Live review: Stories in the key of GC | Basement at HOTA | 18 October, 2019

On 18 October, local wordsmiths weaved their tales in amongst a soundscape of live sound designed by songwriter and musician, Fletcher Babb, in Stories in the Key of GC at HOTA. Intrigued by the concept, we popped along to check it out.

Not having previously been to any nights in the style of Yarn Storytelling in Brisbane or Moth in New York, we weren’t sure what to expect from Stories in the Key of GC. Was it a concert? A slam poetry event? We knew it was going to be a celebration of local Gold Coast culture, and the joy of stories, but what on earth were people going to be talking about?

The answer, as it turned out, was a wonderfully diverse range of true experiences that ran the gamut from comedy to tragedy, beautifully underscored by the sensitive musical stylings of alt-folk artist Fletcher Babb, with occasional appearances by Electrik Lemonade drummer Jake Morton.

Fletch mesmerised the packed yet intimate Basement crowd first up with one of his own creations, and then internationally acclaimed surf journalist and author Tim Baker kicked the storytelling off with a bang, via a hilariously white rap in the style of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ that traversed his career and family life, and move to the Gold Coast. (And yes, the chorus did talk about ‘livin in a Surfers Paradise’). It was fabulous writing and pure entertainment.

Tickled and energised, the crowd was then subdued and held captive by the power of the second story, read by award-winning writer Lysstra Bisschop. A powerful tale of overcoming extreme physical adversity and family challenges with the help of Gold Coast waves, Lysstra’s story had the audience members shaking their heads, murmuring in sympathy and disbelief and finally cheering at the unexpectedly positive outcome.

Gold Coast personality Amy Mac then drew tears of hilarity with her witty, sarcasm-laden anecdote about ‘Val’, the world’s most irritating Commonwealth Games volunteer. We all know a Val, don’t we? That person at every conference, or public event, who knows better than the people talking up front and needs to let everyone know about it. The one who feels the need to share intimate personal details. Ah yes, the crowd could certainly relate.

Finally, Sean ‘Flan’ Flanagan of Hot Tomato fame took the stage. Flan drew tears from the crowd as well, but with a very different kind of story. He talked about family: namely, his father and his slide into dementia, as well his own extremely intimate brushes with ill health. He talked about his wife’s breast cancer, and how he and his family were once almost wiped out in a cyclone. Although Flan and his wife triumphed over their adversities, Flan’s father unfortunately passed away the very afternoon of the event. With tears flowing freely, Flan gave him a heartbreaking but lovely tribute, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Fletch then wrapped things up beautifully with a gentle song that was a perfect come down from the emotional rollercoaster we’d all been taken on. As the event curator, I don’t think he could have asked for better storytellers or a more receptive audience. Everybody there knew they had just experienced something memorable and unique.

Stories in the key of GC was definitely a lover letter to our beautiful city, but it was much more than that. It was a celebration of music, and humanity, and all that connects us. Keep your eyes peeled for more of these events popping up in 2020, and be sure to grab your tickets quickly as they’re likely to sell out like the first did. You will guffaw. You will gasp. You will cry your eyes out. And you’ll love every second.

Stories in the Key of GC was supported by HOTA, Home of Arts and City of Gold Coast through HOTA’s Creative Development Program. Blank GC were guests of HOTA.

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