GIG TALES: "The Cross"
ROOTY HILL RSL, Rooty Hill, New South Wales, Australia. 1987.
by Jon Dunmore © Feb 2005.

Rooty Hill RSL (Returned Services Leagues Club) was an upscale war-veteran-sponsored, 2000-capacity venue. RSL Clubs adopted a strict policy of hiring only class acts - something which Gypsy Fire was very definitely not. We were a metal band and the drummer's mother knew the booker, so the gig was a definite coup. But we were going to find a way to fuck it up if it took stealing a headstone from a baby's grave to do it.

For this gig, we came up with the excellent idea (read excellent as 'not entirely sane') to stand a cross downstage-center, for total Sabbath-like effect. Traditionalists that we were, it had to be the Real Thing. Since the gig was on a Friday, our Thursday was filling up with tasks To Do: check oil in car, change guitar strings, grave-rob cross, do laundry, etc.

Breaking into the cemetery was easy. Separating the cross from its headstone was the hard part. The girlfriends whining to go home didn't help. One of our loyal fans (read loyal as 'not entirely sane') was bouncing around the graveyard, chasing things that only he could see, careening towards us, burbling, "Be careful with that axe, Eugene!"

We managed a clean break so that the cross could stand alone. It was a cool cross, the "ringed" type you see in medieval movies (known as a Celtic Cross); heavy gray stone, 3 feet high, at the head of a tiny grave. We reveled in telling people that it was a baby's grave - we were, after all, Gypsy Fire HMC, regarded by other Metal-Sceners as somewhat "really" crazy, as opposed to just faking it for the stage.

This proved it beyond any doubt.

The three main members of Gypsy Fire did in fact live together, just like The Beatles in Help! So when we got the cross home, we stood it proudly in our living room, and hit the sack.

That was when things started to get weird.

The drummer's girlfriend woke screaming. We found ourselves all in his room, discussing the possibility that the cross's owner had supernaturally followed us home, which started us down the path of endowing credence to the already-ominous presence of that displaced christian-appropriated pagan symbol of Druid worship.

Now - we were not superstitious in the least (we had just stolen a baby's cross from a graveyard - what more proof do you want?), but the next day we experienced such a concatenation of technical and organizational failures that, in the same manner that people place blame for tardiness, laziness or procrastination on Public Holidays, El Nino or The War In Iraq, we started to attribute everything to… The Cross…

The earth doesn't have to quake to ruin a day's plans - the smallest things amass into an avalanche of negative synergy which Stinkin' Hippies might be inclined to term "karmic vengeance"; from your car window-handle breaking off to a flat tire, to your bassist getting lost, to locking your keys in your house before you even start the journey, to fogged highways… and on and on; and as it builds, we look to The Cross and start laughing less and less over this inundation of obstacles being thrown up against us as the evening wears into night…

…By the time my car was revving laboriously, pushing the drummer's broken-down van uphill, over the last bridge to the venue, we were literally in the mouth of madness - SCREAMING at lungs-end - rolling into the RSL load-in dock on the last shreds of our sanity -

Late onstage; asshole headliners (are there any other type?); line-checks a complete mess with dull-witted sound techs (are there any other type?); in all the confusion, The Cross was almost forgotten in the van - it was the last thing brought onstage and, true to our plan, mounted dead center downstage. Playing our signature tune that night, Satan's Childe, would be an exercise in tempting all that was unholy…

The gig was an absolute clusterfuck, altogether a performance which guaranteed that the booker would never call the drummer's mother for brunch ever again.

It was The Cross's doing.

…The guitarist's wail resounded along the backstage corridors, "They broke my Cross! They broke my CROSS!" Involved in a scuffle with the headliners, I found him lamenting the broken gravestone in the load-out bay, after the gig. Suffice to say, after the events of that day and that miserable show, we didn't even seek vengeance on the headliners, instead, hi-tailed it outa there while The Cross was still allowing us to live. Surprisingly, the drummer's van now worked. The two pieces of our Curs-ed Tombstone were loaded into different vehicles, for some strange reason. Band consensus was to discard these pieces as soon as possible; I dumped my piece in long grass on a lonely stretch of highway. Hoping that would be the end of The Curse we had brought upon ourselves, we would find that The Cross had one more card to play…

First thing the next day, the singer calls and quits the band. It was a Saturday. And we had a gig that night. The Cross was back - from beyond the grave! (er - that we stole it from.) But since we both got rid of our pieces- what?! The drummer chimes in sheepishly that he didn't want to stop his van on the way home, in case it stalled again - so he didn't dump his piece of The Cross! The big lunkhead! It was out there in the garage right now, waves of supernatural baby-juice wafting off it, still haunting our gig life! Moving through molasses, the three of us took the remaining piece in my car to another roadside resting place, a 30-minute drive from our house.

Back at headquarters, we managed to secure an ex-singer for the gig that night. Need I even state that Saturday night's gig was ferociously fantastic?

Though it rested in two pieces at least two cities apart, The Cross had lifted its influence - real or imagined - and Gypsy Fire had learned its lesson: from that point on, we only stole stuff that WASN'T from graveyards.


Added: 2005, Feb 25