The Mustang bar has had a real commitment to live music from its beginnings way back in 1999, with a niche yet thoroughly diverse gig guide. 

“The foundation of what we wanted to do was always live music,” owner Mike Keiller says.

“When we first started, and we were talking about the music format, people sort of looked at me funny. And I said, whether it’s a swing band or a rockabilly band or commercial cover band we set a baseline of quality. 

“People walk in and say, ‘I’m not really into swing music, but after hearing one or two songs they’ll say, it’s not really my go, but Jesus they’re good!’. So as long as you don’t serve up crap, you can always justify what you’re doing.”

One musician who has played regularly with numerous outfits at The Mustang Bar over many years is Nick Sheppard, perhaps best known for playing in The Clash from 1983-85. Sheppard has lived in Perth since the mid-’90s, playing in band, DJing and running he and his wife Vicki’s fashion outlet, Elroy Clothing. The bands he played with at the Mustang Bar these days are The Feel Alrights (with Greg Hitchcock, ex You Am I) and Jack Royale & The Hot Shot Playboys.  

“There’s some interesting things about the Mustang Bar for me,” Sheppard lists off. “It’s big, it’s in Northridge and you’re playing on a Saturday night so you have a very mixed crowd.

“We play from 7-10pm. So we get our audience, if you like, who tend to be older; there’s a lot of rock’n’roll dancers down there to dance to your music, and I find that quite satisfying because you’ve got a job to do in a set. 

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“We start off with our audience and by the third set and the end of our timeslot, we’re playing to a much more of a mixture. You know, like younger kids, the older crowd, the people that might blow in because they hear us as they pass by.

“It’s like walking down the main street in Nashville and there’s 101 Honky Tonk bars with a band in the window. It’s very much like that, you get a mixture of music fans, tourists and people out for a drink and all of those kinds of things. A lot of the people that are coming in are not really coming in to see you, they’re coming in for the whole experience.”

“Nick’s experience and rock cred speaks for itself,” Keiller notes. “There’s been lots of people that have had good rock’n’roll cred that have played here for a long time. There was Peter Busher and Dom Mariani (The Stems, DM3, Datura4) played here for quite a while as well. In terms of international recognition Nick’s way up there in terms of what he can put on his CV.”

In fact a few years after he arrived in Perth from the UK in the mid-90s, Sheppard filled in for Peter Busher out front of The Bushrangers when the latter moved to the East Coast for a year. A new band was eventually formed which came to be the aforementioned Jack Royale & The Hot Shot Playboys, still gigging regularly at the venue.  

Sheppard also gigged with Dom Mariani in an original outfit called The DomNicks at The Mustang Bar in the late 2000s. This kind of connection to the venue runs throughout, with the likes of Adam Hall & The Velvet Playboys, The Rusty Pinto Combo, The Matt Cahill Swing Combo, Flash Nat and more having strong relationships and regular gigs at the Mustang Bar for years, and some of them for decades.

Mustang Bar

Even the Salsa Night, which originally was going to be held for a few weeks as the organisers were looking for a permanent venue, has now celebrated 10 years at the Mustang Bar. 

And while there’s many niches, sounds and event happening across the seven nights a week that the Mustang Bar is open, Keiller emphasises the importance of the more commercial covers acts such as Milhouse, Atomic, Radio Now and Gemini. 

“We can’t underestimate what the Friday and Saturday, late night bands do,” he says. “They do the business for us and that allows us to keep doing the things like swing and rockabilly.” 

Keiller cites a strong and communicative working relationship with long-time manager Pat Murphy as key to the venue’s ongoing strength as a live music venue. 

“I’m very fortunate to have someone like Pat in particular because he has got a rock’n’roll vibe, and he understood what we were doing from the beginning and supports it. He works really well with the bands and they respect him.

“So it’s just a really good thing. He knows how I think; I know how he thinks. He’ll run stuff by me and would already know the answer he’s gonna get, sometimes he comes walking up and I know what he’s gonna ask me.

It’s not meant to be the Red Bull Racing team, but it’s a pretty slick operation.” 

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