Is there anything more visceral, in this age of social distancing, than the memory of a live concert in a sweaty pub?
Anything more life-affirming than ringing ears, smoke machines, guitars reverberating into the night, hoarse vocals and ocean waves of cheering?
Even for those whose gig-going days have long passed, the sights, sounds, smells and panoply of physical sensations evoked by the latest exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery are sure to have some effect.
But the idea of staging an exhibition that's a tribute to the rich live music tradition of Australia - at a time when live music is off the cards for the foreseeable future - goes back well before lockdown.
When Joanna Gilmour joined the staff at the National Portrait Gallery in 2008, one of the first works in the collection that caught her eye was a colour photograph of Jimmy Barnes.
He's standing with his arms in the air, bottle of vodka in one hand, towel in the other, drumkit in the background, mist swirling around him, in skintight leather pants and a sweat-soaked t-shirt.
On a performance high - either post-show or right at the peak, he's every bit the Barnesy we know and love.
But for Gilmour, then a newly minted curator, the image jarred as she was acquainting herself with a collection filled with many more traditional portraits. The posed and formal, carefully planned, painstakingly placed, artfully lit. This photograph is none of these - at least, not on purpose. And yet it's a portrait, and forms part of the national collection.
She couldn't help being intrigued.
"I was interested in what it tells you, without telling you very much at all, if you know what I mean," she says.
"It's basically an image that evokes so much beyond that moment - the smell, the sound, the whole scene of Sydney gigs in pubs in the 1980s."
In the years since, the idea for an exhibition about music had been brewing. The Jimmy Barnes portrait isn't the only live music shot in the collection - there's another one of Angus Young of AC/DC, shirtless and in full flight on stage, his back turned to dozens of adoring, outstretched arms. Again, an entire social, cultural and physical era, encapsulated in one frame.
She and her colleagues were still talking about a possible exhibition using these two shots as a starting point earlier this year when COVID hit. The gallery, along with all public institutions, shut its doors and kept on working behind the scenes. At the time, the staff believed the gallery would be closed for at least six months. But when Canberra began to emerge from lockdown, and the gallery opened earlier than expected, the team realised they needed to get things rolling with a proverbial bang.
Something joyful, celebratory, a show that would remind Australians that joy had always been possible, and would still be in the future. And so, with just 12 weeks to turn it around, they set to work on Pub Rock, a celebration of live music in Australia, using the gallery's collection of music portraits as, if you will, the baseline. But, needing some riffs and flourishes, Gilmour and her colleagues also put a call out to some of Australia's most prominent music photographers, to contribute works from their private collections of live music images.
The result is Pub Rock, a collection of stories and images about Australian rock and pop music, filled with icons and memories.
And it's all been put together while staff have been working from home, or, in the case of Gilmour, stranded in Tasmania, where she was visiting family when lockdown descended across the country.
But this, combined with the short lead time, has led to an entirely unexpected and surprising show, one that would have looked quite different if it had involved the usual years of research and consultation with other institutions.
"We've got an exhibition that ranges from everything from very staged or posed portraits - photographs or album covers, for example - as well as formal portraits such as the painting of Nick Cave by Howard Arkley, or the wonderful painting of Chrissie Amphlett by Ivan Durant," she says.
"Then there're all of these completely no-holds-barred, really energetic action shots, which is what has brought us back to the photo of Jimmy Barnes being the starting point for the whole idea."
It is, she says, a vivid timeline of Australian music, starting from 1960s trailblazers like Johnny O'Keefe, Little Pattie and the Easybeats, to the 1970s with AC/DC and the Bee Gees, Nick Cave and the Divnyls in the 1980s, and Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly and Yothu Yindi in the 1990s.
This is where the show ends, leaving, Gilmour points out, space for a possible sequel. But the show is surprisingly expansive, and filled with unexpected nooks and crannies. Olivia Newton-John in stark colour peeks coyly out from one wall, and round another corner, a playful, spontaneous 1990s beach portrait of the Falling Joys in black and white.
This one by leading rock photographer Tony Mott is among those forming another riff, adding texture to the overall narrative.
Gilmour says it's the series of works by Canberra photographer 'pling - short for sapling, as the late Kevin Prideaux was nicknamed when he studied forestry at the Australian National University - that form a perfect metaphor for the overall music scene in Australia from the 60s to the 90s.
"'pling was a permanent fixture, it seems, at gigs in Canberra throughout the 70s and 80s," Gilmour says.
"His photos demonstrate what an incredible music scene Canberra had in the 70s and 80s. I'm not a Canberra person, I definitely feel like an outsider and to me, 'pling's story is a quintessential Canberra story, in a way.
"He was this quiet, unassuming public servant by day, and by night, he was a really kind of edgy, out-there photographer, photographing all of these bands, at various different venues around Canberra.
"The other thing about 'pling's story is it mirrors a lot of those stereotypes and misconceptions that people have about Canberra. People say it's boring, there's nothing happening, there's nothing going on, insert insult here. Whereas he actually was documenting this incredibly rich and vivid scene. It wasn't just the big bands stopping off in Canberra on the way to Melbourne and Sydney. It was a thriving scene in its own right."
She says Ed Kuepper from the Saints, the band widely known to have recorded a punk single in the 1970s even before the Sex Pistols, once spoke of how bands like his worked in obscurity, without role models or precedents. If you didn't have anyone to follow or emulate, but you just wanted to create music, you just went ahead and did it.
This spirit permeates the whole exhibition, from Cold Chisel and Kylie Minogue, to INXS and Peter Garrett - he who would one day go on to become a cabinet minister - to the sultry Chrissy Amphlett and sweet Little Pattie.
The exhibition, in other words, achieves exactly what Gilmour and her colleagues set out to do. It's life affirming, and visceral and filled with joy.
We may be stuck at home, with live music off limits, but Pub Rock reminds us not of what we've lost, but what we've always had, and what is too important to ever disappear.
- Pub Rock is showing at the National Portrait Gallery until February 14. Entry is free but bookings are essential: portrait.gov.au.