A Personal History of Ric’s (PART 2 of 3)

Part 1.

We are about pick up the story in the 2000s. But before we do that I want to go back to were it all started.

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Photo Matt Brady

THERE REALLY WAS A RIC, AND THIS WAS HIS BAR

Ric Frearson, a local artist, set up Ric’s bar in the early 90s (with it’s obvious “Rick’s” pun) as a means to exhibit his own work and that of other artists.

“At first I had my paintings on the walls, and as time went on it developed into a gallery with monthly exhibition openings — showing painting, photography and conceptual instillations. Music was a big part of my life so it was great to be able to have bands in the bar. I never felt that the size of Ric’s was an issue, instead my thinking was that it was intimate and how cool would it be to have bands in such a small place.

“Trevor Hart had a jazz band at the time and I started him on Tuesday evenings. The Valley was a wild frontier in those days, with only a few spots open in the Mall, so we started putting on more music to attract people into the Valley and to Ric’s.

“Saturday afternoons was a great time in the Valley. We started Saturday afternoon music with a band called Jezebel Dinosaur, very arty Talking Heads style, with a very arty crew that came to watch. This became our base. Music was the reason people came to Ric’s. One of the highlight’s was having the Dirty Three play one Saturday afternoon, Warren Ellis raising the roof and the tempers of some of the business owners. What a gig.

“I had heard of cafe’s in New York having turntables, playing techno music bar and I thought this might be fun. Sunday’s became Techno day and they went off, starting early mid morning and going into the evening with the bigger acts. Photographer Mick Richards documented these events with some amazing images of people going off at Ric’s.” — RIC FREARSON

THE 2000s and THAT SATURDAY JULY 1, 2006

And so getting back to the heady days of the mid-2000s — these were challenging times for any venue in the Valley. But new Laws would make these days/nights of change so much more crazy. Everything just got more enforced and at the mercy of control.

First of all was the noise restriction debacle which I’ve documented already. But then came that first day In July, which happened to be a “Saturday”. On this day a total smoking ban was effected and there was also the party-killing doom of “3am Lockout”.

Admittedly at the time I wasn’t too concerned. Apart from the fact I didn’t smoke I treated Ric’s like a home. It was where I hung out — and pretty much the only place I hung out at — and so getting locked in there after 3am was no big deal. Or so I thought.

I was also convinced myself, and everyone else, should be quite party’d out by that stage and quite grateful to be in eachother’s exclusive company.

So it was only a few weekends later when I was still yet to be used to the system when it became very real and it was suddenly horrible. I had innocently wandered off to the Rev or the Depot or whatever and then attempted to stumble back to Ric’s with the full intention of partying-on in a very decent and civilized manner….but I was denied.

It was about 3:02am and I was almost face-to-face with the big window doors at Ric’s (before they moved the late-night entrance.) And I looked inside with big puppy-dog-sad-eyes and a slight drop in my jaw. I could see all these people inside having a good time, and they could equally see me outside having quite a decidedly BAD TIME like a leper in this cold, cold death-zone.

Already outside there was gathered a bunch of deadshits totally excluded just like me. And everyone inside pretended to ignore us, yet secretly they knew our situation and did nothing to help. I know this is controversial, but it was like an apartheid which those inside accepted, but those outside just had to suck up.

And so I trudged off home through this bleak, bleak no-man’s land and I got this intimacy with all those others left-over in the valley. Everyone around seemed like zombies even though some had purposely missed lockout. Some where sitting crossed-legged waiting for the first dawn train home to those extreme suburbs. Most just found themselves caught up in it, and a whole bunch others were too wasted to notice. This was my first “walk of shame”.

MIGRATION

But I will contest that the biggest single influence to the Valley in these times was the very new and acute migration of muscly, thin-t-shirt-wearing metrosexual nightclubbers who had almost overnight decided to decamp from their traditional haunt in the CBD.

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(Leon Dufficy and Steven Smith at the upstairs DJ booth) PHOTO: MICHELLE BROWN

The Valley has always had a reputation. In the old days it was always a bit wicked. As a kid I remember being a bit scared as we passed through it on late night car trips. And it’s reputation was well-deserved. It was essentially the physical focus of all that corruption exposed in 4Corners’ “The Moonlight State”. The illegal gambling and money laundering and fire-bombing and pretend “massage parlours” were just part of its furniture. But with the fall of the Beijke-Peterson government, the Valley — in just a few years — had got quite tame and quiet at night. It was still full of prostitutes, the drug-addled, those who might be classed “dodgy” and very, very ordinary buskers, but it was relatively safe to those passing through and certainly not mainstream.

But when the mainstream arrived — that’s when things got nasty. With that sudden exponential flowering of population in the Brunswick Street region — particularly on a Saturday night — the new crowd not only treated the place like they’d owned it forever, but they brought violence and over-flowing bladders with them. Initially there were confrontations outside Birdee num nums which neighboured 610 but the indie-set, and other locals, had no choice but to demure to this onslaught. Violence, omnipresent urination and a new phenomenon — taxi line rage — ensued.

It was a new era of decadence. The McDonalds on the Mall just exploded in popularity. It resembled a paper/cardboard rubbish tip by 3am. The streets were soaked by rubbish and vomit and urine (as previously mentioned).

And our indie set treated the place just as badly I guess.

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THE CAR PARK

So the top-most level in the carpark above the Chinatown Mall on the Ann Street side bizarrely had this random bench-seat with a view of sorts across to Herston and Spring Hill. And this level was always devoid of cars on Friday and Saturday nights. And it was here we congregated with our takeaway liquor from the hole-in-the-wall at RGs. At times there were 20 or 30 people up there drinking and having bottle-smashing fun. Wintah and I even had a foot race up there for some stupid reason. He won but then almost died from failing to resume breathing properly.

At one point we had to move the “carpark” to an alleyway a few streets away when it got noticed by the fuzz and the carpark owners I presume. There were a few incidents where people got chased out by the management I seem to remember. But then we were all back there as if nothing had happened.

BACK TO RIC’s

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So Ric’s changed a bit in this era. In a physical sense those days saw the new collapsable stage implemented. That stage was a series of wooden blocks with a cheap persian rug thrown on top. And after the sets the blocks were thrown up against the wall and hidden by this big black curtain.

And soon there was a “night-time” entrance (that doorway that used to be exclusively for the upstairs section.) And so about 9pm the main doors closed and the security arrived.

Dom (from the Rocketsmiths):

“My first ever gig when I turned 18 was seeing The Gin Club play at Ric’s. I now manage that band.

“For years in my old band I used to yearn to play Ric’s on a Friday or Saturday night rather than the usual weekday night. We’d go see all the great bands play there and they were always the fucking great Brisbane bands, and quite often the bands who were just about to do big things. Our big “break” there was when The John Steel Singers booked us to be their support. Raychel, the old booker, really liked us and so she booked us for more shows and we really felt like we’d made it.. Now I look back, it seems pretty ridiculous that we placed so much importance in the place but it WAS important at the time.

“My friends and I used to pretty much spend our entire weekends there. It almost became a bit of a joke, we wouldn’t really go anywhere else or do anything else. It would usually go: – Have dinner somewhere – Go see a band – Go To Ric’s.

“After a little while, I ended up DJing there and having my own night on Fridays upstairs called Honky. Some of my fondest memories are being drunk as fuck at about 3.30am and just having a really great time, even though I was working. Quite often the bar staff were even drunker than I was.” — DOM

WOLF LIKE ME

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Dancing at Ric’s was one of my most favourite things. “Wolf Like Me” became our song. I remember it was me and Danica one night just professing our absolute adoration for it and we must of requested it and just ripped shit up on the dancefloor and done the thing where we sunk to the floor in the breakdown section. We did this countless times, almost ever Saturday night until the increasing omnipresence of security at Ric’s noticed. And that little harmless escapade almost got a bunch of us kicked out one night but when the bouncers started swarming over us, looking quite hostile — DJ Matt told them it was cool and we were saved.

And so whenever WLM came on meant we were compelled to dance to it like we had seen a full moon and we were transformed. And soon we all knew to do that falling down on the floor during the middle breakdown much to the amazement of everyone else around. And it got so natural and understood that a whole bunch of us could lie flat on the Ric’s tiny dance floor like we were a flash mob and then BANG! We’d jump around like nutcases to the outro screaming, “We’re howling forever, oh oh”. Over and over.

Such good, good times.

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MATT BRADY

Matt was one of the best DJ’s ever and introduced me to many, many awesome tunes and bands. He mostly DJ’d upstairs in my day and it was him that broke the news to us about Grant’s death that night I talked about before.

“Ah Ric’s. Lots of good times back in the day. Some crazy ones too. Most of my memories where all great ones. Things like drinking with Grant, seeing friends bands play, DJing upstairs for a couple years with Hinze, Alex and Candice! Ric’s changed when the city crowd decided to make it their home too, that’s when I stopped going there to some degree.

“The first art show I ever curated (i used to skate once), was at Ric’s 8 years ago. Steve (the owner) was cool like that, giving people a chance. I remember my brother playing in his band one night and when they finished, Robert Forster walked up and told him that he thought they were great. Gee, you should’ve seen the look on his face.

So many great bands played Rics.”

THE SMOKING BAN

I don’t smoke and didn’t even dabble in smoking except for when the smoking BAN came upon Ric’s. And it was then I lit up like a chimney — compared to my former and current self that is. As I alluded to before — Ric’s was more a series of vignettes than a singular room or a singular vibe — which fostered a wandering nature to anyone with some semblance of a social affliction.

And so I would travel around, dancing a bit downstairs, dancing a bit upstairs, talking to friends, waiting for a decent opportunity to pee in the toilet section rather than the trough which was completely exposed.

And when all my friends had disappeared I’d seek them out and find them in that empty Brunswick Mall Rotunda. It was like a second Ric’s but with more space – more seating – less dickheads and the crucial ability to maintain a decent conversation. It was like a cone of silence except those cones were filled with smoke.

Another factor in me venturing out here was when I get really drunk and knew I shouldn’t drink anymore I somehow instinctively would put myself in a situation where I could bum a cigarette. And then after that adventure in the rotunda I would have another beer or two to wash away that evil smokey tar in my mouth. Eventually I worked out the beer doesn’t quell the dizziness and headspins and suddenly I am worse off than ever — only realising in the cab on the way home fighting, FIGHTING like I was in the trenches, fighting so hard not to vomit.

But at least I got to hang with the cool kids and hold some fire for a bit. Right?

In saying all this – smoking is BAD, but it was sooooo social. I remember meeting and knowing and having awesomely good times with a bunch of people in that rotunda who are now all forgotten.

Clay from the Modern Lies and Moon Jog: “Well, smoking inside was only good for a smoker, me and my smoker friends look back on it with gay abandon. But yeah it was not that great for non-smokers. I actually don’t miss it that much.”

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NEXT ADDITION.

2006. Lot’s of drama, lot’s of events and meaning. My soul will be exposed. Woah.

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8 thoughts on “A Personal History of Ric’s (PART 2 of 3)

  1. Rics was opened in 1993 by Louis Bickle & partners Doug James,Rod Johnson.Jai Ogilvie known socialite & family friends of the Bickles was given the bar to run with her recently divorced husband Rick Frearson & business partner Tony Moynihan.Rics originaly traded as a cafe but morphed into a bar as you describe using the Pub License from the Royal George which Bickle owns.
    The Royal George lease was sold to its first red neck Mick Cox in 94 who introduced Line Dancing to the Mall.Mick didnt like the crowd at Rics and refused to let them use the liquor license so they were forced to close pending a Cabaret application & a seperation of the premises from the R.G.The bar was closed Rick & Tony walked out.
    In late 1994 I relocated Red Hot & Blue, opened in 91, from the T.C BEIRNE building to the Graffiti Grill & changed the name to Fatboys.With Rics vacant I established a lease & applied for a liquor license while Louis transfered the Rics name(which was registered by him) to me to save applying for council approval for the use of the building in another name .
    In 1996 we pulled out some walls & windows upstairs at Rics revealing the Beautiful Juliette Balcony.An English artist who co founded the Doggett st Studio laid the Mosaic.
    In 96 we established The Pandanus lounge Upstairs which then became a regular spot for Johnny Griffin, Ravi & the Resin Dogs.(real D.J’s).
    Rics was sold to the second red neck tenant of the R.G in November 2009.(by me ;).
    For all the naughty bits read:
    The Memoir, available 2013 “Valley of Fortitude”
    Setting The Vinyl Straight”
    A tribute to Grant Mclennan .
    Stephen Fitzgerald Owner Rics, Fatboys, Trout, Red Hot & Blue, K.Y. Deli
    1991-2009

    Thanks Matt miss you xx

      • You may not like it because you & Rick Frearson dont get the pat on the back for creating something that lasted as long as it takes a newborn to reach adulthood.My point being when we opened Rics it had been closed for 4 months prior & it could easily have been called Steve’s but my ego’s not that precious.A few of the players involved having read your blog have said its a bit like you wouldnt be where you are today without Tarnac ……

  2. I am sure i will like it! I don’t know Ric — I was just told about him and asked him to contribute. And I had no way of contacting you! Anyway — you probably don’t remember this but you gave my half-band — Roman History — a few gigs just after seeing us once and they were some of the best gigs ever. I remember you always looking on from that spot at the end of the bar near Grant’s stool. Send me your email and I’ll interview you for the next bit!

  3. Pingback: My history of Ric’s (Part 3) | DJ GLAD RAPPA

  4. This is great. I’m currently writing a little thesis on the Brisbane music scene and this blog is bringing back some great memories and research tangents. Dunno if whoever wrote this is still reading, but thank you for this!
    Scotty Regan
    (from The Gin Club ie. the band that took Dom Miller’s Ric’s virginity)

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