My history of Ric’s (Part 3)

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.

Me telling a story at Ric’s


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.


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).


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. Image

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.


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



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.


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.


Photo Matt Brady


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”.


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.


(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.





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.





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



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.



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.”


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.”




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


Ric’s (A short and personal history)



Once-upon-a-time someone described Ric’s Bar quite accurately, but rather dispassionately, as a place where no matter where you stood, you felt like you were perpetually in someone’s way — even if you were in a band (playing a show there).

And although I suspect there’s a point in the career’s of most Brisbane bands where they just won’t play there anymore, and it has been at times quite fashionable to dismiss and derail Rics — certainly now, and even in the old days — I will argue it meant a very great deal to a lot of people in Brisbane.

It was sometimes a ‘default’ venue — in other words I’ve found myself saying a billion times, “Aw, there’s nothing else on, let’s go to Ric’s”. But I would argue that is actually quite a compliment to the place. Ric’s is a pretty humble venue where the music was generally good, you always had a familiar face there to chat with and it felt safe and cosy and very, very “Brisbane”.

So this is a story about Ric’s — not quite a history, and not quite a beginning, middle and end tale. And in telling this tale I have asked a few of my friends to help me out with their experiences too.


When I first went to Rics in the late 90s as a terrified, snotty-nosed kid with horrible clothes and the most stupid (but sensible) footwear imaginable I had no idea this humble place would mean so much to me in the future. In this place I saw some of the most awesome shows ever. In this place I played at least the top 5 of the most awesome shows of my life. In this place I met and hooked up with Dee (and many, many of my friends hooked up with their life-long partners too). In this place a billion other very, very cool and meaningful events happened — and some very heartbreaking and profound. Rics, like it or not, was THE centre of A universe that I was wedded to in those days. Like it or not, it was our “local”. It was our natural meeting place. It was where you could go on a Friday or Saturday night (perhaps even through the week too) just on your own, no matter what time, without any worries that you could not bump into a bunch of your mates there already (or just about to arrive).


For the uninitiated — Ric’s is a very small venue that often punched above its weight — through necessity and the circumstance of Brisbane being so devoid of decent live music venues. That tiny space it occupies is at the top of the Valley Mall and gradually it evolved from a ‘quiet/relaxed/sunday-afternoon’ vibe into a place that could accommodate any band — as long as they could fit on that 6 square metre stage.

One thing that differentiates it from almost all other venues in Brisbane — and perhaps all of Australia — is the fact it has always been FREE ENTRY. And as you may have suspected from the words above — I have spent a lot of time at Ric’s. I have certainly PLAYED most of my gigs over my humble rock n roll career at Ric’s and I would bet that I have probably SEEN the most bands I’ve ever seen live at Ric’s.


At this point I know a lot of my peers will look at this subject matter and think, “What a fucking shit-hole. I hated that place” — which was essentially the words of the first person I asked for an opinion. And at times I have felt that vibe, but with the warm, blissful, fuzz of the passage of time (and the beautiful failings of memory), I look back at Rics and I think exponentially of the good times and gloss over all that bad stuff. And there was a lot of bad stuff, but it all seems so trivial and funny in that sense that drama gets endearing once you aren’t there anymore.

I think people got over Ric’s was because it eventually got quite MOR successful. But it’s eventual mainstream popularity was more to do with the Valley itself being suddenly “de jour” with ‘city nightclubbers’ than any planning on its behalf.

And like a deer startled by the headlights of a bogan 4WD heading straight at it — it managed to just jump out of the way of oblivion by slowly playing catchup.

So it got “serious” with a stage and more security and that second entrance when it got late enough. And a lot of deadshits started frequenting the place. I first knew something was up when one Saturday night I went to see this band from Perth called “Turnstyle“. They were one of my favourite indie bands but just before they played I was denied entry inside because I was wearing Doc Martins, Vinnies old-man-trousers and a cowboy shirt. The guy at the door explained quite matter-of-factly: “Sorry, but this is a t-shirt and sneakers venue”.

Rather than protest or wallow in that extreme rejection I treated this as brutal but necessary constructive criticism and a wake-up-call. A few days later I went out and bought some sneakers and hid those Docs in the most inaccessible region under the bed.

And the success of Ric’s got even more real when a few years later, around 2005, the Brunettes from New Zealand were playing there and outside was a line up that stretched for 50 metres or so. And I pretty sure it was a Thursday night. Wow. Our ‘local’ was growing up. I didn’t get to see the Brunettes that night but I still felt part of history just being outside and witnessing the spectacle.



Photo by Michelle Brown

The other reason certain people started hating on Ric’s was because of a venue just around the corner called “610”. And I have documented about the phenomenon that was 610 so you’ll just have to read it. Or if you can’t be bothered — just suffer this very simplistic interpretation of that vibe at the time: one of the biggest ‘characters’ in the scene at the time, and a major promotor of ‘indie’ shows, decided 610 was cool and Ric’s wasn’t cool anymore. And thus 610 was about the ‘kids’ and Ric’s was about the ‘establishment’. And more accurately (and quite base at the same time) 610 was BYO and sans-security whereas Rics was the opposite. (In other words you could party seeing some equally shithouse and equally some very cool bands at the same time saving a lot of money in the process and looking quite fashionable.)


There were very vocal and influential proponents of this philosophy and I guess a lot of people got caught up in it. (Possibly myself included — cause I fucking loved 610.) But when 610 imploded all that rubbish was forgotten and people started coming back to Ric’s.


Ric’s in the 90s and 2000s was small but NOT small at the same time. It was not quite a TARDIS but I would describe Ric’s as a series of vignettes. And in this way it could seem almost grand and spacious.

The performance area was tiny. (Until recently when they moved the sound booth) it has been the space from the roadside wall across to about 1.5 metres from the bar where the DJ/sound booth sat.

This is my humble drawing of the layout.



Of note, the toilet area was, well, “eccentric”. It was this dirty, shitty, mostly outdoor place out the back through a winding passage past the pinball machine (and below) and next to the iron backstairs up to level 2. Further back was this big fridge thing that looked like a ship container which was eventually locked after someone decided to piss inside it. But despite all this nonsense the toilet area was another zone where you could chill with your friends and it didn’t really matter that you could see the guys pissing through the gaping door-less opening to the men’s toilet or see someone doing lines through the window. Indeed these facilities became almost non-gender specific as every other user of the male side toilet was a woman.

And the graffito on the walls was always a fantastic insight into what was happening in the scene. If you had something derogatory (or occasionally complimentary) posted there — you knew you were a somebody.



My first memories of Rics were when it wasn’t quite a “proper live venue”. With its ‘no cover charge vibe’ I guess it almost felt like a ‘little place’. But it was quite the opposite. A lot of really, really good bands or side-projects of really good bands would play and it was the kinda venue you could invite your friends or your parents to.

In those days Rics had bands playing on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and even evening gigs were usually “quiet” bands, jazz stuff or acts playing their more laid-back material. You could rock out I guess, but in an intimate, softer way. I remember when we first got a show there I was unnecessarily flustered, determined to put as many clean songs into the set without sounding all wimpy and non-rock.

Part of that vibe was the fact there was no stage in those days. You just played on a bit of carpet and there was a shelf behind where you could sit a smallish amp. If the room was fucking packed — like that time I saw Miami’s CD Launch — you couldn’t see anything (and I am 6″ tall) but the vibe was amazing.


My fledging first band was gifted a support at Ric’s one Thursday or Wednesday night by David McCormack. It was the first time I played there and this was in the days before a stage and I had seen other bands rest their amps up on this thin shelf behind so I thought that was what the cool kids did so I dutifully copied. And then during our last song I was strumming away and suddenly no sound was coming out and I checked my lead and the volume and eventually I looked up in some apologetic notion to the audience and they all looked horrified and were gazing not quite AT me, but directly BEHIND me. And I swung around and saw my amp had fallen off the shelf and punched the two leads flush inside. When I lifted it back up it refused to resume working so that was the end of the gig. We got a big applause — probably out of extreme sympathy.


In the late 90s and early 2000s a lot of new apartments were built in and around the Mall area and these people started complaining about live music noise — which is a bit like someone buying a house next to an expressway and complaining about too much traffic noise. So in 2004 the government imposed draconian noise restrictions upon the valley — Rics included. And then my band had a gig there, only about a week later (from memory) and we couldn’t play with amps — everything amplified had to go through the desk. It was surreal. It was the strangest gig of my life.

ANNA (pictured above avec awesome left arm tat), the soundbabe in the 2000s: “Ric’s was a pretty weird time in my life and a lot of fucked-up stuff happened to me while I was the sound guy there. On the whole, though, I feel like I got more good stuff out of it than bad. The good – I have a handful of true friends from this time, people I think the world of, who I would never have met had I not worked there- ie Racheal Johnston (an ass-kicker, genius, and one of the greatest supporters I’ll ever have), and Heather Mansfield (who later gave me an entirely new life when she asked me to tour with her band, the Brunettes, in the US). I saw some absolutely astounding shows that shaped how I think of music and performance to this day. The bad, I’ve mostly let go of now. Please note, haters, that I absolutely LOATHED enforcing the noise restrictions. I was 20 when I started that job; the final responsibility should NEVER have been on my inexperienced, intimidated little shoulders. I’ve pretty well atoned for that one though – I mixed Lightning Bolt a couple times last year, and I’d say the Coachella set got up to 118dBa at times.”

I was so appalled I wrote my very first and only letter to my local MP about this issue — which was a big deal cause I worked for years in an MPs office and I was convinced 99% of people who wrote letters to MPs were certifiable.

This was the response: (not by Peter Beattie, my local MP, but the Minister for Liquor etc)



It was just all so wrong. And sound people running around looking so defeated looking intensely at these noise-meter contraptions is so, so silly. Beside the fact a noise meter is like a DAD-O-METER — “Oh, these noise levels will cause irreparable damage” — it just put a big dent in the evening. It felt like everything was being monitored. Like THE MAN was always watching you, ready to shut everything down — even at this humble music venue where everyone was mostly just minding their own business and having a good time.

Anyway — only about 6 agonizing months later there was some special cultural zone applied to the Valley and we could all rock out again. Yes!



David McCormack of Custard: “One of my fondest memories of Ric’s is when me and Paul Medew and Glenn Thompson became Grant McLennan’s backing back for a month long residency. We got to play a whole lot of Grant’s solo songs and some GB classics. It was just before we recorded Loverama and just before I moved to Sydney and everything changed.”

And David was there with Grant on stage at Ric’s only a week before he died.

Grant McLennan was one of the singer/guitarists in the Go-Betweens. Most people had a favourite — you were a “Grant” type or a “Robert” type. Grant, at least superficially, was the straighter one. Less theatrical and more reserved. More up and down, rather than side to side — someone so compulsively charming you would have no fear taking home to dinner with your mother.

Anyway, Grant had a stool at Rics. It didn’t have his name on it or anything like that — but it was his chair.

It was at the side of the bar heading towards the back and he would be there — sometimes a few nights a week — drinking his own version of a Long Island Ice Tea. All the bar staff knew how to make it for him. And you wouldn’t even notice he was there. (And when Grant died tourists from all over the world would come to Rics just to see Grant’s stool.)

The last time I saw Grant was when he sang that last song in David McCormack’s set. The last lines are “Putting out a fire”— over and over. And that Saturday he was gone.


David McCormack (centre) at a early Custard gig at QUT — maybe 1991?

We found out a few minutes after we got to Ric’s that night. Wintah, Ben and me — the Little Lovers at the time — had just had a Saturday night practice and we were mingling around and lost eachother. So eventually I went looking for the other two and found them upstairs. They were at the very top DJ booth which was high above the floor and you needed to climb up a ladder and they were talking to Matt Brady (I think) and I was pulling faces at them from below — just being a dickhead — but they just looked at me ashen-faced and black with something that could only mean really, really bad news.


And Wintah (pictured above), whose dad played drums in the Go-Betweens, had been invited to Grant’s party that night. He took it pretty hard. There were tears and a dark, dark malaise. I remember I tried to break up with this woman I was with at the time cause she was so dismissive and unfeeling — when all I could do was “feel”.

And below — Ric’s in modernity:





And this is me in 2006 drunk texting while climbing the stairs to the second level. More on that later…

Talking to the Ric Frearson, the “Ric” in Ric’s, Smoking and Lockout. Dancing. That Del Toro gig. The CHARACTERS of Rics. Meeting Dee, the Little Lovers and the crazy days of 2006 plus much, much more.