Posted October 24, 2005

Love, motorbikes, rock and roll


Radio Birdman, Yallah Roadhouse, Saturday 15 October, 2005.

I was in a weird kind of mood when I pulled into the carpark of the Woolshed. Well, bitter and cynical, mostly. I’d been at a barbie at
Bulli that arvo, described as a “cellar tea.” It seems to be a do just before the wedding and everyone gives you good bottles of wine. I don’t
much like weddings, I’ve been married myself and, let’s just say I love well but none too wisely. Over and over again.

On top of that were all these single women going insanely clucky over a bub or two that were lolling about, in that unresponsive way that bubs do. So it was with some good sense of relief that I slung a leg over Boadicea and belted away through the gathering night, onwards into the south, my only directions a memory of having seen the Woolshed a few months ago when the coming attractions board screamed ‘Gene Pitney.’

Nothing like a fast night-time ride to focus you. The cold wind numbs your fingers and slips inside your helmet, lean down on the tank and concentrate on getting the lean and the throttle just right, constantly scanning and processing information, because there are rarely second chances.

Fortunately, the Roadhouse is 500 or so yards into an 80km zone, so I’d already pulled back to around 100 when I saw the signs. It’s a good
setup, with a guy in the carpark directing traffic. They should still call it the Woolshed, tho, because that’s what it is. Farm implements dangle
from the ceiling and the smell of lanolin wafts from the floorboards. I met up with a old mate there and we talked about, yes, women and love.

As Neil Young once piped, only love can break your heart and only a broken heart can make a cynic even more bitter over hurts real and imagined. We eventually settled on 24 year-old hot babes as the solution to our woes, but what the hell?

You gotta wonder at Radio Birdman’s motivation to play such an out of the way place. Perhaps its along the line of the blitzkriegs of yore, but
whatever the case, it worked. I’ve seen them plenty of times, starting with the Manning Bar in January ’96, and this was the best show they’ve
played. Basically it comes down to them being a real band. It wasn’t a reformation or a special event, it was a band that roll into town and put on
a rock and roll show.

There’s a real driving rhythm in the band now that shifts the dynamics subtly. Russell Hopkinson is pretty much the perfect drummer for the band, he can play hard and fast and swing, he knows dynamics and just the right kind of accents. A few of the songs were re-arranged here and there, but there was an overall looseness about this real band that I’d never heard before, a sense of things teetering on the beautiful brink of collapse that lent the music a fresh new edge. There were a couple of missed cues here and there, which just seemed to add to the general air of there being something worthwhile happening.

Deniz’ guitar playing summed this up – sometimes he just headed off on a tangent all his own and he and the band worked around each other. He played with a unique manic intensity and almost squeezed his guitar to death.

Which wouldn’t be all that surprising – he tuned up pretty regularly, which makes you wonder if Fred Smith’s old Epiphone Crestwood Deluxe
isn’t on its last legs.


There were a few new songs, too. Some of them sounded a bit like New Christs sorta songs, so I guess Rob must written those ones. But it was a brace of old faves late in the main set that really flew. The first was ‘Anglo Girl Desire’, it hit a new and higher level in a set already peaking, one of those awesome moments when you just kinda stand back, mouth agape, just thinking ‘Fuuuuck!’ The energies of the six band members and the crowd of maybe 200 all combined and created another entity that whipped the music up to something stratospheric. At the end of the song, Jim Dickson had a look on his face that seemed to say “Holy shit, where’d that come from?” and he had that look at the end of every song for the rest of the set. Wasn’t just about those songs, it was the sheer energy and drive in the way they were played that mattered

It’s a high and mighty feeling, that one, being in the band or being there to witness it – which is being a part of it, anyway, ‘cos who’s to say
what difference the energy of one more or less person might make? They played two lengthy encores and when the house lights came up, the smile
that’d been plastered across my face was still there.

Bitter and cynical, moi? Better living through rock and roll. It won’t solve your problems, but it will let you dance all over them for a bit.

It did cause me to wonder, tho, at what characteristics I might like in a woman. Up pretty high on the list would be that they could go to a show
like that and get it. Not just say that was fun or that was loud or mmm, nice, but really Get It. Given the few women there (a lot of the crowd
looked like they’d be only too willing to take the chorus of New Race more literally than us skinny city boys would like) it could be too much to ask
– but I knew for sure that my most recent ex wouldn’t have gotten it, for instance.

A guiy could go mad thinking too much about this stuff, so I kitted up and headed for home, full of rock and roll and passion and energy. It was a
cool, clear night and the roads were as good as empty. I hunched down on the tank to keep the windchill at bay and wound it up to an easy 140kmh, eyes sweeping from the red, white and yellow catseyes flashing past to the furthest reaches of the white lines disappearing over the horizon, sliding past the occasional car with contemptuous ease.

Tonight, the road is mine and nothing will stop me, I will simply prevail, because I caught Radio Birdman and Got It, because I’m astride Boadicea, howling north on a dark highway.

Focus, concentration, energy. Riding a bike, playing in a band – hell, piloting an F14 too – these things are necessary. And I realised, why the
hell worry? If I’ve been hurt by love, well, it don’t hurt no more and if they weren’t gonna get rock and roll, why bother?

Cos I’d just caught Radio Birdman and it was a righteous fucking blast, and now I’m ripping through the night and my hands are freezing and my legs may not straighten out ever again, but I couldn’t give a shit.

Cos I had a fucking blast - and I made Redfern from Yallah in 66 minutes.


(We will print the best comments)