The Cat Empire headlines Shepparton flood recovery concert

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The Goulburn River might have returned to a familiar height after flooding the Shepparton region in October, but its banks aren’t the same. Erosion has stripped tree roots naked and the scrub has a crust of dry mud after spending weeks underwater.

People living nearby have changed, too.

Yorta Yorta rapper and spoken word artist Bricky B, also known as Brady Jones, and his young family spent a week trapped by floodwater in Shepparton North.

“When stuff like this happens it puts life in perspective, slows things down and you appreciate the little things,” he said.

“It reminds you that when things like this happen, we do come together.”

During the floods, the community congregated to fill sandbags.

Bricky B used a dinghy to deliver groceries to his neighbours.

Now the immediate danger is over and the recovery effort is in full swing.

Greater Shepparton residents have received the most Victorian government flood assistance payments of any affected community since the October disaster — about 8,400 in total.

Recovery means mending damaged property and roads, but it also means processing the emotional toll.

‘A place to celebrate’
On Sunday the community came together to share music, which Bricky B calls medicine.

“I think it’s something that the community really needs after the devastation of the flood, we need that medicine again, that food for the soul,” Bricky B said.

“Nothing helps like live music.”

The Emerge concert was a free block party organised by GOTAFE with support from Music Victoria, Creative Victoria, La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne.

Melbourne-based musical collective The Cat Empire were the headline act, supported by a line-up of Goulburn Valley artists.

Cat Empire co-founder and frontman Felix Riebl said the concert was the second live performance for a new iteration of the band.

He said the gig was about spreading joy.

“What we can do is we can bring some music to some people who have been going through a very tough time,” he said.

“With the full knowledge that people go back to lives that have been affected [by the floods] and there are long struggles ahead.”

Riebl said community was the core of The Cat Empire — about 45 musicians contributed to the band’s latest record.

“Think about that word, what community actually is … community is a place to celebrate, community is a place to challenge yourself to get better, and be part of something … It’s not a word that’s just thrown around, it’s not a cliche.”

Bricky B said the concert was a chance for his community to take their minds off the stress of the past few months.

“To help heal as a unit, as a community, as a whole.”