26 March 2024

A night out in Wollongong ain't what it used to be - it's better!

| Zoe Cartwright
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Punk isn’t dead in Wollongong. Punters enjoy a gig at Dicey Riley’s Hotel. Photo: Zoe Cartwright.

“I don’t know how to be punk anymore,” I wailed to my fiance recently.

We were getting ready to go to the first live music gig I’d been to in about five years (has it been too long to still blame COVID?) and in the decade or so since my early 20s my wardrobe has morphed into work clothes (definitely not punk) and workout wear (also not really punk).

Thanks to COVID and time spent living overseas, it’s also been more than a few years since I’ve had a night out in Wollongong, so in my imagination we were going to the seedy Dicey Riley’s of yore, and I was absolutely going to be the oldest, saddest person in the room.

Based on (long) past experience, I also figured there was a decent chance there would be a bit of a scuffle at some point during or after the gig (which I had not mentioned to said fiance).

He pulled on the same jeans he always wears and an old t-shirt and instantly looked cooler than me. He didn’t even know the band we were going to see. Very annoying.

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We arrived, and all my worries instantly felt very silly.

One of my friends was dressed in an almost-identical outfit, so my fears of looking like the only person who hasn’t socialised in anything but activewear since 2019 were immediately relieved.

Dicey’s was packed with punters of all ages; from baby-faced uni students dressed like they’re extras on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, to silver-haired couples in business casual, and one epic gentleman whose dance moves looked like they were inspired by Peter Garrett (he was about the right age to have picked them up at an early Oils gig).

The atmosphere was buzzy.

A mini mosh pit was up the front by the stage, with plenty of room for people to have a boogie up the back.

There was enough space and goodwill that we saw two very pregnant women enjoy the show, before buying baby onesie band merch.

The bar service was friendly and efficient, with a couple of fun cocktails on the menu.

Security was also friendly and thorough, without being overbearing.

The sound quality was great – loud enough that those of us up the back didn’t miss any of the on-stage banter, not so loud that my ears were ringing in the car on the way home.

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We jumped around, had a dance, bawled the words to our favourite songs at each other, hugged and then tumbled on out – all before 11 pm.

In a stark contrast to my experiences going to gigs as a young adult, no one seemed wasted, there was almost no pushing and shoving, people were polite to each other and seemed genuinely out to have a good time.

There were smiles all round as the concertgoers exited onto Crown Street.

The biggest scuffle we saw was two men taking turns to pick each other up and spin around.

I might not be punk anymore – but I know what a good time feels like, and this was definitely it.

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