I used to think there was nothing better than driving down the Don Valley Parkway, following it’s twists and curves, until finally the CN Tower and city skyline came into view. My city, I would think warmly when I saw it. My home. But now that I’ve been here for a while, I have to admit — Melbourne is really beautiful. Perhaps not the part that my significant other and I reside it, but the CBD and some of the surrounding suburbs. It has a European flair with it’s sprawling parks and grand monuments. The Victorian architecture of “The Paris End” of Collins Street. I’ve spent many days with my head in the sky admiring it. As someone once told me, you have to look up to fully appreciate the design of a building. Though the Toronto skyline makes me feel home, I could get used to this.
Still, there are some things I don’t get about this city. Why do so many people wander around barefoot, for instance? At the grocery store. On busy city streets. Conversely, everyone wears their shoes in their house. Both seem unclean to me. How have clothes dryers not become commonplace yet? Laundry takes ages to do here without this convenience. And I’ve spotted an unusually high number of abandoned cars — on the side of the road, in fields, sometimes burned out. Am I living in a developed, modern city or in the middle of the bush?
Then there are things I just haven’t found yet. Vegetarian sushi. Good veggie hot dogs. Good veggie food in general. (I’ve found some, it’s just not as palatable as it is at home.) But more importantly, I haven’t yet mapped out Melbourne’s music scene.
My time here has really reinforced the importance of nurturing mental health. Though moving to Australia — a country known for it’s warm weather, beaches and laid-back nature — sounds like a relaxing change of pace, this experience has not been without its challenges and occasionally I get down. Sometimes really down. Listening to music, as well as other activities that exercise my brain and trigger imagination and creativity (like reading and writing), helps to combat this. An incredible documentary on Netflix called “Alive Inside” illustrates the healing power of music by showing how it can elevate mood and remarkably, even temporarily restore memory in Alzheimer’s patients. There is a social element to music as well. Like sport (as I talked about in a previous post), it can bring people together. I have made some great friends through shared musical taste.
For all these reasons, music is a huge part of my life and knowing where to go to see a good live show in a city is important to me. Until recently, I haven’t had much luck with this. I’ve found places that host DJ nights. Places that cater to the punk crowd. But neither are really my scene. So I was very excited when I learned about two events that were similar to the sort of thing I would have checked out in Toronto — a performance by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl (an awesome outdoor venue located in the Royal Botanic Gardens) and a set by singer-songwriter Ali Barter at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) for their Summer Sundays series. Best of all — both events were free!
As someone who proudly played viola in my school symphony, I have an affinity for stringed instruments and classical music. It was nice to see so many others of such a diverse background share in this affinity. Young and old — some barefoot — all showed their appreciation to the MSO as we were treated to Berlioz, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky.
Ali Barter was equally a treat. The church-like setting of the NGV’s Great Hall made for a cool venue. And I couldn’t help but feel like I was surrounded by peers as the crowd nodded their heads along to Ali’s 90’s grunge-pop sound. Especially when two young kids — it was unclear if they had any relation to Ali or if she just couldn’t resist their cuteness — were invited on stage to dance and hop along to the last two songs. Yup, I was definitely among peers that day.