A potted history of Mazstock*
*may not be factually accurate
My recollections of the inaugural Mazstock are hazy at best. It was held at the fabulous Winsome Hotel in the heyday of Maz’s reign there, an impossibly debauched and gloriously fun era that would have made the Swinging Sixties, the Fabulous Thirties and the Nihilistic Nineties look like a tea party in Fred Nile’s drawing room.
That was some serious rock action. If Iggy Pop had burst in wielding his favourite stage prop he would have had to sit down for a minute to take it all in. Ok, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away now, but touring bands did love to play the Winsome.
Maz always looked after them sumptuously. Her devotion to rock and roll has been a mainstay of music in Lismore for a long time, and without the Winsome flying the flag in those days there wasn’t much else around. Maz’s dedication to keeping music ablaze and relevant in the midst of her own furious political life has been a beacon for rockers on the East Coast.
Bands got paid to play, even if it was on a Tuesday night performing to the Slate-Fancier and whoever was tending the bar. They got put up in luxurious rooms, fed and watered in all kindsa ways. There were all kinds of fringe-dwellers to marvel at, as they interrupted proceedings with lunatic intensity to berate or assault the punters with an assortment of props from druidic staffs to occasional full nudity.
The PA was great and when occasionally some of Lismore’s rock fanciers did saunter in for a look there was always a full-tilt show on.
Not that they weren’t occasionally well attended. Dave Graney, The New Christs, Hey Rosetta (Canada), all had smashing crowds and the after parties were always wild, and long. When Mazstock became a thing in 2009, the Winsome was the perfect venue.
People flocked in from Bellingen, from Brisbane, from Broadbeach, anywhere that started with a B, even Nimbin. The front bar hadn’t been so crowded since Mick Elliott wearing his favourite Davy Crockett hat tried to marry all the bar staff in one night.
Black Ghost Party, The Tendons, Slug, Antibodies, Manifest and The Re-mains got that ball rolling.
There was the great Brut 66 from Bello, an old school rock and roll band that were as much about the Flamin’ Groovies as they were Television. Their set featured Pete Bufo’s psychedelic performance piece, whereby he crouched tuning his guitar for a good twenty minutes, whilst we sat silently, stunned by his insouciance. Till suddenly everyone burst out laughing and eventually, the band resumed as if nothing had happened.
That gig also starred Nimbin’s Antibodies, who are the only mob to have played every Mazstock since with their incendiary show, Ritchie out front whirling and yelping political firebombs.
Local outfits such as the invincible hard rock Claymores, Slug and Tesla Coil have also been longtime Mazstock stalwarts, while the mercurial Blurter rear their ugly heads now and then to keep things on the level.
That was the beginning of a beautiful partnership between Maz, Sideshow and the rock and roll community of the east Coast. They’ve established a hard won tradition of impeccable taste and rock majesty that’s reverberated across the shrinking cultural tapestry of this Tory-terrorised, art, music and literature-hating wilderness. In defiance of the socio-economic malaise, over the years a succession of superb bands have made their pilgrimage to Lismore to pay homage at the court of Mazstock.
2010 saw The New Christs and Celibate Rifles headline a frantic fixture, with the likes of Pineapples from the Dawn of Time, Blurter and Lennox Head’s immortal Boozehag keeping the engines at full throttle.
Later Mazstocks happened at Lismore’s Italo Club, where in 2011 in the big ballroom the likes of Kim Salmon ripped it up on the big stage, while on the smaller stage Screamin’ Stevie, draped in an Australian flag set about restoring our pride in the nation that brought us Abbott. Elsewhere Leadfinger, The New Christs and Six Ft Hick slugged it out with Slug and a horde of other great acts. Representing the roughneck bush-rockin element, Den Hanrahan and the Roadsiders put in a boisterous showing.
As an impresario, Sideshow has been without comparison in the Northern Rivers and it was here that he was really able to turn it on, with big PAs and stages and an audience that was slavering for rocking good times without stint.
Three stages and a multitude of bands is a broad palette to work with and Sidey, in his element, sleepless, occasionally feisty and never without a comeback, was born to rule in this environment. He also doubled down as bassplayer in the Re-mains on that occasion and pulled the job off with aplomb.
The Re-mains set got off to a roaring start with hula hoop dancers and Uncle Burnin’ Love the Banjo King vying for the spotlight. UBL had had drink taken and bemused by the bright lights and high fidelity PA, enacted a rage-filled turn before heaving his banjo across the stage. When his electric guitar also declined to satisfy his requirements, that too was ejected with great velocity and he stormed off to the bar.
Undeterred, the band dug into that big PA sound, and played what was for me one of our best shows ever.
That Mazstock saw the historic deployment of Hits, a devastatingly good rock band who have gone on to cult status after their relentless domination of Australia’s rock scene. With two undaunted women on guitars and a ferocious if diminutive frontman, they’ve gone on to conquer Europe and inevitably, the USA.
In 2012 Gravel Samwidge came down all the way from Townsville to christen the Lismore Uni Bar as part of a stellar bill also featuring a resurgent X and once again, the mighty Hits. Other highlights of that year were Substation and Thundergods of the Multiverse.
More recent Mazstocks have employed the Lismore Bowlo to devastating effect, with the overworked Sideshow bowing out for a couple of years while the entrepreneurial James Doyle flexed his fledgling promoters wings. With his own band Raygun Mortlock tying down a solid roster of local acts, 2013 saw the return of Leadfinger.
In 2014 Six Ft Hick, Substation, Hell Crab City and Sideshow’s own band Birdbrain held the fort, while Hits hung in despite the siren song of stardom screeching in their ears.
Then in 2015 Mazstock returned to the Italo Club with a roar, inducting Sydney’s bellicose Front End Loader into the Mazstock community. Ably assisted by punk rockers Dunhill Blues and the perverted maunderings of Blurter, among a huge cast, they helped keep the doldrums of Abbott’s brief regime at bay.
The 2016 event looks set to be a return to the mythical Mazstocks of yore, with 13 bands across two stages, back at the palatial Italo Club. Sideshow has come out of semi-retirement to oversee this daunting logistical feat while Maz is curating a dazzling lineup and and feverishly hunting for the perfect frock/catsuit in which to adjudicate proceedings like a great purring, whip-wielding dominatrix.
With a focus on women in rock, four great chick-rock outfits have answered the call. Lismore’s very own howling viragos, the Callachor sisters are fronting Spanx in their first Mazstock and with members of Antibodies and Bombed Alaskans backing them up, they’re bound for certain rock glory.
Brisbane is sending down two femme fronted outfits in the Dirty Liars and Marville, both raucous and racy ensembles by reputation.
Hot Sweets are fronted by the rambunctious Carrie Phyllis fresh from a support with Cherie Currie (voice of the Runaways) they’ll be in red hot form. The band boasts two members of Leadfinger who are also making the long drive up to play their fourth(?) Mazstock with their characteristically bittersweet rock and roll demeanour, located somewhere between Wilco, Big Star and the Ted Mulry Gang.
I’ve snagged three members of that brilliant outfit for my own Mick Daley’s Corporate Raiders, otherwise known as Leadfinger Lite, playing our first Mazstock.
Headliners this year are Bunt, another Brisbane mob with massive punk rock credentials, big in Japan, soon to be bigger in Lismore.
Forever Since Breakfast come back for their second bite at the cherry. This supergroup are prolific songwriters and combine years of rock experience with sizzling guitar chops. Also highly touted are Loose Pills, Sydney’s answer to Cheap Trick.
Maz is having conniptions as the big day approaches and there are not enough hours to spin vinyl while excoriating Tories and tyrannical landlords. But as the memories of bygone Mazstocks fade and new ones flare briefly, rock music will be the undisputed champ.
And in a world where Playstations and porn have become the weapons of choice for many of the front-line generations, it’s a great relief to see the formidable team of Maz and Sidey once more allying to revive the dormant beast of rock in its purest form. I for one am not planning any yoga or pilates anywhere before, say, at least 10am the following day.