Monday, May 21, 2012

In Search Of The Black Matilda.

If I had known, I wouldn’t have had that tenth beer.

It’s St Patrick’s Day, and I am about to land arse-first on one of the most infamous sticky carpets in Sydney city. Why I’m floating through the air on the hands of strangers, I don’t know. The spirit of St Patrick and the inspiration to , drink, party and fuck up flows through us all on the 17th, even us with about as much Irish blood as Jackie Chan. 

However, even the most insane of movies require a soundtrack. Tonight, there could be only one band to provide that. Luckily for me, Sydney city’s finest purveyors of rotgut ‘n roll, the Rumjacks, were obliging this humble fan by playing a show at the Sandringham Hotel on this auspicious night.

I wish I could sit here and explain every part of the sonic experience to you. The point when Gabriel’s guitar went out of tune during I’ll Tell Me Ma or when Anthony threw in an extra drum fill on Crosses for Eyes…but quite frankly I was more interested in testing the human capacity to fly. I do remember Frankie picking me up when I fell on my knees on the stage. I think he may have even given me a hug. I like to think that he did.

Either way, I left the Sando that night with a rare sense of content. All was good in the world. I had my mates by my side, beers in my guts and the Rumjacks would continue to rule the Sydney punk scene for a while to come. Next step for them - the world. If it was a big enough stage for Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys surely there was room for a band of lads from Sydney city? I was feeling so good that in the next pub (ironically we went straight to Kelly’s on King – one of the pseudo-Irish pubs so savaged by the boys in An Irish Pub Song) I even started doodling a new tattoo of a woman, like one of those old sailor-style chicks with a comely face and bound by vines or shit. Only difference was this was going to be a black woman named Matilda.

A few days later I was jamming with a new guy, when I mentioned in passing that I was a Rumjacks fan.
“Oh yeah they’re pretty good. Too bad they won’t be together much longer.”
“Eh?” I thought I’d heard him wrong.
“Yeah, Frankie, the singer, he’s going to jail. He bashed some girl, raped his missus or something.”
“Oh yeah. Right. That. Heard that somewhere.” At this point I’m just bullshitting cause I’m knocked off my feet. The guy worked in the music biz so he knew what he was talking about but fuck. Please let this be some kind of sick joke.

Nup. No joke here. All it took was a Google search soon as I got home. Fuck. Frankie’s really getting hauled off to jail. Turns out he beat his missus and breached an AVO. Double fuck.

I’m not going to comment on domestic violence because quite frankly if you have an opinion on it other than “it’s very bad”, you’re a weapons grade cunt. I don’t know what happened with Frankie and his Mrs or if it’s true, but if it is at all so he deserves to be in jail. Now the next question I had was – what are they gonna do next?

At this point I had the small pipe dream that they’d look for a new singer. Someone who could step in and replace Frankie – preferably someone who knew all the songs – and surely not being Scots/Irish wouldn’t be a dealbreaker? Someone like, you know, me?

No such luck. Next day comes the hiatus announcement. No more shows for a while. It’s possible that I may never get to seem them again if shit changes once Frankie gets out of the nick.

At this point, I’m just trying to figure out why I care so much when really the answer is obvious. As much as those of us in the underground deny it the fact is that we’re almost like hipsters in that we want to be the first to say we discovered a band or artist. If and when the Rumjacks had gone global I wanted to be able to tell the story of getting a hug from Frankie as he picked me up off the carpet or the time I had a beer with Anthony and Will at the Gaelic when they opened for Guttermouth. Especially since they were from Sydney and sang about it. It’s a weird thing for the largest city in the country but the Sydney music scene does seem at times to have a bit of an inferiority complex, especially compared to Melbourne (the supposed arts fucking capital of the country) and even Brisbane (which can probably lay claim to being the birthplace of Australian punk, with the Saints and all). A lot of bands move to Sydney for the audience but it sometimes feels like nothing really great comes up to the world’s notice from our punk underground even though we got some pretty sick bands there and always have.

The Rumjacks had the potential to be that band, the one that came up from the sticky carpets of Newtown and Annandale and made music about being fuckin proud of it. Now it’s back to the drawing board.

I’m still getting that tattoo though. Only change I’ve made is a nod to my people’s history. In Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna was meant to be very dark – and he’s always drawn in blue. I’m doing the same when I get my Black Matilda. I think it’s only appropriate that a band that sang so much about their heritage should inspire me to grow even a bit more connected to my own.

And to be honest? I would have still had that tenth beer.

Peace out.

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