There’s a place hidden in plain sight, an innocuous venue seamlessly disguised as something as beige and bland as a doctor’s waiting room. A place where the uninhabited can sneak away from the inhibiteds that wander the streets in branded clothing, comparing their Kanye’s and their Eds and rejecting anything that doesn’t follow their goal for social validation and approval.
A dark, cosy place so far off the beaten track that it’s in the middle of everywhere but unless you know, you don’t know and if you don’t know then this doesn’t matter. To not know is to not qualify, there is a game to be played to reach this destination. Even our dear Arbiter my most trusted comrade throughout my organisation is unaware of the place in which I speak. For I am but a proprietor of an archaic journalism factory, residing in total isolation in a dated penthouse, contactable only by vacuum tubes. But even I need to break free from time to time and allow myself to be driven, automatically across the mind-melding plateau of the musical hive mind.
I squeeze into the dumbweighter and thanks to my secret key am able to take it right down to the carpark (the staff don’t know that the shaft goes right through the tower). There I take The Shonk’s only vehicle pool car (a Morris Marina) out to the city and begin my quest.
To start with I had to find the right people, the types of crowds that might know of the place that I was looking for, it took a while, gaining trust, meeting people, discussing music, all the while remaining as aloof as possible for fear of blowing my cover. What if a Shonk staff member saw me? Fortunately I had a cunning disguise.
Eventually the place was mentioned, my ears pricked up as I heard the distinct name and I knew that I was heading in the right direction. A little more time and I would be invited, I was sure of it.
Finally after months of building relationships with some seriously cool cats, I was brought into the fold, told where I had to go and when. What do to and what to say, I felt excitement the likes of which I’ve not felt for many years, perhaps since the organisation moved to The Shonk Towers in the ’20s.
With my trusted outside world sherpa accompanying me across the dusty summer streets of the inner-city we found the place, so visible it wasn’t even there. A distinct knock saw the twitch of a curtain before finally a door opened to reveal a tall, kindly looking stranger with an inquisitive look to him, a look that was ready to play down anything we might say, in case we were imposters.
We dropped the names we knew and awaited a response, from there the stranger’s hand stretched out to shake mine and he introduced himself as ‘Dave’. We followed him into a dimly lit, cosy space that oozed of creativity. A space that felt as much as a private bar as it did someone’s living room, with a sturdy sound system and a plethora of instruments lined up and ready to go.
Within the shadows there were faces, relaxed and ecstatic from whatever created a pungent and hazy bi-product within the place. “I’m home” I thought. I turned to my sherpa but he was already at the front caressing the resident double-bass. It had begun, our endeavour into the musical unknown.
During the evening the house band grew and changed organically, evolving, building, driving, collapsing… time and time again. My tired and overseeing eyes witnessed the construction and journey of several musical pieces that were derived from very different places within the musicians, all providing a piece of them to be dropped into the melting pot of musical creation that was taking place before us.
And when we all reached the plateau, cornering at every nuanced crescendo like we were on some sort of idiosyncratic hill-walk we all got there together, we were all in it together. Whatever angst, pain or stress that was inside of us as individuals came out as a unit and was blended into the music never to be seen again. The audio cacophony produced by the ingredients leant to us from years of placating lives we didn’t ask for suddenly formed something beautiful and unique, something that would never be heard again in the same manner by anyone. Skills were irrelevant, this music was felt, nothing beyond basic familiarity with an instrument mattered because everything thereafter was not technical but raw and emotional. The perfect therapy.
My sherpa and I left at 0200 feeling almost empty, but not depleted. Exhausted but not tired, contented but agitated. It was like we’d burnt out 99% of what we had, but that 1% never runs out, it’s just used as a foundation for whatever comes next.
We returned to The Shonk towers and proceeded back to my domicile via the ominous dumbweighter system. Our secret outing as safe and sound as the location of where I speak. Perhaps the others there were proprietors of their own organisations, perhaps there were fellow arbiters there who had snuck out from their responsibilities. Who knows? To me it was about pushing boundaries, meeting people and being somewhere I hadn’t been before, not just geographically but emotionally, circumstantially, everythingly. For once we’ve repeated something as often as we have, no matter how unique to an outsider becomes liner and mundane to us and it’s important to break that cycle and discover more, never set, we are not jellies. We are people and unlike jellies we people like new and exciting things and we will never stop looking for them.
- Be kind and don’t listen to shit music. Your friend, The Great John Jenks Shonk.