Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Feature: 'The people and stories behind Greazefest' for Seam Magazine

A write-up I wrote on the culture behind events like Greazefest and the people who live (and love) it. View the original here at Seam Magazine's shiny new website.

“You’ve got to lean over the car like this,” a well-dressed woman in her sixties calls out to me, before demonstrating a classic pin-up pose on a bright red 1950s hot rod. As I poorly attempt to mimic her moves, she yells quick-fix beauty tips at me. From the outside, Greazefest, which takes over Brisbane for one weekend each year, is a carnival of vintage cars, modern pin-ups and poodle skirts. As Seam Magazine discovered, it is more so a celebration of the people keeping the old school dream alive by living and breathing it year-round.

Greazefest, now in its twelfth year, may be one of longest running and largest rockabilly and kustom kulture festivals in the Southern Hemisphere, but it’s by no means the only. Devotees from all corners have a calendar of events to roll up to, from Coffs Harbour’s annual Wintersun festival, Victoria’s Bright Rockabilly Ink and Oil and New Zealand’s largest nostalgia festival, Beach Hop. Come Monday morning, when the last car has left in a trail of smoke and the sun set on the festivities, Australia’s most dedicated revivalists don’t simply re-join the 21st century and return to the office.

Some revellers – like me – simply enjoy the opportunity to pin curl their hair without seeming vain, to practice their jive and pose with cars they could never afford to upkeep. Those living (and trying to make a living from) the culture relish the chance to network with the thousands of like-minded people who crawl out of the woodwork for events such as this, and disappear just as quickly. Tattoo artists specialising in traditional styles, such as Mimsy Gleeson, take advance bookings from interstate clients and ink the few lucky enough to score a spot during the show. For some, such as Tony Tavner-Corner and his wife, the events even provide a reason to come out of retirement. Tony gave up barber work last year and the pair now caravan across the country, but they’re hardly your typical grey nomads. They tour nostalgia and rockabilly festivals supplying hair pomade imported from Southern California’s rockabilly scene, and sometimes – if you’re lucky – styling quiffs and cuts.

Brisbane locals might have recognised some familiar faces, such as Justin Moyle and Ora Brown, who serve fair trade, organic coffee out of their ‘split screen bean machine’ – a Volkswagen Kombi called Muriel – every Saturday outside of the West End Markets. Then there was Coorparoo market regular UrsaLady Creations whose stall, run by three generations of women, overflowed with handmade, unique and rockabilly-inspired accessories and clothing. Ursula Lyne, her mother Ria, and young daughter Aurora work together on the family business, though admittedly, Aurora’s main role is to look adorable and sleep occasionally so her mother can get some, too. Ursula, who Ria says “lives rockabilly culture everyday” works many late nights and long days to keep her dream alive, but you can tell the trio wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happily, for the thousands of Australians immersed in the culture, and its many variations (including the edgier punkabilly), it shows no sign of slowing down. Greazefest organiser Lori Lee closed this year’s event by calling it the best to date. Knowing these cool cats, next year is bound to be every bit as swingin’.

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