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tote - The I-94 Bar

Beast Records Night at the Tote Hotel in Melbourne

tamara and dick
Tamara and Evil Dick.  Caroline Burston photo

In a parallel historical universe the vast southern continent now known as Australia might have been conquered by France.

While France was still a functioning monarchy at the time Captain James Cook invoked the now discredited legal fiction of Terra Nullius to claim the territory on behalf of the English throne; by the time Arthur Phillip lobbed into Botany Bay in 1788, France was starting to buckle in the face of rising bourgeois unrest, and had bigger internal fish to fry (or heads to lop, as the case may be).

Nothing Grows in Melbourne (except great music)

garry gray tote2
Garry Gray and The Sixth Circle owning the stage at The Tote.  Ripley Hood photo

I don’t think I could ever live in Melbourne

Not unless I wanted to exist on on liver tonic and could handle being out seeing bands most nights of the week. The previous evening in Melbourne I was at HITS and maybe the mistake was to have my first beer at midday at Sydney Airport. The carnage that followed lasted long after midnight with visits to all the cool bars along Smith Street, Fitzroy.

My fellow fiend in booze and rock and I wandered into Ya Ya’s (a sleazy place at this time of night) and watched on from upstairs as another band hit the stage at 2am. It was either that or take a cab to the Cherry Bar, which is still having bands till the early hours. It all reminds me of misadventures of a long, lost Sydney live music scene.

Starry tribute does SPJ justice

 spencer tribute tote

"Execution Days, A Celebration of the Life and Music of Spencer P. Jones"
The Escape Committee 

+ Adalita, Penny Ikinger, Sly Faulkner, Phil Gionfrido, Digger & The Pussycats,
The Pink Tiles, Claire Birchall, James McCann, Jules Sheldon, Foggy Notion,
Henry Hugo, The Last Gasp Horns

The Tote, Collingwood, Melbourne
Saturday 9 April, 2022
Photos by Michael Barry

Before we start, a disclaimer: I am a close personal friend of Patrick Emery, the author of "Execution Days: The Life and Times of Spencer P. Jones”and organiser of this gig. So therefore all objectivity is likely to be thrown out the window.

Patrick and I first saw the Beasts of Bourbon in a relatively small venue, Le Rox, in the city of Adelaide in early 1992. After the first few bars of the opening song, "Chase the Dragon", singer Tex Perkins kicked over the mic stand, the band abruptly stopped playing and Tex stormed off the stage headed towards the mixing desk. We were standing roughly in that area as he came charging in our direction and I was genuinely in fear that he was about to wreak some savagery upon us as part of the collateral damage of castigating the sound guy.

Tight and outta sight: HITS return to their second home

hits toteTamara, Richard and Stacey on-stage at the Tote. Matthias Baratheon O'Meara photo

It has now been six years since was lining up at the Excelsior Hotel in Sydney when Jim Dickson (New Christs and Radio Birdman bass-player) told me about this band from Brisbane that I had to check out. Knowing Jim for three decades from his time selling Indian food down at Max’s in the late ’80s, I had never heard him express how blown away he was by a local band.

It’s 25 HITS gigs later for me. I’ve been seeing them from a time when only about five of us living outside their home of BrisVegas were convinced that they could be the greatest exponents of dirty, street-level rock ’n’ roll in this country.

Nowadays, HITS are the band on everyone’s lips. That’s why I am flying down from Sydney to to see my favourite Aussie band to play The Tote in Melbourne, not long before they’re due to embark on their second tour of Europe.

I-94 Bar