We played the Oxford Hotel in Leederville (Perth, Western Australia) last night and it was a wonderful show from our perspective. People listened, they sang along, they laughed and applauded enthusiastically. They turned up in good numbers despite a promotional campaign that would best be described as lethargic and patchy. (I accept full responsibility for this). And so you’d have to conclude in the wake of such a night that we have had more than our fair share of really exciting and memorable shows at this venue.
I think it comes down to the way memory constructs incidents, they way they become layered in your mind that make it seem like a totally positive experience. We have had such a succession of great shows at that venue. And as the past ten times you have played at a particular place become all somehow melded together it becomes irrelevant whether it’s the St Pat’s Day show we did ten years ago, when we performed The Tank in the upstairs room or the one where Nick Barker sang ‘I Like Looking at Naked Men’ for a dare. The one where we had Oh Susannah or Git playing before us, or the one where bass player Zane Lindt got carted off to hospital and we had to play as a three piece with Shelley Short on vocals. I think it’s particularly satisfying from my perspective in that the majority of this mythology has been created post Weddings, Parties, Anything. The Weddings did play there once on the 2008 reunion tour but the sheer size of the band on stage and the problematic volume generated left us feeling somehow unwieldy and perhaps a trifle overblown for such a casual Sunday session type of venue.
The pub is run by Peter – and son Matthew – Hayes which makes it pretty significant for myself and Wally in that Peter Hayes was the last manager of the Weddings and so it’s a really great chance to catch up with someone from the managerial side of things we are still on good terms with. It’s great to see how excited he still is after a lot of years running the pub that it still has a lot of possibilities and potential to change and adapt. So many become jaded in this industry that it’s a real pleasure someone can hold onto the possibilities presented at this level.
Recently a couple of iconic pub venues in Sydney have ceased operating as subsequent publicans have become worn down by the experience of monster mortgages or rentals, belligerent, unreasonable neighbours and (it has to be said) the behaviour of the general public on a day by day basis. Add to this the nuisance factor that musicians themselves can present to any venue (it has to be said) and it’s fair enough that a publican can sometimes throw their hands in the air and scream ‘enough’! The Hopetoun, The Sandringham, The Anandale have all seen fit to call it a day. But somehow Hayesie appears to have gone beyond this and I can’t say how wonderful it was to see the three generations of Hayes fellows there (Pete, Matthew and seven year old Jackson) so comfortable and inspired by the possibilities an establishment like theirs presents.
Hospitality burn-out is the name of a syndrome that everyone has to deal with in some form or other – sullen bar staff, rude waiters, blasé management – and we are not immune to it from our perspective as professional musicians. But thankfully there’s enough decent people you can find yourself dealing with along the way to get you through a pretty logical enough response to trying conditions. The night before the Oxford show we played the Norfolk Hotel in Fremantle and it was also great to witness just how helpful and attentive the staff there were in their treatment of the bands and the general public and so you’d have to conclude that our experiences in that venue are ultimately going the same way as that of the Oxford (and I think Perth in general over the years). Just a really positive store of great memories and the weight of a shared experience between ourselves as performers and a wonderful and enthusiastic public that seem to be able to get us through any rough spots.
Talking to the band China Doll – the fantastic opening act on Friday night we were struck by how keen and optimistic they were but also just how grateful and impressed they were by the attentiveness of the crowd and it cannot help but make us feel more than a little privileged we get occassionally get to play in such quality situations. The same sentiment was echoed by the Roving Commission ring ins we have for these shows (Wayne Freer on double bass and Nick O’Mara on dobro).
After the show at The Oxford I was talking with some punters that seemed mildly bemused by the constant rotation of players I have had through the band in the last few years and I had no excuse for them but to say there’s really no way around it without a constant schedule to keep people from heading back to other more regular gigs. The important thing was they said that no matter who was in the band they kept coming back because it always seems to be a good show at that venue and I realise this all sounds sycophantic and in some ways strategically placed but damn it all – we spend so much of our time in this business dealing with nonsense and really creatively draining and unproductive elements that it would be criminally remiss of us not to acknowledge when things are going right for you. And when there are people making sure that this is the case. And so to the people of Perth, to the staff and patrons of The Oxford and Norfolk Hotels all I can say from the bottom of our road weary hearts is, thanks for the shows. And see you next time. I reckon it’ll be great.