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The sisters are doing it for themselves
© 1999 Duncan R Fry
This year the ladies of the Fry household informed me that we would be holidaying in Port Fairy, a quaint seaside holiday town on Victoria's south coast.
Home of the annual Port Fairy Folk Festival, I hadn't been there since the middle 80's when it was a stop on a country tour with the Jerries. Their gig was at the historic old bluestone hotel, the Star of the West. It was owned by a retired local footballer at the time, and the gig still sticks in my mind.
The Jerries, who would all root a brown dog on a chain if someone held it still for them, sang testosterone laden 'cock-rock' songs about girls and their rightful place in society as they saw it! Not a band that was overly in touch with their feminine side, but one that had a steady following of aggressive males usually suffering from Short Person Syndrome.
So the audience that night consisted of the usual desperates who followed the band, plus a bunch of guys having a buck's night, and oddly enough, since you couldn't imagine that it was the sort of music that they'd like, a large group of women with crew cuts and boiler suits - the local branch of the 'sisters are doing it for themselves' society.
Trouble brewing, you might think. And you'd be right!
It was a warm night, so the band had already knocked off a slab before the gig, and were encouraging the lads from the buck's night who were making a creditable effort to drain the pub dry. I'm not sure what the sisters were drinking, but it wasn't improving their opinion of either the band or the rest of the audience.
Halfway through the band's cover of Billy Squier's 'The Stroke', where the buck's night boys were jumping on the table indicating exactly where the girls could indeed stroke it, one of the sisters snapped. A solid girl, with a bum like a working bullock, she leaped out of her seat and floored the nearest partygoer. Wham! One punch and he was investigating the woodgrain of the floorboards the rest of the night.
The room erupted into chaos, with the boys and girls slugging it out on the dancefloor and on the tables. The band, to their credit, could see the likelihood of them getting paid rapidly disappearing out the door and did their best to try and calm the audience down, but the girls were having none of it. They continued to hurl abuse and jugs and chairs at the guys, until the pub owner and most of the local footy team who had been drinking in another bar came in, herded everyone out into the street and closed the pub!
You know a gig must be really bad when it's too rough for a country football team!
The pub owner apologised to the band, paid them and gave them another slab as a bonus, then showed them to their luxurious accommodation while Wally and I packed up and loaded the truck.
An hour or so later, we wandered upstairs looking for everyone.
The band and crew sleeping area consisted of a single large room with a pool table in the centre and eight mattresses spaced out around the walls. Truly hog heaven to the band, who were in the process of getting totally shitfaced.
Jim the bass player had already collapsed onto one of the mattresses and was snoring loudly. Mick the singer was eager for some fun.
"Hey, let's do a table on him," he cackled to the others.
I was unfamiliar with this expression, but I got the drift pretty quickly.
Ever so gently they all started to pile things one by one on top of poor Jim as he slept; another mattress, a coffee table, empty cans, a couple of chairs, until he was totally buried under a mound of furniture. Miraculously he stayed asleep throughout this.
I was pretty tired myself by then, so as I searched for the cleanest mattress I grabbed hold of Mick, thinking that I might well be next.
"Don't even think about it if you want to do the gig in Mount Gambier tomorrow!" I warned him. He got my meaning instantly. I popped in my earplugs, put my airline sleep goggles on, and was guaranteed a good night's sleep.
Wally told me the next day that sometime during the night Jim woke up screaming, unable to move and thinking he had been buried alive, much to the rest of the band's immense amusement.
As I drove past the pub last week, I saw they had a band playing, so I stuck my head in the door to see what the level of production had risen to 15 years on. I had taken full production in there, with 2 ARX 1812 cabinets a side, 24 channel Gigmaster, fully miked up drumkit, separate monitor desk, the works, and Wally's humungous lighting rig. Typical 80's over-the-top setup - I think we even had a little space left for the audience!
The band this day was using an eight channel desk for an on-stage mix, 3 vocal mics and a single passive 15 and horn box each side of the stage. Monitors? Forget it. Effects? Nope. It was a 90's version of the very basic 3-mics-and -2-columns systems I used to hire from Hughie Maclean's parents in the 60's!
So much for progress!
This story has appeared in Connections magazine and Live Sound International magazine