Home' In The City : In the City - Spring - 2013 Contents The Canberra Times | In The City Magazine
Bob Dylan's two shows, the Sex Pistols reunion tour (where
Johnny Lydon cruelly described us "the country bumpkin
capital"), Deep Purple, Status Quo, Jeff Buckley (who ended
up drinking with the Impact Records crew at the Phoenix bar
after the show), Dinosaur Jr, Bangles, Alice Cooper,
Aerosmith, Buddy Guy and Garbage are among the more
Pearl Jam played one of their best gigs here and rate their
after show party, with Melbourne's Cosmic Psychos, as
one of their most unforgettable nights ever. I'm not sure if
the other hotel guests share that sentiment. AC/DC also
blasted out the Mitchell showgrounds, but sadly NIMBY
noise complaints mean we no longer have these huge
Civic used to be home to four venues: the Terrace Bar,
Terminus Tavern, Gypsy Bar and Asylum.
The Terrace was long and narrow and if you didn't get
up front, chances are you wouldn't see or hear much
of Gup's sound system. On a good summer night, it would
rain inside The Terrace from the accumulated sweat
The Terminus Tavern and Gypsy Bar were underground,
windowless affairs, giving them that true inner-city
vibe, especially before smoking was banned and you
could consume a free packet just by spending a few hours
among the throng.
The Terminus was a larger venue with a low stage and
good sound; while the much smaller Gypsy Bar featured
annoying pylons and a rudimentary, very crowded bar
and toilets to match. No doubt these were fire death-
traps waiting to happen, but they always had great touring
and local bands playing there.
Asylum was really just a big lounge room with a separate
smaller area; home to two highly addictive pin-ball
machines and a minuscule bar. The Prodigy once played
there in front of about 40 bemused onlookers on an
icy weekday evening.
Under the guidance of promoter Pete Spicer, the ANU
Refectory was Canberra's premier music venue and
regularly hosted top national and international bands.
I missed Nirvana's legendary gig at the ANU, stupidly
thinking I'd see them 'next time'. That was one of my
dumber decisions, along with refusing to pay the outrageous
sum of $35 to see Neil Young and guest Bruce Springsteen!
But I've been fortunate to see dozens of great gigs at
the Refectory: an exceptional Iggy Pop, Beastie Boys,
Henry Rollins, Monster Magnet, Damned, Sonic Youth,
Young Gods and Babes in Toyland to name a few.
To be fair, I've also seen the worst gigs ever at the Refectory
-- the Tea Party on New Year's Eve (you know the band is
bad when folks start sitting down and/or sleeping) and the
Lemonheads, which Ian and I still rate as the all-time dullest
show we've seen in 20 years of going to gigs together.
The Refectory could be converted into a smaller venue,
which suited a relatively unknown Redd Kross when they
delivered a killer show to a lucky few dozen. The Dandy
Warhols also gave Canberrans an insight into why they
are a truly original and innovative live band, when they
blew the roof off with a powerhouse gig.
More recently Jack White's Dead Weather delivered one
of the most exhilarating shows I've experienced on a cold
winter's night in front of less than 100 fans.
Sadly, this is indicative of how the live scene has declined.
Last April, Pink Mountaintops and sonic stoner's Dead
Meadow played at the Refectory. Okay, so they're not
exactly household names (although Dead Meadow did
feature in The Wire), but here were two brilliant American
bands, in town for a night, and there were only a few hardy
hair heads to welcome them to our capital.
It reminded me of 2005 at the Holy Grail in Civic, now
a clothing store, which hosted a relatively unknown
band called The Black Keys. The few fans who attended
will never forget that show.
There are many reasons for Canberra's decline in
crowds and touring bands.
Like the other cities, we no longer have the venues and
dedicated promoters able to bring touring bands here.
Noise complaints permanently silenced some venues. Pubs
and clubs have given way to poker machines. Gigs are
now priced way beyond what many students and young
people can afford, and big chains and cheap downloads
have affected live entertainment.
It's not all lost though. Recently I've seen two all-time
great (and sold-out) concerts in Canberra: Chris Cornell
and Eddie Vedder. Both artists brought out vocal and
appreciate crowds and some very funny banter.
Finally, although Impact Records -- which was more than
just a record store, with its incredible range of music,
comics, mags and books and Fawlty Towers style customer
service -- has gone, Canberra still has Impact Comics
and Landspeed Records to keep the spirit going and remain
vital links to Canberra's alternative cultural activity.
Canberra's music scene always required a bit of scratching
below the surface to find the mother lode of musical
talent. It's not what it once was, but hopefully we will see
more national and international promoters view Canberra
as a must-tour city.
"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."
Pictured performing in Canberra are the Prodigy (Keith Flint), left,
who played in Canberra to about 40 fans, and the Beasty Boys
(Adam Yauch), who played a legendary gig at the ANU.
Links Archive In The City - Winter 2013 In the City - Summer - 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page