Our train trip took us to Ostiglia, a country town of about 7,000 people. It’s a typical rural town – it’s population is shrinking and not much ever really happens. Mattia lives there. He’s a dream pop singer and a cynic. That night he was going to a rockabilly festival in a nearby farm and he invited us to join him.
Venice, about as welcoming and authentic and as a group of black nazis dressed as Ronald McDonalds, made the festival feel like the most authentic thing that could ever exist. Connected, grassrootsy, local, communities – whatever the word is – it was that. Almost everyone there came from one of the nearby towns, most people had either been involved in running the festival or had their own band. Those who didn’t were friends with someone who did. A lot of them seemed to be massively into rockabilly – hair styles combed fastidiously and industrially, shirts buttoned or blazoned with retro band idols, people reacting to good things by twisting their legs and hooting like a one note yodeller. Some people were in baggy jeans and flanos but that didn’t matter because you get the feeling the festival, community and music represents more than just the sound – it’s an expression of small town rural life. Not that much happens in tiny country towns – the music and the community gives life to people’s boredom, isolation and monotony. Mattia said a lot of music from this time was written by people feeling those same things.
“Before there were no teenagers. There were only men or boys. Rock music gave birth to the feelings of that generation.”
“I don’t like the Ramones very much but I hate it when people diss them. At that time there was arena rock. People showed how good they could play their instruments and then the Ramones came in and said ‘fuck that’. They bought the feeling back. People who say their songs all sound the same don’t understand that. When you listen to the Ramones you want half an hour of that feeling.”
Roslyn and I aren’t huge rockabilly fans and, to me at least, most of the songs I heard that night sounded the same. I sometimes forget how powerful music can be to represent people – for me it’s usually just been a tool for dancing.
We didn’t get back from the party until 3:45am. When we woke up the next day, around midday, Mattia’s home smelt fucking fantastic. Mattia’s mum and dad, whom we’d only just met, had prepared a feast.
The more we ate the more I felt like I had my own Italian family. Around the third course Mattia’s mum, potentially flattered by my constant photography of her cooking, started to touch me. By the end of the meal she was stroking my hair, patting my chest and calling me sweetheart. I understand that might sound a tad bit cougarish and creepy but it wasn’t, It was really mummy. I haven’t had anyone fix my shirt or obsess over my skinniness for months. I loved it. I wanted all the affection.
The combination of sleep deprivation and over eating put us out for the afternoon. Ros feel asleep for a few hours (don’t know if she meant to) and I don’t know what I did – probably reddit. Mattia, hanging sacks of lead under his eyes, shuffled off to band practice. When we all reconvened from our afternoon inactivity it was time for dinner. Our stomach levies weren’t prepared for any food level rise so Mattia suggested we meet his band mates for a beer at a local bar.
When we went to the festival on Saturday I found myself surprised at the lack of bogans. If you hosted an event with the word rock in an Australian country town you’d be drowned in bellies and beards. I had no idea what an Italian bogan was until I went to this bar.
It was a karaoke bar. Men with poloshirts tucked over their bellies and into three quarter length chinos were taking it in turns to sing Italian elevator ballads. They shook their arms and jiggled their heads. Their hair, jelled in waves or spikes, stayed fastened and still. Their wives, vastly titted, hairily frizzed and sloshed with prostitutey make up looked on blank faced. Beers were €2.50 and food was free – 3/4 meat, 1/8 vegetables and 1/8 sweet stuff.
“Mattia. This is the weirdest place ever.”
“Yeah I know. I’m sorry.”
Mattia, irrepressibly cynical, was having some serious identity/fuck the man issues and expressed himself by interrupting the bogan gusto with retro punk songs – adding extra fucks and bitches into the lyrics just in case anyone still thought he belonged there. He assumed we would be hating it (I would probably feel weird about taking some Italian tourists to Kelly’s*) but after he realised what a fucking weird situation this was for us he relaxed. It was almost the perfect post-party event. We didn’t have to talk or do anything really – we just zooishly watched the guts and boobs sing and get drunk. I thought it was great.
*A karaoke bar whose clientele is exclusively students and bogans.