The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'the punters club'


The Hummingbirds, arguably the greatest Australian indiepop band of the 1990s, are reforming for a one-off set at Sydney's Big Day Out on the 27th of January. Well, so far it's a one-off set; perhaps they'll do some other Australian shows. I imagine that them playing Indie Tracks or the Gothenburg Popfest would be a bit of a stretch, though.

Meanwhile, Mess+Noise also has a two-part retrospective on the Punter's Club, the legendary Fitzroy music venue which closed its doors in 2002 (1, 2), interviewing many of the people involved, who went on to work in other Melbourne live music institutions.

The Punters Club closing was so final, though. We knew it was going to happen and that another business was going to move into the building, so it couldn’t be saved. It might have indirectly inspired the SLAM rally and all the outrage about The Tote, because it proved that people actually give a shit about music venues closing. I actually think The Punters Club was more loved than The Tote, but over the years, people came to realise that they didn’t want to lose another venue.
In hindsight it’s sad, and we miss that venue, but Brunswick Street really sucks these days anyway. I’m pleased that I don’t have to go and see gigs in that area anymore. Johnston Street and The Old Bar is about as close as I want to get. I don’t want to be with all the hipsters there. It’s like the gentrification of St Kilda. I remember when Brunswick Street only had three or four cafes: Bakers, Rhumbarella’s, Mario’s and The Fitz. That said, Melbourne has an extremely strong live music scene, so for every venue that closes, a new one opens somewhere.
This weekend, for those in Melbourne, there is a series of Punter's Club reunion shows at the Corner Hotel in Richmond.

The spectre of closure, usually driven by gentrification and the increased rents coming from it, is seldom far away from live music venues; recently, Melbourne's favoured ex-neo-Nazi haunt turned band venue, Birmingham Hotel ceased putting on gigs, due to it losing money. Meanwhile, in London, increasing costs have forced the Luminaire to close at the end of the year. The Luminaire was one of London's better medium-sized venues; it will be fondly remembered, particularly the hand-painted signs on the walls informing punters in no uncertain terms that it is a music venue not a pub, and instructing those who wish to talk to their mates to leave.

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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.

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Stephen Cummings on the passing of the Punters, and a history of the Melbourne live music scene. And if you have RealPlayer, the Age has a video report on the last night at the Punters. (Funny how they call it a night even if part of it was during the day.)

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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.

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The show at the Punters was OK. Love of Diagrams was a guitar/bass/drums outfit who played a really tight, energetic instrumental set. Then Sir came on, doing a number of songs (topically enough, they played Handsome first); they were good, though let down a bit by problems with the sound. Anyway, they played their new songs, which was good. Finally, on came Ninetynine, who rocked. They played various old and new songs (including the old one with the Casio VL-1 drum loop; a real touch of class, that), with tremendous energy (as usual, Cameron went berzerk on the drums), swapping instruments between songs as they usually do. They also mentioned that they're supporting Stereolab when they tour, though I think that's at the Prince of Wales show, not the Corner one (to which I'll probably be going).

Pity I couldn't be in two places at once, because Partition were doing a support set at the Dan O'Connell at the same time. I really wanted to hear what their Field Mice tribute song was like...

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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...

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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.

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