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Pat Todd
+ Mad Macka
Golden Barley Hotel, Enmore, NSW
Saturday, 25 November 2023 

Australian music legend and label owner Sebastian Chase once said to me: “Punk rock is folk music with volume - street music, if done right”. And with local bands like Cosmic Psychos and X, a case can certainly be prosecuted that street music and its stories can be  found in bars and pubs across the land.

Mad Macka has played his fair share of pubs and bars for almost 40 years, originally with The Onyas and lately with Cosmic Psychos. Macka’s music mirrors what you’ll still see and hear in drinking establishments across the land: cynical yarns by blokes on the punt and into their sixth schooner.

Call it Yobbo Punk or Bogan Rock. It’s the stuff that Dave Warner created a space for in the late ‘70s and it’s a spot now occupied by The Chats and, to a lesser extent, Amyl and the Sniffers. Those bands would be the first to admit the music of Mad Macka and his ilk have been an influence.

The sardonic wit is there in his stripped-back songs of Australian pubs with meat tray raffles and counter meals.

“Hair Dinkum” is about getting a haircut and its scratching one-note intro is played on a battered Stratocaster. It’s perfect with its monologue of wild scenes, last characters standing and country horse racing on the flickering screen in the corner of the bar.

mad macka golden barleyMad Macka.

Macka stamps his Australianesss on his set as he flirts with Delta blues and bluegrass from the back hills of Tennessee. It’s all delivered with a drawl in a holey blue singlet. He’s a unique and original talent.

Pat Todd is a legend of the USA underground rock scene from the early ‘80s and his band The Lazy Cowgirlswere the one spoken about by only the hippest and hard-edged rock-pigs  in Australia. They were not hardcore like Black Flag or as arty as Sonic Youth.  They were meat and potatoes punk, with leanings to rock, and remain a legacy of those wild and tough, pre-Nirvana days when you had to work hard to find their records in select indie shops or on mail order.

In more recent years, Pat Todd has fronted The Rankoutsiders out of Los Angles, a band that’s more song based and rootsy, giving a nod to the StonesJohnny Thunders the Heartbreakers and Dylan at his most electric.

I have been listening  to a lot of Van Morrison demos of 1968-71 and he always had a thing for raw, unproduced songs that were notable for their phrasing, words, chords and stories: this where Pat Todd sits as a solo artist.  The loose repeated chord riff and words flow with the phrasing.

Where Morrison is the Irish balladeer, Pat’s is the music of concrete, freeways and smog: the world Bukowski occupied - although in his case it was also populated by screaming cats fucking, charity wards, alcoholic fights, ambulances screaming late at night and gunshots.  Loser mates, talented junkies and lost opportunities is where their worlds intersect.
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Pat stands with his black jumbo acoustic guitar and eyes his audience, fixing them forward with a brutal stare.  “Another Stupid Guy” is the opening track from the first  Rankoutsiders album, a stripped-down and countrified tale of reflecting on friends with insecurities and poor judgements. Like the rest of his set, a theme is isolation in the night. In the words of Bukowski, these are tales of ordinary madness.

“The Ambulance Is Here” is a stark song with echoes of Townes Van Zandt. Its message is that this is the end of the line as the undertaker will follow.  Carefully played, Dylan-like harmonica layers many of the songs, and Pat is obviously a student of the master. The music is powerful with imagery that haunts you. 

I spoke to pat a few days later and asked him what inspires his dark and unforgiving images in his songwriting. He explained: “For me Dylan is where it starts. My biggest influence is 100 years of rock n roll, blues, punk and country. It flows out of Dylan and the Stones - both are inspirations of real, gritty music that takes a stab at the truth.”  

Pat humbly acknowledges that he’s absorbed decades of music and focuses it with his own brand of storytelling.

For those who were, it was a master lesson in stripped-down, street level songs: there was no light show and definitely no pretention. Pat Todd and Mad Macka are uncompromising and workmanlike. Therse blokes are expressing their lives through song in the “real” folk tradition.  It was truly one of the gigs of the year.