Welcome to Hellbourne! I’m Matt and I’ll be your tour guide. Our next stop on my travels is a 4 act banger at the The Old Bar in Fitzroy. A hole in the wall on the Fitzroy end of Johnston Street, it’s pretty easy to believe The Old Bar’s claim to dive bar status. It’s dark and tiny, and most importantly it has a unicorn head mounted on the wall. Not a real unicorn’s head, because… you know that would be just silly in the suburb that just may claim the status as the vegan capital of Hellbourne. No, it’s an authentic, synthetic unicorn head…
Within 30 seconds of arriving I run into an old comrade from my Ragged Press days, Jodie Lyons, which is a bit of a relief. I don’t come to The Old Bar very often. I’m a mohawk and vest kinda guy and you don’t see a huge amount of that trade here at The Old Bar, with a fair indie cross over, so I’m relieved to run into someone I know. We shoot the shit for a bit and hey presto Jodie’s now going to write for BTS. This night’s already a winner (if you don’t know Jodie, her first ever interview for Ragged Press was with Bill Stevenson of Descendents – this woman is solid gold and game for anything)! I acquired myself the first of many $6.00 Red Bulls and move on to the beer garden for a smoke.
One of the first things a visitor to The Old Bar will notice, is how fucking small the place is. The bar is tiny with limited room for propping, the stage and band room is a narrow tiny space and the beer garden is cramped. This is not the place to come if you have a fear of unavoidably brushing up against people. At least you can smoke in the beer garden, a reality that is getting rarer in Hellbourne, but I’m justifiably amazed that no one spontaneously combusts in the tight quarters. A full ska band would need to sit on each other’s laps to use the stage.
The Old Bar also houses a gallery space upstairs and they’ve put on some killer live music photography exhibitions in the past. Maybe one day I’ll exhibit some of my stuff up there, but tonight I have other business.
Tonight’s entertainment is brought to us by solo act Quinton Trembath, locals Hammock District, my good mates The Suicide Tuesdays and Western Australia’s Lionizer.
Quinton Trembath opened the evening with some angsty acoustic punk, throwing his body around like someone dropped an electric eel down his pants. Like many of his contemporary solo folk punk performers, Quinton offered up plenty of between song banter, making observations about everything from op shop trousers to mental health. After watching him play for a while I get the idea that maybe more than many artists I’ve met, this guy is all about the music. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if someone tells me one day that Quinton is doing his next tour by jumping rail cars just so he can spend more time between shows writing.
Featuring members of Hellbourne bands Del Lago, Tired Breeds and New Low, Hammock District offer up a jangly guitars and grungy vocals. Their sound is made all the fuller by the inclusion of Abby on keys. There is nothing brutal about this band, but they do bring together a bunch of recognisable influences ranging from grunge to new wave. You could probably bring your gran to one of their shows without her getting too offended and I can’t help but nod my head along to some of their tunes. I’m just getting really involved with their set, when bass player James Douglas announces that this is the last time that Llama will be taking the stage with Hammock District. It’s a bit of a bummer as I’m really digging her jangly guitar sounds.
-The Suicide Tuesdays-
The penultimate band for the evening is my old mates The Suicide Tuesdays. If you were waiting for an unbiased, balanced review of their set, then don’t bother. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I love this band. So much so that, an image of singer Joe Guiton’s guitar and lyrics from one of my favourite songs by The Suicide Tuesdays adorn the cover of a book I published a couple of years back. I stand at the front of the stage for the entire set, taking photos and singing along. This is also about the time that I notice that The Old Bar may have the stickiest carpet in Hellbourne. I mean I spend a fair bit of time in dive bars, so it’s not like I’m a stranger to sticky carpet, but the entire front of the stage feels like someone has laid down some crazy glue. I try not to think too hard about what I’m standing in as I chorus along.
The last time I caught Lionizer was a few years back in Margaret River while I was touring with Hellbourne drunk punks Strawberry Fist Cake. The night ended with the two bands and myself sharing some floor space in a rehearsal room for the night... tour life is so freaking glamourous!
This time round I was catching Lionizer on the tail end of an east coast tour with only one more show in Adelaide scheduled for the following night. If the west coast trio were tired, it didn’t show with the band offering up their signature pop punk sound with all the hints of grunge and grit in Vez’s voice threatening to just come out and smack you in the face. A particular favourite for the night was the band’s performance of ‘Violent Delights’ off their "New Parts of Me" LP. This is a band that has only gotten better over time.
While admittedly The Old Bar isn’t one of my regular haunts, it does offer something for nearly everyone (except maybe my dad, but then again he’s a dick, so I’m alright with him not showing up). The place is tiny but that does nothing to take away from the charm of the joint (in fact it makes for some great live music photography). The Unicorn head is a nice touch too!
Band Roster: 20/25