Farewell To Rosie's Freo
Over the last twenty years, I’ve spent a fair bit of time at Rosie O'Grady's in Fremantle. As a member of Murphy’s Lore, I played in the front bar on the spare piece of stage a few times in the late nineties. I’ve been fortunate to have had a regular solo gig there every week for over twelve years. I’ve made friends with punters, passers-through, bar staff, barflies, backpackers, performers and enthusiasts. I’ve received song requests from nearly every genre of music and attempted more than I probably should have. I’ve drunk a lot of Guinness, broken a heap of strings, sung through a throat that was on loan from Tom Waits and jumped from the stage rail, on occasion.
One of the biggest gifts I ever got from Rosie’s was the formation of the Wesley Goodlet Jamboree Scouts. While at a Murphy’s Lore rehearsal, sometime in October 2000, we received a phone call from our agent Jamie Mercanti (or Slim Jim, as he is also known). He asked for three of us to hastily put together a trio and fill in for the group that was unable to play at Rosie’s Freo that night. When we turned up to play, we had been billed as The Chris Murphy Trio. As Chris was not a part of this quickly-formed combo we thought another name was in order. So, I suggested the name of my old theatre sports team in high school, the Wesley Goodlet Jamboree Scouts*. Had I known that we would still be playing gigs fifteen years later, I might have suggested a pithier name.
From that first gig we would eventually land a regular Wednesday night, which attracted the exchange students from Notre Dame and young backpackers. I’m sure the cheap drinks got the crowd down there, but we tried our best to keep them. We held onto the gig until August 2003, when an entertainment shuffle saw me start playing Wednesdays as a solo performer. Things changed around again at Rosie’s later that year, and I began my regular Thursday nights on the 9th of October, 2003. The Wesleys have returned back there occasionally; the last two St Patrick’s Days, for instance. We also enjoyed a short stint playing Friday nights in early 2013. Since my regular Thursday nights began, I’ve been at Rosie’s Freo every week, mostly. The odd night off would come my way either through illness, concerts or extraneous circumstances. I’ve had a couple of periods when I wasn’t there, but not for very long. Most recently, I played my “last” gig there on September 11, 2014 but I was invited back in January the following year. Nearly 12 months to day after my return, I shall actually play my last ever gig at Rosie O’Grady’s Fremantle. The doors of the pub will shut sometime in January 2015 and it will reopen shortly after as The Federal Hotel.
There have been times when I attended Rosie's as a punter, and not a performer. Back in the late nineties, my wife was part of an Irish dancing group who would appear there every Sunday afternoon. They actually had the distinction of perfoming there the day the pub opened in 1995. Usually, Sean Roche would be playing on the little stage, and they would dance at regular intervals throughout his set. I find it bizarre to look back on those times and think that they took place nearly twenty years ago.
I’ve been very lucky to hold on to a regular gig for so long and I know that it’s not a usual occurrence in this crazy business. In my time at Rosie’s it was been quite cool meeting people seeing how lives have changed. I’ve seen hook-ups, break-ups, birthdays, funerals, anniversaries and going-away parties. Some couples who have seen me at Rosie's have then hired me to play at their weddings. It's always very flattering when you get asked to be a part of someone's special day. I've had people in the audience who have been sent down by friends and family. Usually, I live to expectations, he he he...
The people behind the bar have been a great bunch as well. I've seen some of them go up the ranks and become part of management. I've also watched staff leave and then come back (they always come back, he he he), either as employees or punters. I've had many pints of Guinness poured for me by them all, and I've grateful for every one. I don't drink Guinness exclusively, but it's pretty much my regular Thursday beverage. It just sort of happened that way. If it's Thursday night at Rosie's, it's Guinness. I doubt I'll drink much of it after it shuts down. In the last few years, over the summer months I have been playing outside in the beer garden. It tends to be fairly pleasant out there, and when the Freo Doctor blows though, it's just gorgeous, in spite of all the cigarette smoke. I find it kinda cool that my last ever gig at Rosie's will be in the beer garden, as my last "last" gig was on the little stage inside. It's almost like having two farewell gigs. Not that I'll be going down the John Farnham trail any time soon. So, I'd just like to extend my thanks to anyone who has ever come down to Rosie O'Grady's in Fremantle to see me play. Whether you've stumbled across me accidentally, dropped in specifically, worked behind the bar or regularly held it up, you've all made a difference to my time there. As life moves forward, things change, and although this will be a sad occurence, I will always look back fondly on my time at Rosie's Freo. Well, most of it. He he he...
* Wesley Goodlet was a fairly new teacher at my high school in Albany, and we’d used his name as a semi-tribute to the Doug Anthony All Stars. He currently teaches in Perth somewhere. We came across colleagues of his at the Victoria Park Hotel, and he even dropped in on one of our old gigs at Captain Stirling’s in Claremont. Apparently some of his students ribbed him, because they saw our listing in the gig guide of X-Press magazine. Thankfully, he didn't object to us using his name.