The Preston Three House Party

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One sunny Sunday afternoon in Melbourne, I’m out hanging up some clothes on my backyard hills hoist at my house in Preston. My neighbour, Marco, is doing the same thing and he stops for a minute to turn to me and say,
“Hey, man… I’m thinking of having a bit of an event here, setup a stage in the backyard, get some of our mates to play and then finish with a Riptis Joint gig. Whaddya reckon?”
I consider the idea as I hang up a few more shirts and find myself nodding my head.
“Where are you going to put the stage exactly?”
“Not sure yet, probably down the end of my yard there, we can use sand from that sandpit to level it out and put down some rostra.”
“Yeah right. If you did that, then maybe I can hire an adult jumping castle and put it in my backyard facing the stage. So the audience can jump and skank at the same time.”
“Yeah right. That’d be fuckin awesome man.”
“We can have a two house party and fuckin tell everyone….hang on…three house party, Grant’s place can be the chill zone.”
“Yeah, man…if you want. I’m gonna concentrate on getting the stage setup here.”
“No worries mate, we’ll have a chat in a week or two as things are coming together.”
“Yeah, cool.”
And thus began one of the crazier parties I’ve helped organize.

So let’s back up a minute to set the scene a bit more, like how exactly I was thinking of using three houses in one street for the party.. Firstly Don and I moved in to the middle house. The landlords were a Croatian – Australian couple who were moving out of town and were looking to make a bit of money renting it out. They told us to just walk across the disused carpark between our house and the next one to visit their aging parents. If he wasn’t around, we could chat with her brother and his wife in the house next to us that shared a central wall. Her father acted as a caretaker for us and we got on very well with the crazy old bugger. He was a character to live next to and deal with at anytime. It seems that his people had fought with the Germans in the Second World War, not because they liked them, but because they seriously hate the Russians. His Slavic accent in a deep, rolling voice and clipped English words added a certain extra madness to his words.
“Some people didn’t like it. Some people did. Some people get burned. But what can you do?”
Don and I often had a hard time keeping a straight face, but you knew he wasn’t talking about being burned in a metaphorical sense. He saved that for the Albanians,
“Never shake hands with an Albanian. If you do it, then you should check how many fingers you have left afterwards.”
He’d hold up his hand with a finger folded down for effect and laugh openly. We did try to explore this with him once and asked how he got on with Albanians in Australia and if it was different.
“No, always the same, those bastards always do this to my people.”
“But surely over here it’s different, you’ve got a second generation of children growing up here without so many problems.”
“After one hundred and twenty generations, a watermelon is still a watermelon.”

So we lived there for a year or so and then Ivan, the father, came over to ask me if I knew anyone who might like to move into the house sharing the centre wall with mine. I said I’d ask around and soon enough Marco and Angela had taken up residence. Now Marco was the central organizer and lead singer of a Ska band called Ripdis Joint. So it was fairly common for all the band members and their friends to be spread between our two houses. It was pretty common for a group of people to wander next door to find out who was hanging around. After a short while we removed the gate that was between the two backyards to make this easier. Around the same time Don, being a professional cabler, ran a cable between the two houses with proper network ports in both houses. This meant we shared the cost of the broadband access we had installed. Two houses for the price of one. So things were grooving along swimmingly with the occasional encounter with Ivan to spice things up when one day the news came from him.

“My wife and I are moving up to be close to our daughter and her husband to help look after their baby. Do you know anyone who would want to rent our house?”
I said I thought I did and within a few weeks a very old friend of mine, Grant, had moved in to give us three houses in a row in the street. Now this street used to connect to a huge main road, but that access had been removed years ago and the street was blocked off. So we were at the end of that street, on the other side of Marco’s house was a carpark and a medical centre. All three houses backed onto what used to be Preston hospital. It had been converted into cheap student accommodation and a budget hotel. So what I’m saying is we had no neighbours, well none that mattered. So if we wanted to have a ragingly loud and crazy party across two houses and backyards, with Grant’s place added as a chillout zone, then the stage was set.

On the day, my adult jumping castle arrived first around eleven in the morning and started the setup work. The guy who was renting it to us set it up and I just provided the extension cord. It was huge and filled up just about all of the backyard, we had to take the top off the hills hoist to fit it in. We then wrapped thick foam around the pole for health and safety reasons. Marco’s work crew arrived, led by the inimical Dmac. Daniel MacIntyre, Dsmack, or ‘hey you monkeyboy!’. Sand got shifted, the yard got leveled, a scaffold frame appeared next to the back door to host the control box. Later a twenty metre long, five metre wide roofing tarpaulin was strung between the back of the stage and the scaffold. If it rained, the show would go on. Finally rostra were moved to create the stage area itself and then the instruments and sound equipment appeared for installation.

In the meantime, I was at work with a couple of people in our house setting up a new shisha zone. We had a seven foot tall cyclone fence gate across our driveway that we closed to form one end of the zone. Six couches, two shishas, two braziers, some coffee tables and pot plants completed the picture. Then we drilled a couple of holes into the brick wall to anchor a milk crate to the wall about two metres above the ground. Into that we placed a video projector and ran a cable along the roof and inside to the second stereo and DVD player. We placed two speakers that I borrowed from Marco either side of the video screen we hung off a string running from the roof to the two metre high fence. Inside my house we cleared the loungeroom for a second dancefloor; the psychedelic trance zone. We had a psytrance DJ coming along later who’d play for a couple of hours, apart from that we’d wing it with our house collection. At Grant’s house we setup a brazier in the backyard at the centre of another sitting zone with quiet music and candlelight as a refuge spot if things got too hectic.

Once again, I’m wishing I’d owned a camera at the time, recording this madness would have been brilliant. I’m sure pictures exist, I just don’t have them. I think the first live music happened about eight or nine and there would have been quite a few people hanging out by then. Plenty didn’t want to move from the couches to the next yard. I think things were hectic by ten. People were moving in mobs between the houses, I didn’t know a lot of them, so we made everyone enter and exit through Marco’s backyard so they could keep an eye out. The live music came in waves with single musicians and a couple of different bands playing sets to a loving crowd leaping on the jumping castle or dancing in front of the stage. There were eskies of booze scattered around the place, there were cocktails being mixed randomly and the pills were kicking in. We figured out the next day that around midnight almost all of the forty or fifty people there were on ecstasy. One of those nights when the eccy angel smiles and everyone surges together in a spasm of sudden carefree lust for life.

There are too many moments blurred together in the night, so I can only offer some good ones that I still remmeber…

Around one in the morning the receptionist from the hotel turned up asking us when we’d shut down the live music as they were fielding complaints from their residents. We asked if they’d like to come join the party. Apparently unconnected to that statement, half an hour later a group of about ten locksmiths, who were staying at the hotel for a conference, gathered on their side of the fence asking if they could join the party. We let them climb over and become a part of the madness. Other groups of people from the hotel do the same after we shut down the live music. At this stage, most of the party moves to my backyard and there’s a constantly changing group around the fire in Grant’s backyard as well. People are leaving and arriving in groups the whole night, we have guys finishing work at two, three and four in the morning come to join us. One couple arrive after nine in the morning – they’ve been out all night in the city.

Around three in the morning a guy climbs to the top of the cyclone fence gateway and meets the barbed wire that Don had strung across the top. He yelled incoherently at us for a while, then informed us he lived three streets away and had been listening to our music since ten. Apparently he was tired now. Around four in the morning the police arrived at my door to suggest that playing the music in my backyard at this time was probably pulling the piss. They’d been receiving complaints since before midnight, but hadn’t bothered to come until now. I shut down the music on the stereo outside and turned up the one inside. You could only hear it in our yard. At one point someone returned from a walk in a highly stressed state. Apparently he’d decided he wanted a drink from the Subway shop nearby. The fact that it had been closed for hours was of no consequence to him. The alarm going off was of some consequence as this is what caused him to run like a scared rabbit back to the party. We talked him down over a beer and cigarette and the world turned gently into sunrise.

The aftermath was gentle and blissful, made smoother by that couple arriving in the morning with a bag of weed. I can’t say it really finished until the evening, inbetween packing up, cleaning up and finding the odd beer filled esky. The look on the face of the guy picking up the jumping castle was worthwhile… he saw the whole setup for the first time and with a huge smile on his face says,
“Had a bit of a party here last night did we?”
I look around at the two yards and the people still tipping back cold beers for lunch.
“Yeah. You could say that mate.”

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