Julien ‘Jules’ Rozenbergs, guitarist with Melbourne ska-punk outfit The Bennies, is recovering from a near-death experience after he was stabbed by a fan at a Byron Bay show earlier this month.
Stepping in to restrain an allegedly intoxicated punter wielding a bottle of whisky, Rozenbergs had the bottle broken over his head and the bottle stabbed into his armpit. The bottle missed an artery by five millimetres and surgeons were astounded that the gash left both arteries and nerve exposed. If the bottle had cut the artery, doctors admitted he probably wouldn’t have survived the attack.
Today – after getting 70 stitches redressed in Melbourne – Rozenergs told theMusic.com.au, "The main thing I’ll take away from this is I could be dead, dude. I’m not angry at the guy, I don’t hold onto that shit… I’m just bummed I can’t play the rest of the tour.”
Touring with The Smith Street Band, the incident took place Wednesday 13 February at Byron Bay venue during the headliner’s set. Rozenbergs said there was a punter with a bottle of whisky who “was knocking people over”, particularly younger teenagers given it was an all ages show.
The punter became agitated when told to calm down by others, including The Smith Street Band frontman Wil Wagner, and it became clear that he was, in Rozenbergs’ words, “becoming a bit of a liability.” After going outside Rozenbergs says he attempted to calm the situation, given that there were younger people and bandmates in the vicinity, which then turned the disgruntled punter’s attention towards him.
“He was trying to break the bottle on a bin and I thought ‘if this bottle breaks, this is next level, it’s on’,” the guitarist said today.
In the resulting scuffle the bottle was broken over Rozenbergs’ head and stabbed into his armpit. After the man was restrained the guitarist’s first concern was for his head and it was only when examining himself in a mirror that the full extent of the stabbing wound was apparent.
He said the 20cm by 10cm gash “looked like a roast beef roll that’s been opened up.” His head had been split by a two-inch gash.
Rushed to Byron Bay hospital he was assessed and transferred to Tweed Heads where the appropriate trauma facilities were available. After surgery and 72 hours in the hospital, members of the touring bands and crew pitched in to fly him back to Melbourne. Because muscles were punctured in the incident he is now in the first weeks of an expected six to eight weeks of recovery and rehabilitation.
Police have arrested a man and legal proceedings are ongoing.
There has been a huge outpouring of support since the incident and Rozenbergs was full of praise from the community around him. “The flights are one thing,” he said, “but the support from it – the community is fucking incredible.”
The Bennies announced on Tuesday that the band will be continuing the tour with Lee Hartney filling in on guitar.
Having now come to terms with the incident, Rozenbergs admitted there was a moment on the way to the hospital that he thoughr, “For better or worse, this is going to affect me. I can’t just sweep this under the carpet.” He said that it will likely have repercussions in the future. “I don’t want it to, I don’t want to be wary around crowds… [but] I think it will heighten certain aspects.”
Despite the ordeal the guitarist expects to be playing guitar and touring again and says the altercation was an “anomaly”.
“I was at the SLAM Rally in Melbourne, I’m a firm believer that there isn’t violence at gigs…I just found myself at the wrong place at the wrong time.”