GIG TALES: "The Marquee"
KENTUCKY TAVERN, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia. 1986.
by Jon Dunmore ©

I think it was a misdemeanor. Or something along the lines of Causing Mischief, or Verbal Assault - either way, if we had been caught, there would have been at least one night's jail time, if not a hefty fine.

The Kentucky Tavern was a pub with unlimited potential (located at a major intersection, freeway ramps leading almost directly to their parking lot, lighted marquee seen from the freeway and neighboring areas, ads in the major papers), yet which changed management literally every six months. And it was this ephemeral management which was responsible for the actions of our band, Gypsy Fire HMC.

The HMC stood for Heavy Metal Cunts. (Does this give you even an INKLING of our diplomatic stance on people who would choose to wrong us?)

The Kentucky Tavern was dank, claustrophobic, urine-smelling, unholy, a feeling of lost hope and abandoned dreams when one walked through the entrance - your average rock and roll club. In those days in Sydney, clubs would pay bands enough to hire a powerful PA system (from freelance PA owners) and have enough left over for nominal pay.

[Side-note on PA owners: this unique animal was always either an unkempt, t-shirted, short-shorted, hairy-backed palooka, or a balding, short-shorted, armpit-glazed geek. Either way, he had no social skills whatsoever. I remember being trapped in line at a McDonalds once, behind a rather well-known PA freelancer, Michael Orland - he was the latter variety - and praying to the half-fish, half-goat gods that he wouldn't turn around and start talking to me. Alas, the half-fish, half-goat deities were frolicking in some Elysian meadow that day, far from the petitions of needy musicians, for Orland recognized me as a Known Band Guy and launched into the plaudits of his new super-dynamo tweeters and plasma-destructo crossover amps with the flames comin' out the side, as I went into a fixed-smile stupor and tried not to make any sudden moves.]

Gypsy Fire had a gig booked at the Kentucky Tavern. We suspected something might be awry when we arrived on gig night and our name was not on the aforementioned prominent marquee. (Now as any Band Guy knows, a gig is not an isolated event - it involves prior rehearsal, flyers, innumerable phone calls to organize rehearsals, to agents, to fans, PA hire, ads in papers, changing strings, etc. so you've lost money before a note is even played on gig night.)

So here we are - ON GIG NIGHT - and a NEW manager at The Kentucky Tavern, Ray, tells us he has cancelled all bookings made by the previous manager, taking pleasure in our monetary loss and refusing to discuss further bookings - because "he'd have to get a demo tape from us first" (- open-mouthed incredulity doesn't even come close to describing our reaction, as - you know the punchline to this one - the venue already had numerous press kits of ours - from all the past managers!) Ray was an impotent, passive-aggressive, weak man with a small cock, who had no real power, so reveled in the perceived 'power' he could wield over young bands - just your average booker, really.

Being as deluded as most young bands are about their empirical greatness, we WOULD have played for free (we had to pay the PA guy anyway) but Ray would not even have us onstage.

Gypsy Fire saw red. In those bygone days (before OJ Simpson and frivolous lawsuits) we thought nothing of verbally threatening Ray openly. Then leaving his "office" (which was in reality a cleaned-out closet with a ratty desk in it) and eschewing actual bodily harm to him, we concocted something much more subtle - climbing up to the Tavern roof, we arranged the one-foot-high letters scattered around the rooftop on the lighted marquee, thusly: GYPSY FIRE WILL GET YOU RAY SO RUN.

It looks impetuous and impulsive, but one has to consider that we were up there for about half an hour, in the dark and the wind, trying to configure a death-dealing message out of the available letters: "Have we got another 'L'? Goddammit! We can't say 'WILL KILL' then!" and other such phraseological decisions… And then it took us about ten minutes to insert the letters in the trackway (like on gas station signs), while Ray and staff were completely oblivious downstairs in the pub and 100 cars a minute passed by on the street.

The marquee displayed that message for nearly two weeks - we took pictures of it the next day! - which was a testament to how much attention any employee from the Tavern actually paid to it, especially Ray, the knucklehead who should've been trying to draw customers in with that advertising tool.

A couple of months later: new management. And Gypsy Fire HMC took the stage once more at Kentucky Tavern, the marquee being used for its intended purpose - NOT to broadcast threats to bookers with small cocks.


Added: 2005, Feb 13