In the suburbs, there’s some shed time stories waiting to be told. A group of friends in an escalating game of “That’s not a bar, this is a bar” are taking backyard entertaining to all-new heights.
In a world of clutter and junk, one group of friends is turning trash to treasure in a bamboozled, bam-boozy way. The MASH mad-cappery is strong with this one, and the usual suspects from The Happy Motel are not far behind. Even Barriø has its ghostly fingers in these shedherd pies. It all begins with John “Bowlsy” Bowler (Dr Piffle’s Burlap Band) and David “Mr Fruitcake” Harding (AKA Fruity). Together with other imps born in the month of May, they built a collection of barlettes in an enormous shed in Noarlunga. This is The Hex Club. James Brown, proprietor of The Rickety Fish, explains: “These guys put considerable effort into transforming their sheds into a place of worship, comradery, debauchery, contemplation [and] sorcery, filled with love of all colours and sizes.” The Hex Club brought into being Krakatoa, Rumba, Dusty Boots, Gringos, Top Shots and Candy Bar, and inspired a suburban revolution – which could well be happening in a shed near you. If you’ve heard tunes through the night, seen an ungodly number of saintly figurines and heard utter nonsense over the fence – Rickety Fish, Paradise Prawn, Beakless Mallard? – odds are one of your nearest is a backyard barman. Understanding neighbours certainly help, with the captains of the Paradise Prawn rechristening Torrensville ‘Toleranceville’ in respect for their wilfully deaf streetmates. Paradise Prawn: Andy Nowell, Carlo Jensen & James Hanus. Photo: Jonathan van der Knaap Prawn publicans Carlo Jensen, Andy Nowell and James Hanus lounge around their firetrap of a bar, marvelling at the one-power-point wonder. Lights, neon and noise all run from one cheerfully overloaded electrical socket, tapped out into an elaborate maze of powerboards. Around the wiring are icons, photographs, paintings, novelty mugs, fake candles, hand-painted signs, figurines, a teeny television set and more. It’s a live-in I Spy puzzle, a shrine to all things bright, bold and boozy. “Would you say every object has a story?” asks Nowell. “Nup,” answers Jensen. While some objects have more history than others – such as the bowl of prop food, similar to one you might find in a display cabinet at a Japanese restaurant – they all have their place in the curated clutter lining the walls, benches, shelves and ceiling. GALLERY: Inside the shed bars “Pretty much everything that’s here, we already had from Happy Motel stuff or styling and whatnot,” explains Jensen. “The walls and the roof are leftovers from the Smokehouse we built for Lola’s Pergola, and, well, it could collapse at any moment. Andy’s the main construction guy, but we didn’t have a drill. We just had an angle grinder, and were using a spanner to whack it together. We literally knocked it up in a day. “That’s the beauty of a shed bar, though, isn’t it? That it’s rickety and shit. We don’t want it to be a refined thing.” James Brown’s Rickety Fish also eschews “refined” for ‘eight billion percent wacky’. James Brown explains that the Fish’s decorations come from travel, friends and work. As well as the Windex cocktail, “about 42 power boards full of lights”, the new singing mascot (Dr Rick Fish) and pirate mugs galore, the Rickety Fish is increasingly becoming a cavern of sacred treasure. “The illustration of Popa Neutrino by Andy McIntyre is hugely important as he is the patron saint of the bar; the new extension which we’ve called Holy Cola saw a 17 percent increase in religious relics as we felt it was necessary to repent our sins as it is a place of heavy sin. Each drink is like a new blessing; the Windex washes your insides and with so many guardians watching over you, it’s hard to not [sic] walk out unsatisfied and not reborn in some way.” The powers of fish and ships combine to complete the shed’s sea shanty soul. Rickety Fish: James Brown. Photo: Jonathan van der Knaap Now, you may not have a clasp of crustacean-obsessed creatives at your fingertips, but if you have the time, dedication and trinket-reserves you too could have a shed bar. “Just start,” Brown says. “Help your friends. Help your cousins. Bring your shed and life back from its grey conformist carcass. Join the revolution. You need a small bag of tools, wood and other junk, mates, shit art, average drinks, great drinks, boots to drink from, photos of all your heroes and best times you ever had. Building yourself a wood oven is also a very helpful accompaniment. But, most importantly, handsome patrons and ear-plugs for your neighbour’s dog (mine’s a noisy jerk).”
Shed bars are private property and are not licensed premises.
Photographs by Jonathan van der Knaap | jonathanvdk.com