big daddy k 2023

1. R.I.P Ron Peno and Louis Tillett
To start on a sad note we lost Two of our greatest vocalist/Front men within days of each other in August last year - Louis Tillett and Ron Peno.

I don't have any of Louis Tillett’s albums apart from The Wet Taxis’ “From The Archives” record, but had seen his live performances lots of times over the years.  Of course, there were his legendary shows with Paris Green during their residency at The Sandringham Hotel in Newtown in the late '80's, and I recall seeing him solo on piano at Bar Broadway in the early '90s.  The last performance I saw him was at The Factory Theatre which I think was one of his last gigs.

Died Pretty are one of my favourite bands and I have several of their albums.  Their masterpiece, “Doughboy Hollow”, is one of my all-time favourite recordings. Ron came on my radio show around the time the album was released but unfortunately I don't have a recording. I saw them lots of times over the years and had tickets to their show at The Factory Theatre in October - which was cancelled due to Ron’s illness. I had also seen Ron Peno and Kim Salmon performing as The Darling Downs at The Old Manly Boatshed and have their collaborative album.  

Both Louis and Ron were ill for some time and it really shouldn't have been a surprise that they passed away, but It is always sad to lose legends

2. Holiday in Brisbane
One of the highlights of the year was my holiday in BrisVegas which was the first time I had been out of Sydney for several years.  I stayed in Sandgate with my friends, former 2RRR announcer Tom 'DJ Hoss' Wilson and drummer in New Zealand band The Texas Rangers and early '90's Sydney act Revival Roadshow, and his wife Jacquie, who was singer, songwriter and guitarist with early ‘90s band The Lotus Eaters.  Tom and I went to a three-day rockabilly and custom car festival. Greasefest, at Cleavland Oval.  

I also visited my friends, guitarist/singer/songwriter/poet Robyn Keating, and Rod Grenville, recording engineer to top rock acts of the '70s and '80s, who live on Russel Island. I arrived the day after a tragic event: a fire that killed some children and their father. I did lots of sightseeing around Brisbane and caught live music in Fortitude Valley.

3. The Mezcaltones, White Knuckle Fever and The Loud Hailers
In previous years’ lists I have mentioned two of that my favourite Sydney live acts, The Mezcaltones and White Knuckle Fever. I have seen both of those acts as often as I can throughout the year which has done nothing to sway me from my high opinion, but I have to add The Loud Hailers as the most impressive live act I saw during the year. Their repertoire consists of elements of cabaret/vaudeville/gospel/blues/soul and rock and they’r eled by charismatic singer Christa Hughes, whose raunchy, uninhibited performance comes across like a punk Liza Minelli backed by talented and rockin' musicians.

4. The Psychotic Turnbuckles
Back in the early '70's when I was in my pre high-school days, every Saturday and Sunday at midday my brother and I would be glued to Channel 9 on our black and white TV watching World Championship Wrestling. (By memory, it was preceded by Joe The Gadget Man and followed by Reg Lindsay’s “Country Hour”, the Saturday morning cartoons having been long over.) 

After school, we would get together with our friends and enact our own wrestling bills, emulating the various holds we had studied from our heroes. We drew authenticity from the fact that our grandfather on our mother’s side was the main promoter of wrestling in the UK who would stage matches at The Royal Albert Hall. My teenage mother would hand out the programs.  Our grandfather used to send us wrestling magazines from the UK - which unfortunately, were all thrown out - along with boxes of comics and Mad magazines - when the family relocated in the late '70s. 

In the late '80s when I started doing my radio show on public broadcasting Station 2RRR-FM, an old school friend, Marty, told me about a band called The Psychotic Turnbuckles who dressed in psychedelic costumes and had green hair and billed themselves as World Rock and Roll Wrestling Tag Team Champions.  Marty told me their music was influenced by the surf and garage punk sound of bands featured on compilation albums like “Nuggets” and “Ugly Things” (which I loved) and their moshpit was full of people wrestling with each other but with smiles on their faces. 

I knew that I had to see them for myself and invite them on my program. 

The first gig I recall seeing them at was at The Picadilly Hotel in Kings Cross.  The Iron Sheiks and The Mothers were also on the bill. They came onto my radio show in full regalia wielding their championship belt and a case of beer.  It just so happens that the local mayor, who also was station manager at the time, was hosting some dignitaries in the building. She said to me: "I don't mind you inviting guests in costumes to your show but they are going to have to leave the case of beer in the carpark!" 

turnbuckles xmas 2023
Psychotic Turnbuckles grooving to the eye at Xmas.

Recently, I caught The Psychotic Turnbuckles Christmas spectacular at The Marrickville Bowling Club. They were fresh from their triumphant Japanese Tour. Though their Tag team personnel and costumes have changed slightly over the years, the Turnbuckles proved that they still can "Groove to the Eye" and have a hold on the championship title despite serious competition from young contenders Pocketwatch and the Cramps-influenced psychobilly and garage sounds of DISGRACELand. This year The Psychotic Turnbuckles will celebrate their 40th anniversary and are one of the acts from the classic era of Sydney rock that makes the city’s scene so unique.

5. Chickenstones
Northern Beaches band Chickenstones have built a strong local Northern Beaches, inner City Sydney and Victorian and Tasmanian live following with shows and a couple of albums, including a vinyl LP on a French label. They have a pub rock take on swamp and blues and were about to embark on a French tour when their guitarist/vocalist  Andy 'Doc Temple' Ellard was diagnosed with brain cancer several years ago, requiring ongoing treatment.  

Live performances have been rare since then but I was fortunate to be able to catch their only gig of the year at The Collaroy Surf club.  The original line up of Phil Van Rooyen on guitar and vocals, bassplayer Jim Kellyand drummer Mark Beven were augmented by guitarist Alan Creed (New Christs/The Panadolls/Hell Crab City/Abberation and B) with Doc Ellard on lead vocals as he was unable to play guitar due to swollen fingers (a side effect of medication.) 

phil and docPhil and Doc.

Although no threat to Mick Jagger or Angry Anderson, Doc proved he didn't need to hide behind his guitar prowess to be an energetic dancing rock front person.  I am told Andy's fingers have returned to normal size and he’s able to play again so hopefully he will be Rocking on for many more years. 

6. The Church
I gather that a lot of I-94 Barflies would be fans of The Church but apart from a few songs I havne't really found their music that interesting, but when my mate Chris Clear told me he had a spare ticket to see them at a sold-out gig at The Enmore theatre I decided to take the oppertunity of seeing them live.  The line-up featured guitarist Ash Naylor (Even, The Stems and on T.V performing in Rockwiz Orchestra.  The Church played through their classic repertoire which was familiar to their fans although not to me.  Between songs, Steve Kilbey narrated a science fiction Story thematically linking the songs together making the performance into a live concept album.  The psychedelic light show and fantastic, clear sound system combined to make the gig a trippy experience. 

Chris also got me on the door to a sold out show by Grinspoon, an act who I also had never listened to previously, which was also at the Enmore Theatre.  Again, I was impressed by the clear sound system and light show.  The band was tight and knew how to please their audience but the thing that impressed me the most is how everyone in the crowded auditorium (with the exception of  Chris and me) seemed to know the words to every song, which they all sang along to!

7. Dave Warner's From the Suburbs
They generally don't get acknowledged as pioneers of Australian punk rock nor have they ever identified themselves as such. In fact, punks and punk rock were just as much victims of Dave Warner's barbed, satirical wit as the pretentiousness of the commercial pop and rock acts that appeared on Countdown.  

When I first heard The track “Mugs Game” on 2JJ on "A Typical Australian Suburban Friday Night" (to quote the lyrics) in 1978 it 'blew my mind', as I was already familiar with American acts like The Fugs, Mothers of Invention and Flo and Eddy who were doing similarly satirical music and embellishing lyrics with swear words which you would never hear on commercial radio in those days.  I saw D.W's From The Suburbs live several times in the late '70's and early '80s and was impressed how Dave would work the names of punters that he had chatted to before the gig into his seemingly improvised monologues in a similar fashion to what comedian Barry Humphries would do on his shows. 

Dave Warner (obviously not to be confused with the cricketer) is probably best known these days as an award winning author of crime fiction but, 47 odd years since the release of “Mugs Game”, he reformed the original surviving members of From The Suburbs (lead guitarist Johnny Leopard died several years ago) for shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Daves home town of Perth.  

My mate, guitarist Paul Hayward from The Young Doctuers,The Baddies, The Side Kicks, Dobbs Cryptonics (formerly Satellite  V), Punk Rock Karaoke and Majestic XI, is also a fan of D.W's recordings and novels and we caught their performance at the upstairs bar at Camelot lounge in Marrickville.  

The sold-out performance was filled with longtime fans who had obviously seen them live many times before.  The band still rocked and were very tight, punctuating the dynamics of Dave’s monologue with light and shade at the appropriate times. They were obviously very familiar with the material, particularly drummer Howie Johnston. Some of the satire has lost its barb in these more politically correct times but it was great fun  hearing the old classics again. After the gig Dave amiably hung around, chatting and signing posters, books and records.  Dave Warner still releases new music with his current act called The Rude Crew.

8.Radio Birdman and Beyond art exhibition
I attended the opening of “Radio Birdman and Beyond” at Rogue Pop Up Gallery in Redfern which featured the artwork of graphic artist and animator Warwick Gilbert. Of course he needs no introduction to I-94 Bar readers, having been in The Rats, New Race, The HitmenThe Lime Spiders (in the studio) and The Raouls. Most of all he will be best remembered as member and visual chronicler of Radio Birdman.

The exhibition featured posters, comics, cartoons, animation storyboard cells - and not all that flattering caricatures of Radio Birdmen. Warwick and his wife Julie Mostyn (from '70s bands Kamikaze Kids and '80s act Flaming Hands) were both in attendance, and it was hoped that they would be doing a live music performance. Alas, it didn't materialise due to sound problems. 

It was interesting to see visual display of documented legendary and controversial events in the history of influential band Radio Birdman from an eyewitness and participant depicted with humour and artistic technique.

9. Some CD's that were released in 2023 that I was particularly impressed with
The Atlantics – “Still Making Waves”. Released on Australia Day 2023 and 60 years after their surf instrumental masterpiece “Bombora”, it features original members, guitarist Jim Skiathitis and bass player Bosco Bosanac, and the last recorded track featuring drummer and composer of “Bombora”, Peter Hood, who passed away in 2020.  Sixteen new, original surf-inspired instrumental tracks composed by Jim and second guitarist Martin Cilia (long time collaborator with Dave Warner, Mental As Anything and The Radiators).

Sonic Garage- “Dark Country”. Second album  from the Sydney Northern Beaches based  band.  Rhythm guitarist and songwriter Phil Van Rooyen's (Panadolls, Dr Fruitworld, Chickenstones and Circus Chaplains) tributes to dead friends and fallen women perfectly complements Peter Bourke's (also ex-Circus Chaplains) more socially conscious observations about indigenous culture and gun control. Phil and Peter swap vocal duties and Peter Trifonovic (Mushroom Planet) trades lead guitar and bass duties with Peter Bourke (so there’s lots of sharing and caring going on). It’s all complemented by Russell Parkhouse's (Riptides) keyboards which takes the band’s traditional guitar driven sound to a new level, while drummer Ronny Welsh (The Double O's) lays down the Aus Rock beat.

Pocketwatch – “It's Time”. 4 Song E.P from Teenage school friends Angus Ross (guitar & vocals) Jamie Woodward (bass) and Sam McInerney-Wand (drums). Shades of  silverchair’s grunge influence with melodic Beatles overtones and mod styling putting a youthful spin on an ageing rock genre.  

Songwriter Angus grew up in a rock music environment, his father being musician and road manager/soundman to The Screaming Tribesmen and Psychotic Turnbuckles (among others), The i-94 Bar’s Peter ”Rossy” Ross. They also put on a great energetic live show, encouraging audience participation, working as headliners or support to older, experienced acts such as Psychotic Turnbuckles, Mick Medew and The Mesmerisers and The On and Ons. They’re gaining respect from the veteran rockers as well as attracting younger audiences.

10. Other Acts.

These are acts that I saw during the year which have been covered in other's Top 10s or that I have written about in previous years Top 10s (including but not limited to and in no particular order):

Chris Masuak’s Dog Soldier/Charlie Owen/Penny Ikinger/Amyl & The Sniffers/Neptune Power Federation/Lucinda Williams (USA) Seve Earle (USA)/ Pat Todd (USA)/Vorsen (NZ) The Victims/Thunderbox/The Baddies/Majestic X1/Balkan Grill/The Lang Langs/Glen & Glenda/The Carrie Affair/ The Veneretas/The Men From Uncle/Bob Short/Gary David/Beijing Bikini/Josh Shipton & The Blue Eyed Ravens/ Los Monaros/The Light Brigade/ The Chimers/ The Hotness/Fabels/Syntax Error/Rubbernecker/Tumbleweed/Jupiter 5/The Escapes/Thee Cha Cha Chas/Flowers For Jayne/Nunchuka Superfly/Joeys Coop/The On & Ons.

Sorry to anyone else who may have seen me at their gig that I forgot to mention.  I'll try and remember you in next year’s list.

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