Well, sadly that is it for the Scotto. The Flying Scotsman quite simply is (or was) the cornerstone of Beaufort Street and the heart of the Mount Lawley community. The announcement earlier this week that the Scotto would be closing for good sent shockwaves through the internet as we learnt from isolation that we may never stand to smoke or sit to drink on its famous alfresco ever again.
ANTHONY JACKSON was served many a beer from stalwart barman James Redman, an emerging artist in his own right as the guitarist/vocalist for indie-rock band The Limbs. He spoke with Redman to get an insight of Scotto life from the other side of the bar.
AJ: A meeting place for uni students, musicians, filmmakers, writers through to tradies, white collar workers and even retirees, it was a true cross-section of the Mt Lawley community where everyone could meet under the same roof and feel at home as well as part of the social scene. X-Press held a special connection with The Flying Scotsman, we held two of our annual parties there and our print magazine front covers create a collage adorning the walls of the rear access way to the toilets.
Many of our writers, editors, designers and salespeople would frequent the Scotto after work or on the weekends. In the days of the print magazine, every Tuesday we would rush to make deadline just in time to make it down for a rewarding cheap steak and pint before kitchen close.
I was a regular at the Scotto, I spent my wild student era nights hitting up the infamous cheap jug Wednesdays, I put in many hours slotting untold dollars into the Buck Hunter Machine trying to rack up high scores, I was even lucky enough to play some live shows at the Velvet Lounge and more recently Grumpy’s Bar. My fondest memories are of enjoying pizza and pints in the company of my partner, friends, my newborn boy and fur-baby out on the front tables of the alfresco.
AJ: It totally sucks that the Scotto will be no more. Is there any chance it might come back in another incarnation? Being so close to the place for so many years, what do you hope happens to the site next?
JR: I have no idea. The building itself has had many reincarnations. It was Lawley’s, The Cat and Fiddle, The Candy Store, all of which, I’m told, were pretty cool places to hang out. Maybe there’s something in the walls. I really hope it retains its connection to the community and continues to support local culture and arts. The Scotto was, as I think most people know, pretty laid back and I think our clientele appreciated that. That we were allowed to be ourselves. You could walk in and didn’t feel like you were at a Kmart that sold booze instead of coffee cups and cheap electronics.
The Scotto has always attracted the creatively minded and it really did have its own scene that was made up of musos and artists. What do you think it was that attracted them?
As an artist myself, I think it’s safe to say that artists are attracted to authenticity. And the Scotto was nothing if not authentic. It had its own set of rules and its own energy. Because it was privately owned I guess it stood as a beacon of hope for people who believed in an honest family run business. One that wasn’t beholden to any big corporations. There was also the fact that it played great music, supported the art scene and had pretty reasonable drink prices.
I loved that the Scotto had no pretension and was welcoming to all walks of life as the classic ol’ style pub that it was. It had no set niche clientele. Do you think this is what separated The Scotto from other pubs and bars of Perth?
Definitely. Not to say that other pubs don’t have a diverse clientele, but the Scotto was unique in that regard. People just saw it as an honest place that cast no judgement. Chris (the owner) was always like that, he was always accepting of everyone. It’s this attitude that permeated every facet of the Scotto and the people felt that.
Live music always had its place at the Scotto whether it was in the main bar, the old Velvet Lounge and Defectors, or the relatively new Grumpy’s. Being a musician, how important do you think it is that live music continues to play a role in our community meeting places?
Of course it’s important. It’s also extremely difficult and the pub really stuck its neck out for years trying to support that community. I really hope that the next incarnation of 639 Beaufort St sticks its neck out like the Scotto did, and god will it need to. It isn’t going to be easy getting that started up again. Or who knows, maybe now that people have been forced to stay inside and isolate they’ll realise and appreciate all the great gigs that they have missed out on. Maybe the music scene will see a resurgence and the new venue that replaces the Scotto might be heading that resurgence.
You have been slinging ales there for around 10 years now, what is the craziest thing you have seen happen at the Scotto?
The absolute craziest thing that ever happened at the Scotto I remember vividly. It was an Easter long weekend. The decision was made that we wouldn’t have a bouncer on shift as it was too expensive to pay them. I noticed over the course of the night there were a couple of very bulky, jacked-up gym junkies lingering around the bar, casually taunting staff and customers. Their behaviour was a little unusual but nothing too crazy.
George (our manager) approaches the gentlemen and kindly asks them to leave to which their reply was to start knocking over tables and scream incoherently. One customer tried to confront the methed-up hulks’ and was in return knocked out. From out of nowhere our DJ at the time, Chris, restrained gym-junkie #1 (also, most likely an actual junkie) while the others were somehow evicted from the venue as well. Then it got weird.
The motley crew started to pace up and down the alfresco area, chanting and screaming. One of them picked up a table and threw it at the window, cracking it down the middle. At this point everyone—and the place was actually very busy—was watching in amazement and horror at the madness unfolding. These lunatics continued to smash pint glasses on the floor, pelt chairs and tables at the windows and basically try and force themselves back in. All of a sudden Junkie #1 broke ranks, came around to our side door, and started panning the main bar through the window. He had this truly menacing look in his eyes. Then he started banging his head up against the window until the glass cracked in several places. Everyone gasped in panic and excitement. It was pandemonium. The cops came and these meth’d up lunatics ran through the carpark, where I think they were arrested. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Zombie-apocalypse shit!
Wow, that IS crazy! You must have met so many people in your time working there, be it the staff or patrons. Is it the people that make the pub?
It’s a combination of things. What makes a pub is management and energy. It was strange because everyone at the pub almost always got along. Everyone who was hired and stayed became part of the family, and the ones that didn’t really fit in left pretty quickly of their own accord. There was never any bullying (or) bitching. Nothing like that. But I think it was Chris’ energy that really made the pub. His attitude towards running a pub, and his willingness to let everyone be who they were. That energy ran through the whole place and made it a fun place to work. The regulars also became like family to a lot of us. There was a comradery that was palpable any time a shot was poured or a cheers was made.
There have been some great live shows and events over the years. Remember Scottofest back in 2015? Your band The Limbs also played there many times. What was your stand out live show at the Scotto?
I do remember. That was a great night. That was our new bass player at the time’s first show and he wore this giant bear jacket which barely allowed him to play. But it looked great. Quite an audacious move for a first gig, hey Mikey? My most memorable gig at the scotto, the one I hold closest to my heart, was Mikey’s last gig. He played his first show downstairs and his last show upstairs. It was totally full-circle. We had a great crowd. I did a nice little speech. It was a very fitting send-off for a guy who had put so much of his time and energy into the band.
There’s an online event next weekend called Getting Blotto for the Scotto, where former patrons and staff will share a beer along with photos and stories. What will be your most enduring memory of the Scotto?
My most enduring memory working at the pub would have to be one of our staff parties. We actually spent it at the Kardinya Tavern as Chris owns both pubs. They had a karaoke machine there and after some nervous deliberation, we cranked the thing up and started belting out tune after drunken tune. The last song was My Way by Frank Sinatra sung by my good friend Nicolo Traverso. His rendition was so triumphant and uplifting that by the end of it every one of us jumped on stage and sang it with him. It was a perfect encapsulation of how we felt about each other and about our little family.
Of course, there were so many times I felt like I was a part of something deeply special working at The Flying Scotsman, that going through all those cherished moments would take many hours. So let’s just stick with that.
Finally, what’s happening to the Buck Hunter Machine? Is the current highest scorer set to reign for evermore?
No idea man. Big Buck is kaput. It was a great machine and saw a lot of action. When I first started working at the pub, we had tournaments and games after every shift. I must have poured hundreds of dollars into that thing. But by the end of my stint at the Scotto it was Medieval Madness (the pinball machine) that was my real obsession.
The reigning champ on Big Buck as far as I know was a guy named Liam. We became quite close after a while, only through the game. For a long time he was like the Zorro of Big Buck. No one knew who he was, all we could see was his devastating high score.
Big love to Chris, James and all the staff and people behind scenes who brought us 20 years of joy. Thanks from X-Press, the music and arts community as well as the greater community. You made a lot of magic happen there, more than we all will ever know. Stand proud of the space you created and keep the memories close! We wish you all the best for your future projects.