Monday 20 August 2007

What does the death of Johno’s mean for Cairns?


HUNDREDS of music fans from 18 to 80 turned out at Cairns’ iconic Johno’s Blues Bar for its last hurrah on Sunday night, June 10, 2007.

Little did many in that wonderful crowd know about the truth behind this nail in the coffin of live music in Queensland’s premier tourist destination.

The smoking laws were largely blamed for the demise of Johno’s – but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Johno’s operated under a cabaret licence which apparently prevented the management from setting up a special smoking and drinking area like other venues around Cairns. The smoking laws are certainly biased in favour of places of gambling to ensure revenues to the State Government are shielded as much as possible from the adverse economic effects of the smoking laws.

However, the pincer movement that made it impossible for Johno’s to continue operating involved a joint assault by Cairns Police and the local Liquor Licensing Division.

It is important to understand the two police operations that were used to effect the closure.

Operation Amazon purportedly aims to crack down on violence in the Central Business District. Under this program, police and Liquor Licensing officers raid licensed venues and put pressure on management and staff. Somehow concentrating on operators instead of offenders prevents street brawls.

The Homelands Program sounds like an honourable operation. This program supposedly helps itinerant Aboriginal and Island people to return to their home communities on the Cape. In the great tradition of police giving themselves awards, this program too wins obscure awards for its proponents.

Unfortunately, the Homelands Program has a more sinister purpose. Cairns police use it as an ethnic cleansing program to rid the Cairns CBD of all black people whether they live in Bungalow or Bamaga. Why?

In an article by Karmen Turner in the Police Bulletin she openly states that the program is “improving the perception (my italics) of safety in Cairns and protecting the area’s $2 billion tourism industry”.

In other words, the presence of black people in the CBD is seen as a threat to public safety.

To quote Senior Sergeant Owen Kennedy of Cairns Police from his interview with ABC on June 22, 2006: “We receive positive feedback from people who haven’t visited Cairns for a number of years – they make comment, they say what’s going on, the change in the city is just incredible.”

What’s changed? There are fewer Aboriginals and Islanders in the CBD. Operation Amazon and the Homelands Program have achieved their apartheidist aims. Cairns residents – n ot just itinerants and the homeless – were targeted under this program. Foot patrol officers who strolled through Johno’s from time to time would check the place out for blacks and “have a word” with them.

The Police Bulletin article refers to serious health issues of those parkies they send to the communities. Are we that concerned about the “perception of safety” and the tourism industry that we don’t care about the safety and health of these people? Out of sight, out of mind? These itinerants surely need to be close to health and support facilities which are not available in remote communities.

A parkie died in Cairns about a month ago. Where were our Homelands heroes then?

The great failure of the Homelands program is that many of the people flown back “home” don’t actually have homes to go to…and so they come back.

No doubt some locals are glad there are fewer black people visible in the CBD, but few white people would appreciate this type of treatment. In fact, Zimbabwe is roundly condemned by democratic countries for its Homelands-type treatment of whites.

Tourists must be wondering why we have so many Aboriginal souvenirs in the shops, but few Aborigines.

Johno’s was a favourite haunt of people of all ages over 18 and from all parts of the world. Japanese people in particular have a great interest in our Aboriginal history and Johno’s was a good place to meet them. The dance floor was often a multicultural melting pot.

Local and visiting blacks enjoyed the reggae nights that used to be held every Thursday. However, brawls would break out from time to time on these nights and police had to deal with the melees. This, of course, was a black mark used against Johno’s when police took their complaints to their former policeman mate Chris Watters who heads up the Liquor Licensing Board in Brisbane.

(When a drink-driver picked up in Edmonton one night told police he had been drinking at Johno’s, this too was used as a black mark against Johno’s).

Johno’s management on several occasions requested police take a proactive role in parking outside the premises at closing time. Police refused saying their role was not to provide security. Which leaves one wondering what role they do play. A proactive police service supporting its community would be a welcome thing and would receive community support in return.

Of course, the real reason for the lack of support was because it did not suit the police agenda to ultimately close down Johno’s and remove blacks from the CBD. Blacks, of course, by their very presence are a threat to our safety and, in the skewed thinking of Cairns police, the cause of CBD violence.

Of course, this is not the only occasion where Cairns police have demonstrated contempt for the public.

Remember the Poison Mushroom concert on The Esplanade at the public concert on April 14.

Police turned out in force to frisk, strip-search and generally harass as many as they could of the 1000-strong crowd for drugs. Police followed people into public toilets and shamefully strip-searched people in public. A car of youths was pulled over, the kids searched and the car pulled apart. Not a single drug or anything untoward was found. Without an apology for their bungle, the police left them with a mess of a car.

At the end of the day 1000 people in attendance only eight people were found with drugs of some fort and they were charged.

People defend their actions by saying they had received very good information. Well, obviously the information was wrong. In fact, if there were going to be drugs at the concert, a massive highly visible police operation was the last way to run a bust. A covert operation would have been more effective.

Police claim they acted competently and professionally. Maybe they were. Maybe the only thing they were trying to achieve was to discourage live music events in Cairns. It would certainly fit the pattern of police behaviour under Operation Amazon and the Homelands Program.

Whatever the overt or covert aim it was one of the most embarrassing and shameful operations ever conducted by Cairns police. Police are refusing to reveal the findings of an investigation into the monumental stuff-up by the officers on the day. What are they trying to hide? What are they trying to keep from the public who they are paid to serve?

Last year Cairns police publicly tried to prevent a family from having a large gathering on their own property, a Smithfield cane farm. Of course, the event went without a hitch. But the police attitude was noted. They don’t want social events in Cairns. One wonders why they are so unsupportive of their community. They should back social events and provide support as requested or as required. After all, they are paid well enough.

Now that Cairns police has cleaned out the blackfellas, it is interesting to note the rise in whitefella violence in the CBD as reported in the Cairns Post last May. April figures show many acts of violence taking place at venues not known for black patronage. Even Shenanigans and Gilligans, two venues where police enjoy socialising, have violent episodes at or near their premises.

It seems such a shame that Johno’s as a well-run zero-tolerance night spot has closed while Cairns police turn a blind eye to the more dangerous venues, including places where drugs are readily available.

One of the great tragedies of the Cairns police agenda is that it could make the CBD safer by cooperating with night club operators rather than against them.

Johno’s, for example, has been for years well known for bringing name artists to Cairns. It was renowned as well for giving young local bands a start, including black bands. One band, Zenith, has found a degree of fame with airplay on JJJ. Surely, it is a good thing to support young people in such ventures.

There needs to be an urgent independent review of both the Homelands Program and Operation Amazon and its impact on the social and cultural life for which Cairns is famous. As noble as their aims might sound, these programs are being used for more sinister purposes.

And at the same these programs are strangling live music entertainment and discouraging social events in Cairns.




Anonymous said...

I am now one cranky bugger having read this story.
some quite incisive letters to the relevant ministers and opposition are in preparation.

1 - to the premier. peter beattie

2 deputy premier
Hon Anna Bligh MP
Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Infrastructure

3 - Hon Rod Welford MP
Minister for Education, Training and the Arts

4-Hon Judy Spence MP
Minister for Police and Corrective Services

5 Shadow Arts
Stuart Copeland MP

6. Jeff Seeney MP
Leader of the Queensland Coalition
Leader of the Opposition & Nationals
Shadow Minister for Trade

Anonymous said...

always always felt safe in johnos, nice patrons, great security, patrons monitored, but will never again go to that horrible vertigo bar where security staff are seldom if ever rarely, where they never monitor who goes into that bar, and how drunk; have been abused and harrassed by objectionable nasty vicious drunks, have watched them being served until they are incapable of speech and legless, and in 4 years have never seen police there. but of course, that is the money making edifice where the rules that apply to every other place of entertainment do not apply.
and of course in today's Cairns Post, the story on the bikie blitz where drug dogs were used in searches of coffin cheaters - oh yes, how brave, how applaudable, and don't think people don't remember how vulnerable young kids at a concert were strip searched in public - not brave enough to do that to the coffin cheaters, but of course, the article says they had full body frisks, but it's okay to strip search young kids. I'm a bit worried about the calibre of those police doing strip seaches on young kids, quite frankly, it makes me wonder.

Anonymous said...

Losing Johnno's is a mortal blow to the live music industry; yes, the man and his venue is iconic, the Licensing Branch is iconoclastic.
What other venues are there?
I've found "12 Bar" in Shields St... it's a good little hole in the wall venue... great muso's playing great jazz; the Sapphire Bar gets some good local acts... it's a bit of a rabbit warren, tho.(..or is warren a bit of a rabbit?)
Vertigo has got some good musos playing, but the bar is dodgy, with a lotta ho's and drunks hanging out there. Brothers sometimes has music to gamble by... Ellis Beach has quietened down... used to be good Sunday sessions there... heading North... PK's at Cape Trib knocks out some good music... where else?.. it's a sad state of affairs... mb the cops need to set up an"ideal venue"
we could dance around sniffer dogs,
have dedicated strip search booths in the dunnies, get into a groove with the "Boys in Blues", drink watered down drinks, so no1'd get pissed...get a lift home in the courtesy paddy wagon... here's to Johnno & Rick's's next incarnation

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is the death of yet another Cairns icon, something that was uniquely CAIRNS and all ours.
We've lost so much...the Barbary COast, the Big "O" with all its history, the old colonial style commercial buildings, the suburbs of high set weatherboard Queenslanders.....

Anonymous said...

did someone forget to mention drug busts inside of johnnos,oh yeah the band played the same songs in the same order for 10 years also,i found the place quite boring and empty for the last year or so that it was open

Anonymous said...

Johno can still be found wandering the streets like the washed-up itinerant he is. Playing the same, tired, lifeless songs just to get someone to throw a couple bucks in his hat.

I usually offer to spring for a fiver if he'll STFU and get lost.

Anonymous said...

And what are your musical credentials Confa? You probably wouldn't know live music if it bit you on the arse. Those guys did shitloads to promote a live music scene in this town for decades. Never heard of a muso called Confa.

Unknown said...

Leave Johno alone, Confa ! He is a legend and much loved by many.

The same tired songs ? He plays Blues classics and he plays them well.

Maybe you are brain damaged from listening to too much techno-crap and you can't recognize real music.

Go pick on someone else...

Factfinder said...

Fact: there has never been a drug bust inside Johno's.

Fact: Johno's Blues Band was only a small part of the weekly entertainment.

Fact: Johno's employed literally thousands of bands from Cairns, Australia and overseas. During any given week, Johno's employed 30 musicians at least.

Fact: Johno is an artist pur sang, known all over the world. Confa, you are either ignorant or jealous.

Fact: The Blues Festival's main acts are all former Johno's reglars.

Fact: Without the bar in town, live music has crumbled to almost nothing.

Fact: the smoking ban made sure many regulars had to find a gambling place instead to continue drinking and smoking in comfort.

Confa - constable who?

Hope you leave the blues festival alone this weekend and learn to do some real fact finding for once instead of making up rubbish (I know it is hard).

CBD Warrior said...

Johno was, and is a pathetic loser. I love how wankers are always trying to rewrite history. He's a mediocre musician at best, and most of the "30 musicians a week" he employed were paid next to nothing while Johno reaped all the profit. A good musician would learn to play more than 1/4/5 chords his whole career. The blues is the lowest of musical forms (oh wait, I forgot hip-hop).

However he was also a piss-poor businessman, getting evicted from one location (above Maccas) before settling in the last location.

And if smoking is what killed Johno's, it deserved to die an ignominious death.

Johno now is a smelly, homeless vagabond. He scares the tourists who give him a wide berth, and should be on some kind of anti-psychotic medication.

Hey, let's remember Johnos!

Unknown said...

It would seem that you are the one who needs some medication. Man, you sound seriously stressed.

And there are so many better venues now that places like Johno's and the CYC have disappeared, aren't there ?

Nobody's trying to re-write history. People just have different recollections. Yours are obviously not too happy, you sound very bitter...

Factfinder said...

Only a cop would make up such a bunch of lies. Coppers try to rewrite history all the time, it must be part the job description. All of the facts I state can be proven and verified, unlike yours.

Fact: Johno's did not get evicted from the Esplanade, but made a conscious move to a more accessible place.

Fact: Johno was and never will be a business man. Anyone who knows what they are talking about know that Johno had nothing to do with the business side of Johno's Blues Bar. He was purely a singer.

Fact: He was, and still is, regarded as one of the best singers in this town. The guitar is an accompanying instrument to him.

Fact: Johno owns his own home, car, and thousands of dollars of musical equipment.

Fact: Musicians earned more money then, from Johno's, than they do now: many cannot live from playing music in this town anymore because of people like you.

Fact: Unlike you, Johno never tells lies.

Factfinder said...


Fact: anyone who knows Johno knows that he has a shower-fetish. He showers 3, 4 times a day, goes for a swim in the Lagoon daily and Isocol is his best friend.

Your comments prove to everyone that you don't have a clue, or that you are a vicious person with an agenda.

The Headless Horseman said...

Johno's Blues Bar was a Cairns icon and it still is with people around the world still sharing their memories about Johno's.

Operation Amazon, which Cairns police used to shut down Johno's, became such an embarrasment they had to change the name. Shutting down Johno's and Tropo's has done nothing to stem the growing drink-related rate of crime and violence in the Cairns CBD.

The incompentently-run Operation Amazon kicked out Aborigines and Islanders from the CBD (under the Ethnic Cleansing Program dubiously known as the Homelands Program) and today it's the whitefellas who are committing all the drunken violence.

Johno's and Tropo's were run by conservative operators who valued their customers and had a strict Responsible Service of Alcohol regime. But they could not operate under the victmisation program of Operation Amazon.

What Operation Amazon did to Cairns was destroy an authentic Cairns icon and take away the only place in town that nurtured and paid young and up-and-coming bands. By encouraging young people in their live music endeavours, Johno's Blues Bar actually helped people get a chance and to realise their dreams. Operation Amazon has done this city a grave disservice.

You are a jerk, Confer. Like Factfinder, I assume "Confer" is short for "Constable" someone.

Well, the only way you police can effectively tackle drink-related violence and crime is to deal with offending individuals rather than close down respectable venues that can actually help you.

But, of course, this sounds like too good an idea. Probably means too much paperwork or interferes with your game of 500 in the staffroom.

By the way, Johno himself continues to be a drawcard. His Esplanade appearances are deeply appreciated by the many amused vistors who enjoy his flair and showmanship.

He is a national treasure - and before anyone slings off at Johno, I remind you he has a remarkable track record in the music industry.

Johno's Blues Bar forever. Johno forever. Always in my heart.

Don't Rewrite History, Pal said...

I know little about Johno, but calling Reno Nicastro "responsible" is like calling George Bush "articulate". Reno's Tropos was a thug-run location and was closed for its wellknown reputation as a drug hotspot, irrespective of "responsible alcohol" management.

Reno spent most of his time pretending to be a musician, and when that didn't work used his ill-gotten gains to plug two mediocre singers (usually lip-syncers) as "stars". He wasn't even smart enough to name them something that wouldn't be confused with a real talent, Shakira. Just another small-town self-promoter, nothing more.

Johno provided a venue for young musicians, who like musicians everywhere were exploited, paid a pittance, while the bar owner made a haul. Understandable if it's a bar owner, but less nice when it's another musician.

Factfinder said...

"Don't rewrite history, Pal", who's rewriting history here? You're not another cop are you?

Or are you a disgruntled musician that didn't get a gig because you sucked?

Not only do you know little about Johno, you know little about everything else you are talking about in your blog.

Reno did not operate Tropo's when it closed. He had flogged it to a business man from WA the year before.

Reno still operates a nightclub and stage show in the Casino, and other businesses, including a tour booking web site. Whatever you think of him, Reno has a crack at things, is an entrepreneur, something I am sure you cannot say of yourself.

Tropo's' closure had nothing to do with drugs. From day one that this WA business man took over he was harassed daily by authorities, one of the reasons being that he did not have a racial door policy, if you know what I mean. The harassment got so bad that he was threatened with loss of his licence. This 'sword of Damocles' situation entitled the landlord to terminate the lease, which is what happened.

The business man fought the authorities in court where it was found that he should have never been in the predicament he was in. His name was cleared (yet, this was never published in the CP). But, in the mean time, he had lost his club and all the money he paid Reno.

The Johno's Blues Bar owner did not make a haul. He worked himself every day and every night for next to nothing to keep the club open (yes for musicians and music lovers). I don't understand why it matters that the operator was a musician himself. If it wasn't for him, there wouldn't have been a live music venue that ran live music 7 nights for twenty years. Are you yealous? I am sure that if you had been in his shoes, you would not be.

Do you have any idea of the operating costs involved when running a 7 nights a week, all night live music venue? Do you have any idea of what the rent is on that corner? Do you have any idea what electricity costs when you are running stage equipment (amps, lighting etc) and aircon from open to close? Do you have any idea what staffing such a venue costs, especially security guards? Do you have any idea what marketing and advertising costs? All associated fees and licence costs?

Of course not.

Musicicans at Johno's were paid more per hour than the Average Joe gets paid per hour. Many musicians worked full time at Johno's. Many musicians and bands got their start at Johno's. Many musicians today have to work for four hours to get the same pay that musicians got for two sets at Johno's. Unlike at any other venue, the bands did not have to bring, or pay for the use of, any PA, lighting, amplifiers, or even a drumkit. And they were supplied with a sound engineer free of charge. Johno's did not fill their entertainment calendar with jam nights where no-one got paid.

No, Johno's offered a gig and a fee, and guess what? Musicians happily accepted that.

I don't call that exploitation, but maybe you use a different dictionary?

The Headless Horseman said...

I agree with Factfinder, "Don't Rewrite History, Pal" (if indeed that is real name) and "Confer" appear to be police officers whose incompetence over Operation Amazon has long been exposed.

The biggest blunder by Operation Amazon was, of course, their strip searches and harassment of patrons at the Infected Mushroom concert in 2007. Police chased people into toilets to strip search them. They even pulled apart someone's car. A family day completely ruined all because they acted on a spurious tip-off. And out of the 3000 people at the concert they found about eight people foolish enough to smuggle drugs into the concert.

Copper heads rolled, of course, and the police closed ranks so their incompetence would not be more widely known. It may even be the case they were so stung by the reaction, their raids on Johno's and Tropo's was an attempt to get brownie points. Of course, people are asking questions today: Why has drunken violence increased in the CBD? And, I ask, are they going to kick whitefellas out of the CBD next? Because that's who are committing the violence now. You don't have the blackfella to kick around any more.

Back to my ignorant friend, "Don't Rewrite History, Pal". You indeed rewrite history yourself to cast slurs on others without examining the incompetence of your own Operation Amazon police officers.

I don't even know who Reno is. He was long gone by the time the Tropo's operator I knew came along.

As Factfinder points the gentleman operator from WA did a fantastic job turning Tropo's around and he did this without evicting people because of skin colour. He did so by being a gentleman, employed professional and friendly staff and security (in the tradition of Johno's) and encouraged good fun and good behaviour.

The greatest shame of all is that Johno's and Tropo's were run by people who were keen to support local police. The lack of support in return is part of the incompetence and uselessness of Cairns police. And it partly explains the rise in the crime rate in Cairns.

Johno's asked (pleaded) with Operation Amazon for a police presence on certain nights. The response from our men in blue was "you get your own security". So much for a community-minded police service.

A town like Cairns deserves are police service that supports its community. (Instead we get white trash like the Cunnamula fella).

So "Don't Rewrite History, Pal", I say to you: "Don't Rewrite History, Pal."

Factfinder said...

Headless Horseman, you are touching on some sore points here.

Any nightclub that would ask for police assistance either will have to wait for hours (there are always other priorities) without being notified that it will take that long, or have the cops turn up to then turn against the nightclub, because naughty naughty, they served the punter who played up a drink. Whenever the nightclubs try to work with the police, it backfires and all information gets used against them.

Because of this 'catch-22 situation' violence has prospered.

Why? Because the real trouble maker, the person, walks away free, laughing at the venue.

Time after time, venues are blamed for the punters' behaviour. Can anyone take stock and really think about this? Do you blame Holden for supplying a car to the person who crashed into someone else's? It's the same as giving someone a drink who then decides to act like an idiot.

And did you know that if someone has consumed drugs and causes problems, they are not drug tested. If that person has a drink at a venue and then popped a pill (or the other way 'round) and spins out, the venue gets the blame: full stop. The matter is deemed alcohol-related. How do you think this skews the statistics?

And did you know that those arrests made in the town by the Brisbane police for example, will now be attributed to the various nightclubs (no the other alcohol serving venues), even though incidents happened outside? Say for example, if an incident occurred on Spence Street it could be attributed to Mad Cow (the others are now closed), even if that person had just walked around the corner from the Heritage. This blame game has solved nothing. Closing down venues achieved nothing either, except from, maybe, some ethnic cleansing. Oh and ruining our tourism industry that also relied on a prosperous nightlife.

Because of this, and much more, people (the real problem makers) have been getting away with anti-social behaviour for so long, that this is now the norm. The only way to reverse this, is for everybody to make a stance and work together. And for friends to speak up and tell their mates to pull their head in and behave.

People should be held accountable for their own behaviour.

They are in other countries, and this is perhaps why it's the locals causing the trouble in the town, not the tourists.

In any holiday destination in Europe, people party more, drink more, drink in the streets, on the beaches, and so forth - and they don't have the problems we do. Why? People don't accept anti-social behaviour. This is not necessarily a police matter, but more so a matter of a culture saying no to this kind of behaviour.

Tony Hillier said...

It is to be hoped that Plod doesn't spoil this Sunday's party at Fogerty Park. Cairns desperately needs quality music festivals, and make no mistake the inaugural Cairns Blues Festival will be just that (unlike the quasi DJ convention scandalously masquerading as the Cairns Music Festival at the same location late last year)

Besides providing a precious opportunity to see top-line interstate acts — something that Johno's Blues Bar managed to do for the best part of 20 years, until it was hounded out of town by the powers-that-be — events such as the Cairns Blues Festival create interest far and wide and generate much-needed income for the city. The committee running the Cairns Blues Festival is a wholly reputable group of people who have already donated countless hours organising the event. They deserve a runaway winner.

David Anthony said...

The Cairns Blues Festival should be a ripper event and for my money it will be worth it to see Johno on stage again.

Johno was one of the many fantastic acts who supported flood and fire appeals at the recent Firewater charity concert which raised some $12,000.

It was a well run event involving the good people from the Cairns Blues Festival. No fights, nothing, just good people of all ages enjoying the best of live music Cairns has to offer.

As the Member for Barron River, Steve Wettenhall, said on the day when it comes to support for appeals at a time of tragedy, musicians are the first to come forward to offer their support.

Johno was on fire at Firewater and seeing him again brought home a lot of memories of the wonderful Johno's Blues Bar. In fact, it was like being at Johno's again catching up with old Johno's mates.

I fully expect the Blues Festival to be a way to catch up again with old mates and listen to some fabulous music.

I'll see you there, Tony.

By the way, great to see The Headless Horseman ride again. Hi Yo, Silver.

Johno's Ex-wife said...

The Blues Festival lineup does look kinda mediocre. However they did one great thing with the schedule - put Johno on at dinner time so we can all go out for some grub and know we haven't missed anything important.

See ya there!

Blogster said...

Why bag the lineup at the blues festival? You get a whole day full of entertainment for what you'd normally pay to see a lame rock act at Brother's for.

Sure, when Johno's Blues Bar ran blues festivals during Fun in the Sun (remember those days?), there were at least two to three international headliners, and maybe compared to that the lineup isn't as exciting as it could have been, but this is these (local) people's first crack at running such an event, so all the best!

It's so easy for everyone to sit on the fence and criticise everything and everybody on this blog. People should be grateful that there are people out there who aren't lazy, take risks, and try to make someting happen in this town - as you can read above - it's not easy!

David Anthony said...

What a nasty vindictive person this so-called "Johno's ex-wife" is.
The Blues Festival will be a ripper and I'm looking forward to seeing the great Johno in action as well as Chain and the other great acts.
But the Blues is not just about big-name acts. Blues is about the people, the battlers, the workers, the rockers, the hoi polloi, the street saints, the ordinary people who make the world go round.
Blues is one of the most democratic music forms around. They are to be sung by everybody and enjoyed by everybody.
Yep, I will be there on Sunday to see Johno, but I want to check out the other acts as well and learn more about them.
Congratulations to the organisers. I know you have worked hard and I noticed the big effort youse guys put in at the Firewater event.
See you Sunday.

Dan vowles said...

A behalf of the organizing committee, thank you for your support and kind words. Yes it is unfortunate that we do not have any internation acts, but it is hard to raise that kind of money selling raffle tickets and cooking snags. Next year(with a bigger budget) we hope to have some internationals and have a 2 event. Don't miss the early acts as they are fantastic.
See you at the festival.
Dan Vowles

NotThe Chaser said...

Losing Johnnos Blues Club was a dagger in the heart of real entertainment in Cairns.
Not one politician from any persuasion supported Johnno and those who held the lease on the venue.
Johnnos (brilliant yet basic venue that it was) was crucified on the pyre of mediocrity.
We are now suffering the results of this, in that the soul of our city has expired, to be replaced by venues haunted by bleary-eyed backpackers, (bless'em), that spend their nights in our night clubs and spend their days recovering sleeping by the Lagoon, so they can pass on details of their adventures in our beautiful country, which would be the same if they had stayed home to party in their own country's nightclubs.
They are dickheads for doing this and wasting opportunities to see more of the area while they are here, but are not offered too many other opportunities.
As local residents, we are responsible for allowing this to happen, as we operate our dysfunctional tOuriSm inDustrY to only cater to this crap?
Try walking around the Cairns Central CBD of an evening and getting excited.
There is nothing there for the majority of our guests (tourists). Actually, for any one older than 18, this "walk on the wild side", is quite intimidating.

The Headless Horseman said...

The Blues Festival was fantastic andwell done to the organisers who showcased some great acts. Just love those Bondi Cigars. Everybody was up dancing. Jesse Dean Freeman (with Dan Solo on drums) was sensational. He looks like he's 20 years old (Jesse, not Dan who looks about 60) but he sings like an old blues man in a smoke-filled bar room somewhere in New Orleans. And 8 Ball Aitken was great. Johno and his band were sensational too. Johno was definitely the sentimental favourite (so his Ex-Wife can go jump in the lagoon as far as I'm concerned).
It was great to see the bands pay tribute to Johno Blues Bar winning cheers from the crowd. The 8 Ball Aitken band performed a great number about the legendary bar. They know what an important place Johno's was and what it meant to Cairns and tourism. And the blues fans in the crowd knew it too.
I also enjoyed the police eat crow when they saw the massive support for the old Johno's Blues Bar, especially the bloke who targeted Johno's and Tropo's until they could no longer operate.
Live music is important in any community. But moreso in Cairns which is still recognised as a Johno's Blues Bar town.
The spirit of Johno's lives on.
PS: My only criticism was the policy of no passouts. A full day can be much and some of us would have come earlier if we were able to duck home for a midday nap without having to pay another 60 bucks to get in.
PPS: The indefatiguable Johno, Terry Doyle, the Livewire guys and other great local entertainers provided some first class blues rock at the Labour Day celebrations the following day. Thanks, youse guys. You were an important part of an important day on my calendar.

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

Very many interesting comments above, but in short - Headless - just above - yes, it was a great event, especially for a first festival. I also loved Flamin Cane Toads & Dallas Fresca. Ms. Carinda did a great one too.
I wasn't a member of the committee, but I was a volunteer - at the front gate/ticket thingie. The 'passouts' issue had NOTHING to do with the Blues Festival organising committee - there was NO intention of charging people another $60 to re-enter.
The 'no passouts' ruling (which annoyed MANY people, believe me - I & most of the others on the gate spent about 8 hours explaining it on Sunday) was imposed by a combo of Liquor Licensing/Council/Police about 3/4 weeks before the Festival, after all the advertising matter was in place.
The thinking of the above authorities was that: they didn't want people going out, drinking/drugging themselves silly outside the Festival venue, & then coming back & causing problems.
I KNOW the audience were really well-behaved (save one or two idiots, but very few) & it was an older audience.
However - since it was the first Blues Festival, & no-one knew who would turn up [you don't ask people's age when they buy tickets] - it could have been 3,000 22-year olds fuelled by tequila slammers & a tad of speed. No-one knew what would happen.
I know this issue will be taken on board by the committee, as it caused all sorts of fuss for patrons & volunteers alike. I'm sure they'll have it sorted out by the next Festival.
As a final comment - it was great to walk around the Park about 9pm (when I finally got a break) & to look up & see about 20 balconies full of people, in hotels or other accomodation around Fogarty Park, obviously planted there listening to the music, some dancing on their balconies. What a great venue for next year - maybe - it's up to the committee.
Any other comments could be directed to - I'm sure they'd appreciate your feedback. As I said - I'm not on the committee, but was a volunteer in the midst of things.
It was a great first effort.

Blogster said...

I am sure the festival brought back lots of memories of great times at Johno's and what an iconic venue Cairns has lost.

Many came to the festival because they had seen the Bondis, Chain, Jesse, 8 Ball, Carinda, Jim, Johno, Mal, etc etc perform (numerous times) at Johno's and, 'for old time's sake' wanted to see them again.

No matter how great the festival, many great (international) acts played at Johno's several times a year, at a fraction of the cost (often free). People don't know what they've got until it's gone I suppose.

But at least we had a chance to see all those great Johno's acts (and more) again! So thanks to the Blues Festival for organising that.

It's ironic, but basically, the death of Johno's meant the birth of the blues festival.

I too was pleased to see that the bloke who was primarily responsible for the closure of Johno's (and other venues) had to stand there in the middle of the field and see the crowd cheering for Johno and Johno's, following ABCs Jason Hagen's acknowledgments of what they have done for Cairns and blues in North Queensland.

Though I don't think the bloke cares. I am not even sure if he has a soul.

But I hope he leaves the Blues Festival alone. Not only did he wreck live music, but also Cairns nightlife and tourism. That's enough.

David Anthony said...

I don't think Lillian of Yorkey's should feel a little apologetic about the Blues Festival being baing a great "first effort". The festival was about as good as it gets, I reckon. It was simply a "great effort". If it can be improved upon, geez, I will be sure to be there at future festivals.
60 bucks is pretty good when you consider the number and quality of live acts over the 12 or so hours.
The passout situation was ludicrous. If the police were serious about drugs and fights they should do something about it and leave us alone.
Keep up, the great work, Lillian, the committee and other volunteers. You did Cairns proud!

The Headless Horseman said...

The Blues Festival Committee's program at the showgrounds on Saturday night was a sensation.
Windy City Soul Train provided terrific footstomping blues. Johno's Blues Band was on fire.
And I would like to make special mention of Kid Ryo and Reverend Benson who put on a truly spectacular performance. These teenage guitar maestros had people leaping from their chairs to give them a standing ovation. When international ukulele great Matt (Jumping Flea) Dahlberg joined them for "Body Surfing", there was musical mirth to remember. We are seeing great things here.
It's a shame more people did not come along to see this marvellous event. I hope all these acts appear at next year's Blues Festival.
Congratulations to the Blues Festival Committee for putting on the night.
And by the way, it was great to catch up with the old crowd from the Johno's Blues Band days.