[Dave Tice with the funny-lookin’ red guitar, and Mark Evans on the right…]
Fans all over the world salivate over the tiniest scraps of information which occasionally filter through from AC/DC’s management. But the current band members live extremely private lives, subject to speculation of all sorts (will they ever complete a new album? will they ever tour again? do they ever rehearse together these days?).
But how many people are aware of this fact: Mark Evans, former AC/DC bass player, not only performs in an intimate setting every single Saturday afternoon, but if you’re lucky, you might even get to share a beer with him?
Last week, after hitting the second hand record stalls at the flea market, I went down to the Sandringham Hotel in Newtown to see him in action.
Mark plays with his old mate Dave Tice, as “Tice and Evans”. They’re a high energy blues duo: Dave doing the singing, Mark doing the fancy fretwork on the guitar. Jessie and I breezed into the pub just as Mark was tuning up his guitar. There was a small handful of punters already planted on barstools. Mark turned around and I waved to him. It took him a second to register who I was, but then it dawned on him – we had met a month or so ago in Fremantle, when he came over for the unveiling of Bon’s statue. He gave me a wave and a nod from across the room. He remembered me!
By the time I got a few ginger beers from the bar, Mark had finished setting up, and he came over for a chat. He asked how the blog was going. I told him I was in pretty deep now, having recently hung out with Bon’s old roadie, and some of his best mates from the 1970s. This was certainly a different experience from hanging out with fans.
I’ve learned that those who actually knew Bon are much more careful about protecting the accuracy of their memories, and so I have been taking a lot more time trying to get it right. This slows down the blogging process, but I think it’s worth it in the end. There’s no point adding more misinformation to the piles of unsubstantiated stories already online. (And although I occasionally fall prey to dodgy rumours, my ever-vigilant readership seems to sort me out pretty quick!)
Mark was relieved to hear that I care about historical accuracy. Actually, I’ve been trying to get hold of him to have a quiet beer together for a while now. I want to hear his tales of Bon from over thirty years ago. He agreed we should catch up soon, and said I should also try to meet a guy called Pat, who was one of the few “true friends” Bon had. Apparently Pat still lives in Sydney.
Talk turned to music. Jessie asked Mark what gigs he’s been to lately. “Ah, I don’t get a chance to go to many concerts these days,” he said. “Now, what have I heard lately? Hmm. Motorhead! I liked that gig. And you know, you might not believe it, but I went to see Pink. She was bloody great! But nah, I don’t see much anymore.”
Jessie speculated that it was because listening to music was like work for a musician, and sometimes you just have to switch off. “Right!” said Mark. Instead, he likes going to watch sport. Especially his beloved Carlton Football Club. We bonded over that. Although I don’t watch football much any more, I’m also a Carlton supporter. I’ve had a soft spot for the team for over 20 years, ever since 1982 when they won a tremendous grand final match against Richmond, and a streaker ran onto the field after the final siren. Who knows what effect that fleshly spectacle had on my tender consciousness (I was only seven years old) but I knew, from that day on, that Carlton was “my team”.
The gig began, and Jessie and I tapped our toes through three hours of music and several ginger beers. Dave Tice has an excellent deep deep bluesman’s voice, and Mark somehow gets a really full and crunchy sound out of his plugged-in acoustic guitar. The duo specialise in between-song-banter, the kind of thing your dad would be proud of at the dinner table. Puns and innuendo and gentle teasing. They obviously like each other a lot. They’ve been doing this Saturday afternoon residency at the Sando for years.
As the day wore on, representatives of any number of South Newtown’s subcultures filtered through the Sando, grooving to the blues for just long enough to be handed their take away paper-bagged mystery bottles of booze and then slink back out again.
Lets see… there were leather-clad bikies, their faces bright red from the heat of the road; expensively-dressed gay boys and trucker dykes; slackers with torn jeans and t-shirts they’d obviously slept in; and even one glamorous and enormously fat girl dressed in a nurse’s uniform, high boots and bright red hair.
Some of these misfits stuck around to listen, and the crowd in the front bar swelled. The atmosphere became less intimate. Tice and Evans responded by playing louder and faster. One of my favourite songs was something about catching a girl’s eye at a railway station. They managed to make their guitars sound like a speeding train. Who knows how they did it, but it was really great.
Towards the end, a young fella all in black stumbled in from the street:
This wobbly latecomer stood in front of us, steadying himself on a wooden box near the door, and raised his beer (which he’d brought in off the street) in tribute to Mark and Dave. When the songs got going, he air-guitarred along with Mark, his eyes closed tight in bliss at every riff. He had another beer, thinly disguised by a torn plastic bag, shoved in his back pocket. He wore these amazing tall black boots and a skull-n-guns t-shirt, and his hair was braided perfectly down his back. You wouldn’t have thought it to look at him, but this guy really dug the blues.
The gig finished. Mark announced that they couldn’t stick around, as there was another gig booked in Berowra. I went up to shake his hand, and say thanks. “Oh! I’ve been thinking! I’ve got something for you!” Mark said.
I stood by as he rummaged through his road case, looking for something small. After a minute or two, he muttered “Damn! where is it… hmm”, finally emerging triumphant with a souvenir for me: a beautiful custom bass guitar pick – “Mark Evans” monogrammed on one side, and on the other, the Carlton Footy Club insignia.
What a treasure. I brought it home and placed it on my sideboard, together with the other items in my ever-growing collection of Bon Scott related stuff. However, the next night my cat Ruben decided to sleep there, and threw everything off onto the floor. I haven’t been able to find that pick since. It’s somewhere in my room, I swear! In the meantime, here’s a graphic representation of the pick Mark gave me, drawn from memory: