Catching up with Dan

By Rhonda Dredge

Melbourne’s CBD dwellers are still singing the praises of the city particularly at dusk when the spaces are empty and the lights of the streets compete with the glow of the sky.

La Trobe St is quite attractive and Flagstaff Gardens even better where the lights of the skyscrapers add to the show.

Those who live in the west end of the CBD feel as if they’re in New York when they’re out exercising.  

They’re an artsy bunch with global connections who find a tough romance in diversity, ideas and the frisson between doing it hard and being creative.

Dan Witton is a double bass player and singer who has just stepped out from an online performance he is filming in his “west end” flat for a festival.

He’s waited until dusk to take the air so he could use all of the precious light for filming and doesn’t have to upgrade his video equipment.

Dan does all his own cooking and lives cheaply. Frugality is his motto so he can eke out his time until the next gig. He doesn’t take holidays either.

“I was doing well,” he told CBD News. He’d been on a tour to the United States and was performing in Anthem in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and with Meow Meow at the Arts Centre.

His last gig was with Jazz Lab during the quartet’s residency at East Beach Arts in Geelong in June during the interregnum when there was a legal limit of 10 people.

The new restrictions have stopped live performances but he has done a film clip with Bush Gothic as well as the festival work.

“Everyone is becoming a TV studio,” he said. That means continual broadcasting, creative meetings and keeping up skills by story-making, fit-for-performance practice and new work. He said performers were using the lockdown time to develop ideas. 

“People are ensconced in scenario planning,” he said, “but if you’re used to working in a hyper-social environment such as dance or movement, when you got into a video call it’s not quite the future.

“People are trying quite hard to get involved in discussion. They’re doing play readings and apartment TV so you have to show up. There’s a new form of etiquette.”

Dan lives in a converted office building and loves the city and his flat, which looks into a void. It’s not exactly a New York tenement and it is noisy with the nearby construction. “I love the dirt.”

He said it was important to be sociable and he’s met people from the building through disasters such as fire drills and flooding.

“I play a large instrument and don’t have a car and have to get to places at peak,” he explained. His decision to move here three years ago was strategic. 

Unfortunately, most of his gigs have been cancelled leading to “a lot of discourse around the power of assembly for live work. It’s not as simple as tuning into a TV station.”

He relishes being back in Melbourne rather than on tour. He’d like to do more at home. At the moment that means posing in the middle of the tram tracks. There isn’t much traffic. 

“It’s open and spacious. There’s room to take space. You can go where it’s fresh and look at what’s needed when things are not so crowded.” •

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