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Cup Day

It’s Cup Day in Melbourne – warm one minute when the sun comes out – overcast and cool the next with threatening rain. At our place we’re celebrating by spending extra hours in front of our computers. Pre-exam time, all that Cup Day provides is more hours to study.

Two of the kids are in the throes of final assessments of a final year at uni. One has year 11 exams looming. The Yackandandah member of the family has her own stresses as she prepares her year 12s for their history exam. The man of the house always has thousands of words to compose in the form of talks, sermons, speeches and lectures. Me, I just grab any time I can to write.

But last night we got away from it all at the Forum with Clare Bowditch, and that was quite enough excitement for one weekend.

I’d never been to the Forum. Walked past often enough on the way to Fed Square or Flinders Street Station – checked out the weird, baroque external décor, wondered what lay within. Now I know, and it’s more weirdness. Of the coolest kind.

Close to the stage is an open area where patrons can stand, under a deep blue dome of sky, strung with stars and constellations. Walls are decorated with classic life size statues of naked men, old-fashioned lanterns, ornate balconies and décor reminiscent of stalactites.

Back from the standing only area are rows of booths with wide tables for drinks and deeply padded seats. You could sleep here it’s so comfortable. Further back still are rows of seats looking like they came from Kings College Cambridge – high backs, cushioned, with a narrow strip of table where you would put your hymn book if you were in church.

Bowditch isn't on till 10.45 - way past my bedtime. But she is worth the wait. The support acts were worth listening to, but the crowd wasn't really engaged. The minute Bowditch and her band The New Slang burst on stage, all that changed and there was rapt attention. She had us eating out of her hand.

I’ve been a Bowditch fan from way back before she became big. I know all the words to all the songs and sing along happily. Her new album is rockier than her previous ones, but it works because it is her and the lyrics are clever and the melodies and harmonies are full of surprises and the musicianship is faultless. It works particularly well on the big stage in a big venue. Her big personality works well there too. Previously I had seen her in more intimate places like the Northcote Social Club and I had wondered about the great cavern of a major city venue. I needn't have worried.

Past midnight she played her last song, and we stretched and blinked and filed out to a late night city I rarely see – buzzing with life, people drunk and sober and high, girls in stilettos and skimpy dresses, guys in packs.

I can’t sleep for the stimulation. Eventually, of course, I do, and today is another day. A slow start, quiet streets, kids all home, tapping away on their computers, hunched over their books. We’ll stop for some lunch and then maybe again to watch the Cup. And all day I’ll have Clare Bowditch’s songs on the brain and memories of the cavernous, magic Forum. A treat to see me through another week.

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