The Whitlams Black Stump Band Releases New Version Of ‘Blow Up The Pokies’ and Announces ‘Big City Debut Tour’

The Whitlams’ classic protest song from 1999 – Blow Up the Pokies – has been reworked by Tim Freedman with his new alt-country line-up.

This fresh version was born when the Wesley Mission contacted Freedman in May 2022 and asked for a reworking of the song that could be used as the soundtrack to their poignant Gutful of Gambling TV ad (view here).

Re-jigged from the original’s waltz time signature to a propulsive 4/4, sung in a lower key, and driven now by banjo and pedal steel guitar, this reconstruction wrings new emotion out of the story of a musician playing a poker machine on the same spot in a pub where he used to play in his band. A new audience awaits the song, whose message is as relevant today as it was upon release 24 years ago.

The theme is still potent, and just two months ago a community movement in Alice Springs used the track in their successful campaign to stall a proposal to add poker machines to four venues with indigenous and lower socio-economic clientele (see ABC story here).

Freedman’s alt-country project The Whitlams Black Stump Band sees him and long-time drummer Terepai Richmond joined by an A Team of roots musicians, namely two CMAA Producers of the Year, Rod McCormack and Matt Fell, on banjo and bass respectively, and young gun Ollie Thorpe on electric and pedal steel guitar.

Born from a week of recording in mid 2021 with sessions that veered from campfire intimacy to rollicking country rock, the band reconstructed the best of The Whitlams’ repertoire with a smattering of new songs and some classic Americana from Kris Kritstofferson to Neil Young.

The mid 2022 single The Day John Sattler Broke His Jaw was a staple on country radio through the winter and reached the Top 30 of the Country Hot 50 radio airplay chart.

The band debuted at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in 2022, then wound its way down the East Coast from Cairns to Queenscliff in a three week tour that cemented their musical connection. The outfit has the ambition to play Australia far and wide, with the Black Stump Duo – their piano and pedal steel configuration – touring Victoria and Tasmania in November and December, and the full five piece line-up reconvening for the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January, and then lapping the country in their “Big City Debut Tour” through March, with the dates on sale next week.

Tickets are on sale now and available via


Tue 15 Nov – Piano Bar, Ballarat

Wed 16 Nov – Piano Bar, Bendigo – SOLD OUT

Thu 17 Nov – Piano Bar, Geelong

Fri 18 Nov – Arts Centre, Warburton

Sat 19 Nov – The Memo, Healesville

Fri 25 Nov, Avalon Beach RSL, Sydney

Sat 26 Nov, Avoca Beach Theatre, Central Coast

Thur 1 Dec – Royal Oak Hotel, Launceston

Fri 2 Dec – LongHouse, Hobart

Sat 3 Dec – Palais Theatre, Franklin – SOLD OUT

Fri 20 Jan 2023 – Capitol Theatre, Tamworth

BIG CITY DEBUT TOUR 2023 [on sale Wed 9 Nov 2022]

Fri 17 Mar – Lizotte’s, Newcastle – NSW

Sat 18 Mar – Adelaide Fringe, Spiegeltent – SA

Fri 24 Mar – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne – VIC

Sat 25 Mar – Memo Music Hall, Melbourne – VIC

Sun 26 Mar – Archies Creek Hotel, Victoria – VIC

Fri 31 Mar – Factory Theatre, Sydney – NSW

Sat 1 Apr – The Princess Theatre, Brisbane – QLD

%d bloggers like this: