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A Small Town RSL Shaped My Formative Music Years

You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the memories of average cover bands out of the boy.

by Noisey Staff
15 March 2016, 12:00am

Photo via Flickr

JD Future Legends & Noisey present THE NEXT ON TOUR series of summer gigs. Hitting six metro and regional cities around the nation, THE NEXT ON TOUR will showcase some of Australia’s rising musical talent. Every show is free but you need to RSVP now!

I grew up in a small country town on the Victorian and New South Wales border. It was a town that had two pubs, a football team and an RSL. It was a proud town, but for a 17-year-old it was also extremely boring. While it’s true that the internet had made the world a much smaller place—I was able to download Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak just as fast as someone in Melbourne or New York City—when it came to experiencing live music I was at the mercy of whoever was playing the RSL on Friday night.

Carl was the RSL’s ‘entertainment officer’. Both were dubious words when describing his approach to the position. Basically, if you were a friend of Carl or one of his mates, and your ‘entertainment’ involved blues, country or Foo Fighters covers, Carl could ‘book’ you a gig.

But as a music nut I’d take what I could get and I ended up spending many a Friday night standing under the club’s fluorescent lights waiting for the Dirt Brothers, Lost and Lonesome, or Ed Betty and the Hot Rods to tune up.

Most of the bands were what you’d expect: hobbyists whose reason for playing in a band was the same as why they fished or hunted—to spend time and drink some beers with their mates. Most were total shit but some were actually pretty good. One guy in a Paul Kelly t-shirt who, after being coaxed to get up and play some guitar, actually shredded like Slash; another old guy had the voice of a young Rod Stewart and the dance moves of Prince.

Unlike Melbourne and Sydney there was no musical judgment or snobbery. With so little competition there was no room for harsh criticism. Yeah the band’s sucked, but they were the only bands playing. Just have another drink and get into it. There was general ribbing and heckling but it was all in fun. We were all in this together. This was the entertainment. It was basically a shit version of The Commitments.

The longer the night and bar tabs wore on, the louder both audience and bands would get. There would be out-of-tune sing-alongs, dancing and falling. You knew it was a good night when Carl would allow the bands to play after the usual midnight finish.

It was all dorky, daggy and dumb fun but years later surrounded by arm folded Melbourne hipsters watching some cooler than cool band perform in a dark room, I missed that RSL and the Dirt Brothers’ version of Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”.

This article is presented in partnership with JD Future Legends.

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