Format Won

It’s been a while coming. To be honest with you I guess I’ve been waiting for the right moment to take me so I could do this post some sort of justice. It’s my day off. A rarity. I’m listening to old burnt mixed CD’s from Adelaide times with rough demos of Mariah Carey and Cypress Hill with vandalised ‘SMILE’ stickers and listening instructions. The time is now.

I shouldn’t have gone back to Adelaide. I sure as hell couldn’t afford it. A few weeks earlier I had spent a lot of weeks’ pay in order to stalk Sharon Needles around the country – we ended in Adelaide, at the Garden. I did so much screaming you’d think that I’d had my fill.


It was a good friend’s birthday party the weekend before FORMAT ALWAYS WINS. I was meant to go and surprise him as a dragged out, stubbly, chain-smoking ‘Ariel’ from ‘The Little Mermaid’. Life happened. The trip didn’t (see aforementioned financial issues). Halfway through the week I started noticing some pretty epic Facebook updates from old Adelaidians scattered across the country calling out to munt-bags to travel once more, back in time and space, to Peel Street – to wreck Format one more time. It was Kat Bot’s status about how if this event was in Melbourne, it would have sold out a bazillion times already, that acted as a hazy nucleus. Suddenly I was filled with South Australia pride. I needed to go leave my mark on Format. I needed to action dance and run around the West End because Format was leaving. I got me some tickets. My bank account choked and withered away like a Super Mario Brothers’ pipe-plant.

Now at this point, I’m gonna assume you know who Format are (you should, mate) and why the FORMAT ALWAYS WINS event happened. Essentially, they were kicked out of Peel Street. Having gone to events at the collective’s HQ since I was still at art school, and having exhibited within their walls during their last year with Alice Dolling, I felt like I had been a part of the story, albeit a small one. Which, was great because when I heard about why Format had been kicked out I was filled with A RAGE SO TERRIFYING AND BRUTAL THAT ONLY 8 – 12 HOURS OF POWER DANCING AND AWKWARD TOUCHING IN A SMALL DISCO CLOSET WAS GONNA MAKE IT RIGHT.

Cut to the Saturday night of FORMAT ALWAYS WINS. I had been a little too enthusiastic the night before (damn you QANTAS delays resulting in an open bar) and I wasn’t feeling so inspired. A big gang of gypsies started pre-drinking in Mile End. Alice donned Alaska Thunderfuck ‘Makeups in the dark’ paint and we all felt pretty ready actually. The party moved around the corner where we ate a big vegetarian dinner and made gin and tonics. When we arrived at Format, in the rain, I guess something clicked deep within us. We got angry-excited. Alice had already been booked to paint a UV mural covering the walls of the Format Toilets so we kinda felt like we owned the small space behind the bar (I should probably mention that Liz and Kaz Pratt, Zac Svendsen and myself also added some final flourishes to this masterpiece). In retrospect, something really special happens when you’re already feeling artistically righteous and then you see all your friends (ALL your friends, people who were in Year 2 with you. Year 2 – what EVEN WAS YEAR 2?!) and there’s cheap drinks and a bunch of great Adelaide bands.

Essentially our brains exploded.

Between live painting in the bathrooms (the mural, our faces, my pristine white jumper, other people, other people’s faces, other people’s clothes, the floor) and running into the small storage space under the stairs (where a strobe light, alfoil and VHS had been plastered to every surface) we initially didn’t do much live music listening. But holy hell we had a good time. I don’t need to go into specifics (you’d be disgusted) but it was like every montage from a John Hughes’ film and then that bit in Mermaids where Christina Ricci does little 60s singing with a healthy fistful of Natural Born Killers thrown in for good measure. Format had assembled an almighty team of artists, musicians, volunteers and special guests to see the collective out of Peel Street. There was so much Adelaide everywhere. It was great. I think I saw people playing handball at like 2.40am outside the front doors. That is the greatest thing ever. The collective atmosphere of the event was so perfect. It was sentimental and loose and hilarious.

And then this happened:

The night (the first one, anyway) ended how it should have. With us, ricocheting off the downstairs walls and dancing to the Spice Girls (real dirty like) til an absurd hour. If you missed out on FORMAT ALWAYS WIN you did actually miss out. The event (from what we recall, with help from iPhone photos and hearsay) was the perfect celebration of what Format had achieved, is achieving and will achieve. I mean, even VICE got interested. I woke up in a friend of a friend’s house, who was clearly an architecture student from the multitude of small model boxes fixed to the walls of his study. I missed seeing his parents, but I did walk for about 30 minutes down Magil Road in the opposite direction to town, attempting to get to town. Good times.

Format are now homeless BUT are still in operation. You should find out all about them and if you’re an artistic/musical/helping type by golly you should get alllll up in ’em. This is just my patchwork of 2 cents – I really just wanted to give Format some big ups and write a post that wasn’t strictly business. It’s not really a review, there was too much Gin for that. It’s just a little slice of what happened. Thank you Format. You win.

Photo by Sarah Eastick.

Photo by Sarah Eastick.

Tom x

P.S. Check out this GREAT album by The Thousands of Format through the years. It’saguddun.

About T o m C h r i s t o p h e r s e n

Actor. Artist. Atrocity.
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