‘People power’ of booze and music.

It has been difficult to try and argue that Sydney’s Inner west music and pub culture is historically relevant to an audience that does not necessarily recognise that attending pub gigs is culturally powerful. Perhaps it was arrogant of me to think that the community I socialise within is as captivating as I believe it to be, historical or otherwise. Everyone sort of already knows that music is an important aspect of life – the number of people walking around with headphones in attests to this. Though is it really worth historically investigating? I doubt my contact seems to think so either… he loves what he does and thrives on it, but that satisfaction does not seem to encourage greater investigative curiosity. One thing is for sure, a study on music and booze does not par with some of the more noble community causes that my peers are engaging with. It is stressful that this is what I am thinking at this stage of the project.
I blame the inextricability of music for my project’s current limbo state. Music is so connected to the experience of being human, played whenever people gather. Its accessibility means that people likely don’t think about its cultural role beyond entertainment. It operates or ‘plays’ in a free space, autonomous from politics or other rules, but is reflexively influenced by them as well. It has also been expressed that music has influenced the course of history through mobilising people power. Rodriguez, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and Midnight Oil immediately come to mind. So yes, music is arguably historically relevant, but Australian pubs and drinking culture? I’m yet to articulate how.
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At first look, the archives I have accessed seem to further trivialise music and booze to only have entertainment and business value. The drum ads collated by a colleague of the Rule Brothers in tribute to their work at the Annandale Hotel undoubtedly holds sentimental value, but they require a historical perspective – mine – to apply the advertisements to a broader cultural context and argue that they evidence Australia’s cultural development. While myself and the Rule Brothers confidently argue that pubs are communal spaces where ‘people power’ can be unleashed, it is difficult to find clear evidence. I can only think of Keep Sydney Open as an obvious example of this.
The fact that I could spot some familiar musical names amongst the drum ad collection ensured me that this project was personally significant: I want to prove to my audience that the two very separate worlds of history and music and booze can collide. This project presents an opportunity for me to defend my interest in history to those who perhaps are distracted by the performance factor of music.

The appeal of music and booze

There really is nothing like seeing strangers and mates alike join to drop their pants to the Eagle Rock, or belt out every lyric to Khe Sanh whilst they drown themselves in beer.
I think most young Australians are drawn to a culture shaped by music entertainment and drinking. Perhaps problematically, drinking and the social activities that accompany it are entrenched historically in the Australian identity. The nationalist character of the Australian imagined community is a topic oft-discussed by academics and public figures alike. At the grass roots however, I think most appreciate and love the role that music and social drinking has had upon their identity, particularly because of the relationships and sense of community they have fostered. After all, don’t you and your mates enjoy the same music?
As I have grown up in between countries and cultures, I felt a great need to deepen my roots to a place and community. Music, particularly music in the Inner West, and the pub culture which supports it has played a crucial role in connecting me to a sense of culture and place here in Sydney. This public history project has provided me the opportunity to marry my historical interests with my social world and community. I have Dan and Matt Rule, community leaders and business owners of Music and Booze Co. to thank for building the space that myself and so many others can enjoy within Sydney’s Inner West. This project will pay homage to that fact.
Music and Booze Co. was only conceived in 2014 to ‘facilitate and curate creative events, involving the countires [sic] most exciting bands, labels, agents & communities’, at festivals, live music and hospitality venues, as well as public spaces such as parks, initially in and around Newtown, NSW, and now all of Australia. Before the conception of the company, the Rule Brothers have worked behind the scene for many years and have arguably helped build some of the most popular bands in Australia, while simultaneously restoring and building the reputation of famous pubs such as the Annandale Hotel and The Lord Gladstone. However, bankruptcy and state restrictions have forced the brothers to start fresh, where they rely on the publicity of their friends (musicians, publicans and other music and non-industry workers) to grow as a public, cultural and business organisation. This is where I have slotted myself in – helping publicise and support their business by attending their events and spreading the word. It isn’t much, and I wish I could pick up a guitar and bring a big audience to them but I lack the talent. But my passion and love for this community and consequently my appreciation for what the Rule brothers have done has motivated me to use my historical skills to highlight the significance of their work. We will see how it goes..