Drones, Silbersher Farewell The Tote In Style
At midday on The Tote’s final day, the ashes of Sean Greenway were sprinkled on the band room floor. Twelve teary, sweaty, feedback-drenched hours later, Greenway’s former bandmate Joel Silbersher lead The Drones through a rendition of ‘My Pal’, GOD’s 1988 underground hit and Melbourne’s adopted anthem.
“This is our last song, this is the last song – and it hurts to say it,” said Drones guitarist Dan Luscombe before launching into one of the greatest five-note riffs of all time.
It was a particularly fitting send off given it was Tote director Bruce Milne who first discovered the band as teenagers and later signed them to his venerable label Au Go-Go. Milne has run the venue for the past nine years, but has been forced to shut its doors given rising security costs and a hike in license fees imposed by Liquor Licensing Victoria.
“Six months ago if I knew the overwhelming strength of feeling out there – if I was smart enough – I would’ve gone public back then and we could’ve saved The Tote and still had the same effect from the general outcry,” he told punters from the main stage after a performance by Hoss, Silbersher’s “other” band. “Live music in this town might be a throbbing, vibrant, mangy beast, but it’s got good handlers – and the government can relax about that.”
The afternoon saw performances by 24 acts assembled within days by Tote booker Amanda Palmer. They included The Nation Blue, Digger & The Pussycats, The Onyas, The Meanies, Johnny Casino, The Breadmakers, Spencer P Jones and The Escape Committee, The Dacios and The Stabs. Eddy Current Suppression Ring made a surprise appearance at lunchtime, while Spiderbait (sans bassist Janet English) were drafted in at the 11th hour to replace The Cosmic Psychos, who had to pull out after bass player Ross Knight injured his shoulder.
Fittingly, it was Milne who called last drinks from the top of the bar at 12.45am, cueing “Tote” chants and emotional scenes from staff and patrons alike. People headbanged to metal songs on the jukebox and that was it. As Milne said at a protest on Sunday, “The era of The Tote has ended.”
Reviews, more photos to come.
(Photo by Robert Carbone)