As rain tumbled from the Melbourne sky we pushed open the doors to the Gem and were enveloped in golden light. The dreary weather hadn’t deterred the scraggly group of locals, young and old, assembled in the small front room. Memorabilia, photos and chalkboard menus covered the timber walls and the smell of beer greeted us as we ventured inside.
Standing tall and proud, opposite an old grey warehouse on a Wellington street corner, The Gem welcomes all. The pub is full of character, and characters are on the stage tonight. The stage, a piece of floor in front of a closed piano beside a faded red pool table, is illuminated only by the pool table light.
Graveyard Train, a Melbourne country horror band, tell tales of canibalism, zombies and scarecrows through toe-tappin’, knee slappin’, ho-downin’ country tunes. A heavy chain hit with a hammer, along with a washboard and enthusiastic stomping, provide the percussion while the earthy tones of the banjo round out the country sound. A tambourine and harmonica make appearances, accompanying the three guitars. One guitar player manages to play and hold his pint at the same time.
The audience, some clapping and stamping along and others dancing, are enjoying the morbid lyrics while the beer is flowing. One Graveyard Train Guitarist is definitely enjoying himself. His growing jocularity leads to pulling an audience member off her seat for a jive – half hearted on her side – mid song. When he realises that he missed a line or two of lyrics, he kisses her hand and rushes back to the mic.
Graveyard train are a theatrical band with a cult of loyal fans following them around Melbourne. Their performance gradually grew into an only-just-organised musical shambles as beer was continuously consumed. Their guitars may have been slightly out of tune but what they lacked in technique they more than made up for in enthusiasm. Well at least one guitarist did.