Persecution Blues: The Battle For The Tote (2011)

ersecution Blues: The Battle For The ToteDirector: Natalie van den Dungen
Featuring music by the Meanies, Spiderbait, The Drones, Dave Graney & the Lurid Yellow Mist, Magic Dirt, The Nation Blue, The King Brothers, The 5, 6, 7, 8’s, TISM, Barbarion, The Spazzys and many more.

I had missed the premiere of this at the Melbourne International Film Festival as tickets sold out before I had gotten around to buying my mini-pass. I had to go see it as I know a lot of the people involved in it and I am actually in one of the crowd scenes from the footage of the “Last Drinks” gig.

The documentary had been in development for a while before the Tote’s untimely closure and subsequent reopening last year and the focus of the story had shifted from being the history of the Tote, to telling the story its supporters being called into action after they realised it could not be stopped from closing at the time.

It was good to see the music clips, but it would have been nice to see at least one full song. The only music documentary I remember having full songs recently was the Meredith one a few years back. I can understand the time constraints, but think it is still possible to advance the story while still showing the music. Hopefully there will be more clips available on the DVD extras, music rights issues pending.

I was lucky enough to be at the Last Drinks gig taking photos, but there were a lot of things I missed, such as the organization behind the scenes and I did not make it to the Sunday protest at the time as I had been on Saturday and wanted to rest up for the gig on the Monday.

I would agree with the theme expressed in the documentary that the experience bought people together and showed them what they could achieve if they had something to fight for. There are several people I know a lot better now from what happened around that time.

The SLAM Rally is given a good run in the documentary and I enjoyed seeing some of what went into it as it is difficult to picture how much it took to organise with a lot of online campaigns these days.

I must say, the part with Brumby meeting the new owners of the Tote makes him look like a massive tool and didn’t turn out the vote-getter that he thought as he still ended up out on his arse. I liked having the “Liberals Love Live Music” signs mentioned at the SLAM rally also.

I did enjoy the comments from people close to the Tote and thought it was well put together so it did not just look like a lot of talking heads. I know I shouldn’t say, but my favourites were Amanda and Ally and the Spazzys in the doco.

The animated intro sequence by Luiz Fuzzhound also came up well and I liked the cartoon sequence with Sue Maclellan explaining the high-risk conditions on the Tote’s licence that caused the problem in the first place.

The liquor licensing issue was a hot topic for all of 2009 I remember and there was a letter-writing campaign in the later part of the year, but I do not remember as big a reaction until after the Tote closed. As Bruce said, if he had known the support he would get it would have been raised a lot earlier and the Tote would not have had to close in the first place.

These things are in the past now, the Tote has re-opened and I am hoping to get back there for the Cramps tribute gig in a couple of months time.

I would recommend this documentary to people who enjoy live music and want to see how a community can organise and support a cause in a short period of time for a positive outcome.

Photos from the "Last Drinks" gig featured in the documentary:


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