“Uptown” Brown! the One-man Band 0 Comments

“Uptown” Brown! the One-man Band

At 10pm during Melbourne’s first ever White Night, I was searching Flinders Street for a one-man band. I was intrigued by the description of the ‘singing gentleman-adventurer’ that appeared in the program; a roguish old-timey character who had variously been an inventor, musician and aviator.

I didn’t mind that these claims may not be true; I had to see “Uptown” Brown! in action. So my friends and I searched up and down Flinders Street, wading through the pressing crowd, trying not to inhale the stink of small children and foot sweat.

But we couldn’t find him.

Eventually we gave up, my partner dragging me away as I lamented, ‘Where are you, “Uptown” Brown!? Where are youuuuuuu?!’ We wandered off to see other exhibitions, went to a bar or two, got squished by the The Cat Empire crowd.

And then, after stumbling out of Particle Picnic at the Forum, we heard it. Faint, distorted vocals accompanied by drums. There he was, “Uptown” Brown!, in front of NGV on Flinders Street in all his steampunk glory.

Luckily he didn’t play during the peak of the crowds, as he was only, obviously, one man against the world. He did look like a gentleman-adventurer in his brown vest and pants, with his slicked-back hair and white shirtsleeves rolled up.

The program had described him as being ‘partly inspired by the films of Terry Gilliam and Fritz Lang’, and this rang true, especially due to the fantastical contraption strapped to his back. This ‘Goodtimes Gyratorscope’ was apparently constructed from leftover parts of a biplane which Brown himself had crashed, and before he reached the current design he had created a number of ‘ill-fated, and occasionally lethal, prototypes’. The design of the rig was fairly polished, featuring a varnished wooden box, two drums, a mandolin, a distortion microphone and what I took to be a loudspeaker attached to his shoulder. A strange flower-like lamp glowed at his back.

He was wearing his round, metal-rimmed sunglasses at 4am. As I watched him thump out a drum beat with his heels, strumming ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ on his mandolin, I thought to myself that music is surely a form of insanity. There he was, singing his tight-jawed tunes to the cityscape while a circle of exhausted, tipsy, possibly chemically-affected onlookers applauded. Was he an exhibitionist? A madman escaped from an asylum and disguising himself as a musician to escape capture?

Either way we clapped his efforts, sharing in the madness of it. He was, after all, entertaining, and there was something about the endurance of a one-man band that was commendable.

Eventually, we applauded his final song. Thanking us, his audience, he detached his foot drums and slunk away into the night.

 

 

There was a time when Chloe Brien wanted to be a fairy and work magic. Having given up on that dream, she instead wants to work magic with words. Her preferred incantations are fiction and poetry. She has been published in Verge, Voiceworks and elsewhere.

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