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HEAD FULL OF FLAMES:
PUNK IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL 1977-1990
nd image: G
DP bowl 2.6, 2004
Sat 14 September -- Sun 24 November
Sat 28 September -- Sun 8 December
MASSIVE LOVE OF RISK:
SPLINTERS THEATRE OF SPECTACLE
The Canberra Times | In The City Magazine
Looking around at the many closed music venues, where
punters once rocked, raved and thrashed about, it's hard
not to feel nostalgic about Canberra's once thriving music
Sure, there are still good bands and venues, and festivals
like Groovin the Moo and Stonefest, but we don't really
rock like we used to.
Before I moved back to Canberra in the early 1990s, after a decade
working for bands and record labels in Sydney, my view of the
national capital's music scene wasn't exactly positive. I once brought
Died Pretty and the Crystal Set here on a night so cold we prayed for
global warming. The thoughtful promoter 'accommodated' us in a
The show, like the crowd, was deplorably cold and miserable. We
high-tailed it out-a town, clocking up three speeding tickets along the
Hume Highway so keen were we to get to Melbourne.
Yet Canberra had also become one of Australia's most lucrative
record buying markets, a place with over a dozen record stores,
including Impact Records, the coolest and largest independent record
store in Australia.
So I moved back here, getting work at Impact Records, where I met
my long-time musical buddy Ian Price (aka Beard). Ian showed me,
to paraphrase Buffalo Springfield, that something was happening here
but what it is wasn't exactly clear.
The most noticeable difference was that being a small city, Canberra
had a lot of cross-over, genre hopping and blending of styles. Here,
punters could go to any gig or rave without the snobbery of Sydney
or Melbourne, where venues were known by the type of bands they
booked or the dress sense of their patrons.
As an aside, I worked the door at interstate venues where (and I'm
not joking) Doc Martins and flannelette shirts were banned. Canberra
wasn't like that. That's like banning Ugg boots and trackie dacks.
I can remember (sort of) dancing (sort of) at Heaven nightclub with
the grunge, goth, thrash, techno, trance and gay crowd. We didn't
care what we or anyone else looked like.
This amalgamation of fans became apparent with my other astounding
discovery -- Canberra's thriving metal scene, led by pioneering death/
thrash hybrid Armoured Angel and mind-melting metal of Alchemist.
I wasn't a metal fan, but Ian Price dragged me along one night to hang
out with the scruffy geezers with jealousy inspiring manes. Turned
out, metal fans are the most appreciative, inviting, nonviolent
and generous crowds ever.
Here were public servants, shop workers, fitness instructors, students,
teachers, the unemployed, you name it, all sharing a passion and
commitment to build and support a music scene. I went to metal
gigs even though it wasn't always my taste in music -- the atmosphere
and camaraderie always made for a top night out.
Here's another side to Canberra's mental scene. In the early 1990s,
Armoured Angel's Joel Green initiated a charity fundraiser called 'Metal
for the Brain' to raise money for Alec Hurley, a teenager who suffered
severe brain damage after trying to stop a fight outside a Canberra
hotel. It became Australia's premier metal festival and gained national
and even international fame when Canadian metal stars Voivod
headlined one year.
'Metal for the Brain' was a fantastic annual event and the total opposite
of the selfish, boorish behaviour I'd seen at other festivals.
It wasn't just metal -- Canberra's music scene boasted numerous venues
catering to all types. The Canberra Theatre, Convention Centre and
AIS hosted the big acts, and we've had plenty of them over the years.
Music enthusiast SIMON TATZ reminisces about the
highs and lows of Canberra's live music scene and
where the city stands on the national music stage.
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