Hip To Be Country (August 2014)

Let’s face it, a lot of folks out there claim they “can’t stand country music”. It’s a shame of course, and passionate supporters of the genre (like me, for instance) might be inclined to think those haters are a bit narrow-minded. Mention the name ‘Johnny Cash’ however, and it seems that most of the detractors are willing to make an exception. What was it about this twentieth-century icon – the man in black – that made him so universally cool? After all, some of the music Johnny made, particularly in the middle of his career, represents country at its corniest.

I think Cash’s perennial ‘hip-ness’ comes down to his rockabilly roots. Johhny hit the big time alongside the likes of Carl Perkins (the guys that wrote Blue Suede Shoes), Jerry-Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley – a bunch of young, rebellious guys that were crafting music based in country but heavily influenced by the emergence rhythm and blues and rock and roll. The music they made was simple, laced with risqué (for the time) sexual undertones and elicited a physical response (ie.dancing) from the audience. It was, in a word, edgy.

In the years that have followed, rockabilly has remained edgy, mainly thanks to its continued devotion to the idea of rebellion. You’ll recognize rockabilly fans and musicians in the street today by their tattoos, pompadour hair-dos, spotty dresses (on the women) and, if they’ve saved up enough cash, their beautifully preserved mid 20th century hot-rods. Over the years, band like The Stray Cats and Australia’s own The Living End have guided rockabilly’s evolution, but in truth the sub-genre has never drifted to far musically (or visually) from its early incarnations.

Now, if you feel like catching some local rockabilly on or near the Peninsula, you certainly have options. Flanagan’s Bar at The Pier Hotel in Frankston has emerged as one of the hottest, most well-supported rockabilly venues in Victoria over the past year or so, whilst up in Moorabbin Lucky 13s Garage has been dedicated to the scene for a year or two longer with bands like The Smokin’ Wingtips and Marco and The Triple Shots headlining their lineup this month.

Heading back down south, Baha in Rye have just started up a regular event on the first Sunday of every month titled Rye’s Rockabilly Rumble. It’s $10 on the door and promises two bands, tacos and drink specials from 2pm to 6pm.  There’s a fair chance you’ll run into rockabilly-super-fan Andy Wrigglesworth – half of The Weeping Willows – down at Baha on one of these Sundays.

And so there we have another sub-genre of the wide country music world – a branch of the country music tree that remains fun highly accessible to people of all ages. Long live rockabilly – and long live Country Music!

Lachlan Bryan is primarily a singer/songwriter. His third album Black Coffee won the 2014 Golden Guitar for Alt Country Album of the Year. He also moonlights as a music journalist, writing monthly for PEARL Magazine on all things folk/country/bluegrass. If you’ve got a new release, upcoming show or you’d like to get in touch with Lachlan, drop us a line.