The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'brunswick street'
Melbourne independent record shop PolyEster Records is closing down; after having been a fixture on Brunswick Street, the once epicenter of the bohemian/countercultural inner-north, since 1983, and outlived numerous other storied record shops including Gaslight and AuGoGo. The shift by consumers to streaming, independent bands to Bandcamp and major labels to limited CD releases backed by streaming and lossy downloads, and the upper limits on how much vinyl the market can absorb (especially as an increasing proportion of the market grew up with CDs and do not associate the characteristic distortions of vinyl with an inherently more authentic musical experience) undoubtedly didn't help. Though it may be argued that, as soon as the neon Dobbshead disappeared from the back wall, the shop's days were numbered.
All of which leaves little of the old Brunswick St.; for record buying, there's still Dixon's Recycled, with their racks of second-hand CDs; as far as live music goes, Bar Open has gigs of some sort. PolyEster's companion bookshop, notorious for its flouting of obscenity laws, closed several years ago (though its awning still decorates the fixture of the restaurant that took its place, as if protected by some unofficial heritage listing).
One could say that the closure of PolyEster Records is the culmination of a process which began 18 years earlier, when the Punters Club, a pub and venue that was a keystone of the Melbourne live music scene, closed down and was replaced by a Chapel St.-style pizza venue named Bimbo Deluxe, its PA system playing house music. That was the beachhead of the slick, trendy south of the Yarra's expansion to and annexation of the inner north. The closure of PolyEster is the demolition of the last nail house of the old indie-rock bohemian Fitzroy, and the confirmation that the virtual Yarra now runs somewhere between Alexandra Parade and Merri Creek.
Your Humble Narrator spent this New Year's Eve at the Cue Bar, seeing Dandelion Wine and The Beautiful Few (who combine sardonic social commentary with an Australian New Wave aesthetic, like some cross between Pulp and The Models). All in all, a fairly typical NYE.
On the way back, walking up Brunswick St., I realised that Fitzroy has turned into Prahran; everywhere I went, I could hear the muscular thump of house music. Mind you, we're probably behind the curve here; in Prahran, they're probably into more fashionable things than house music, like NME '70s-Revival Rock or daggy 1980s top-40 hits or cunnilingus-themed rap songs or something.
This could mean one of two things: either Disney are now adding their brand to the family entertainment experience that is Brunswick St., or it's not actually authorised by Disney, but rather is some form of détournement or "subversive" post-Warholean art project or something (possibly even a commentary on the sanitisation and commercialisation of Brunswick St.?).
Not that long after Melbourne community radio station PBS-FM was forced out of yuppified St Kilda, it's 3RRR's turn to move. 3RRR's lease on its Fitzroy premises (right off the trendy Brunswick St. latte strip) is coming to an end, and the landlord has told them to move on. They're hoping to find a place in "Fitzroy, Collingwood or Carlton", though with the yuppification of inner-city areas, that sounds a bit optimistic. An industrial park in Lalor or Thomastown or somewhere sounds more likely. Or they could always look around Footscray; it's becoming trendy, but still grimy enough to be cheap.
You know Brunswick St. is past its use-by date when the funky alternative clothing and bauble shops start opening childrenswear shops. The funky kids who hung out there in years gone by, back when it was "cool" and "alternative", are now in their 30s, married, mortgaged and with children of their own, and so the groovy boutiques have moved with the times and opened babywear boutiques, and the cycle continues. Though it makes one wonder what kids whose parents dressed them in Brunswick St. alternative clothes from the day they were born will do when they reach adolescence and need to individuate themselves.
Local community radio station 3RRR has rejected a sponsorship/advertising deal from the DJ bar opening where the Punters Club used to be, on the grounds that the name "Bimbo Deluxe" is offensive. The owners deny any offense intended, claiming that it is named after an Italian café. Are 3RRR being PC nazis? Or would opening a bar named Bimbo Deluxe feed the rise of a Chapel St.-style "show-us-ya-tits" hoon culture in the formerly countercultural, bohemian Brunswick St?
(I wonder how long 3RRR will stick around there; for one, the culture of the area is now a lot more Nova FM than 3RRR, and secondly, the yuppie apartments being built in the former Universal Theatre next door to the station could put a damper on rooftop live-to-air events. It wouldn't surprise me if, within the decade, they relocate to Northcote/Thornbury or some place.)
Anyway, I'm sure Bimbo Deluxe will find that Nova FM/Fox/MMM will be more than happy to take their money and run promotional campaigns for them. And their clientele probably don't listen to weird community stations like 3RRR anyway.
A while ago, the Found Project Space gallery in Brunswick St. (which had previously hosted things like Cameron Potts' photography exhibition) announced that they were hosting an exhibit/competition for art representing the changing face of Fitzroy. Shortly afterward, the gallery was evicted from the space it was occupying (a former warehouse behind an Internet laundry) by rising rents and avaricious landlords eager to sell the space to a DJ bar or yuppie lifestyle apartments or something.
Meanwhile, across the road, the teen-oriented pizza bar that will be taking over the shell of the Punters Club has announced its own competition for a promotional photograph; the new face of Fitzrovian creativity (much like Sam Newman's Pamela Anderson mural was the new face of St Kilda quirkiness). And then there's the cancellation of the Fringe parade, and the continuous closure of shops that don't sell expensive designer fashion items.
I think what Brunswick Street really needs now is a Starbucks or three, and I mean that seriously. That would finally put the last nail in the coffin of the
obsolete notion of the area being a hotbed of creativity, or indeed having any sort of authentic culture, or being about anything other than artifice and consumerism.
And I think the location of PolyEster Books (or Records) would make a good Starbucks location, don't you?
Last drinks, everyone: Today was the end of a Melbourne institution, the Punters Club; the last day of the venerable pub/band venue's operation, and they chose to go out with a bang. The doors were open for free, and they had bands all day, from 3PM until late in the night. And many people rocked up to pay their respects to the Punters, to have one last pot (or several), tread the sticky carpet for the very last time and reminisce about all the great bands they have seen there, among them your humble narrator. As it was the last ever day at the Punters, and entry was free, the venue was packed soon after 3PM; after that, a long queue formed outside the door, with people being allowed in only when others left. Inside it was pretty tight.
I have seen many good shows at the Punters; I remember when I lived out in Ferntree Gully, driving down to Brunswick St. in my mum's car (I must have known the back streets of Fitzroy quite well then, or at least in terms of parking spots) to see The Paradise Motel there, and a number of bands after that. And now that era has come to an end. It's somewhat sad to have walked out that door for the last time, knowing that it's not a doorway I will pass through again in this lifetime.
To paraphrase one graffito in the Punters, Brunswick Street looks likely to die now that its heart has been ripped out. The street's cultural authenticity is in decline, and Brunswick St. is looking more like Chapel St. with each day that passes. (Even in the queue I noticed a difference between the people lining up to enter the Punters and the people walking down the street; the latter were wearing more designer-logo T-shirts, of the sort that sell for $70 in Prahran.) Oh well, now there's one fewer reason to get off the 112 tram on Brunswick St.
Oh yes, the bands. The first one I saw was some country outfit; then came Ruckrover (some of whose members worked at the Punters), who were very tight and energetic, with perhaps a slight Northern Soul feel to some of their numbers. Then came Disaster Plan, who played (as promised) quietly enough to be drowned out by the crowd, and ended with some rants about the inferiority of the other pubs (the Evelyn, for example), and then was Gaslight Radio, who were also quite good.
The Death of Brunswick St. (an ongoing saga): This week's issue of the Melbourne Times has a section on the transformation of Brunswick St. into an upmarket gated community and shopping mall. There is an article about a plan to dig a tunnel from the housing commission blocks to Sunshine, to provide residents with "access to affordable consumables and appropriate social activities"; the article has a photograph of the public housing block surrounded by a high wall, keeping all the riff-raff in. Then there is the section on the "bigger, brighter and better" Brunswick St., with photographs of the Punters Club Photoshopped into a Country Road, the new Planet Hollywood, and a Starbucks.
Planet Hollywood, which replaced Flowers Vasette in December, is now the hottest nightspot in town. "It is amazing. The young professionals from their designer apartments, and even people from the eastern and southern suburbs, are flocking to this vibrant venue," Ome said.
Yes, it's a parody issue, but it's (unfortunately) too close to the truth.
The local street press has just confirmed the impending closure of the Punters Club (sometime after January), The proprietor is looking to open another venue somewhere less gentrified (possibly Northcote). Because of rising rents, whatever takes the Punters' place in Brunswick Street will probably be much more upmarket. In related news, a new venue has reopened on the site of the legendary Continental, another band venue which closed a while ago. It is probably enough to note that this venue is called the Boutique Dance Lounge, and recently played host to a single launch by manufactured Top 40 star and former Hollywood trophy wife Tina Arena. Ah yes, there's nothing like shiny machine-extruded crap for conspicuous consumption...
On the future site of the Brunswick Street Starbucks? A piece in the age about the closure of the Punters Club in Brunswick Street. No hard facts about its impending closure, but somewhat depressing nonetheless.
(I went to the Punters Club tonight, actually. It was a fairly quiet Sunday night, with three bands playing (Grand Salvo, Sir and Wagons), and a fairly small crowd, with a genuine spirit of bonhomie. The Punters will be a great loss (as, indeed, will Brunswick Street as a cultural phenomenon). Oh well; let's hope the Empress Hotel, in North Fitzroy, stays around for a while yet.