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You Just Can't Beat Good Music and Good Wine With Good Friends

15 October 2015 | 2:36 pm | Steve Bell

"It's a whole lot of people we like - besides all the music we actually like them as people so it's going to be really fun."

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Over the last 15 or so years the A Day On The Green franchise has become a beloved part of the Australian music scene, putting on great multi-band line-ups in picturesque outdoor winery settings and allowing discerning punters to enjoy top-notch live music whilst indulging in fine wine amidst the festive picnic atmosphere. It's a recipe for good times and smashing hangovers (in roughly that order).

They have, however, just outdone themselves with the most recently announced bill which features Hoodoo Gurus, Violent Femmes, Sunnyboys, Died Pretty and Ratcat - it's a line-up of such unparalleled strength and depth that any self-respecting rock'n'roll fan would trek through a swamp to watch it in a tip whilst eating cold gravel washed down with kerosene. But for now they'll have to put up with lolling on green hills imbibing fine wine.

"They stepped into the breach and said, 'We'll play!' and they played their own set - it became a Violent Femmes album launch!"

"It's pretty crazy," marvels Hoodoo Gurus frontman Dave Faulkner. "Our fingerprints aren't on [the line-up] at all, although obviously we're very excited by everyone they suggested, and it just kept getting better and better. Firstly it was just going to be us and Violent Femmes and Sunnyboys, and then Died Pretty came on the bill which was wonderful and then Ratcat as well - it's great! Plus it's a whole lot of people we like - besides all the music we actually like them as people so it's going to be really fun. Ron [Peno - Died Pretty frontman] is one of my best friends, and we have a bit of history with Sunnyboys and Violent Femmes."

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A storied history indeed, reaching back over 30 years to when the Femmes filled in for the Gurus at the 1984 launch for their debut album, Stoneage Romeos.

"They were signed to Slash Records and Big Time Records was our label at the time - they had the Slash catalogue for Australia, bands like The Germs, X, The Gun Club and Rank & File," Faulkner recalls. "They were a really cool label and of course the Violent Femmes' first album was enormous - everyone loved it - but it hadn't really hit big yet in Australia at the time. [Single] Blister In The Sun was bubbling away but it wasn't a hit, although it was all over alternative radio and seemed to become a sleeper over the years. But the record was fantastic and they were out here touring, and at the same time we were supposed to be doing our album launch and I got the bloody flu and couldn't play. They were in town and coming anyway, so they stepped into the breach and said, 'We'll play!' and they played their own set - it became a Violent Femmes album launch instead of our own! It was at a place called Stranded which was at The Strand Arcade in Sydney - another vanished venue of course."

Naturally Sunnyboys were Sydney contemporaries of the Gurus in the '80s, and their paths would cross quite often.

"I thought that first EP was a knockout, and I still think it's one of the best things they recorded," Faulkner gushes. "It had Love To Rule on it which is a really great song, and The Seeker which is one of my favourite Sunnyboys songs. That EP is something that I remember playing endlessly on the jukebox at French's Wine Bar on Oxford Street in Sydney - it was a venue as well with lots of bands playing, but you couldn't buy beer there which annoyed me.

"The Sunnyboys were ahead of us - they were breaking through and people already loved them when we were just starting - and they'd lend us a hand, they put on us on quite a few shows as a support act because they liked us and that was quite helpful at the time."

Of course the Gurus recently got to repay that favour, facilitating the original Sunnyboys' first shows in decades at the inaugural Dig It Up! bash at Sydney's Enmore Theatre in 2012.

"Obviously we were thrilled by that, although it seemed like [their comeback] was underway already," Faulkner smiles. "Jeremy [Oxley - Sunnyboys frontman] was starting to come out of his shell more by the sound of things - that documentary The Sunnyboy shows his progress - so we were at the end of that line in a sense, although it was a crucial step for him obviously. He was quite nervous about doing the show, but at the same time he wanted to be a part of it - he loved the idea, so that was a really cool thing. We really feel proud, and I guess in a way we repaid our debt!"