Tell me I’m wrong. Please. But it feels to me, for all the world, like old school rock in old school pubs is on its way out.
The legendary Hopetoun Hotel in Surry Hills sadly closed its doors in late 2009. And earlier this week, the Sandringham went into receivership. This could very likely mean the closing of yet another bastion of live music in Sydney.
‘The Sando’ is a dirty bar stained with blood sweat & beers that’s always retained it’s ‘down at heel’ kinda feel at the grittier end of King St in Newtown. And it’s always been a big favourite of mine.
I started going there when I was at uni. My mates & I were very young, very ‘green’ and coming from Campbelltown – very unfashionable. This is before every man & his dog started wearing Glue flannos, Tsubi skinny black jeans and & Havaiana thongs.
We didn’t care. Well, we might have cared a little bit. But we were there because we liked, no: Loved smokey bars + live guitars. This was as close to rock’n’roll as we could get on a regular basis. And junkies that we were – we couldn’t get enough.
We’d always get there just a bit too early. Over-keen. But I was always fascinated to watch what I’d call the changing of the guard.
Dusty shafts of light shifted in through the door and had settled on the singlets of salty old seadogs who’d been holding up the bar since knock-off time. They would be sinking their last “silver bullet” before getting back to “the Mrs”.
Then the inner city arts students in their various tribal getups and thick black eyeliner would skulk on in and pour themselves over the plastic chairs – doing their absolute best to look disinterested in everyone and everything.
We’d just hang out around the pool table and watching the whole scene unfold. The band’d pull up out front and start unloading their Peeveys from their beat up panel van. They always seemed so disorganised. Metres of grey cords and sheets of coloured gels and rolls of gaffa tape flying out from satchels and milk crates.
Then came along the Stoner Dooode: long greasy hair pulled back in a half-arsed pony tail, durrie hangin out the corner of his mouth… he’d look intently at the mixing desk and start fiddling the knobs and alternatively tapping on mics, checking the sound levels were – well, essentially just loud.
Then things would really start heating up. I’d watch as the place would fill with men. Dangerous men. Men with dark hearts under faded leather jackets. They’d lean up against a blackened wall perfecting their thousand yard stares. I had dirty fantasies about these guys who I imagined lived in cramped opium dens that reeked of Nag Champa. They drank whiskey with their morning coffee and listened to bands I hadn’t even heard of. We’d get high and read poetry, spend the whole day in bed, and have lot of hot fast & hard sex. I was drowning in the testosterone.
But it was the music that kept me going back. Coz I was a girl who loved my rock. Still am. Rock has always been an outlet. For all that pent-up energy. Gotta get your yah yahs out somehow. Right?
We saw so much good music. And let’s face it, plenty of shit music too. But it was live music and that was all that mattered. Live + loud. I saw so many legends there. Not of the Nirvana variety but guys who were instrumental in shaping the landscape of Australian music. Local legends – the likes of Kim Salmon, Louis Tillet and Charlie Owen. Man, I couldn’t take my eyes off that guy when he started playing his guitar way down around his ankles like some sort of man possessed.
I mourn for the loss of pubs that were invariably characterised by the green & cream tiles, furniture made from solid timber, and big old drums to sit around & see who can tell the biggest lies.
I mourn for the loss of live music venues that have been the very lifeblood of this country’s rock scene. AC/DC cut their chops in pubs just like the Sando. And it makes me wonder: If this country were to ever give birth to another ground-breaking band such as AC/DC – where on earth would they get started.
Yes, there’s still a few old live music venues hanging in there and even a few new kids on the block popping up. Places like The Enmore, the Oxford Arts Factory, The Vanguard and the good old Lansdowne.
But for me personally, I’d be so sad to see an institution like the Sando close its doors, too.
To that end, my picks for this weekend would be:
- Tonight: The Fumes at Notes (Enmore) for $17
- Tomorrow: The Annandale’s 12 Birthday (ft Ratcat, Tumbleweed, Hard-Ons, Front End Loader and 78 Saab) $30
- And on Sunday to wind your week down – the Woodie Guthrie Tribute at The Green Room Lounge in Enmore could be good. And if it’s not it’s FREE.
*Please check details & ticket availability before hitting up the bar – I’m not an official gig guide. Just an ordinary rock chick.
Also, you might like to check out this article here.