Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide by Ben Folds

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Going where the air is clear
There's better beer in Adelaide Read full Lyrics
Many times, when I mention Ben Folds Five to someone, the response is, "Oh, is that the band who sang 'Brick'?" Why, yes. Yes, it is. Ben Folds Five made music from 1993 until 2000, the year of disappointment for Ben Folds Five fans everywhere. According to the band, the need for a split became apparent during their 1999 tour of Japan. "We were in Japan playing a massive stage, and we all seemed very unhappy. That seemed very odd to me," explained Ben Folds, the frontman and pianist of the group.

After the split, each band member made promises of solo work. Bassist Robert Sledge was planning on forming his own band, and drummer Darren Jessee started playing club shows around New York City. The solo career of Ben Folds, however, has been the most successful. He has collaborated with many musicians, including Regina Spektor and Weird Al Yankovic, and he even produced Amanda Palmer's (The Dresden Dolls) first solo album. His third solo EP, Super D, included a sentimental track titled "Adelaide," dedicated to Adelaide, Australia, where he once lived.

Adelaide just before sunrise with the River Torrens in the foreground
Photo: Taras Vyshnya, Dreamstime

A native-born North Carolinian, Folds made his home in Adelaide after marrying local girl Frally Hynes in 1999. Described by The Guardian as "the city that backpackers touring Australia forget to visit," Adelaide is the capital of South Australia and the fifth largest city in Australia. "Adelaide is one of my favorite cities in the world," Folds, possibly pandering, told the Adelaide free weekly Rip It Up. "It's an amazing place to live and some of the most artistic people live in that town... there are a lot of artists here, a lot of people who are excellent at what they do."

Known for its festivals, Adelaide is annually immersed in the arts, including the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Adelaide Film Festival, Adelaide Festival of Ideas, and Adelaide Writers' Week. The festival tradition began in the 1960s, when the arts scene started to flourish, bringing about the renowned Adelaide Festival of Arts. Folds references yet another festival, the Adelaide Motorsport Festival, in his song. After describing the flight into Australia "from outer space," the first thing he mentions is, "Now I see the bogans at the motor race," using the Australian slang word, inherently pejorative, for the unsophisticated citizens in Adelaide.

This mall's got the biggest balls of them all: The Rundle Mall in Adelaide, which Folds references in the line, "Watching as the locals pass silver balls"<br>Photo: <a href="" target="_blank">Jocelyn Kinghorn</a>, via Flickr, CC 2.0This mall's got the biggest balls of them all: The Rundle Mall in Adelaide, which Folds references in the line, "Watching as the locals pass silver balls"
Photo: Jocelyn Kinghorn, via Flickr, CC 2.0
Despite the "bogans" Folds seems to be complaining about, motor sports and the Motorsport Festival are a large part of the South Australian culture. Attendees of the festival are even encouraged to dress up in period-costume, "portraying an accurate re-creation of motorsports of the past."

In addition to a rich background in the arts, folds boasts of the quality of life in the city, telling Rip It Up, "The standard of living is great, whether you're poor or rich." Many seem to agree with him. Adelaide was listed in the Top 10 of The Global Livability Index as late as 2019. It was also ranked the most livable city in Australia by the Property Council of Australia up till 2017, when it was knocked into second place for the first time in several years due to the city's general economic outlook after the closing of a major manufacturing plant.

Despite the heavily artistic scene and the high standard of living, one writer from The Guardian poked at Folds' choice to live there: "Some things are inherently rock'n'roll, and some things aren't. Living in Adelaide, where the American singer and songwriter Ben Folds has made his home, is one of the things that isn't."

Folds neatly recognizes and dismisses this comment in his song: "A voice says why Adelaide? You could live anywhere. And I say because I want to. Because I want to. I really really want to." Enough said.

Stephanee Walker
August 15, 2022
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