This is me at the Rev in 2006 by Justin Edwards. I felt I should buy this photo after all the trouble Justin went to to photograph a deadshit like me. And then I gave the print to my mum for Christmas — like I was channeling Kanye.
2006 was a big, fat, mad year for me — perhaps the biggest, fattest, maddest year ever. If my life was rendered a statistical plane by activity and life-changing awesomeness, 2006 represented an incredible spike. It was such an anomaly that a good statistician just might need to dismiss it lest it grotesquely distort the holistic reality. But it was a beautiful and amazing anomaly. It was so hectic and head-spinningly profound I actually went to work to enjoy some recovery and structure and normality.
But initially, 2006 was the year I was officially getting old and boring, and late in 2005 my band (specialbranch) had folded and I found myself suddenly just plodding along, playing indoor netball two nights a week, turning up to work early and never, ever exceeding my self-imposed drinking limit.
And it was this brand new year that I found myself quite single for the first time in my life. Being a wandering soul felt very, very alien to someone whose relationships for the last decade had blended together like I’d feathered them in Photoshop. There was no cheating, but no real gaps either. But now I decided I didn’t need to rush anything and really enjoyed coming home to an empty house with just my cat for company — eating egg sandwiches three nights a week and trying my best not to be afraid of the dark.
So because my band stuff was all supposedly wound up I had started innocently just contemplating retiring from music and slowly descending into a respectable old age where I envisaged I would die reading a book in a big leather reading chair, wearing a tweed jacket (with elbow patches), surrounded by a massive floor-to-ceiling-library. Perhaps even smoking a pipe. A bit like this:
I was definitely not very interested in resuming a career in rock n roll. There’d been so many disappointments, so much disillusionment. But as it turned out, after that call from Wintah, I didn’t just resume a career in rock n roll — I dived into it’s big stupid intoxicating pool with gay abandon giving this rock n roll crusade every chance to redeem itself.
THE YEAR I GAVE EVERYTHING TO ROCK N ROLL
And although my first show with the Little Lovers was in front of a massive crowd on the main street of Stanthorpe during the apple/grape festival (which was marked in history as the year the pub ran out of rum before it got dark) my first real gig was at Ric’s just a week later.
And Ric’s became the stage for all this nonsense of 2006. I found myself there almost every single Friday and Saturday night and often other nights as well.
CHRIS (from Dollar Bar) — and just saying his mention of Wolf Like Me was just a beautiful coincidence as he hadn’t seen part two of this blog.)
I DJ’d at Ric’s from what was I think about a five year period sometime in the 2000s. I really can’t be more accurate than that, mostly because this is the time where I learnt how to properly drink alcohol. For at least a one year period I was DJing three nights a week while holding down a 9-5 office job. This was challenging and necessitated some kind of hangover management plan, which my buddy the bar manager Ajaye instilled in me. My most regular spot was downstairs on Saturday nights, midnight to five am. Upstairs was considered more glamorous and like, proper DJs, but downstairs was the front line and I loved it. This would then usually involve a new session that would begin at 5am and go through till the early afternoon. So much drinking. I got paid pretty well but invested all the money back into Ric’s and various other bars.
These are some sporadic, half memories. If they’re not true, it’s how I remember it and that’s the same thing really.
- A girl who DJd at The Empire came up to me and said “I get paid twice as much as you and would get fired if I played a song that was six months old.” She was annoying me because The Empire had closed early because there was no one there. I asked her to come back to my place after closing, she declined.
- A girl with a group of friends from Townsville requested “Kickstart My Heart” by Faith No More. When I said that no such song existed unless it was a crime against nature cover that I hadn’t heard, she told me that she was a doctor from Townsville and I was a piece of shit who didn’t deserve to live, let alone be a DJ. I got her and her friends kicked out because I could do that.
- I got hit on so many times by girls way out of my league, just because I was DJing there. Fifteen years of playing in bands did not even come close to the attention I would get from one night. Nothing ever came of any of it.
- Cigarette break songs. Wolf Like Me* by TV On The Radio. Fool’s Gold by the Stone Roses. Blue Monday by New Order. Atlas by Battles.
- Finishing the set always with Don’t Stop Believing by Journey.
- Trying to play Galaga at 5am without being able to see the screen.
- Sending people text messages that went something like ‘blghfs sjahe dhkaikye’
- The night the band Against Me! were breakdancing to Run DMC.
- The night Patrick Wolf didn’t get let in because he was wearing (hot pink) shorts.
Even living in Melbourne and Sydney, I often see regulars at various events and gigs. There’s sometimes an awkward glance of recognition, but if I can see them struggling to place me in their memories I let it go. I’m sure their memories are very different to mine, and that’s the way it should be. I regularly see some of the staff from those days and there’s a sense that we were all part of a secret society that no longer exists. Without exception they were amazing people. I do miss those days and look back fondly on them, but I am also very grateful they are OVER.
TREVOR (from the Lookalikes, Gentle Ben, Small Fantasy, The Melniks and Biro et al)
My favourite memory is the Cheeseboard. It was crazy how supportive Steve was of Skippy. We got to play every weekend for about a year with a guaranteed wage no matter how many people showed up and got to store our gear there as well. Even Polydor got on board and gave us CDs to give away every week (we kept the ones we liked).
The other thing about Ric’s that was great was walking in and getting a smile and a beer plonked down on the table before you even had a chance to sit down. Boy, I sure miss that in Melbourne.
And Nick Naughton (drummer in almost all of the bands associated with Trevor above – and more) was the commissar of the Cheeseboard and also a DJ and employee of Ric’s. (More on that in the next blog).
So the “Little Lovers” was fronted by Wintah Thompson who I’d known for years as the kid-son of the drummer of my favourite Brisbane band. But now Wintah wasn’t the dorky kid I’d known before and he was all grown up (but just quietly – still quite dorky) and in a band of his own with another delightful fellow (and awesome drummer) called Ben Whittaker.
So my first real show with this new band was at Ric’s and a big bunch of my friends came along to and it was amazing. Even though I fucked up my lines occasionally I got cheers and woo-hoos. Amazing. Below is a shot from Stanthorpe.
Our artist friend and fan Verity then had her collection displayed on the walls of Ric’s and she had done a portrait of our band and it was displayed in the main room — directly in front of the stage. And as amazing as that was, it was still a bit surreal. I embraced it. That week if I was dancing or talking with someone I would point it out and it was incredibly funny — and in saying that I am not at all trying to belittle Verity’s awesome work. It didn’t sell, but I imagine that had more to do with the subject matter rather than the talent on display. (Later Verity made us a video).
THE “NEW GUY”
And as the latest in a whole string of Little Lover bassplayers I needed to maintain some control at shows. And thus I was often the designated driver. But I would have a beer on stage in some pathetic pretence that I was perpetually “rock n roll”. But after the show I would hurriedly pack up our shit – roll it through the hordes at Ric’s (over and over) to the carpark out the back with a bit too much deliberate intensity.
Then I’d load up the car tetris-style or just in a “shove it in whatever” fashion and then leadfoot all this schlepping back to my home in Windsor as quickly as possible. Then I’d jump out of the car, dump all the expensive stuff into the living room while calling a cab at the same time. I then had precisely 30 seconds to smash a beer from the fridge and chuck the can onto the lawn and then dive into the cab which would ferry me back to Ric’s for the after-party. There I would find Wintah already stumbling around and so I would just smash beer after beer in an effort to catch up. Many of those nights ended in some degree of chaos.
Photo by Verity
Apart from that person mentioned below (who had mercifully left by 2006) I really got to know and love the staff at Ric’s — even “door-bitch” (not my label) Raychel. Raychel and I had a tough time getting to understand eachother as someone in my former band had a few conflicts with her — but during those old dramas I was almost oblivious to that stuff — so eventually we got to enjoy some peace between us. (To her credit she was fiercely loyal to Ric’s). There was the wolf-man Andre and Lara, and AJ and the morbidly depressing DJ Ema — I think she was known as “Penny Lame”. Of all the Ric’s staff she was the toughest to get a laugh out of, even a smile, but she played the best tunes. Plus “Strictly” Rachael Johnston who was our confidant and helped us out with shows and was generally someone we could always rely on. I remember ringing her in a panic when a disastrous battle loomed with a multi-national company and she provided me with awesome counsel. Thanks Strix.
A NOTE ABOUT STEVE
I just wanna say that Steve was the owner of Ric’s during the absolute period I have discussed in these blogs — that involved me — and he is due a hearty rock n roll handshake for establishing and maintaining this place. He deserves all the credit for how much I loved this place. He also loved my band and gave us gigs and was a genuine fan of his venue and cultivating the scene. He was always there and stuff but I never said hello cause I was a useless, snotty, dipshit who got a bit weak at the knees when confronted with authority. Sorry Steve. I wanted to interview him for this blog but had no way of contacting him. And it seems he is writing a book due for release soon which no doubt — will be amazing. I look forward to that and I will keep you all informed.
Thanks Steve for this photo
1) Once I broke my bass on stage (by dropping it on it’s lead) during our pretend cowboy “fight” and Luke from Violent Soho ran off and fetched me his bass from another venue on the other side of the Valley. And only then could we complete our set. What a fucking legend. We barely knew eachother in those days but he stood up and helped us out.
2) This may seem bizarre but the only time I have hooked up with someone random was at Ric’s. It turned out we had a whole bunch of friends in common — but that’s Brisbane.
3) I met Dee, my partner of 6 years at Ric’s. And many, many of my friends have met their life-partners here too. But in saying that — there were still awkward times when Dee and I would venture out to Ric’s. I remember Dee said to me once, “Well, how many ex-girlfriends are we going to run into tonight?” And I think that night we bumped into four. But of course we were all friends and only a little bit awkward around eachother.
4) Wintah was the first person I knew to get a taste of that taxi-queue-rage. He got beat up early in 2006 for nothing really.
5) SIXFTHICK. This band’s gig’s at Ric’s I can only describe as a revelation. And the shit they got away with in the name of ART makes what happened to Del Toro below a bit ridiculous. So Ben Corbett and his brother would get topless and self-violent and consequently bloody and be climbing all over the furniture and on top of the bar and at points be up on the tables in front of the stage. It was purposely confronting and ROCK and whatever they wanted to get away with. But in saying all that, the story below needs to be told.
Not sure who took this
BONUS POSTSCRIPT: “THAT DEL TORO GIG”
Back-tracking a bit I want to tell you about something that happened in 2005 which kinda scared me and made Ric’s less like a home and more like something everyone needed to take more seriously. Ric’s had been such a safe and neutral venue but then this: I wasn’t there but knew about it instantly from various sources and this is what I am reliably told happened: Xavier (a laid-back and genuinely relaxed dude), the drummer for a few local bands including Eat Laser Scumbag, the Fancy Boys and Extra Foxx got a bit excited and started dancing quite ridiculously on stage while his mates in Del Toro played their set. Admittedly it wasn’t quite dancing, more theatrics but it was all a bit of drunken fun. But this bartender, whose name I forget — but I don’t forget how fucking surly and uptight he was — decided to wrestle him down in a headlock and then pin him to the ground with his arm behind his back for ages. Meanwhile the band tried to say it was cool and they didn’t mind but it was no use. Xavier was eventually kicked out anyway and “banned”.
Extra Foxx, of which Xavier was drumming in, had a gig the very next week at Rics. But Xavier was apparently barred from Rics and Adam, the bassplayer, pulled out in solidarity. So when Jess (the keyboardist in my band Specialbranch) told me that Saturday morning that Conwae (the only constant in Extra Foxx) was about to play the gig all by himself (something he wasn’t used to at the time) I volunteered to play drums — my very first public drumming performance — and with only one short rehearsal. And with Jess on bass, Roly and Dale on guitars, we got through the show and it was pretty cool.
And we had Xavier’s blessing — otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. And indeed Xavier was there to see us play, and Adam too, because the “bans” Rics imposed were often never enforced and indeed forgotten literally the moment after they were executed. Weird.