Panoptique Electrical: Mount Gambier 8/8-9/8/09

Over the weekend Panoptique Electrical spread itself down to the southeast for a concert on Sunday in Mount Gambier.  It was the first time I’d visited the land of dead volcanoes, blue water, limestone and timber mils in 16 years since my family departure in 1993.  Funnily enough, the place hadn’t changed much. 

Following the successful show at the Electronic Music Unit on Friday night, we reconvened on Saturday morning, stopped by for a delicious late breakfast at Stirling’s Organic Market then headed onwards to Mount Gambier, entertaining ourselves with the green scenery, pop quizzes and the long drones of Lawrence English’s latest release, Kiri No Oto.  The latter is ideal music for driving through open plains.  We stopped for a while mid-journey in Keith – an odd quiet town which I always remembered as being much smaller, boasting a reputable bakery, raucous pub and a couple of impressive wheat silos.

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 Heading southward, we passed through Naracoorte, Penola and the Coonawarra wine region before reaching the Mount in the early evening.  Mount Gambier strikes me as a place weighed down (depressed?) by the looming volcanoes to the south, the leaden grey skies and chilly damp.  Without sounding too rude – I couldn’t bear living here for any protracted period.  We checked into our hotel and after a bit of rest we found a nice restaurant in the city centre then turned in for an early night. 

 The following morning we found some breakfast and checked out the sinkhole in the town centre.  Still as I remember it – lush with greenery and a repository for shopping trolleys and similar detritus.  Folk lore suggests its inner domain provides a discreet environment for horny teenagers and goth parties.  Though I contest there have never been more than three goths in Mount Gambier at any one given time. 

 

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It was then onward for a visit to the famous Blue Lake, decidedly grey-ish given the time of year (it turns an amazing blue in the warmer months.)  I was suprised by its vastness – much larger than I remember it as a child and a beautiful sight with its eerie motionless water. 

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We had a little time before checking into our venue so we headed about 10km south of the city to Mount Schank, another dead volcano with an impressive gaping crater and panoramic view.  Schank is the youngest of the volcanos in the district, blowing its stack 5000 years ago.  Upon its eruption, it’s lava made contact with the ocean, which is now 16km to the south.  Amazing what tectonic shifts in the landscape can do. 

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Following a climb to the summit we drove back into the city to bump into the afternoon’s venue -Varcoe Foundry – an old blacksmith’s workshop now converted into an artspace.  The nature of the space had a nice sound to it with a couple of locations emittung a light spring reverb effect, which we used to our advantage.  The performance was decidedly darker than the EMU set, Zoe had made a field recording back at Mount Schank which we played throughout the performance. The twittering birds and ambience of Schank’s surrounding environment provided a nice backdrop to work with.  We also decided to perform in near darkness, with spare lighting emitted from laptops, devices and a television set to static which faced us.  The very modest crowd appeared to enjoy our forty minute set, and I’m glad I recorded the performance to my mini-disc. 

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Following the show we had a late lunch at the main pub in town before driving back through persistent rain, returning to Adelaide around 9pm.  Now it’s a couple of days of recuperation before setting off to Melbourne for the next show.

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