hoody dave manlyGraham Hood and Dave Thomas from The Crisps. 

The Crisps
+ Sonic Garage
+ 4 Barrel Hemi
The Old Manly Boatshed, Manly NSW
Sunday, 9 April 2023

The Old Manly Boatshed could be the oldest running live music venue in Sydney, now operating for almost 40 years. it’s an institution in Manly. It is a ghost of the Old Manly when the streets were haunted by Henry Lawson’s ghost that walked that back streets and drank the night away. 

Lawson captured the yarns and characters of a seaside suburb that does not exist anymore - of “kindred souls and outsiders we knew”.

When The Boastshed started, Manly was Rock ‘n’ Roll Central outside the inner city of Sydney. The legendary Flicks, The Manly Hotel and the Rugby Club were just up the road. Rock ‘n’ roll ruled most nights of the week. The Corso was packed with outsiders - surfers, bikers writers and Boehmians. Midnight Oil had an office here. Wallabies hopped around  backyards and there were entire housesholds of musicians.  

Manlyharbourside1880sManly of the 1880s.

By the 1980s, much of  Manly was a rundown (but affordable) suburb full of peeling paint weatherboard houses. Things were changing. Booze was being replaced by smack in halfway houses. The old amusement centre with pinballs and Space Invaders machines was sitting on an old wharf that was seemingly ready to fall into the harbour.  

Manly is now a well-to-do seaside strip that’s been well and truly gentrified. The artists and musicians have moved on. Most of the music industry has moved on, too, and most live venues are long knocked down and replaced by million dollar apartments for CEOs and executives of overseas companies.

manly boatshed
Original, loud rock ‘n’ roll is becoming a rare event on the Manly Corso. As I walked downstairs into the packed Boatshed venue at 7pm, I pass boat oars, old posters and posters. Local party band 4 Barrel Hemi is playing a high-powered “Goo Goo Muck” by The Cramps. The place is becoming a sweatbox. It's a shame I missed most of the set by these blokes. They are a popular local act that seems to be playing around regularly.

There’s just time to line up at the bar and have a couple of beers before Sonic Garage crams onto the Boatshed’s tiny stage.  They open with “New Horizon”, a rocking guitar-layered, post Birdman song. The guitars are blazing in a set laced with melody.

“Psycho Lover, a killer track from the debut album, follows and the Boatshed is completely full as the crowd spills onto the stage.

The most stunning part of the Sonic Garage is that all members play equal parts. With vocals shared between Peter Bourke and Phil Van Rooyen, as well as song writing duties, this is democracy in action. 

“Dark Country” is powerful song that has just been recorded for the upcoming new album. It’s probably the band’s most intense song to date with Russel Parkinson’s swirling organ complementing the twin guitars. It harks back to history unfolding at a time whgen secret stories and song lines were written, and the earth and rivers ran red with the blood of massacres, It’s a brave band that addresses these issues in a pub environment, but Manly Cove is a couple of blocks away and it's where Governor Phillip was speared by Pemulwuy. It’s a reminder that Manly has a much longer history prior to Henry Lawson 

crisps poster

Ronny Walsh has a Charlie Watts swagger on drums and with Pete Trifunovic on bass (and sometimes guitar), Sonic Garage boasts a solid rhythm section that’s shown to good effect on  new track, “Red Dress”. The song has its origins in legendary Northern Beaches band The Panadolls: The delivery is “Black and Blue”-era Stones and Ronny and Pete's rhythm work is highlighted by Russell’s ‘60s organ lines.

“Asteroid” would have been a bona fide independent hit if it had been released in the 1980s.  It's a powerful and gritty song, full of the emotions of brotherhood. Its lyrics touch on surfing and addiction and stand with the best by any local  band in the past decade. Sonic Garage is the best street level rock band floating around the Northern beaches.

Gigs by The Crisps gigs are rarer then hen’s teeth, or a Clive Palmer T shirt at a Greens rally.  They have released a blistering, six-track mini album that shakes the foundations of melody, with blistering guitars and the best drum sound I have heard make it to tape in years These tracks were recoded around 20 years ago and have been put out by Mark Fraser via the home of pub and garage rock, Vil Nil Records. The EP is full of garage rock gems and brilliant, melodic arrangements.The band has reformed briefly for a tour to mark the record’s release. 

They take the stage and show they have the songs. “Dragged Down” is a rip roaring, fast-paced rocker with drummer Stu Wilson showing incredible talent in singing it without missing a beat with his frantic and perfectly timed drumming.  

It is a rare beast of a drummer who can pull off lead vocals at the same time - and we’re not talking about Karen Carpenter.  I always admired Keish from Hard-Ons and the drummer from Coffin. This song is  classic garage rock with a rawness that sets The Crisps apart. Stu locking in with the bass of Graham Hood it makes for a powerful rhythm section.

dave thomas manlyDave Thomas.

“Evil Twins” is another rip roaring classic with blistering drumming by Wilson. It’s here that the guitars of Dave Thomas and Chris Nacard stand out.  Chris plays a Telecaster and has a tone that is more mellow. He owes a bit to Keef Richards without being as bluesy. Most of the time he plays the straight man to Thomas’s guitar theatrics, Dave is the showman and knows every guitar hero pose in the book. That said, he pulled the best guitar sound with his Gretsch through an overdriven Vox. He plays with clarity and bite, and his leads are, at times, wild and masterful  

Props to the sound man at The Boatshed that night – he pulled the best sound I’ve heard there.

Hoody  steps up to the mic and remarks: “I have played in almost every pub  in this country and have had beers in most of them.  I have never played the Boatshed and this place pretty cool.“ He then rips into the Johnnys’ classic “InJun’ Joe”, taking lead vocals.  This is the speedy, garage rock version, with guns blazing in the form of guitars. What was lost in swamp swagger was made up for by a Damned-style attack. It certainly was a crowd pleaser.


hoody stu dave manlyHoody, vocalist-drummer Stuart Wilson and Dave. 

A frenetic Ramones-style version of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is a tribute to The Crisps’  garage rock roots.  The Crisps are great and delver tonight, and it’s quite possible this run of gigs is the last for a very long time. They were melodic, gritty, street level and the band is a tribute to the great record collections of the blokes on stage.

I walk outside into the crisp autumn air. From the Manly of 1980, I’m dragged back into 2023. Couples in designer are walking their designer dogs and buying over-priced gelatos, beautiful people going home to prepare for the working week in their ocean view apartments. Nights like these are becoming as extinct in Manly as the ghosts of Henry Lawson and Pemulwuy.