My good friend and fellow photographer, Brad Marsellos, is down from Bundaberg and in town for a show with his band Chinese Burns. Although I’d seen his other band, The Hymies, play plenty of times in Brisbane down the years, I can’t recall ever seeing Chinese Burns before and was keen to go and see them and catch up with him. Speaking to Brad before the show, he told me that they had practiced earlier in the day and sounded terrible and he was having to have a crib sheet on stage reminding me how to play the songs. This insider knowledge, combined with having never seen them before and not knowing what to expect, didn’t leave me feeling especially positive about what was about to happen but in the end either Brad was being alarmist or that practice and/or the crib sheet had made all the difference.
What I find out tonight is that Chinese Burns are a three piece of guitar, bass and drums. They play what I would call surf-punk based purely on what it sounds like. It’s not a sub-genre I’m familiar with so decide to find out how they describe themselves only to find that they don’t have a page on what’s my first port of call these days when I want to find out a bit about a band, Triple J Unearthed. I thought it was mandatory for every act in Australia to have an account there. With no Unearthed page, I head to their Myspace page which describes the band under a genre of “Bossa Nova/Punk/Rock” and sounding like “Fast Food” and then to their bandcamp page in which they tag themselves with “garage punk”. Whatever they are, it’s great. As Mere Noise’s Pete Collins writes on his Facebook page,”I have to say that Chinese Burns are being fucking incredible right now. 10/10. I pity people not here”. Says it all really.
The Dangermen are one of those bands that have been going for as long as I’ve lived in Brisbane, one of the few left from those happy days of 2005 when I first moved here. Someone tweeted a link last week to Little Lovers’ David Hannah’s recent series of blog posts about Ric’s, which brought back a whole lot of happy memories of those times even though having only just moved here, I only got to view from the outside rather than being a part of it. I sometimes think I moved to Brisbane at 5 – 10 years too late. But when it comes down to it. most of the people I know in Brisbane I met for the first time at Ric’s. And if it wasn’t at Ric’s, it was at The Troubadour.
The one thing about Ric’s is that I always thought it was a potential goldmine but always seemed badly run. I was forever mulling over “If I Owned Ric’s” scenarios in my head. The weird thing is that when Ric’s was sold, they made most of the improvements I would have made. I think Ric’s had already died before it was sold, which was sad, but now it’s just been absorbed into the rest of the block and is little more than an extension of RGs. They still have bands playing every night but it seems like it’s part of a never-ending band competition and I couldn’t even tell you the last time I went in there. Ric’s felt like the centre of Brisbane’s music scene. It was a bit like a real life Cheers; everyone knew your name, you didn’t even have to order a drink, as whoever was behind the bar had it there ready and waiting for you before you’d even opened your mouth to ask.
I’m not sure if there is a ‘Ric’s’ in Brisbane anymore, a focal point for music scene and a safe haven from the wretched hive of scum and villany that is the Brunswick Street Mall on a Friday or Saturday night. In the last couple of years Alhambra seems to be the place that the up-and-coming Brisbane bands are basing themselves out of and playing regular shows but I have an aversion to nightclubs masquerading as venues. I’m think I’m just way too old for those type of places for starters, and it’s one of those places that always looks like it’s aimed at ‘The Beautiful People’. Ric’s never had that pretension and was a whole lot more egalitarian, at least in an Us (the music scene) vs Them (the rest of the Valley) way. Sometimes I wonder if Ric’s should be reclaimed by the music scene. After all, any drinking establishment makes it name and reputation on the people who frequent it. Maybe what Ric’s needs is a reverse gentrification take-over, although it probably also needs a change in booker and a move away from that never-ending band competition that’s putting bands on that stage through the week.
What I like about The Dangermen is that as well as all there songs being variations on a theme of Fuck You, they always put on a show. They would perform in exactly the same way whoever they were playing in front of and not relent even if they were playing to a two man and a dog audience. Great fun and always enjoyable to photograph.
Photographing at The Beetle Bar for the first time adds another venue to the list and the experience isn’t too bad. Although there’s only three small spotlights, they’re all at positioned fairly evenly around the balcony and pointing at the stage so the coverage is quite good. When it comes down to it, although photographers also moan about the lighting at venues, you don’t need a lot, just a few well positioned spotlights is enough, it’s just that so many places don’t even manage that. A downside with the lighting tonight is the pink/purple gels but this gets fixed by reducing the saturation of the red light in Bridge during processing of the RAW files. The problem with changing the saturation this is that you often get a weird colour caste in the images that just doesn’t look right, although with tonight’s photos this issue is not too bad and besides, everything looks better in black and white.