The box office looks baffled when I ask for "the line", but they send me downstairs to the main doors.
There's no one there.
That's hardly surprising. I bailed out of work at 5:00 sharp and bolted the 3km to the Carling Academy, not even pausing to grab a jumper - it'd only slow me down. Doors are at 7:00, and it's barely 5:30; only that late because I failed to realise that the venue would be a tiny place upstairs inside a small shopping center, and ran past it twice. Fanboyism is new to me. I can describe it as "very cold".
By 6:00, there's still only two other people in the line, and one of them is nervously checking the date on her ticket.
I'm half-frozen by the time they open the doors. Lyn walks straight in, but I get a quick frisk. I'm not sure exactly what they're looking for, since cameras, phones, and mp3 players are all okay. Knuckledusters, possibly.
The knuckledusters might have been useful later on. The hall is empty at 7, full at 8:30, and elbows-out packed by 9. There's two bars but no chance of getting to them. About half way through the show a couple of girls make a really determined event to force their way to the front where we're clinging desperately to the barrier. Along with the laid-back aussie bloke on our right we hold the line, although we both cop a lot more flesh than we'd been planning on.
The support act is an Adelaidean, DJ Reflux. He's got great skills, and he's fascinating to watch for the first hour, but he's on for two-and-a-half. Still, I've waited nearly four hours for my perch on the crowd barrier, front and center, and I'm not about to give up.
The Hoods themselves are in and out in an hour, and given the energy of their performance it's hardly surprising. The show unexpectedly gets a lot more old-school when DJ Debris' audio feed goes down in the first track and again in the third, leaving them without beats. You'd expect a couple of MCs to be able to impro, and they do.
It's a good mix of old and new, with the added wrinkle of a string quartet playing alongside - something they did on the Hard Road Restrung but which I didn't think they'd take on tour. They read the crowd well, even subbing in "John Howard" in An Audience With The Devil.
I should mention that being next to the crowd barrier has an additional advantage; you can use it as leverage when you're jumping. This allows for some much better altitude.
It was a better show than it would have been in Adelaide; the smaller venue makes it much more personal, like going back to before they hit the big-time. We managed the same trick with Missy Higgins, seeing her at the Gov just before she won a handful of Arias. Nobody I've talked to here has even heard of the Hilltop Hoods. Yet.
I've climbed at Hat Rai Lei, I've patted tigers in Kanchanbury, and I've been front and center at a Hoods show.