French’s Darlinghurst 1985 – Brian Purcell

This poem contains language and references regarded as ‘Mature Content’. Reader discretion recommended.
“Moving up Oxford St towards Taylor Square, and crossing Crown St, we come to Betty’s Soup Kitchen at number 84, a building that housed French’s Tavern, a wine bar that gave so many bands a paying gig early on. Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel and The Reels were there early in their careers…”
from Rock ‘N’ Roll Walk Of Fame ‘N’ Shame, City of Sydney
Of course we freaked out
our first gig
we’d played only weird shit in the olds’ lounge room
shrieking poetry over drum machines
lifted from cheesy organs
that sounded unbelievable when you clicked
Rock ‘n Roll/Rhumba at the same time
and a grievous hiss like
swarms of locusts about to descend –
analogue synths, treated bass echoing
its non-musician’s latest griefs
a wash of audio from Lost in Space –
they regarded us with sullen anger
punks who only wanted to pogo
to the Birdman
or the Oils Mach 2
we couldn’t do it
people loved or hated it
I screamed menacingly and leapt up
and down on the wine-soaked floorboards
they bent in and almost broke
getting my balance I glanced up
at the dark, smoky ceiling
from the bottom of a pit
there was nothing more underground than this
years later
when we blew away a crowd
at an amphitheatre in Florence
I gave thanks
to sh*tty venues like French’s
midnight scenes in Darlinghurst
and the punks
who hiss