On Tuesday night I was at Beirut – the proto-gypsy group helmed by American Zach Condon – at Melbourne’s grand and truly ethereal Forum Theatre. For a solid 45 minutes I was held hostage by the tangible emotion emitted from the six men on stage: an accordion, trumpet, sousophone, double bass and the drummer as well Condon on vocals with the occasional flourish from his flugelhorn.
However my trance like state was broken 15 minutes before the completion of the 60 minute set when a smell, that sat somewhere between off milk, rotten eggs and menstrual fluid, wafted up into my nose.
So overwhelming was this crime against nasal hygiene, that I took an awkward step back into the 6 foot 10” man mountain behind me. I quickly scanned the faces of those in my vicinity, searching for a shared horror from other victims or either embarrassment or smugness from the perpetrator. My enquiries proved fruitless as all those around me remained focused on the band. Then my eyes zeroed in on the shortish fellow in front of me awkwardly and unconvincingly swaying from side to side to the music. It had to have been him for not only was he wearing a brown cardigan with brown cords, he also had brown hair!!! Criminal profilers say that in most cases it is the way the offenders presents themselves that gives away their illegal extra curricular activities.
I did try and just suck-it-up (yes that was a poor term of phrase to use given the subject matter) and refocus on the amazing music still caressing my ears, a music that stimulated that existential space between the mind and the soul. But the stench was so intense it actually slowed time, like some kind of bad acid trip. I reached a hand forward, tapped the ‘Brown Boy’ on the shoulder and said “Are you right mate,” in a tone that was diplomatic enough, but did border on patronising. He responded in a meek voice, “What are you talking about?” To which I said in an outwardly condescending tone, “Maybe you need to go the toilet?” He then scrunched his face before stating with some venom, “Whoever smelt it dealt it you creep,” before turning back to the band – who, thankfully, were far enough away from the crime against humanity that had escaped Brown Boy’s ass.
By now the smell had dissipated and the confusion associated with its foul odour had gone leaving me in a meek and reflective frame of mind. Maybe everyone around me had also smelt the odour and had, unlike me, taken the high road? And then as Beirut hit a particularly cracking outro from their last song and those around me rollicked and foot-stomped with glee – even Brown Boy got a pat on the back from the person beside him and I realised that the term Whoever smelt it dealt it is actually a lesson in social etiquette, disguised as quasi-detective work. The lesson here is that, yeah, sometimes in social situations unexpectedly shit can go bad (pun unintended) for an individual, but it is up to us to honour our social contract and just pretend it never happened.
So Jean Jacque Rousseau, if you reading this in your non-existent atheist heaven, I am sorry for breaking my social contract and attempting to out Brown Boy from what was probably just an unintended by-product of a particularly hearty Spanish meal at Movida Next Door. Forgive Jean Jacque, forgive Zach Condon and forgive me Brown Boy.
By Dan Watt