It was Meredith weekend 2015. The lineup was absolutely stacked with sick bands like Moon Duo, Shellac and Floating Points but for whatever reason I didn’t have a ticket. There’s something weird about staying in Melbourne on Meredith weekend. The city feels… empty… almost apocalyptical. It’s FOMO on the grandest scale.
The act chosen to ring in Meredith’s infamous sunrise slot was an inspired booking – legendary Glasgow DJ duo Optimo. Luckily for me, Twitch and Wilkes had also scheduled a last-minute Sunday afternoon sideshow to take place in town.
The gig was at a venue called Shadow Electric inside Abbotsford Convent – an ex-monastic site originally built in the 19th Century that (back in 2015) occasionally used to host gigs. My girlfriend Steph and I rocked up at about 4pm. It was hot – maybe 30 odd degrees. It was pretty empty – maybe 100 people there. The crowd mainly consisted of young parents who couldn’t make it out of town that weekend and dudes who probably felt too old to camp at a festival.
It was a cool vibe. The Convent band room was this kind of indoor / outdoor space where people could hang outside, smoke and drink beer and then head inside to hear music.
I saw they’d put up these ping pong tables in this little side area next to the stage – directly underneath one of the main speakers. I went over with Steph. We picked up bats and started knocking the ball around. She isn’t very good, so my main priority at that time was just getting a rally going. Keith and Jonnie started spinning while we tried to figure out the easiest way to play ball and hold pints of cider simultaneously. They started dropping some interesting records – some rock and roll things, some old disco.
We were having a good time – playing ping pong, listening to our favourite DJs and drinking to stay cool.
Optimo are masters of build (this classic Boiler Room mix below is the definitive example). Electronic bits and pieces started to drop, we were getting drunker, it was still so hot. But we kept playing – and as time went on, more and more shots started to land.
I’ll never forget it… the drunker Steph and I got, and the more the music intensified, the more the ping pong improved. It’s like this combination of alcohol and crazy fast rhythms and 808s and ping pong had come together to form this incredible Triforce.
We were jamming on this table. Rally after rally. More beats, more ciders, more rallies. Smashing this ball. The mixture of sweat and booze splashing all over the table only made things more exciting. Steph could hardly return the ball when we started, but somehow she found something in that moment. And so did I. It was fire. Every time the ping pong lifted, Keith and Jonnie were right there with us. Steady periods of rock-solid backhand blocks were in unison with Phortune’s Can You Feel The Bass, counter smash onslaughts perfectly soundtracked by the Felix Da Housecat’s classic Sinnerman house mix.
We felt the vibe in the room switch from a casual Sunday drinking session to a full-on afternoon rave. 100 people on the dance floor absolutely losing their shit at 6pm as Steph and I connected on the table. The kind of connection we’d never found until that moment. I didn’t know it was in us, but something was happening. Moments of pure fucking ecstasy – almost a kind of shared sexual high while the ball returned on every 2nd and 4th beat.
After three hours of this, Optimo wind down. They finish their set playing Love’s Everybody’s Gotta Live and we handed in our paddles.
I’ll never forget that afternoon. An afternoon where two bats and the ball became a kind of psychedelic concoction for us. A real trip. Life changing.
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