By Georgia Kinchington
Unbelievably Bad Contributor
I meet up with Tristan Price (who you might know from Angie Band or Roamin’ Catholics or Dry Finish) at The Bald Faced Stag. This pub is fast becoming one of Parramatta Road’s fixtures for Sydney’s underground music community, and as promoter of the venue’s weekly No Refunds gig night and Reverse Charges festivals, Tristan deserves a lot of credit.
The place is presently furnished with what Tristan describes as ‘the 6:30 crowd’, a necessity of any Aussie pub, the truly dedicated alcoholics. No casuals here. They’re definitely not the crowd aroused by No Refunds or Reverse Charges, the banners under which he creates events and a space for music lovers of all creeds – except maybe lovers of the music of Creed. The two-headed No Refunds (free every Thursday, FYI) often has two acts of completely opposing genres clashing in a riot of sound, and sometimes feverish dancing by yours truly.
This desire to coalesce Sydney’s seemingly long-fractured scene is reflected in the EXCELLENT line-up for his second festival Reverse Charges 2 on October 1.
We talk about all this, some other shit, chain some durries and smash a bevvo:
I’m pretty new to the scene, and when I started going to a lot of gigs it felt like you could go a week without anything decent being on. You’ve changed that completely with No Refunds because it’s pretty much always worth showing up to. YOU FEEL GOOD? YOU FEEL GODLIKE? YOU FEEL LIKE A SAVIOUR TO THE SCENE?
Well, uh, cleanliness is next to Godliness and I am nowhere near either of these things. So nothing to worry about on that front. *heavy dragging on cigarette and clunking of glasses*
I forgot the question. I think because the situation at the moment with the lockouts and things like that scenes are getting less cliquey, becoming de-compartmentalised. Which is what I’m trying to do here. I’m trying to actively push scenes together which wouldn’t necessarily go to these shows. I like doing mixed line-ups because when you look at a place like Melbourne, from the outside, what a thriving music scene. And it’s not to say that Sydney doesn’t have that, it’s just that there’s less interbreeding here. There are a lot of separate parts here, and the separate parts are incredible. A lot of some of the really great music in Sydney is down to the fact that we have those separate parts. You’ve got people just gettin’ weird by themselves doing weird shit, not being necessarily influenced by outsiders. Whereas I think in somewhere like Melbourne, because the scene is so strong, an unfortunate side effect of it is your pool of ideas can get a bit muddled. It’s tough, it’s mostly down to the fact that Sydney has such a split across everything. And it’s good! It’s 2016, it’s not Mods vs. Rockers anymore, everyone’s got an across-the-board music taste.
Yeah, I’ve noticed that. People go from listening to techno and house, experimental electro, to showing up at a hardcore or Dispossessed show.
Exactly! And it’s great. But I think that there’s a lot of music out there that a lot of people are gonna enjoy but it’s just sort of the nature of Sydney that people haven’t been forced to watch it yet. That’s what I’m trying to do. Despotically twist everyone’s arms into trying something new. I think that’s really important. What we have to offer is incredible, but to have it cut off into these little blocks is a real waste. But that is also kinda the strength of it…
Working with an establishment such as the Bald Faced Stag, which is pretty established as a metal venue and has that clientele, have you had much resistance to the more experimental or low-key acts that you’ve had perform? I think of Place Holder, who I think smashed a guitar and dismantled a drum kit on stage.
Less than I expected. When I saw Shota [Matsamura] ripping that drum kit apart I thought I was gonna be looking for a new job the next day.
I saw you sweatin’.
Yeah I was sweatin’ over that. I’m sweatin’ over most of them. I’m a stressed individual. That’s what a healthy diet of beer and cigarettes will do for you. It’s hard to tell from the punters’ perspective but the Bald Faced Stag is trying quite actively to transition at the moment. They’ve been quite happy with what I’ve been doing, getting these new audiences in. A lot of things are changing – they’re actually getting rid of the pokies here. Well, not all of the pokies… They’re really trying to push for it as a proper live music venue. Not necessarily just a pub where you have bands that play at the pub that the people at the pub will like. God knows I’ve had a lot of bands on here that the locals have hated. As far as management goes they’ve been really open to it. I think what they’re trying to do here is really good, it’s just a case of them being a metal venue for a while now and it takes time to pivot from these things, but that’s what we’re hoping to do with the No Refunds and Reverse Charges series.
Your last festival Reverse Charges sold out. You had door tickets and a lot of people missed out. I think the Petersham Inn down the road was packed out because of it. I heard from a bartender that it was their busiest night in ages. Have you got pressure on you to deliver another sell-out gig?
I think generally the stress comes from me. Of course I’d like to sell out again. I’ve tried something different with the line-up for this one, I’ve got the stalwarts from the scene but I think it’s really important to introduce people to new things. I’m really excited to have Tralala Blip playing. They’re a band from Lismore; they were put together by Randy [Reimann], who was the singer in the hardcore band Massappeal in the eighties and nineties. He was running a music program for differently-abled people in Lismore, and decided to take it on himself because he found the system wasn’t necessarily supportive of it. And that’s how he formed Tralala Blip, and they make fantastic music. It’s really good. I think it’s something really important. Differently-abled people in Australia make up the largest minority and these things in music aren’t really spoken about much. Like, I’m excited to have them for that reason but most importantly they make FANTASTIC music. I’m really excited to have them play; I think it’s huge. I think they’re a really important band in Australia and I think they should be getting more press. Whether it’ll sell out or not… I hope so
I’ll buy a ticket.
Last time, of course, we had Royal Headache play, which is of course a big deal in Sydney… anywhere in the world. We also had Dispossessed, Scott and Charlene’s Wedding, Whitney Houston’s Crypt… if I’m gonna get someone who’s gonna pack something out I at least wanna show people something different as well. If you have the opportunity to do these things I think it’s important to pull these things in. Also, at the moment there seems to be a real push to have your festival as ‘this is for minorities’ and I think that’s good but it’s really important to bring this into a normalised idea. This is what a music festival should be. Just because the rest of them have just been white dudes…
I agree. It shouldn’t be a big deal to have heaps of women on the bill, or people of colour, or people with disabilities. It should just be the way it is. What do you think of politics and particularly activism in context of a pub gig (or festival)? I was in the crowd at Royal Headache’s gig and a spokesperson from WAR (Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance) got up mid-set and a lot of bruised white egos were exposed.
I think it was fantastic and I think it was a really important moment in the festival. These things need to be discussed across the board. I’m really glad it happened. These things need to be discussed openly.
I think people need to get used to HEARING them as well. I was in the front row at this RH gig and the amount of people I had to tell to shut up and let the man fuckin’ speak was unbelievable.
Honestly, like, with any crowd with something like that, 90% of people are gonna go with it but there’s always gonna be some 10% and on my end, their money’s good but… this is meant to be mostly an underground festival. This is meant to be underground music. What would punk, DIY, techno, dance music be if it was only done by straight white males?
I really wanted to ask you about the line-up but you already announced it and I don’t get that scoop. Thanks for that, Tristan.
Well, I mean, we got Tralala Blip (so excited), Ausmuteants, SexDrive are coming back, which I think was the most glitter, vomit, and blood these carpets have ever seen [at Reverse Charges 1]. It was uh, it was, uh, pretty intense. We got Sex Tourists, Pleasure Symbols from Brisbane, also really excited for them. Orion, and this will be the first show they’ve played in about three or four months, and the last show they will play for about the same amount of time (Ed: and many more).
The other thing is I was really disappointed I wanted some kind of pun. Some kind of enjoyable name but you just did a number 2. Did you run out of puns or you’re just sticking with the No Refunds theme?
I was doing the poster and I just put a big number 2 on there. I just realised it sounds like I….
You really enjoy your number 2s. That’s what I got.
Threw the big 2 on there and thought it looked great. With this, I’ve gone for a more sort of across the board, two bands only, same style of poster, same style of thing. I like the idea of consistency. I’m trying to get a crowd of people coming every time who don’t necessarily know the bands. The hardest thing I do all week is writing a description of the band.
I think they’re pretty good. Come write for UB. We don’t pay anything.
Hahahaha, it’s the hardest part of my week. Those FUCKING descriptions take way too long. And they’re always a bit wrong. There’s always something off. It’s good when I find something in Unbelievably Bad or in Crawlspace (fucking RIP) that has an interview with them and I can just pull dot points out of it. I want people to get in there, and if you have a description there it’s less of a cliquey event. I have to thank Ben (Red Red Krovvy, etc) and Nic Warnock (RIP Society, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, Phone, etc) for bullying me into doing this by writing semi-snide comments in every Facebook event – including mine – when they didn’t think the descriptions were up to par. It’s so hard to squeeze out one small paragraph. But these things shouldn’t be as cliquey as they are. They should be accessible for everyone. Whether they turn up or not is at their discretion. ON THE RECORD: please turn up. Please come.
Come to all of the events.
Come to all of them [No Refunds]! They’re free. The beer here is quite cheap.
It’s reasonably priced. It’s a cheap night out. Transport points are quite accessible.
Good for buses.
Petersham train station, not far.
Easy for absolutely anybody.
Tagline: “No Refunds, Reverse Charges – Close to Transport.”
If nothing else, close to transport.
No Refunds is on FREE every Thursday at the Bald Faced Stag, Parramatta Road, Sydney. NR#34 is tonight, September 15, featuring Spike Vincent and Exotic Dog.