Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Punk Night at the Duck's Nuts: The Sequel

And everyone loves a sequel, right?

Well, maybe not in the case of Police Academy XI. However, in this case we'll make an exception.

After my previous post about Attila The Stockbroker and his adventures in Newcastle at a "testicular themed pub" as chronicled in "Punk Night At The Duck's Nuts", he has been in touch with us here at the Sound and The Fury HQ and he has supplied us with a follow-up story about Newcastle, where he returned to play a gig in the city in 2011.

I mentioned in the previous post about seeing an Attila show advertised in Newcastle that I thought about attending...and ultimately didn't. It turns out that this story describes what happened at that very gig...

NEWCASTLE – THE REPLAY, by Attila The Stockbroker.
It’s a Saturday night in Newcastle, New South Wales, eleven years later.

News has filtered through to me that The Duck’s Nuts has apparently changed its name to The Silk Bar.

But far worse news is that the mural of the duck on a surfboard with his testicles hanging out has apparently been painted over.

Robina says, with a twinkle in her eye, ‘Thank God it’s gone!’

I think ‘I’ve brought you on an epic, romantic journey to a town on the other side of the world to show you a mural of a duck on a surfboard with his testicles hanging out - and it’s been painted over. Surely you could be more appreciative of my efforts and sympathetic to my anguish!’

But I don’t actually say that.

I’m playing at the Cambridge Hotel: an enormous venue in a run down area three miles from the city centre.

According to the board outside (the only visible publicity anywhere) there are four bands on the bill.

Actually, there are three bands and a poet.

My friends the Go Set are headlining, then me, then the Sydney Girls’ Choir then the Havelocks.

At the appointed hour for the first band the paying audience is zero.

Even the twenty elderly alcoholics from the Duck’s Nuts would be welcome in this cavernous void.

The Havelocks don’t have locks. (They may well have some on their guitar cases and I’m sure they do on their front doors, but they don’t have any on their heads).

They take to the stage to a combined audience of myself, Robina, and two members of the Sydney Girls’ Choir.

The Havelocks appear to be in their early thirties and sound to me a bit like Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Their friendly singer tells me he is originally from Staines in the UK. I want to ask him why anybody, even someone from Staines, especially someone who presumably loves music,
would emigrate to Newcastle, New South Wales, but I don’t. I think it would seem insensitive.

The Havelocks finish their set. By this time the paying audience has risen to five.

As the next band take the stage I can see a pattern developing. The Havelocks don’t have locks: The Sydney Girls’ Choir aren’t from Sydney, aren’t girls and aren’t a choir. They are four blokes from Woolongong in their early twenties and are an excellent kick-ass rock n roll band in a Kings of Leon meet Dr Feelgood kind of way.

The first thing the singer says is that he is pleased to see so many people there because they played in Newcastle last week and nobody turned up at all. I admire his dedication to the cause.

I join the three-strong moshpit. I have a lovely time. Then it’s my turn.

By this time the audience has soared to about twenty including three Attila fans, one of whom is from Canada. I don’t think either of the other two are from Newcastle.

The void in front of me is aching. It’s monumental. It’s like being at a Crystal Palace home game.

Needless to say, I start with ‘Punk Night at the Duck’s Nuts’ and the sound of surreal irony echoes across the tiled savannah.

One twentieth of the audience suddenly shouts at me. What he shouts is ‘Yabba Yabba’.

I am confused by this at first but soon realize that this is his way of conveying the fact that he is unfamiliar with the concept of the unaccompanied spoken word as a form of live entertainment.

I berate him, gently. He shuts up.

In the middle of my performance The Go Set arrive. They’ve been doing another gig at a birthday party round the corner. I finish with a flourish to the sound of nineteen pairs of hands clapping in a wind tunnel and ask my friends how their gig went. Shithouse, I am informed. There were 200 people there. When the Go Set started playing most of the guests went outside and began dancing to techno. The rest sat in front of them eating and chatting.

Given this, I wonder why they were booked to do the gig in the first place. The people who booked them have promised to turn up here. I hope they will, so I can ask them. But they don’t.

The Go Set play I join them on fiddle and it must be said that the twenty-five people in the audience have a lovely time and are most receptive.

Afterwards, someone apologises for the turnout and says we would have had a better crowd if we had played somewhere else. I agree. They mean somewhere else in Newcastle. I don’t.

The next day as we head out of town we drive past what used to be the Duck’s Nuts and is now the Silk Bar.

The mural of a duck on a surfboard with his testicles hanging out has indeed gone. In his stead there is a grubby silver banner draped on the wall with ‘The Silk Bar’ written on it. The place is now a shabby backpackers’ hostel and poking out of an upstairs window there is something which looks worryingly like the Antipodean equivalent of Joseph Porter’s Sleeping Bag.

Then I notice that one of the pub signs still says ‘The Duck’s Nuts Hotel’. My heart sings.

I ask Robina to take a photo. The angle is wrong, she says. It won’t come out. My heart sinks.

We drive away. Back in Melbourne I recount this tale to my musician friend Rory. ‘John’ he says, earnestly, ‘Newcastle is the rectum of the Australian music scene’.

‘Rory, my old mate’ I say ‘I think you may be right.’

Reprinted with permission from Attila The Stockbroker, with thanks.

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