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February 22, 2024

When the music’s over: How the 27 Club honours rock legends

It’s a cursed age for rockstars but guitarist Dusty Lee Stephensen and his fellow bandmates seek to honour the rock legends who died at 27 with energising covers in their 27 Club show.

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  • Words: Charlie Gilchrist
  • Pictures: Matisse Chambers

“It’s sad that they passed away, but look at what they created – that’s what we focus on,” says Dusty.


This article first appeared in our 2024 Festival edition, which is on streets now.

Among the numerous members of the “27 Club” are Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, the virtuoso guitarist Jimi Hendrix, rock ‘n’ roll diva Janis Joplin, the otherworldly rock god Jim Morrison of The Doors, the godfather of grunge Kurt Cobain and most recently Amy Winehouse, whose soulful voice continues to send shivers down your spine.

CityMag met with Dusty to talk about the show in Suite 6, his somewhat cramped studio featuring a wall full of vintage guitars, his upright piano and array of recording equipment.

Dusty grew up down south in Aldinga and has been making a “racket” singing and playing guitar since he was six years old. He decided to pursue a music career after receiving a scholarship to Brighton Secondary School.

“The whole of high school I kind of ignored all the other subjects,” he says.

“As soon as I finished high school, I was doing gigs. I’ve never had a real job.”

The band. This picture: Saige Prime.


Dusty, who also plays in west coast soul-style band The Wanderers, began performing in the 27 Club with his band after he was approached by the show’s producer Zac Tyler. The show now tours around Australia.

Other musicians who perform in the show are Sarah McLeod of The Superjesus, Kevin Mitchell aka Bob Evans of Jebediah and Carla Lippis of Mondo Psycho. There is also Milush Piochaud on bass, Danny Leo on drums, Jack Strempel on keys and Cam Blokland on guitars.

“I think Zac kind of had a vision when he approached me, so then I asked the guys, everyone was keen, and four years later we’re still doing it,” says Dusty.

“They really wanted it to feel more like a band, like a band that’s toured together and cried together, gotten drunk together… and my band has that chemistry, that history.”

Shredding. This picture: Justin White.


The 65-minute show begins with music from pioneering blues guitarist Robert Johnson.

“The legend is that he went to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil for the ability to play guitar, and we sort of tie that thing through the story of the other artists as well,” Dusty says.

“Robert Johnson is almost like a shadow over the top of the entire 27 Club.”


27 Club will perform at Gluttony venue The Fantail until March 17.

The band then moves on to the ‘60s and ‘70s with Jones, Hendrix, Joplin and  Morrison, the ‘90s with  Cobain and the 2000s with Winehouse.

“I get to sort of strut around and do a lot of Jim Morrison stuff, that’s what I like to do – and the Hendrix stuff as well,” says Dusty.

“Likewise, you’ve got Carla [Lippis] singing Hendrix and Nirvana and she does this really dark version of Lithium by Nirvana – this arrangement that we came up with that’s stunning, so powerful.

“There’s a big all-in moment [at the end of the show] where we’re all kind of going hell for leather on this song and jumping off the risers and doing all that sort of stuff.”

Dusty says you should come see the show to prove wrong that one friend who says rock is dead.

“Everyone can let their hair down…We get to just kind of conduct the energy and the crowd is all part of it. We will just dance for an hour and a bit – metaphorically and physically.”

Fragments of Dusty’s studio

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