A Whoop In The Dark

The year was 1994. The Wollemi fossil pine had been discovered, Australia experienced its first political assassination and the country had just moved to the eight digit telephone number.

It was the year I attended my first – and last – music concert.

Me, taken a few months later

Me, taken a few months later

For a girl who had a fear of large crowds and insufficient public toilet facilities, music festivals were never my thing. I preferred to listen to my music alone in the darkness of my room, incense burning, teenage angst keeping my parents at bay.

But in December of that year, the lure of seeing Tori Amos live in concert proved irresistible. Luckily for me, she shunned the cavernous and concrete Entertainment Centre and the portaloo parklands of the Showgrounds, and instead,
I found myself on the primly upholstered, blood red velvet chairs of the Perth Concert Hall.

From the opening chords of her debut album Little Earthquakes in 1992, a cassette that had cost me almost a fortnight’s pocket money, I had fallen in love with this cherubic faced, red-haired, foul-mouthed, passionate and sexy woman. I had kissed boys to her music. I had kissed girls to her music. She was in my head as I finished high school, and later, as I met the boy who would become my husband.

The Perth Concert Hall, by its very nature, does not support a rowdy audience. There is no room for dancing, no hope of a mosh pit. The very poshness of the velvet ensures you stay seated for the performance, restrained, undemonstrative. This concert was about Tori, it was not about us.

That is, except for one brief moment, when the entire audience’s attention was dragged – reluctantly – from the mesmerising twisted stance she took as she played the piano, the only prop on stage. As she sang ‘Me and a Gun’ a song about being raped, the line ‘so I wore a slinky red thing, does that mean I should spread…’ was still hanging in the air when a solitary male voice whooped in the dark.

A collective breath was drawn, and in that moment, the utter absurdity of this ignorant male, brought shame to our faces. We knew what happened in the next few lines of the song. We knew she was not offering herself to this man, or any man. We knew that she was crying out that just because a woman dresses sexily does not mean she is asking for sex. Her provocative pose, open-legged, which some would later describe as stimulating masturbation was not a come-on, it was a challenge to men, men like the misinformed moron in the back row.

But Tori did not flinch. She continued the set and we remained in our seats.

That moment has stayed with me for almost twenty years. We were all so passive in our reaction. The entire audience. What must have Tori felt at that moment, a thousand people unreactive to a sexist blunderhead mocking her most traumatic moment.

He was probably someone’s boyfriend, dragged along, not a fan. Almost certainly he did not know the context of the song. Did the stiffness of the chairs constrain us? Did the formality of the room prevent us from a more vocal and passionate response? If we had been in a loud, grungy pub would we have turned en masse and jeered him?

We’ll never know.

I’m sorry Tori.

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