Photo: Carbie Warbie Photography (www.carbiewarbie.com)
(Note: Since this article was initially published online on Thursday, Brian Henry Hooper passed away on the morning of Friday, April 20, 2018. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends).
Last Saturday morning rock-musically-inclined Facebook feeds lit up with exultations and dramatic pictures of the Brian Hooper benefit at Melbourne’s Prince Bandroom the night before.
Hooper’s diagnosis of incurable lung cancer brought a legion of legendary Australian musicians to the stage, not to mention plenty of friends and fans.
“The atmosphere was upbeat, expectant, not eerie, but there was an urgency about it, happy-sad and a feeling that anything could happen,” says co-organiser, Michelle Nicol. “And then Brian appeared on stage, with six nurses, and there was a hush and a roar that arose as the room realised that he really was doing this, and so was Spencer P. Jones.”
“The tribe had returned home to support one of their heroes,” echoes promoter, Neil Wedd. “There was a bit of trepidation whether Brian and Spencer would perform. The excitement mounted with SixFtHick blowing the night open. I got to announce the band onstage and couldn’t get through the thank-you’s as Brian came onstage with six nurses, each holding a can of Melbourne Bitter.”
“And history was made,” adds Nicol, “in that moment alone.”
The Beasts Of Bourbon had not played since several line-ups performed across a few nights in Melbourne and Sydney for their 30th anniversary back in 2013. At this point the likelihood of them playing again seemed implausible at best, but the times called for it.
“The huge cheer that went through the room sent shivers down my back,” describes Wedd. “They started with Chase the Dragon and the Beasts cranked it up, starting to come together, and then they hit it. Watching Tex (Perkins) massage Spencer’s shoulders and hug Brian, made you realise that you won’t see this line-up again.
“Seeing Tex with tears in his eyes... when Brian announced, ‘my ship is sinking’ you could feel the whole audience cry.”
“Brian played on and on,” recalls Nicol, “the crowd, the band, the room rose with him and that roar of greeting became a roar of love. The Beasts were fierce and strong and utterly vulnerable. It was very emotional and uplifting and terrifying and beautiful.”
Many performances across the night were delivered by Hooper’s friends, all emotional and knowing and in (the weight) of the moment.
“The passion with which Mick Harvey, Hugo Race and JP Shilo played Brian’s songs,” Wedd muses, “along with Adalita and Gareth Liddiard performing. Gareth was telling me about driving for the Beasts in Perth, when they were a bit under the weather.”
Following the Beasts’ emotional set, Kim Salmon & The New Scientists closed the proceedings with gusto summoned to suit the moment.
“Kim showed why he is respected as the godfather of grunge,” Wedd declares. “He took us on a journey through his career, speaking of the songs and their relationship to Brian. Swampland, Frantic Romantic, Solid Gold Hell, Happy Hour and more. Just brilliant, one that electrified the audience.”
“It was blistering,” says Nicol of Salmon’s set, “an act of primal love and friendship and funny and tender memories. They smashed it out of the park when it seemed impossible. When the Beasts’ set was done and there was not a dry eye in the house, you couldn’t help thinking of that Jerry Lee Lewis quote, and somehow, every artist managed to follow it up. It was godly or ungodly or something from beyond - as though everyone on stage was somehow imbued with special powers.”
Wedd – “The next day I kept getting shivers down my back from just describing the night. It’s the greatest show I’ve helped organise. The audience got to show Brian how much they loved him. Too many of us don’t get the feedback on how much they mean to us till they leave us, but Brian got that back.”
Nicol and Wedd are both long-time friends of Hooper. “I’ve known Brian since he was about 17,” Wedd says. “Always a scallywag with a smile. A man with style. Always easy to deal with and social. Always helping others.”
“Brian as a friend?” adds Nicol… “incomparable.”
This Friday is the Perth music community’s moment to honour and help one of its own. If Hooper’s music or mateship have touched you and you’re unsure about going, here’s some encouragement.
“Get up, go out, get off the phone and feel the sweat and blood and tears of live music,” exclaims Nicol. “There is no excuse not to have a real good time, and no better reason.”
“Get the tribe together,” adds Wedd. “I know that it is a sad occasion, but it’s a celebration of his life. Celebrate your life and his together. Catch up with old friends and remember the great times. It’ll be an affirmation of your life and Brian’s.”
I GET UP AGAIN: a benefit for BRIAN HOOPER features KIm Salmon & Friends, The Kill Devils Hills, Gareth Liddiard, The BIble Bashers, King Pig, The Teenage Dreamers (Salmon and Baker), The Floors, The Beautiful Losers, The Painkillers, The Polite Society and more. Full details via