Lismore kicks up its mud-caked heels at free concert following ‘two months of hell’

A deep, wet mud greeted concertgoers at the One From the Heart gig on Sunday. It was enough to swallow shoes. Fortunately, Lismore came dressed in gumboots.

After two devastating floods in as many months, residents made the most of the opportunity to reconnect and celebrate during the free concert put on by performers including Daryl Braithwaite, Jon Stevens, Lime Cordiale and Grinspoon.

Paul Kelly promised not to sing too many songs about rain, but still included Deeper Water in his set. He dedicated it to his father (who taught him to swim) and Lismore, 11 weeks after the town was inundated by its worst flood on record. A second flood struck on 30 March.

“We have lots of friends up here, and we’ve been thinking of you a lot these last couple of months … we’re glad we could come. Let’s hope there are better days ahead,” Kelly said.

With every expression of sympathy there were cheers, but also sadness.

“We still have tears in the moments when they say how sorry they feel for us,” said Tina Lloyd of Corndale. “However it’s been wonderful to see all the people putting on music and a concert for us and it has lifted our spirits.”

Sydney’s Lime Cordiale applauded the town’s sense of community following the twin disasters.

“The community you guys have is incredible. We’re just fucking city boys from Sydney, but, gee, you don’t get that there,” lead singer Oliver Leimbach told the crowd of around 8,000.

Sheppard’s lead singer, George Sheppard, said he was shocked to drive through Lismore and see it still resembling a “war zone”.

“People are coming up to us, not wanting a photo or anything, but just wanting to say thank you for the morale boost … We are phenomenally honoured to be part of this. Brisbane [Sheppard’s hometown] has had its fair share of floods, but nothing compared to what Lismore has had.”

Nurse Magenta Staar-Highfield described the concert as a welcome distraction from the flood recovery, despite fine rain falling intermittently throughout the afternoon.

“The mud doesn’t bother me at all,” she said. “I’m just here for the fun, the good times and the people. What’s a bit of mud? I go to Byron and pay for a mud mask.”

Her mother, Nora Highfield, who is still trying to repair her storm-damaged house, said she’s had “two months of hell”.

“It is so good to be out and enjoying ourselves.”

Singer Jon Stevens said the concert “wasn’t a fundraiser, but a smile-raiser”.

“The government needs to continue doing what they can to help the people here,” Stevens said.

Natalie Havilah, in the crowd from Corndale, said the concert had given the community a lift after two hard months. Her husband smashed his way into a car to rescue a motorist stranded in rising flood waters near their street.

“Tonight has given us connection. People are seeing each other again, and we haven’t seen each other in a long time,” she said.

“They are reminiscing but also venting, it’s cathartic for everyone.

“It’s muddy, it’s crappy but everyone is loving the grit, because that’s what this town is about – grit.”

The New South Wales government’s independent inquiry into flood preparation, causes, response and recovery will deliver its first report on 30 June.

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