Round about 1990 we got a call from a Biker Club about doing a big gig for them. It was to be a three day festival of bikes, booze & music about halfway along the Putty Rd to Singleton. My boss at the time was a guy by the name of Rick Doolan who was no stranger to the wonderful world of the Biker. Rick was the original drummer in Bandanna and had lured me away from my comfy job at the bank to go full time with his PA company.
We took a drive up there and had a look at the site in order to do a quote. It was a beauty. Set back off the main road and in the middle of nowhere. There were going to be no noise complaints here! Rick was operating two PA systems in those days and we booked both systems and crew for this one. These type of events go until all hours of the morning so you have to have a few spare bodies to last the distance. A little while out from the gig came murmurs that there may be trouble getting the license to sell alcohol. This was a problem! The rumours came and went, mostly about a publican who had the shits about the bikers selling grog, until it was resolved.
Rick Doolan in the Bandanna days.
A catering company had gotten involved and they were licensed. They were then also contracted to operate all of the food stalls. This was getting bigger by the day. Wow, these guys were really moving in. They also managed to get the contract to supply the toilets! A couple of weeks before the gig I got a call from a guy by the name of Phil. He told me that he had been employed by the catering company to record the gig as the soundtrack to a video that was being shot. We chatted about the gear we were providing and organised to have a beer sometime over the weekend of the gig. This was a big deal for me as Phil was “a bit of a name” as he was the sound engineer for a reasonably big band. This industry is very much based on “who you know” so this was going to be a good guy to know. The actual setup went very well. The staging company had erected a nice control tower with a guy rope to the stage to attach our cables to.
Mission control after the first night. First mate “Gaf” at the helm.
The first night went well with a few good cover bands including one that I worked with regularly, The Last Stand Cold Chisel Show. The main problem was that there didn’t seem to be many people about. It was only Friday night though and we did expect that most of the crowd would roll in on Saturday morning.
The massive Friday night crowd in all its’ glory.
Saturday was a long day with bands starting about lunch time and going all the way through to about 3am from memory. the highlight of the night was the Phil Emmanuel Band. Coming on about midnight with a light fog rolling in, the atmosphere was perfect. If you’ve ever done sound for a band you will know that nothing sounds better than a great band through a big P.A. system outdoors with it cranked to 11. I still rate that set by Phil as one of the highlights of my mixing career. I once heard a classical conductor say that heaven was when the sound of the orchestra matched the sound he heard in his head. Mixing is a lot like that. You have a “perfect” sound in your head that you try to achieve with the mix. A couple of times in your life you will hit the bullseye. This was one of those nights. The only problem ws there still wasn’t much of a crowd. You could see a few of the catering company managers looking a little worried. they had brought massive amounts of food and grog in anticipation of a large crowd that never turned up. Maybe they would turn up for the Sunday?
Living in the back of the truck is tops. Not! This is Ziggy the lightingmeister.
Oh well, they didn’t turn up Sunday either. So far the bikers had come out very well with their deal to let the catering company promote just about everything. By midway through Sunday you could smell the tension. As the old saying goes “the smell of burning promoter hung heavily in the air”. For our part it was all going well. Well, most of it! You don’t sleep much at these type of events and the lack of sleep mixed with vast amounts of alcohol combined to almost spell disaster for one of our lighting chaps, Bicky. We had gathered in the back of the truck to have a few quiet beers with one of the bikers my brother and I knew through mutual friends. This guy was reasonably high up in the club and went on to become the president a few years later. All was calm until Bicky staggered in with a smoke machine in his hand that needed re-filling. This was one of the old “Mini Big Smoke” machines that were popular once. You filled them with “smoke oil” then put a CO2 cylinder into it to pressurise it. Bicky filled it with oil then let off the gas cylinder…without putting the lid back on the oil reservoir. High pressure oil went everywhere, covering our biker mates. You could see the look on Bickys face when he realised what he had done. “Near Death Experience” I think it’s called. We did some very fast talking and managed to get the lads to see the funny side of it and not kill him. I felt a bit more awake after that! Sunday progressed well from our point of view culminating in a performance by The Amazing Zarsoff Brothers. This was a band I used to see very regularly in their heyday in the early 80’s and once again they didn’t disappoint. I think they are still going around, get out & catch them if you can. I still have one of their albums which contains such classics as “Fucken’ beauty”, “Nose Pickin’ Boogie” and my all time favourite, “You’re a Prick(ya make me sick)”.
The amazing “Izzy Foreal”. He stopped the band because “some prick wanted to take his photo”.
After an eventful and tiring weekend, we crashed in the back of the truck one last time ahead of Monday’s pack up. We awoke to an empty paddock, covered in empty cans & bottles, and a few slow-moving people. The vibe amongst the catering people was now at rock bottom. They were all wondering if they were going to get paid and the boss was wondering if he would lose his house. The sluggish silence was broken by an approaching ute. It was being driven by one of the catering staff and seemed to be chockablock full of ice. He pulled up near one of their portable bars and proceeded to unload the lot onto the ground.
At this point, the boss appeared and we could see that his head was now glowing bright red. The rant was absolutely priceless. “How dare you go into town and spend MORE fucking money on ice we don’t need! I’m gonna lose the lot… blah, blah” On and on he went. Whipping himself into an absolute frenzy as he went. The employee was just speechless. I thought the boss was going to spontaneously combust. As he built his rage into a fever pitch, the rest of the staff were gathering around, not believing the spectacle before them. At this point, we noticed that the bikers were all retreating and some had actually locked themselves into one of the nearby buildings. This guy was scaring everybody! Finally, when I thought it couldn’t get any better, he launched himself into the air and came down smack bang in the middle of the ice pile. He then continued to scream incoherently as he ripped the ice bags to bits and spread it everywhere. Unbelievable!
After a few minutes, it all subsided and he lay there on top of the ice pile almost motionless, gasping for breath. There was just silence for a good 30 seconds then… the assembled crowd of catering staff erupted into spontaneous applause and cheering. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. The incident that came to be known as “The Ice Dance”. Believe it or not, the bikers weren’t deterred by the apparent failure of Yella Rock 1 and held Yella Rock 2 the next year. But that’s another story…