Cat Power vs the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast hospital gets a lot of work from the Coolangatta Hotel. Local surfers and assorted derros get liquored up and punch on, then end up in the emergency department.

A lot of bands play there – it’s the pick of the Gold Coast’s live music venues. Its name is a throwback to the 70s and 80s glory days when people still came out in numbers to see live music – most of it Australian.

I’ve ducked it for most of my period of exile on the coast – it causes my wife so many late night work call-ins that ‘the Cooly’ is about as popular in my house as smoking and riding without a helmet.

But I went, for Cat Power.

Downstairs was empty and the bouncer seemed pleased to have us there. Upstairs was everyone on the Gold Coast with pretensions of cool.

A venue with a live music history like this place has a crowd of regulars – late 30s, tanned locals hailed eachother at the bar and praised the support bands while ordering their Coronas, which came poured into a plastic cups, with a lime wedge floating in them. The Cooly lost its glass privileges last year – too many fights ended with schooner-punches.

Most of the punters weren’t drinking – they were focussed on the band they came to see and packed deep in front of the stage.

Chan Marshall is in her way an uncompromising artist. The songs were slow and measured for the first part of the set, some of the crowd struggled. They talked loudly, women cackled and shrieked, men called out – but they were a minority. Most of the crowd packed in to get closer to the hunted looking singer performing with one hand in the pocket of her jeans, drifting about the stage, looking more at her band than at the audience.

“I love you Australia,” she grins at us later. “You know Australia is America backwards.” No one knew how to respond to that, so we grinned. The set picked up momentum when it strayed from the Jukebox album she’s touring. A medley from The Greatest got the strongest response. The women whooped most for “Lived in Bars”. A lot of the crowd were couples, many stood facing eachother; holding tight and slow dancing to a soundtrack they considered theirs alone.

It was a strong soul and blues revue from an artist whose insecurity always seems authentic, and bewitching for it. The languid but tight four piece band that backed her on Jukebox achieved a balance between invisibility when Chan was charming us, and taking control by lifting the musical intensity when she hid or sat down at the side of the stage.

It was a straight set – no encore – and she brought out a bouquet of flowers to dissect and share with the loving crowd as the band played her out.

We poured down the stairs all serene and dressed in black to find ourselves in the now-packed Coolangatta Hotel nightclub. The women wore spandex and fluro, the men oozed tattoos and spiky product-dosed hair. They held energy-drink alcopops and screamed the words to Love Shack into eachother’s faces.

“Let’s get out of this town,” muttered the petite fella in black who’d followed me down the steps. “How can we go from that to this?”

He got behind me in the quick march for the door, through the heart of the dancefloor. Two sleeve-tatted boys were dancing at eachother with a butch intensity Fred Schneider no doubt always knew the B-52s could inspire. They called me a fuckhead when I failed to validate their fuckin’ awesomeness.

At the door there were three bouncers, two coppers and assorted Cooly punters out of central casting. The boys were wrestling the bouncers and cops enough to look eager to fight and the girls were shrieking justifications for whatever must’ve been happening down here while Chan Marshall was sharing her flowers with her people.

“She was all up in his face so he fucking slapped her down,” the girl in the short, tight satin dress explains.

“Calm down mate, it’s all over,” say the coppers and bouncers.

“Fuck off!” say the tattooed boys in pastel, v-necked tshirts.

And the Cat Power crowd head straight for their cars and cabs.

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One Response to “Cat Power vs the Gold Coast”

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