It will probably be no shock that I am writing an entire blog post on the band, Midnight Oil.
This band has been a part of my life for several decades. I have no connections with this bunch of musos except sheer fandom.
For the uninitiated, Midnight Oil have been a force in Australian music since the mid-seventies. Coming from Sydney, they have a unique sound and a reputation for doing incredible live shows.
I first saw them in 1981 at a University gig. They weren’t played on the radio- unless it was Double J or Triple R. They had possibly 2 albums under their belt. Their show was wall to wall sweat and mayhem-but in the best possible way. We loved them Whenever possible that year we went to see them. And it wasn’t our usual “band” thing. We didn’t fancy any of them; it wasn’t about them. It was purely about the music and the energy and the fun and the spectacle. Garrett talked, the rest of them didn’t. They were (and still are) one of the most in sync bands I’ve ever seen.
Of course, they alienated many people. Too political, too punk, too loud. My father called Peter Garrett “that bald headed bastard.” Dad and Pete’s politics did not align at all. Some people thought they were too self-righteous and holier than thou. But in a time when rock bands sang about Summer Love and Highways to Hell we needed a band like Midnight Oil (whether we realised it or not)
Their politics were my politics. I admired their passion and dedication for causes. I admired how they looked after and respected their fans. I loved the fact that they rarely did interviews and never ever appeared on Countdown.
I saw them at pivotal times in my life in the following years. Two weeks before my mother died, they did a gig in South Melbourne. I dithered about to go. Mum said, ‘Go, I voted for him.’ (meaning Peter Garrett when he stood for the NDP as a Senate candidate) I went but it was bitter sweet.
I was very pregnant with my first child when I saw them in a sweatbox down in St Kilda- they’d lost none of the intensity. I liked to say that my unborn child’s first gig was Midnight Oil.
They disbanded in 2002 and I never expected to see them live again. They all went off their separate ways, got together for a couple of benefit gigs and did other projects. And then it was 2017 and announcement of The Great Circle Tour. I was beside myself with exceitment. I was devastated when I couldn’t get tickets for any of the Melbourne shows but could for Wodonga. I joined The Powder workers Facebook page and found people who were just as interested (OK, obsessed) as me.
It was with great trepidation that we drove up the freeway to Wodonga. What if wasn’t the same? Nevertheless, I lined up for 5 hours for a spot(standing) at the barrier. My husband and daughter found me later crushed at the front. Once the band were onstage I was mesmerised. Everyone around me was the same. It was just sheer bloody happiness. The band had lost nothing over the years; they were as tight and committed and entertaining as ever. Yet, at the same time, as I watched them I felt they were not that far removed from the guys who used to practise in Rob Hirst’s garage in Chatswood.
Ten days later I saw them again at the Myer Music Bowl as I couldn’t bear to let Wodonga be the last time. A bigger crowd and I was further back, but it was the second last show of the tour and I was ecstatic and sad. It really was the last time.
A friend of mine wrote recently about the issue of harassment at gigs. Right from those early days I always felt safe at Oils gigs. It was just a normal rock gig. But maybe it’s something to do with the intensity, the fervour the passion (that word again) and the camaraderie of fans. And I was always down the front, crushing it with most of the manic. Perhaps I’m romanticising but I don’t think so. The Oils shows were so driven and focused there was no time for crap like that. Their songs are not sexual, they’ve never written a love song unless it’s to this country. My country. Our country.
And now there’s another tour planned, though the band are a bit cagey about dates. And I’m ready. Ready for the queues, the crush and the roar as the band come onstage. They’re a bit older, a bit greyer, but their musicianship, their shows and their chemistry are quite astounding. To use a cliché ( and I must) – a band of brothers.
I can’t wait. See you at the barrier.