service in the centre of town; I was surprised to find Theakston's Old Peculiar costs $16 a pint; and I love how easy it is to escape the city to sample great wine, and see abundant kangaroos at dusk (although I didn't manage it on this latest trip). Most of all I love the chance to catch up with old friends from Nottingham days, plus new friends from C40, and that's probably why there's an even higher than usual markontour quota of references to bars and record shops in this very incomplete city guide!
Music, bars and food
Record Paradise, 15 Union Street, Brunswick
The reason to still buy vinyl rather than downloads, apart from the excitement of sitting on the bus and looking at the sleeve while waiting to get home to listen to it, is because the great people who doggedly still run record shops really love music. Thanks to the lovely people in Record Paradise, I am now the proud of owner of the Murloc's exciting debut, and am currently enjoying King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizzard's surreal pop. Featuring a both new and second-hand vinyl, plus a decent stage space where we enjoyed a short set by a promising local band, the patrons supping from off-licence tinnies, Record Paradise is a top notch vinyl emporium. Discounts available for subscribes to Triple R community radio.
Melbourne seems to specialise in community radio and Triple R is the kingpin. Gig posters plaster the walls and music clearly dominates the output, but markontour enjoyed doing an interview on climate change with Michelle Bennett, and it seems that community radio plays an important role in airing such issues in a way that the mainstream Aussie media appears determined to avoid
Howler, 7-11 Dawson Street
A large, outdoor bar conveniently close to Record Paradise, with a relaxed vibe and decent local ale.
Acustico, 32 Union Street, Brunswick
A lovely little cafe across the street from Record Paradise, serving smoothies and cakes to hipsters seated on an eclectic range of reclaimed furniture.
Clearly an institution, the Northcote Social CLub is a proper music venue, albeit one with fresh new carpets that haven't yet acquired that perma-stickiness. Markontour enjoyed a great Kim Salmon gig and I see that Frazey Ford is due to play before the month is out. Definitely a place to go back to.
A restaurant serving mostly British beer, although not exclusively as northern as the name might suggest, given that, alongside Old Peculiar, London Pride was on tap when I was there. It is very popular on a Saturday night as we had to wait a little for a table, and is really one for the meaties but my fish and chips was as good as the real thing back home. Most importantly it's just a short walk from the Northcote Social Club.
Galleries and Museums
Koorie Heritage Trust, Federation Square
A cracking gallery dedicated to aboriginal art. Early on is my favourite piece – a painting of an England vs Aborigines cricket match from the early colonial days. The imperial masters thought it would be a bit of joke, but ended up getting roundly beaten!
National Gallery Victoria, Federation Square
This place definitely needs a full day, but in a couple of hours I managed to enjoy the nineteenth and twentieth colonial rooms, plus some of the indigineous galleries. From the former, one gets a good sense of the rapid development of 'Marvellous Melbourne' following the 1850 gold rush. There's a clever triptych by Frederick McGubbin called 'The Pioneer' which shows an early coloniser arriving to wilderness, building a home, and finally being buried looking down on what is now a thriving town. The Twentieth Century gallery depicts the next stage, which Grace Cossington Smith's 'The Bridge in Curve' capturing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in construction. My favourite, though, was Russell Drysdale's 'Moodys Pub'. Painted in 1941, it shows farmhands loitering outside a bar, but such is the insouciance of their poses and clothes, it looks more like a rock group album cover from any time post 1965.
The indigenous art galleries cover darker themes. There is no mistaking the pervading sense of struggle and quest for identity. Ian Abdulla's poignant 'Night Story' has star light illuminating a field of crops, but you have to get close up to see the desperate Aboriginal people stealing the tomatoes under cover of darkness. More light-heartedly, 'Aboriginality Victorious', has a weedy-looking Aboriginal boxer knocking out his vastly larger European opponent, despite the latter wearing knuckle-duster gloves.