King for a day

16 Sep

( As published in 3 RRR FM’s subscriber magazine ‘ The Trip ‘ )


Each year as I walk to BBQ Day down past Madman’s old joint, over the sunny ridge and down across the creek to CERES, I hear them soundchecking the kick drum. BOOM….boom….BOOOM….boom…echoing across the water as I take a moment to feel the sun on my back.

“Harken, O Billygoat and Bellbird “, I proclaim to myself, ” the sun doth shine and the ancient rhythm summons the king. It is the appointed day and I, Doctor Pump, am the King of BBQ Day “.

The ancient scrolls record that the first BBQ Day took place in 2003. I remember carting the gear up to the Rooftop Cafe above RRR’s old premises in Victoria Street, Fitzroy and enjoying a cheeky spliff while looking out over the pretty tangle of tin roofs and cobbled lanes as clouds of ambrosial sausage smoke curled across from the ‘Barbisaurus’ where my man, Angus Sampson, wielded the tongs. Julian Wu prepared ‘Chicken on the throne’ on his Weber, each poor fowl standing impaled on a can of VB. I think I heard the aluminium in the cans gives you Alzheimer’s but I can’t remember for sure. Celebrity chef Iain ‘Huey’ Hewitson watched on, chortling as we performed popular songs with the lyrics altered to refer to meat and beer, the comic blueprint that remains unchanged to this day.

Big songs that year were ‘Everywhere you go, you always take the Weber with you’ and U2’s Sunday Barby Sunday’ in which the question was asked, ‘How long…how long have these chops been on?’.

BBQ Day is the brainchild of my radio colleague, Mr Von Goes. Jon decided that the first Sunday of Summer each year should be celebrated as what he originally called ‘National BBQ Day’ and I’ve been associated with the show ever since. He used to be able to wrong-foot me on air. In mid-conversation, he would stop and peer expectantly over the console with his eyebrows raised in agonising stretches of silence until I’d inevitably blurt out some idiotic remark to fill the dead air. Those days are over. I am wise to his game.

Since 2004, BBQ Day has been held at CERES, the nursery, cafe and bicycle builder’s Frankenstein lab on Blyth St, backing onto a bend in Merri Creek and just down the road from RRR. How the herbivorean gentlefolk were talked into a rock and roll meatfest amazes me, but it’s the perfect location. There’s plenty of space, some shady spots and a little mud hut for Archie to set up his Outside Broadcast gear. There are little kids and dogs and sausages, sunshine and burgers and beer. ‘Eat it’ and ‘Dirty Deeds’ [ a food show and gardening show respectively ] go out live. People get to put a face to the name.

Preparation for the gig takes weeks. Rehearsing 20 songs with an equal number of singers is tough. I’m not certain but musical director duties seem to be split between Ed Bates, a man who lets his slide guitar do the talking and Matty Earl, a drummer with a loose, last-moment-swat style on the kit but eyes like a prison guard during rehearsals. Kerrie Simpson, Sarah Carroll and Suzannah Espie sing, Dan Warner and Marcel Borrack are on guitars, Nathan Farrelly plays bass and Dave Evans is on piano and accordion. Adam Simmons and his mate Sgt. Slaughter play sax and trumpet but they don’t need to rehearse. They seem to be able to appear minutes before showtime and telepathically communicate horn parts to each other. These people are called the ‘Melbourne BBQ Orchestra’ or ‘M.B.O’.

Over the years I’ve covered everything from Barry Manilow to Body Count, Simon and Garfunkel to the Smiths, James Brown, Roberta Flack, the Electric Six, Otis Redding, Missy Elliott, The Commodores and the Stone Roses.

My brother Stickman made his stage debut taking on the highspeed back and forth of Run DMC’s ‘It’s Tricky’, remade as ‘It’s Smoky’ and the Kid laid it down like a pro. Carla and Gabi, the dynamic dance duo called the Town Bikes, joined us dressed in blood-drenched butcher’s aprons, slashing at the air with meat cleavers and making frenzied syncrobooty shapes as Van Halen’s ‘Hot for Teacher’ became ‘Hot for Butcher’. Sarah Carroll tackled ‘Tofu Fighting’ one year as a local Karate group smashed shit up and threw roundhouse kicks at each other’s heads. Both the Rebelles and Cash Savage routinely blow the place up.

Last year, Casey Bennetto got the crowd so insanely hyped with his KC and the Sunshine Band jam that I feared I’d lost my crown in a diabolical disco coup d’etat.

Each year, when the party’s over, we all slowly climb the dusty rise into the lowering sun, exhausted and exhilarated, and head to Dan Warner’s annual aftershow gig at the Lomond. Dan’s BBQ Day Lomond shows are a bonus gift to those of us who want a bit more of a good thing and they are always packed with friends, all of us sunburned, half-cut and giggly.

BBQ Day is a mess, a triumph, a farce, a uniquely Melbournian social phenomenon and a good laugh. It’s a RRR kind of thing. Keep up the good work, everyone.




One Response to “King for a day”

  1. Jo Collings September 17, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    Lovely read Pete. Love to you and A.

    Jo XX

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: