It occurs to me that Melbourne tends to get overlooked on my blog. Sure I’ll write about the fabulous bands that hail from the city and mention the ones passing through, but considering its status as one of the country’s music capitals, it gets a pretty raw deal. I’m on the Central Coast of New South Wales, so the shows I review tend to be in my local area or in Sydney or Newcastle. Even Brisbane gets a look in when I’m visiting friends. But I haven’t visited Melbourne in years.
It wasn’t always this way. I have fond memories of making my way to Melbourne to catch Human Nature supporting John Farnham on his “I Can’t Believe He’s 50” tour. I can’t say that I know how old John Farnham is now, but I reckon 50’s a distant memory. I was back again when Invertigo launched their awesome and underrated album Forum. Now all but a select few would ask “Invertiwho?” Melbourne, it’s been far too long.
So in the interest of levelling the ledger, and completing an assignment I have for the #HipmunkCityLove project (yes folks, gushing about music isn’t the only writing I do), I think it was time I thrust Melbourne into the spotlight. And so I bring you, a music lover’s guide to Melbourne.
Amazing Music Venues
Scroll through the tours I’ve covered and you’ll see The Corner Hotel in Richmond mentioned time and time again. It simply gets the best bands around. Just make sure you turn up early to see your favourite, because the back of that long main room is a LONG way back.
The Tote’s story is one of survival. It’s been threatened by the establishment, but its passionate supporters ensure that this venue endures. Its sticky carpets and walls strewn with gig guides are iconic. It might be looking a little long in the tooth, but it’s still got plenty of punk attitude.
170 Russell is all about eclecticism. In just the next week it’ll host smooth U.S. soul singer D’Angelo, laid back Aussies The Beautiful Girls, and hard-rocking industry veterans The Mark of Cain. No matter what’s playing the sound is superb, and its innercity location puts rooms at the Crossley Hotel Melbourne within stumbling distance.
And I can’t forget about The Espy, the home of everyone’s favourite music quiz show RocKwiz. It’s another venue that celebrates diversity. You might hear an acoustic singer-songwriter one night and a metal act the next. It’s currently up for sale, so let’s hope the buyer keeps its rich tradition of live music excellence alive.
Before it took Australia by storm, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival was one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets. It all began in 2004 when just 1,400 folks turned out to see up-and-comers The Presets and Architecture in Helsinki play. The organisers have always had a knack for finding the best new acts before they hit the big time. There are more household names now, but it’s the smaller artists that provide the real surprises.
Melbourne Music Week is another local gem, a 10-day celebration of the city’s eclectic music scene. There are always stacks of free and ticketed events and performances from some of Victoria’s most well-known musicians and the next generation of superstars. The shows are complemented by panel sessions and workshops.
And why should the grownups have all the fun? Playfest is the city’s first one-site music and arts festival designed with kids in mind. Yo Gabba Gabba, Sam Moran, The WooHoo Revue, and Em Rusciano will delight the littlies. And if the sound of hundreds of screaming children starts to grate, mums and dads can visit the garden bar! It hits the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on November 21 and 22.
Awesome Record Stores
As an old school music fan, I love a city that still has proper record stores. You know the places; the ones with guys behind the counter that can turn you onto a band you’ve never heard of and stacks of imports and rarities.
Greville Records opened its doors in the late 70s, and while the musical landscape’s changed a lot since that time but you wouldn’t know it browsing the vinyl here. You can spend hours thumbing through the more than 20,000 LPs and more than 10,000 45s of every genre imaginable of almost every conceivable genre.
From Greville Records, it’s just a short stroll to Obese Records on Izett Street, which is so popular with the hip hop crowd that it spawned its own record label.
Record Paradise is another great option, no matter where your music taste lies. There’s new vinyl on one wall and classic artists on another. The store is closed from Sunday to Tuesday though, which can be a little inconvenient if you’re craving a vinyl fix.
And of course I could go on. I’m 800 words in and I know I’ve just scratched the surface. But it’s beer o’clock on a Friday, so I’m turning it over to you. Dear readers, what are your musical highlights of Melbourne?
Image sources: Remixyourface @ Flickr; Murasaki-Claire @ Flickr