8th August, 2012

The Annandale Hotel has been a mainstay of the Sydney live music scene since the 1980s providing some of Australia’s greatest rock talent with the opportunity to hone their live act. When the Rule brothers took over 12 years ago the place was a basket case, previous owners had pulled the plug on live music and replaced it with an army of pokies. You Am I played the closing gig and vowed never to return. This story will cover the last 12 years, the previous period may be a topic for another day.

Matt and Dan Rule had worked a number of Eastern suburbs pubs and were urged to give the Annandale a go. At that time there was nowhere in Sydney of that size to play a gig. The Rules reinstated live music and slowly got rid of the dreaded pokies. In the 12 years since the venue has had its ups and downs but has largely succeeded in reclaiming its past glory.

The Annandale alumni reads like a whose who: John Butler, Jet, Vines, Wally De Backer (now known as Goyte) played with the Basics, Tim Rogers, Drones, Front End Loader, Regurgitator, Mark of Cain, Bony Prince Billy, Dandy Warholes, COG, Butterfly Effect, Tumbleweed, Baby Animals, The Bronx, Living End, Magic Dirt, You Am I, Shihad, Rose Tattoo, Hoodoo Gurus, Spiderbait, Jezabels, Jimmy Barnes, Rise Against and the list could go on and on….

Some of these bands have got their first real start by playing at The Annandale (Jet and Vines to name but two). What does it mean for bands to get their first chance at The Annandale?

Clint of The Butterfly Effect: “Back in the 90s the door was $5 and it was always packed. From 93-94 I lived down the road, it was the place to be. There’s history in those toilets. The first time I got in when I was an 18 year old grommet I threw up in the toilets. The first time we played there it was like “fuck yeah we’re at the Annandale!” We ended up playing about 10 shows there.

We never stayed upstairs, we partied on so late a few times we may as well have. Each time we had to leave quietly because of the fucked up neighbours. What’s with that? If you buy near a pub what do you expect?

I loved the t-shirts “fuck this we’re going to the Annandale”

But man the Annandale reigns supreme. There is so much history, it sweats from the walls, you could roll in it. We should make new bands do just that!”

Paddy of Sticky Fingers: “I grew up in the inner west, as a kid driving past listening to Limp Bizkit or whatever you could just feel the vibe. I went to underage gigs there, my dream was to start a band and play at the Annandale. When I turned 18 I got my RSA and begged/harassed the staff until they gave me a job. It was all a scheme to get a gig there, so yeah it worked pretty well!

Before we made Annandale we played some terrible gigs at RSL’s and Greyhounds. When we got to play at Annandale we felt great; the staff looked after us, we got some beers, the crowd were into it, it felt pretty cool so yeah we hold Annandale in our hearts.”

Paddy and his fellow Sticky Fingers follow a fine tradition of bar staff who have graduated to the main stage which includes: Jake from Bluejuice and Hayley from the Jezabels.

Over the past 12 years there have been countless memorable gigs, although a few stand out.

Dan Rule: “there have been too many to remember… Craig Nichols having his episode, Dananananaykroyd breaking his arm, the BDO after party.. They are just some which come to mind.

The Vines played an infamous gig in 2004 for a room full of radio comp winners. The lucky 450 in attendance witnessed lead singer Craig Nichols implode – kicking a photographer, calling the audience sheep and demanding that they baaa. The Vines were supposedly banned from the associated radio station for some years before they kissed and made up.

A Dananananaykroyd show was interrupted when drummer John Baillie Jnr decided to join in the mayhem before him and managed to brutally snap his arm. As a result the band was forever rejigged moving Baillie Jnr to co-vocals as he could no longer pound the skins as hard thanks to some souvenirs inserted in Sydney hospital.

BDO afterparty “about 8 years ago, the first year Sydney had 2 BDO’s and all the bands had the day off so a few of them decided to come in for a drink. You had the locals mingling with Metallica, Kings of Leon, Strokes etc. It was just a really cool moment and great to see all those big artists support a local venue. But yeah what goes on tour stays on tour”.

Clint: “One of the best gigs I went to there was the launch party for Powderfinger – I think it was for Parable for wooden ears. I was seeing this girl who worked for Polydor who said I had to come check out this band. It wasn’t a massive crowd but there was a massive buzz for them, they also announced their break up at the pub.”

Paddy: “there’s this band called Monotonix – an Israeli three-piece. I was working during the day when they arrived to soundcheck – they set up on the floor, we thought that was weird but whatever. During the gig that night they rarely used the stage, swaggering across the bar, the drummer was playing while crowd surfing. In the end there were 300 punters out the front while the singer was playing up on the roof. It was Beakers (Sticky Fingers drummer) first shift behind the bar, he didn’t really know what to do.”

Stav of Bluejuice: “My second favourite time at the Annandale is getting kicked out by the owners, Dan and Matt Rule, for staying too late. My favourite moment is telling them to get stuffed and that they support a shit Rugby League team. “

Part of what makes any venue truly unique is its regulars and Annandale has no shortage of these. Anyone who has seen a gig at The Annandale would have noticed an odd little fellow up the front with some pretty distinctive dance moves.

Paddy: “They come and go however there is a core group of regulars, hardened drinkers who can go well into the AM. This one guy chicken man has been there since the dawn of time. He wears his hat and has this little beard and dances all crazy but when you get to know him he’s a real sweetheart. You’ve got to wonder what he would do without the Annandale, he may not be accepted anywhere else.”

Chicken Man was recently honoured during the Annandale’s 12th birthday when The Hard-Ons called him up on stage and invited him to showcase his dance moves. This rare display of recognition from a band to a bar regular was met with a rousing applause from the crowd.

Over the 12 years since the Rules took over there have been some challenging times, highlighted by their ongoing battles with local council over noise restrictions and fire regulations. These now seem to be easing, Labour is even launching a policy of supporting live music venues as a direct result of the Annandale’s struggles. The Rules launched the “Buy a brick” campaign offering punters the opportunity to own a piece of the pub. To date they have sold over 500 bricks, the for-sale sign has come down and renovations have commenced. Annandale regulars have already seen the last of the old grungy toilets, a new frontbar opens this week and then work will commence on the back bar. While these cosmetic changes will enhance the venues appearance and comfort the rock spirit will never change.

The Annandale is more than just a pub, more than just a live music venue, more than just a place where music fans gather, more than some grotty toilets. It is the memories, the ringing ears, the sticky floor, the young nervous band stepping on stage for the first time, the place where the guy you saw play last week is pouring a beer tonight. It’s the sum of all parts that make it such integral piece in the social fabric of the inner west and Sydney live music.

Long live the ‘Dale!