I haven't been able to sleep much tonight. I don't know if it's because of the significance of tomorrow or not, but thinking back over the times I've had at The Tote, as both a punter and a musician, it's been such a significant part of my life that I might actually end up getting emotional tomorrow.
I can't even remember the first time I went there, but a time that sticks out the most is when a slightly-underage member of a band that I may or may not be in tried to get into The Tote a few weeks before his 18th. It was the Guitar Wolf tribute night (after the passing of Bass Wolf), featuring Mach Pelican and Rocket Science, who were his favourite band at the time and hadn't played in a long time (and wouldn't for a while after that, due to Roman's brain injuries), and hence, this was an unmissable gig. We got there unusually early (as we were paranoid about not getting in), and the doors weren't even open yet. We ended up starting a pool game and getting hustled by a large African man who claimed he "owned the table". We didn't argue. We were pretty nervous about the whole thing. We both paid and got stamped and were just past the door when the lady said "wait a second, have you guys got ID". I did, but my companion accidentally "left his ID in Bendigo". We got a refund and slunk out. I backed into the roo-bar a ute whilst trying to get out of my parking space. We then went and watched DIG! at the cinema and cried into our popcorn. So, er, kids, don't try this because it doesn't work and it ends in tears. LITERALLY.
A few months later we came back in an official capacity; The Screaming Pigeons (which consisted of myself, Andre and our younger brother Matthew) organised a show on a Tuesday night. Thankfully at that time The Tote did allow underaged band members when accompanied by a parent or guardian, so, we got to play. It was a pretty massive deal for us; I'd played in a few bands before and the only gigs I'd played previously were at a Frankston school fete and South Yarra backyard and this was THE TOTE, ffs. We were on first in front of about 20 people and we spent the rest of the evening with stunned looks on our faces. We all hung around way too late and were pretty bleary-eyed when we had to go to school the next morning. I'm sure Matt would have been the coolest kid in Year 9 if any of his classmates actually knew what The Tote was.
I've been lucky enough to play there again a few times, even headlining once or twice when I played with Push Button Auto. YIS were lucky enough to be able to do our first Live Mixtape show in the Front Bar a couple of months back (pictured below, with more pictures here), and got to play our second proper gig up in Cobra bar (pictured below, with more pictures here). We got the confirmation that we'd be headlining there in February only a week or so before we'd hear the news that they were shutting up shop for good.
As a spectator, I've seen some great gigs there. The one that sticks out in my mind most recently is probably Eddy Current in a packed Cobra Bar (after Teengenerate supported by Spencer P Jones, Kim Salmon and The Onyas), where Brendan practically did the whole gig whilst crowdsurfing. An insane mess of sweaty people. Bron's favourites were the New Year's shows with Guitar Wolf and Dead Moon, and an early Datsuns gig where Dolf spent a large amount of time swinging from the rafters. Evidently most great gigs at The Tote involved people swinging from things. This seemed to happen often when The Meanies played.
In a way, I'm sad that The Tote is gone, but I'm thankful that it's managed to stay open for as long as it has since it was set to close in 2008. I know that Melbourne will not be the same without it, but hopefully it's loss will serve as an example. It's sad that one of the very few times I've seen lines out the door was when it was announced it was closing for good, considering how amazing some of the shows I've seen there have been. Live music doesn't end with The Tote; there's fantastic things happening almost every night in this city. If you want to honour it's memory, go see something.
I hope to see many of you this afternoon and this evening. If you weren't lucky enough to get tickets, it'll be streaming live on RRR and PBS from 8pm.