Ending Up On The Wrong Side Of The Tracks
I can’t think of a better place to start then an old, locally known venue in the heart of the largely industrial North Fremantle, in Western Australia.
My own experience with finding The Railway Hotel Fremantle is not synonymous with an ordinary night out, so I’ll start with a bit of background story.
We’d arrived at Perth in the morning and took the train to Fremantle before lunch. It started out as just the three of us, in town for a gig later that weekend at the Bassendean Hotel.
Beers were flowing, and as the arvo progressed, friends we hadn't seen for some time were coming by for a yarn and pint. Night approached before we realised we weren't heading back into the city until we caught some live music.
The pubs were filling up and it was getting harder to hear the person spitting in your ear next to you. Our guitarist rummaged through a copy of Perth’s street press magazine, X-Press. It was WAM festival week so there was plenty of glamour and content to sift through to find a show in Fremantle that night.
Eventually, squinting at the gig guide, we found a show, The Wrong Side Of The Tracks, held at The Railway Hotel. It had started half an hour ago, and we were sold the moment saw the line up. Not that we knew any of the bands, but the sheer intrigue which their creative names conjured tickled our curiosity. “Aborted Tortoise” and “Acid Baby Jesus” were two which struck me as brilliantly hopeful.
The Stages of Arriving
A taxi dropped us off in a dark cul-de-sac along side The Railway. The thrum of distorted guitar and the thwack of snare drum from inside rekindled some energy I’d lost to an afternoon of drinking.
We skirted the old single-storey brick and iron hotel. A bullnose, corrugated iron verandah sidled along its street-front. Above it a plain white parapet displayed the name of the hotel, and at the corner of the building, the year 1894 .
I’d learnt later that it was heritage listed in 1999, making it a rare gem of a place which had sprung up over a hundred years ago to serve the sprawling working class of north Freo.
I noticed an old sign advertising Railway Hotel Fremantle Jazz Saturdays, and it was hard to tell if it was memorabilia or current (turns out they’re still a thing). One verandah post was dressed as a barbers pole. It seemed a brilliantly iconic place for a haircut, but unfortunately a cut and pint is a thing of the past for The Railway.
We were greeted by a friendly punter at the door. We paid the door charge and fanned out across the gigantic bar. It was surprisingly large inside. The main stage was raised to mean business, with plenty of dancing/gawking space in front.
There was a stage outside, but due to wet weather earlier that day, a makeshift space was set up under cover for the bands.
Rather than being on a raised stage, the bands out here were enjoying more of a rugged kind of amphitheatre, where we looked down at them from the yeasty comfort of the beer garden. Behind us, massive retaining walls formed a barrier between the garden and the train tracks.
Psych For The Masses
The bands themselves ended up being an impressive lineup of quality local garage/psychedelic punk/rock outfits, headlined by touring Greek band, “Acid Baby Jesus”.
Personally, I’d never intentionally went to a live show to see a full night of psychedelic punk rock but I am glad to have been indoctrinated by that night at The Railway Hotel Fremantle.
The local bands which stood out for me were “The Darling Rangers,” “Pissedcolas,” and “Aborted Tortoise.” Wrapping up the night, “Acid Baby Jesus” thrashed, jived and swooned through a set which left me feeling exhilarated and agreeably deranged.
All the bands were each distinguishable from the other yet they all seemed to have been drinking from the same well. That well appears to be laced with anarchy, a touch of surfer culture and brutal self-expression. No wonder I found the the music so alluring!
Gigging At The Railway
So here’s the business. As much as I’d love to talk about the killer night we had at The Railway, I want to also talk about playing there.
In case you’re looking for a gig in Perth, I highly advise you turn your attention to North Fremantle, specifically The Railway Hotel. Whilst a Google search won’t throw the name back at you in a hurry, locals are very well familiar with the place. After all, local knowledge trumps a glittery webpage.
Genre’s which this venue favour are anything from metal, rock, reggae to country. So if you think your band might fit any of these and your serious about a gig here, your’e best to start with contacting band organiser Luke Rinaldi, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Railway Hotel Fremantle do Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, though they are willing to put you up on other nights upon request. Music can go to just before midnight, and thankfully no real noise restrictions on the main stage. Sundays, music is to cease by 10pm.
Bands are to organise their own doorman, and door charges are at your discretion if you’re organising the night.
Tech nerds will be satiated by the Main Room’s dedicated house gear (currently no dedicated equipment for the outside stage):
2 x Nexo PS-15 flown from truss above stage 1 x Nexo PS15td controller
1 x Camco Vortex 6 amplifier
4 x RCF folded horn 18" subs
1 x Camco Tecton 38:4 amplifier
1 x Yamaha LS9 32 channel digital mixing console 1 x KT DN360 eq
1 x DBX digital compressor/limiter
4 sends, 4 monitors at front of stage and bi-amp drum fill 6 x Quest 12+2" 600w wedges and Double 15+2" drum fill Quest 4004 and 3004 amplifiers
Inputs / mics
K&M mic stands
8 x Shure SM58 / 4 x Shure SM57 / 1 x Shure beta 57 / 1 x Shure beta 52 / 2 x Mann M11 cond. 6 active di boxes
32 channel / 32 passive splits / 8 returns multicore
1 x 8 channel drop box
1 x 6 channel drop box
16 x LED ‘par can’ units 6 x par 56 cans
2 x IC4 colour flood
The Railway Hotel Fremantle
At a quick glance may not appear to be much more than an old wharfie’s pub, but be prepared to be gravely mistaken. It is a bastion for quality live and local music.
Whilst the place does retain a great sense of modesty, this does not mean it doesn’t give a damn about local music. And boy, can it put on a show.
Locals know the joint. It’s been around for generations. Bands come from interstate and overseas to play here.
And by having more venues around the corner means more music goers are likely to be sniffing around the area. This means more chance for the exposure that most of us are hankering for.
This is a place we can all meet and take homegrown music both seriously and joyously. Maybe we’ll see you there one day for a beer and a yarn.