Billy Bob and the BBQ Boys have been hosting their infamous jam sessions down at the Grace Emily hotel down on Waymouth Steet for near on a decade now, with some of the city's best talent get their start at them. For this year's Adelaide + International Guitar Festival, Billy Bob and his crew are going to be hosting an All Star Jam up at the Festival Centre, where along with the usual crew, some special festival guests will be dropping in for a play. Rankine chats with me about the show and where he thinks the local scene is heading at the moment.
Thanks for the chat today; you’re going to be part of the International Guitar Festival this year, with the All-Star Jam. It sounds like it’s going to be a massive show – can you tell me a bit about how it’s going to go down and the guests involved?
Yeah for sure; the house band that we are, The BBQ Boys, we do a regular Monday night jam session at the Grace Emily Hotel, so that’s the core of the band. We’ve got Steve Salvi on guitar, Ben Morris on bass, Jamie Jones on drums, Steve Wilderbeast on harmonica and the original guitar player for The BBQ Boys, Jeff Cardwell from Melbourne. We’ll kick the night off and then we’re looking at getting a couple of guys who are playing at the actual festival to sit in as the night goes along. We’ve got Lucky Oceans on the pedal steel guitar and his guitar player Dave Brewer, then we’ve got Ray Beadle from Sydney, who’s probably the hottest guitarist getting around.
It all sounds really exciting and seeing that it’s at the Space Theatre, it’d be miles away from what you’d be used to at the Grace in terms of venue. I would imagine that there’s still going to be the chilled out feel from the original jam sessions that’ll come through though.
Yeah, that was the plan. I was there this morning, having a chat with the production crew; we wanted to keep it still relaxed. It’s still a jam session, so we wanted to keep it loose and have some fun. Because we’re in a theatre, we may as well make the most of the lights and stuff!
It’s a decent sized stage in there as well; I was only there a short while back seeing Tex Perkins and the Dark Horses and the amount of instruments they were able to fit on that stage was amazing.
Oh cool! How was that show?
Yeah it was really good; a bit odd because it was totally seated, but otherwise, really cool.
Oh right, we were talking about whipping out a couple of rows of tables so if people want to get down and have a boogie, they can. At some stage, we’re going to have at least six guitarists onstage; Lucky on pedal steel and hopefully we’ll have the Hammond organ fired up! Maybe some percussion and maybe some horn players…It’s going to be hard to squeeze it all in, that’s the difficult part we’re dealing with now, but we’re also going to have some guest vocalists as well!
Cool! The BBQ Jam sessions at the Grace Emily are well-known and indeed, well-respected, in the Adelaide scene. Considering they’ve been held for the last ten years or so, have you noticed a sway in popularity for this type of performance night in Adelaide over time?
You mean like open mic style nights?
Well, I don’t really get to see many others, but there’s a few popping up around the place. We’re lucky – the Grace Emily is a great little venue for it. We supply the backline, so you can just roll up with your guitar and have a go, you don’t have to worry about setting anything up; it’s a good spot to be able to do it.
The sessions have spawned some of Adelaide’s best live talent – when you think about it, avenues for up-and-coming bands such as the jams at the Grace are becoming harder to come by. What would you put this down to?
Well I suppose…this started off as a blues jam, and this was going back to about 1999 or 2000, it’s a bit hazy! It was run by a guy named John Hodgson and his band used to play down there for an hour on a Monday night and all the blues cats would hang out down there. We were the young dudes on the scene and we would just hang out, have a few beers and get up there every now and then. We took over from them a year or so later and yeah, the Grace has always had a good attitude about it.
They’ve always had a positive attitude towards musicians and live music down here, established or not.
Yeah that’s it! We’ve carried that on, I suppose; we explore different types of music too, instead of just blues or you know… Everything goes, everything’s cool! As long as you’re not a douche! [Laughs]
The Grace itself is a long-standing Adelaide pub and music venue; with the Jade Monkey shutting in particular, was there ever any thought or worry that the eradication of the town’s smaller pubs and venues would hit the Grace at any point?
I think there’s been, going back a couple of years, there was work on the soundproofing of the back room there because there are apartments out the back somewhere. There’s always talk about stuff down the track, but we’ve got to hang on to these kinds of places because we can’t afford to lose anymore. You need those places for young bands to get in and have a go; you can practice all you like at home, but until you start playing gigs, that’s when you learn how to play.
I think it’d be fair to say that you’re somewhat of a well-known name around music circles here in Adelaide – would you say that it’s harder these days for local bands to get good momentum going in terms of booking tours and pushing their name?
Yeah I reckon it is a lot harder. When I first started seeing bands back in the early 90s, you could go to three or four gigs on Rundle Street in one night. All sorts of different stuff in one hit; that’s all we used to do, we’d go out for live music. These days, it’s kind of a rare thing.
It is. It also seems like it’s harder for our bands to be landing support slots as well these days.
Yeah, for sure.
Hopefully this cycle will change soon! This International Guitar Festival though, like you say, does well in showcasing the international and interstate talent we’ve got coming through.
Yeah! I’m looking forward to seeing Hugh Stuckey, I think he’s based in Melbourne now, but he does some pretty crazy things! I want to try and mix it up, get some of the younger guys in as well and then some of my favourite players around town. It’s going to be tough to squeeze it all in!
I guess that’s all part of the fun though!
Yeah, there’s only so much you can plan and that’s the fun bit, just seeing how it falls apart and how you can whack it all together somehow!
We’re looking forward to it! Thanks for the chat today, we’ll catch you soon!
Billy Bob's All Star Jam will be taking place at the Space Theatre on August 12. For more information, visit www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au.