Arriving at work on that Monday morning, I was greeted with the usual pleasant platitudes. On any other Monday, you might assume that I'd be down with a case of Mondayitis. You certainly wouldn't be expecting enthusiasm. But this was not the Monday after a normal weekend; it was the Monday after one of the best weekends.
I actually knew about what was coming a while ahead of time. Over the course of two car trips, I was to learn a lot about what was to become Robert Hunter Cup weekend. Initially I was let in on what exactly it was they were planning to do. It was so clear to me that these guys didn't just want to do something to commemorate the passing of their friend, they wanted to do an event that he would've be proud of. Hunter loved Aussie Rules and hip-hop; so what better way to celebrate his life than first with a gig and then a game?
My initial thoughts about the plan were mostly about how ambitious the whole plan was and how difficult it was going to be to make something like this happen. So much had to be organised, negotiated, arranged, discussed and paid for. Hearing about the plans near the beginning, I did not envy the work the organisers had in front of them to bring the party to life. I could sense how important this was to everyone involved, though. Having never lost anyone in such circumstances before, I couldn't truly relate to the way that they were feeling, but I could definitely sense how much he meant to everyone involved and how important it was for them to find a way celebrate his life that was both thorough and positive.
Slowly but surely, I saw the puzzle coming together via social media as the organisers worked away feverishly in the background. Over the course of months, I saw artists, fans, media and sponsors take to the concept with enthusiasm. I soon realised this thing had serious momentum and it seemed like everyone wanted to be involved. In a scene that had grown larger but somewhat fractured over recent years, I was heartened by the broad support that I could see scrolling by on my Twitter feed. Tickets for the show sold out soon enough. This was officially a big deal.
Sitting upstairs at the Corner Hotel with some friends and forumites who had travelled from interstate for the weekend, events felt significant before a single beat had been dropped. Seeing the amount of interstaters in the place when they were prompted to raise their hands was incredible. This was like nothing I'd ever seen before. This was the the highest concentration of Australian hip-hop fans I can recall in my short time following the scene; it may have been the highest concentration of Australian hip-hop artists, fans and media in one place ever. Some of the biggest touring rap acts in the country were interspersed with beloved veterans. All in all, it felt special; inexplicable. Reflux on the decks for Mass MC? Delta DJing for Dedlee? Boney and Stoney back in effect? Suffa on stage with the Syllabolix Crew? It felt like something that couldn't be happening; something that would be talked about for years.
On matchday, it seemed like the Melbourne weather was going to hold up. Trains rattled past at regular intervals, aptly symbolic of a congregation of a culture obsessed with location and transit. Families sat with strollers and blankets and young men clung to eskies and six-packs. Organisers arranged objects and pointed. What I felt was just how unremarkable it really was. Just like any other Sunday at football grounds across Australia, people sat, ate, laughed and cheered their teams. But what had brought these people together was not the same as any other suburban football match. This was a gathering of a culture, one that has been misunderstood for as long as it has existed here. These people had come together to celebrate a life, to pay respects to a great man taken too early.
Like very few other times in my life, I walked around the ground that day feeling like I was a part of something bigger. This wasn't simply about music or football; this was about a community. In whatever ways new technology has expanded the reach of different genres and subcultures, few things beat a good old-fashioned pilgrimage, a meet-up, a yarn.
I never met Robert Hunter. What was apparent to me though, not just from listening to his albums but from hearing others speak about him, was that he was as influential a person as he was as an artist. All communities miss personalities like his when they are no longer there. Holes like those left by Robert Hunter are difficult to fill. I can think of no better way for the Australian hip-hop community to celebrate such a life than with an event like this.
If you were around at the gig or the match, you might have seen a dude with glasses on his face and a camera around his neck grinning like an idiot. That was probably me. I did notice that weekend was that people around me were smiling a lot too. Seeing that, I can't think there could be a better way for any person to be remembered. I hope Hunter was smiling along with us.