To Chop or not to chop?
My love affair with Newstead began with a weekend pass to CHOPPED. In 2012 we drove from Melbourne with a ’52 Chevy, a ’55 Ford Mainline, and a ’41 Ford Jailbar Pickup. It took us exactly six and half hours to complete the one hour drive; two cars required maintenance on the way and one had to be loaded onto a trailer and towed. The standard CHOPPED greeting, “What did you come in? How’s she running?” is answered, more often than not, with a long list of problems with the vehicle. At CHOPPED, there are thousands of people willing to help fix these problems so you can ‘drive your shit’.
I married a Scoundrel, so I know the difference between a T-Bird and a t-bucket. I know that a hot rod is better than a rat rod is better than a street rod. I know that an old car should be slammed, dumped, topped or chopped and that restoring is boring. And I know that you don’t eat a ham roll, you fix it up then you drive it like you stole it. But CHOPPED isn’t just for car enthusiasts. It attracts rockabillies, gothabillies, scenesters and Newstead locals who love to show off the fact that we are not all tea and scones here in regional Victoria. After the recent floods the racecourse was under water, but this only adds to the atmosphere of organised chaos. Why risk certain death on the drag strip when you can have just as much fun watching girls in period correct outfits attempt to navigate the swamp that lies between their tent and the tiki bar?
Every year, the crowd is blown away by at least one band they’ve never heard of; The Jade Idol, The Floors, The Cosmic Psychos (“Why is a farmer from Heathcote headlining Saturday night?”) This year it was The Shabbab. Who knew that the guy who makes Very Good Falafel on Sydney Road looked so good in leopard print underwear?
Every year, there is one person who sums up the spirit of CHOPPED; this weekend there were three; the guy who rode overnight through a storm from Adelaide to Newstead on a 50 year old Triumph, the guy who backed his chopper into the men’s toilets and performed a burnout on the only available piece of concrete, and Martini Gumboots, who unintentionally surfed the crowd with a tambourine during Reverend Horton Heat.
To bring the pram or not? Will I look uncool pushing the beast around? I used to snigger at parents who brought prams to festivals. I’m having a little melt down in the costume department too, because I fit into none of the categories that are attending CHOPPED this weekend. There are Greasers (should I douse my head in canola oil and slick it back?), Rockabilly Specials (are a bunch of people that have been knighted into the brotherhood of Rockabilly, why are they so special?) I don’t even have an outfit that could be classed as bogan! Country Roots will judge me, she does this often regarding my family’s outfits, she judges my Jesus sandals, my child’s odd socks and my partner’s love of socks and sandals. So I’m donning a garbage bag and my working man's Blunnies because it’s raining and I might feel the need to dig a trench to bury myself in later.
The rain was on and off all day long but didn’t deter us! We met up with Country Roots at the Scoundrel’s camp. The name paints a frightening picture but in actual fact there was just a lot of food, a tonne of other babies and a puppy. We promptly ditched the kids with a lovely tattooed-faced chap and made a bee line to the cocktail bar. Would we have the Zombie Nightmare or the Tiki Voodoo? Heck, we’ll have both.
After a nice little time snacking, sipping on cocktails and taking turns saving babies from running under heavy machinery we decided to see The Shabbab. We took my baby down for a boogie too. I have fallen in love with The Shabbab’s front man as he looked like an Israeli Prince wearing nothing but leopard print leggings. We had a good ol’ boogie then the babe fell face first in the mud and I was now the worst mother in the world so had to go home…
For some unholy reason Country Roots offered to babysit Saturday night so that Paul and I could act like normal people who don’t have children. We ended up back at the Scoundrel’s camp, a bunch of burley men donning variations of the same outfit: denim sleeveless jacket, black jeans, beanie… denim jacket with leather sleeves, black jeans, beanie. We chatted around a bonfire pretending we were 20 again, and I only checked my phone once every ten minutes. Reverend Horton Heat were about to play and we obviously needed cocktails so to the Moonshine bar we went. Whilst waiting for our drinks a man in a kilt and fury arm warmers gate crashed the bar, flashed everyone his penis and was escorted off the premises, which was a shame.
The band started and we pushed our way to the front, our little posse kept high fiving each other for our child free evening…Paul kept buying us bourbon shots. We were dancing like madmen, my friend lent in and asked if it was kosher to start crumping to rockabilly music, OF COURSE IT IS!!!! So we crumped, and we jumped and we spun and we squealed and then I was offered a tambourine……
I worked that tambourine like a kid who had too much red cordial, I was shimmying around like a Tina Turner wannabe. People looked frightened and moved well away, I was dangerous! The owner of this musical instrument thought I should go on stage and play alongside the band, he lifted me up in the air and instead of ending up on stage this 35 year old mother ended up crowd surfing a la Big Day Out 1995. I screamed a lot. Paul looked so proud or maybe it was just the bourbon. The adrenaline was so immense that I had to put myself to bed. Nothing could top that.
I didn’t really look at any cars, I didn’t watch any drags, I ate someone’s Savoys in a tent, drank moonshine, got to see my babe have the best time bopping along to some Israeli/Lebanese Rock n Roll in a plastic onesie and I acted like a lunatic because even though I am a mum and I’m not in my 20s anymore I’m still allowed to have fun and so I did.