I recently got invited to participate in Yum Chat, one of the highlights of the recent BrisAsia festival. As my social life these days is mainly confined to hanging out and discussing relevant social issues with my dog, I was more than happy to accept the invitation, especially upon discovering that the keynote speaker would be Quan Yeomans, famed frontman and guitarist of Regurgitator.
As somebody with creative aspirations and a fan of alternative music, I was excited to have the opportunity to listen to the thoughts of a renowned Australian music icon.
There was one slight problem for me: I had never heard of Regurgitator prior to that night.
Please don’t judge me. I had a reasonably good excuse for it. Sort of.
I grew up in the Philippines and have only been here in Australia for a couple of years. Admittedly, I missed out on Regurgitator. And a lot of other things Australian for that matter.
Since coming over to Brisbane, though, I’ve made a conscious effort to immerse myself in the many sights, sounds and sensory smorgasbord that the city and the country had to offer; the markets, the beaches, the bushwalks and the vibrant cultural and art scene, with its buskers, street performers, museums and theaters. So when the Yum Chat invitation came my way, it was very easy to say yes to it.
I arrived at the venue not really knowing what to do. It was my first time to take part in such an event and had no clue as to what to expect. I was directed to an alleyway and got greeted by the sight of a group of strange characters with lanterns for heads. Actually the whole scene reminded of a Halloween dance party that I went to as a teenager. But I digress.
I managed to make a few acquaintances and chatted with them for some time before being told that the event was about to start.
Settling in a seat a few minutes later, I started thinking about the purpose for my participation that night and how best I can reflect on the event and its relevance in sustaining the cultural development of Brisbane.
As I grappled with these thoughts in my head, Quan Yeomans steps onto the podium; and the first thing that comes to my mind was: Those are some truly sweet kicks.
Sneaker-fetish aside, Quan struck me as being somebody from the 90s who never truly left it. Unassumingly cool and exuding a sense of abandon that I’ve come to associate with the era, he started talking about his experiences as a musician, of how living in Brisbane shaped him and how his Asian heritage contributed to the development of his art.
Actually on that last line, from what I gathered from his speech, I reckon not much. If anything, the absence of any notion of boundaries or cultural restrictions that comes with being Asian appears to have been the only fuel that he needed in his creative work.
And for me, that was what I wanted to hear more about. As an Asian who came to Australia, and not someone who grew up here, the Asian-Australian experience is admittedly foreign to me; and I hold that their experiences and values are vastly different from mine, to see things from their perspective would take time. Attempting to understand how it is to be Asian-Australian in one night, I feel, would be doing them a disservice.
And so, I listened to Quan as he retraced the creative path that led him to where he is now, slightly amused at how seemingly often weed plays such an invaluable role in the creative professional’s early stages of development. I chuckled along with the audience every now and then whenever he mentioned the word fuck, but mostly I just became increasingly aware of a certain measure of tough-mindedness and steeliness of purpose that goes with being a creative professional.
Reflecting on this, I don’t think I’ve really held any desire to be a creative professional, resorting to telling myself that I just wanted to be creative. Or maybe, seen as cool at some point. I thought I’ll figure out what to do afterwards when I get to that level. Listening to him made me realize that that was just me being inexcusably lazy.
I’m not sure if Quan ever mapped out the trajectory that his life would take, but it was apparent that he always knew what he wanted to do. And that, I think, made all the difference.
Later on, I got to ask Quan a question; one that in hindsight, I realized might have been a bit affronting to him. But he graciously answered it, with a disarming honesty and a refreshing eloquence that was a nice change of pace from the four-letter-laced yet unerringly insightful keynote speech he gave earlier.
I wish I could’ve chatted with him after the event. So then I could have gone on with the rest of my life telling anybody who did or didn’t care that I actually met the man. Say what you want, but basking in the glow of an artist as eminent as Quan isn’t something I’d be ashamed of.
Sadly, though, I never got that opportunity. And while I didn’t get to meet him, he got me to sit still long enough to listen to his few choice words. In so doing, he pointed a hapless, aimless, aspiring artist a few steps in the right direction.
If ever he’s reading this, I’d like to say thanks for the talk.
And that my shoe size is 10 ½.