THERE’s A lot more to tattoos than meets the eye. The judges explained what they were looking for. There’re some tattooists who create an outline and fill it in with classic blues and greens, a bit like colouring in. This is the traditional old school tattoo and there was a category for 10 year or older tattoos. Then there’s the new ink coming from the USA which is brighter and tattooists are shading the colours to give dimension. Then you have black and whites, portraits, tribal, big, small, male and female. For each category the judge has to weigh up the skill of the tattooist, the imagination, and the end result. It wasn’t an easy task as there were some fantastic tattoos on show.
Not many people would realise the value of the artwork on display. On stage, Little Mick did a quick calculation with a tattooed back estimated at roughly $3000 and a sleeve at $1500. Times 80 people and that’s conservatively a half-a-million dollars worth of art. While some entrants might have less than $1000 invested, one contestant said he’d spent $25,000 on his tattoos. He started at 18 when they were $5 each and he’s now 51. Think about it, that’s a Harley’s worth of ink!
Little Mick was one of the judges as well as the trophy presenter. He’s the real deal having ridden up from Brisbane on his Knuckle softail which he’d built and painted himself. There’s nothing the legend can’t do! He rolls sheet metal guards and tanks, welds up frames, builds the bike, custom paints the thing, assembles it, registers it, then does tattoos, runs a shop, custom paints other people’s bikes, helmets, etc, plus builds hot rods. Then he’s at practically every tattoo show to hand out trophies or just enjoy himself.
Outside, the lane was barricaded with security guards stationed at both ends; firstly to prevent anyone from exiting with alcohol; and secondly to admit guests. Many businesses in Rockhampton back the event with direct financial sponsorship. The proceeds go a long way towards paying the insurance, rates, license fees, and all the overheads necessary these days. The Mt Archer Lions Club had a food caravan stationed at one end of the lane to cater for the hungry crowd. Along the side of the lane marquees were erected with tables and chairs for people who wanted to get away from the music and just catch up with old mates. There was a refreshing breeze coming through the lane as well.
The first band was called the Party Animals. Never judge a book by its cover. The guitarist used a US Fender Strat; the other half of the two-piece outfit was a lady singer with a terrific voice. The Party Animals were sensational and did biker favourites like Deep Purple, Doors, Dire Straits and many others.
Later the Grass Cutters came on. They’ve been the feature live band for the last 13 years. After listening to them play it’s easy to understand why. The Grass Cutters are a power trio who plays clean and tight just like the best three-piece bands in history. The main singer is Bob Kotsic who plays both a Strat and a Les Paul to come up with some of the best live Cream, Hendrix, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd covers you’ve heard. The bass guitarist, Axle Hoffner is excellent along with the drummer Gary Witt. The repertoire was unbelievable. Never heard anyone do John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers or Johnny Winter numbers live before. They really are special and I can’t wait to go back and hear them play again.
Slim handled the microphone during the night calling out winners and organising contestants. During one of his speeches, he thanked the public for their support. Everyone was made welcome. The Rebels don’t pretend to be pillars of the community but they have a lot more family values than some of the Sunday Christians out there. Overall it was a terrific day and night of entertainment which, for $10 entry, was awfully hard to beat.
Words & pics by SS