Facing Shepherds Bush Empire I have a choice to make. O’Neills or Walkabout? Neither would be a choice I’d usually make but we’re meeting before a gig and its one of the two, set either side the venue. So is it the Craic Den or something reminiscent of a Shearing Shed? With a chill passing through me I take a deep breath and head towards the neon of Walkabout.
Am I being unfair to this employer of hundreds of Aussies and Kiwis? This purveyor of quality student night outs, supporter of drunken hen and stag do’s? I don’t think so. Every Aussie I know has a healthy disregard for it and those who don’t I would seriously questions as suitable company. Tolerating it only for AFL coverage and familiar beer. They would doubtless choke on their VB if they saw the claim that its an “authentic Australian bar chain”. Authentic 1920s Drovers Station possibly.
On my last visit to the Upper Street outpost (to watch AFL with Meister) a psychotic customer took off his shirt and beating his tattoed chest screamed at his barfly companion that he was going to “rip his face off”. The manager, without a moment of hesitation said “look mate. I’ve told you before… Do it again and your barred”. What would you have to do to get barred from a Walkabout? Actually rip his face off?
There’s the dubious appropriation of aboriginal culture and iconography in the name and the design, there is the use of the word “dunnie”, there is the full size ping pong table which makes me think I’m in a hostel or a sanitorium, there’s the Steinlager which the barmaid could only describe as being from New Zealand, with an expression on her face that said “look it tastes like piss but what do you expect for £2”. There is the use of the word “Awesome” on their website, the over use of which is anything but awesome. There is…. Well I could go on for hours.
Is there a plus side? Erm…. Well. This is difficult. I did see Alan Fletcher sing to a Freshers week crowd. Although this should be in the against argument the combination of numerous bottles of VB and Tooheys New, being neither a Fresher nor a student and seeing Dr Karl himself was a heady mix.
With the doors to the gig open and our party complete we headed out past the ping pong table to watch Angus and Julia Stone, who incidentally were excellent. They also hail from the land down under, where beer does flow and men chunder… Possibly at the thought of Walkabout? Bet they went to O’Neills.