Tag Archives: Melbourne music

Another one bites the dust

1 Apr

It’s official. The Palace is closing.

It seems premature to write an obituary when the venue is still operating, but given that the end is inevitable, why wait?

While the original application to turn the site of the Palace into a luxury hotel that contravened the height limits of the area was rejected, a decision has yet to be made on the revised proposal that is currently with Melbourne City Council.

Nevertheless, the landlords of the building have advised the venue operators that the music dies on May 31, 2014.

And with that, an end will come to the 15o+ years of entertainment history at the top of the city. Not to mention, leave a sizeable hole in available venues for touring bands.

Where the magic happened - The Palace sounddesk circa 2009

The Palace will become a thing of legend, spoken of in the same tone as long gone but the much missed Punters Club.

My recollections of the Palace go way back when, to when it was The Metro, and Goo was the night to go to.

One of the first gigs that I went to there, happened to be the ten year anniversary of the Dandy Warhols. Who decided to mark the occasion by having a halftime joint to celebrate. Things got a little bit looser after that …

More recent recollections are of Goldfrapp dressed in what can only be described as Betamax; of Warren Ellis writhing around in a mix of leads and pedals during a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds show; of the floor positively shaking as the Cat Empire commanded everyone to get down and get up again; and of Sharon Jones demonstrating the history of dance to an awestruck audience.Goldfrapp - The Palace Theatre, 2010

 Good time indeed.

So it is with a heavy heart that I toast the dying days of the Palace. May it be a phoenix and rise once more.


They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot

18 Aug

Ah development.

These days it seems like every second day a new lot of apartments is being proposed for Melbourne. As the saying goes, you can’t stop progress.

However, when the development causes the demise of community character, which is featured strongly in the marketing material, then perhaps a harder look should be taken at the proposal and what all the outcomes will be.

It’s one thing to lose a relatively small venue, such as the East Brunswick Club, but when you’re talking of an iconic Melbourne venue that bridges the gap between pub and arena, then I think a fuss should definitely be made.

Yes, I am talking about the Palace Theatre on Bourke St (formerly known as the Metro). The current proposal is to replace the building (circa 1912), with a mega  3o storey hotel / apartment complex.

But let’s not stop there. There is also a proposal to redevelop the Greater Union on Russell St (or the Greater Onion as I like to call it) into a 12 storey hotel / apartment complex.

Permission has been granted for demolition of the cinema. As far as I can tell, a decision is yet to be made on the Palace proposal.

When you look at the two proposals together, what do you get? Plenty of places to stay in Melbourne, but very little to do? And if you do find somewhere to go, the new neighbours might be trying to shut it down. (I hope like hell that it doesn’t come to this for the Cherry Bar).

Melbourne prides itself on the title of Most Liveable City. According to the 2012 summary report, the top ranking cities tend to have a “relatively low population density” and a “range of recreational activities”. When a city becomes too big for its buzz and has “higher levels of crime”, “congestion” and “public transport problems” it drops out of the top ranks.

So shall we open the bets for whether Melbourne retains its crown in the next survey, when you reduce the entertainment options, dramatically increase the number of residents, refuse to make any improvements to public transport, and increase the cost of energy and water? And what is the go with access to healthcare?

Back to the bit about making a fuss.  What better way to voice your opinion by commenting on planning applications? There was a rally to save The Palace being advertised for 31 August although at this stage it doesn’t appear to be going ahead as planned.

(Update 28/8/13: Although the rally doesn’t appear to be happening, there has been an interesting development in the Palace proposal. As reported by Tone Deaf (which is in turn sourcing from the Herald Sun) the Lord Mayor of Melbourne has declared an indirect conflict of interest in the proposal.

Also, Melbourne is apparently the most liveable city again in 2013.)


March to save live music, Melbourne, February 2010

I do not want what I haven’t got

14 Apr

How do you squeeze a fifty year career into a 90 minute show? That was the observation, rather than the question, raised by Bettye Lavette a week or so ago, to a small but supportive crowd at the Corner Hotel.

In town as part of the smorgasbord of Bluesfest sideshows, Bettye put on a spirited performance. Even if she did grumble about the levels of her equally talented musicians. To us, she and they sounded just fine.

The crowd was a rare one for Melbourne. Quiet, attentive, and with the exception of the blond in front of us (who exclaimed to her friend that she only drinks grey goose), not one phone in sight for her entire set. So quiet, that in her final song- an a capella version of Sinead O’Connor’s I do not want what I haven’t got – you could have heard a pin drop.


I‘ve only ever been to one gig before that was so quiet, and that was Fleet Foxes. I have the feeling that no one bought a drink for their entire show, as the bar staff were kicking back watching in awe along with all the punters.

So who is Bettye? She herself exclaimed that she’d just finished her ten year, introducing … tour and was now in the midst of her fifty year retrospective tour. She may never have realised her dream of appearing on American Bandstand, but I have a feeling that dream may have been relinquished when she sang at the inauguration of President Obama in 2009.

In stark contrast to the hundred or so people that celebrated the career of Bettye, a couple of thousand filed in to the cavernous Rod Laver Arena to watch Paul Simon just before Easter. Most people remained seated for the entire show – as dancing is not encouraged – phones were aglow wherever you looked and conversations continued uninterrupted by the show in front of them. They may have stopped when the Boxer was played, but I highly doubt it.

Paul Simon has been a household name for at least 30 years. That didn’t stop people who had paid over $100 to see him, walking out mid set, to get chips, beer or go have a cigarette. From my vantage point, high in the stalls, all I could see the entire show was the movement of people in and out of the venue.

What was Paul’s dream when he was starting out? Has he achieved it? Is he happy? Or is he still searching? Did he walk off stage – after the third encore – satisfied?

Bettye did not entertain the notion of an encore, and the crowd didn’t ask for one. After all, she had just crammed fifty years into a 90 minute show. What more could she have given us? We filed out into the brisk Richmond air, Thankful N’ Thoughtful that we had just witnessed a legend.

(I wanna) rock and roll all night

5 Mar

So far this year, I’ve been quite spoilt for choice in the nocturnal activities department. Admittedly, I’m not the one doing the actual rocking and rolling, but I’ve happily stayed out till the early hours of the morning in support of said musicians.

Japan's finest funk band, played the Espy in January.

Highlights include Osaka Monaurail, the Daptone Super Soul Review and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

But I have to say, after these nights of frivolity, the furthest thing from my mind is to party every day.

Now, I am a little bit older than Gene and Paul were at the time that they wrote the “16th greatest hard rock song of all time”, but I don’t think even in my heyday I would have been able to sustain such a lifestyle for more than a week.

Certainly not without some stimulants. I’m currently reading Keith Richards memoir, and in it he recounts going for days without sleep.  Spoiler alert: Keith consumes a number of stimulants!

These days, after a big night out, all I want to do the next day is have a sleep in. Sometimes I don’t even need the night out to be wanting some good kip action.

Two weThe Rebelles at Flinders Street Station as part of White Night Melbourne.ekends ago, Melbourne had its big White Night extravaganza. By two in the morning I was  quite happy to go home. I’d seen the one band that I was dead keen on (The Rebelles), ooohhed and ahhed at the amazing projections along Flinders Street, and eaten onion rings (guilty pleasure).

There were plenty more bands that I was keen on seeing, I would have loved to have explored all the alley ways, and it would have been great to have that smug sense of satisfaction to be able to say, yeah I was there for the whole night. But honestly, my feet hurt. I had a social engagement the next morning. And Mikelangelo and the Tin Star will play again.

It may not have been all night, and it may not have been rock and roll, but I certainly gave it my best shot.

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 (in pictures)

31 Dec

On reflection, 2012 hasn’t been that bad of a year. A home is in the making, adventures have been had, friends have had beautiful children, and love has been found.

The following snapshot reflects a year of:

  • Good food;
  • Plenty of wine;
  • Musical outings;
  • Community;
  • Adventures to foreign lands;
  • Adventures in Melbourne; and
  • A little bit of acro.

Wishing everyone a safe and fulfilling 2013. May it be a lucky one!

I’m so excited (reprise)

14 Nov

I am conflicted dear reader.

I have just taken an audible in-breath of excitement, but I’m not sure that I can pinpoint the exact cause for the exclaim.

Let me first set the scene:

I have just sat down with some dinner (oh okay I’ll rephrase that – tea & toast) for a five minute spell before going to share the rest of my recent Cambodia photos with the rest of my travelling companions*.

I have picked up the copy of inpress that is neatly folded on top of the teev guide, next to the chair.

I glimpse the full page ad on page 3 and shrug.

Page turned, I express a silent inner wow at the full page ad on page 5 for Neil Young Crazy Horse.

Eyes turn to page 4 (yep, the research is true, the eyes always go to the right hand page first), kudos to Lisa Mitchell for her support of Neil Finn and Paul Kelly.

Page turned. Page 7. Audible wow at the headline announcement for Bluesfest: Paul Simon and Rufus Wainwright. My eyes then scan the full list of artists announced.

Okay, so that’s the scene set then. Now let’s narrow down who it was that made me sharply suck and hold my breath.

  • Chris Isaak – mmm, memory of the instore that he once did at the Bourke St JB.
  • Dropkick Murphys – I really want to hear the song that they’ve done with the Boss.
  • Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue – yep, there it is, the breath is drawn.
  • Wanda Jackson – breath still held
  • Bettye Lavette – tagnrelease just alerted me to her greatness
  • Sweet Honey in the Rock – still held
  • Plus many more still to be announced – and release.

Quick, when is Bluesfest? Easter weekend in March. I want to go. Really. Hang on a second, is that the same weekend as Golden Plains? Why am I going to Golden Plains when I know only three bands, when I could be going to this amazing festival where I not only know 90% of the bands, but I actually love some.

Page turned, and turned again.

Pages 10 and 11 – eek. Two pages full of ads for Melbourne sideshows for the above artists.

Okay, so I now don’t have to get to Byron Bay (or wherever Bluesfest is) to see this line up, but now I have to prioritise who is non-negotiable and who would be good to see.

(At this point in time I should point out that I have not learnt my lesson about buying tickets before blogging. You can all tell me about how good Harvest was).

  • Wanda Jackson  at the Corner – 20 March?
  • Bettye Lavette at the Corner – 4 April?
  • The Blind Boys of Alabama, with guests Sweet Honey in the Rock at the Arts Centre – 3 April?

Can I afford financially to see all of them? My eyes scan for Trombone Shorty. It looks like he is guesting on other people’s shows, but is he headlining anything? Not by the looks of the official festival website. At least I hope it’s a not yet.

At this point I should explain. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue have the honour of being my gig of the year. The gig was outdoors, by donation and on a warm summer evening as part of the annual Celebrate Brooklyn! festivities. And there was a marching band. Not just any old marching band, this was the Brooklyn Steppers Marching Band**.

Prior to being in New York, I’d been in New Orleans where I first learned of the musical genius that is otherwise known as Troy Andrews. His name was everywhere, not least the soundtrack to Tremé, but the first time I heard him was the first time I saw him. Genius? Confirmed.

What is not shown in this snippet is the ease in which all of the band members swapped instruments mid song without dropping a beat. Nor is the (what felt like) two minute continuous note that Trombone effortlessly played. The tension and the excitement in the crowd rising every time that we thought the note would end and it didn’t. Nor is the jam when When the Saints turned into Blister in the Sun.

So dear reader, now that I have worked myself into a tizz, I have questions to ask. Do I hold out for a solo show from someone that I have built up so much that if I see again I may be disappointed? And what if I wait, and a solo show doesn’t eventuate, and in the meantime the support  shows have sold out?

Do I try and see as many shows as possible – perhaps sell my Golden Plains ticket? Is anyone thinking of going to any of the above, or other bluesfest sideshows?

Let me know …

*I promise that I will put some photos up for general public viewing soon – in the mean time check out Waking up in Cambodia  for a sneak preview.

** I promise that photos of my adventures – including of the BSMB – will also be available for viewing, some day soon.

I’m so excited (and I just can’t hide it)

4 Aug

For almost a year now, I’ve been all about the savings. I have a weekly budget. I watch the interest rates. I try to maximise the most I can suck out of the banks. I have a spreadsheet!

In general, I’ve been pretty good at keeping to my budget. There has been a few indiscretions (independent record store day springs to mind), and a little bit of ‘windows’ shopping, but only when deals were too good to miss. In the lead up to my trip to the States, savings took a bit of a back seat but I figured that I couldn’t afford not to have a holiday.

I’ve even limited the amount of coffees I buy during the week. And that’s saying something.

My Achilles heel however remains music. To be more precise, touring bands that play for sometimes exorbitant prices in Australia. I was gobsmacked at how accessible ticket prices were in the States. Forget the fact that they were all American artists that I saw and so they didn’t have to factor in touring costs, but nonetheless, they were cheaper than seeing some homegrown artists back here.

Anyway, it was while waiting for my weekly coffee last Thursday when my budget got blown to smithereens.

I already knew that the summer was going to be big from the line ups of the New Year festivals, but I didn’t expect what I saw when I opened the street press this week. I did all I could to suppress the squeals of delight in the shop, and wait until being on a tram to send messages to those that I knew would share my excitement.

So, without any further waffle, here’s what I’m so excited about.

Scissor Sisters – 26 September – Hamer Hall

Stevie and I saw the ‘Scissters’ play at Festering Hall. Well we mostly heard them; being too short to see over the crowds in the pit. And for the first couple of songs, the mixing was awful. We also were nonchalant when the screaming reached its peak, when Kylie came on stage for a duet.

I’m a little worried about how the Scissters show will translate to a sit down venue. God knows the staff haven’t been all smiles about dancing in the aisles at previous shows. Nevertheless, I’ve just selected our seats, so there is no looking back (in anger) now.

Billy Bragg – 20 October – Recital Centre

To me, Billy Bragg is synonymous with Adelaide. I was introduced to his Don’t Try This at Home album in 2001 by the woman whose house I briefly lived in when I first moved over there. I already knew a few of his songs, most notably You Woke Up my Neighbourhood (because it featured Michael Stipe) and Greetings to the New Brunette (Shirley!) but this taster opened my eyes to his genius. Nearing the end of my time in Adelaide, Billy toured and a few colleagues and I saw him at the Thebarton theatre. I remember being on crutches at the time, and a snippet of banter between Billy and the crowd. Let’s hope I remember a bit more this time.

The Beach Boys – 31 August – Rod Laver Arena

Who doesn’t love the Beach Boys? Yes they might be old, and Brian might have his best years behind him, but I still want to go, if only for the trainspotting aspect. Hell I went and saw AC/DC for the same reason, so why not the group that still makes me Smile whenever I hear their harmonies?

Weezer – 16 January – Myer Music Bowl

I once was taken to a play by my Grandmother that may or may not have been M. Butterfly. When Weezer’s El Scorcho song came out that opens with the classic line, “Goddamn you half-Japanese girls” and mentioned Cho Cho San, the song and the play became linked in my head. I have no idea if there is any logic to this link. I do know however that I still love the Blue Album. Especially the 1.29 – 1.38 section of Only in Dreams.

Harvest Festival – 11 November – Werribee Park

Last year’s inaugural Harvest festival was too good to be true. Portishead, Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble amongst others. And a perfect sunny day.  This year it’s another stellar line up for the bands that I loved in my younger years – Beck, Cake, Dandy Warhols – and bands that I’m digging right now, such as Beirut and Santigold. Let’s hope the sun shines as brightly this year.