I’m back in Darwin because my mate Andrew McMillan is in the Intensive Care Unit at Royal Darwin Hospital (see previous post) so it was purely by good luck that I managed to linger long enough to catch up with my old bosses in the Swamp Jockeys, who I used to work with back in the mid-eighties.
The Swamp Jockeys were (are?) in that great tradition of Australian bands that form and play just for the sheer fun of it – they must have run out of fun after a few years or found something else to do and for most of us have passed slowly into the happier realms of our memories. And on their night they were right up there with the best pub-rock bands in the country.
The Darwin Railway Sports and Social Club Inc. is one of those older suburban single-interest clubs that has just managed to survive changing demographics, lack of a railway line within rifle-shot, the creeping gentrification of its surroundings (noise complaints!!) and a suspected arson attack.
I recall doing a gig at the Alice Springs Railway Club with the Swamp Jockeys many years ago – but that closed long ago. It was a close run thing but in Darwin the doors are still open and the on-tap Coopers is cold.
The Darwin Railway Club’s fortunes have been revived over the past year or so by new management and it is now one of the few venues in town where you can see live musicians and bands playing real music.
The Darwin Railway Club was a great venue for the Swamp Jockey’s reunion – they played n the floor and were jammed into a small bunker at one end of the room and with a PA big enough just for the vocals – which is how good small pub-rock should be – the band and audience are eye to eye and the band sets its own volume on stage.
As with most things to do with the Swamp Jockeys the reunion was most likely done on a whim and a few spliffs…”Oh, [lead singer] Captain Coop is in town in a coupla days, why don’t we put the band together for a show?”
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And we can film it…maybe do a tour?
We’ll see about that but for this one night in Darwin a lotta people had a lotta fun. The Swamp Jockeys are your basic 3 piece band with a coupla loons up front on vocals. You can’t buy their records – apart from a few songs on their MySpace page – they are a band best seen live and you won’t forget them in a hurry.
Maybe they will do a few shows over the summer, maybe get together with my other favourite Darwin band, Barry Brown & the GetDown – for a few shows during the next Darwin Festival would be ideal…just maybe.
Throw together a poster, spread the word on the “The Swamp Jockey Reunion and Appreciation Group” Facebook page and beyond and three days later you’ve got yourself a gig.
I pinched the set-list at the end of the night so I could pin it on the hospital wall next to Andrew McMillan and he’d have some idea of what he missed out on.
Anyway it all seemed to work out alright on the night and the place was full to unimaginably sweaty capacity (no last-minute rain storm tonight) by the time the band hit the stage around 10pm.
Two 45 minute sets – full of flat-out rock and that particular strain of fermented-mango country the Swamp Jockeys are renowned for – and the band and most of the audience have had a comprehensive workout and well were in need of a beer or three. I ended up giving three deliriously pissed old dears a lift home and was in bed by 1am. All in all a great night – for the ridiculously low door price of $5!
Here is how they looked 1986…
I’ve got a quick interview with Captain Coop and Stan Stockton just before they went on and I’ll post that in a few days.
Please register (only takes a few seconds) and leave your thoughts of you were at the Darwin Railway Club the other night – or wasn’t but wanted to be – or if you have any Swamp Jockey stories to share with us…