When The Musics Over - FESTIVAL HALL to be no more (maybe)


Sorry I meant changed into something different (wine bar?) then that closed.


■■■■… the Espy’s gone?

Have I been away that long? Played two of those rooms.


Does wonders for the memory!


Public bar’s another one, bit of a rejig to “The last chance…” and still going strong


Not gone. I posted a while back (a year or more now …) it had been bought by a group planning to bring it back to life.

Last report was they opened up & used the Gershwin and one other area as part of a Music weekend a few months back, and it’s planned to reopen Oct/Nov this year.

Here’s hoping they come through … :crossed_fingers:


Hope so.

I also went to two Rockwiz tapings in addition to playing a few gigs, so I’ve been there a lot.


I had heard about Festival Hall for years as a kid. An older brother had gone there in the 50’s to see JO’K and Connie Francis among others. I was too young to be allowed to go see The Stones on either of their mid – 60’s shows. Then there was a real lull between concerts played there, it felt like there were none played there for about five years until…
Jethro Tull
l saw them in 1972. This was the second concert of a decent new band in Melbourne for years. Prior to that the city had a bad reputation, or at least rock promoters did. For a few years in the elate 60’s promises of concerts had been made by touring bands, but all of them had failed to materialize. That all changed in 1971, when Deep Purple, Free and Manfred Mann’s Chapter 3 all toured on the one show in early autumn. I flew up to Sydney for the weekend to see that show, but that is another story.
Back to Jethro Tull. They played at the only real venue Melbourne had in those days Festival Hall. It had been used for all manner of different events, from rock concerts to boxing and professional wrestling events. It was a barn in an unfashionable part of town, without much atmosphere or charm, and barely adequate acoustics.
When the concert tour was announced, myself and a few others rang around to see who of our friends were interested in going. By the time tickets went on sale, we had money and orders for 42 tickets. Since l was at college l managed to go line up and buy the tickets. I gave the girl at the counter $ 210, that’s right, tickets were $5 each. The 42 tickets were not in one block, but no one complained. Not one of our tickets was sold on, we weren’t scalpers. I remember a few things vividly about that night still. The house lights dimmed and the stage was in complete darkness. We could make out vague shapes on the stage and could hear people moving around. The lights came up a little and there were some guys in grey overcoats on stage. People thought it was the road crew doing some last minutes equipment checks. Suddenly the coats flew off and Jehtro Tull launched into their first track, they played Thick as a Brick, the whole thing, some 45 minutes worth! Ian Anderson was a supreme showman. As he explained after the Brick was finished, it was a rather ‘lengthy piece,’ as he swung a codpiece, to enhance the double entendre.
Somewhere in the middle of the show Martin Lancelot Barre, the Tull guitarist stepped up to play a solo, and l l do mean solo, as the rest of the band exited the stage. He was just getting really warmed up when a taxi intercom broke in over his speakers. By some crazy anomaly of electronics and short wave radio transmission, his speakers had picked up the signal of a passing taxi, much to the amusement of the audience and Barre’s horror. He twiddled with the knobs on his amp frantically, all the while he kept on playing. He succeeded in blocking out the taxi intercom, well for a few moments at least, then the taxi signal cut back in. To his credit he never stopped playing.
Tull was of course Anderson’s vehicle. The show was one of the great ones, with plenty of tracks from their second album Stand Up, my favorite, and if l remember correctly they also played a whole side of their fourth album Aqualung as well, they may have even finished the concert with it.

Pink Floyd, only of only 2 dates in Oz, the other was at Randwick. This was before Meddle released, so Echoes and One of Those Days were introduced as new tracks.
Lou Reed
The Eagles
The Kinks
Doobie Brothers
Leo Sayer
Chuck Berry
B.B. King & Band
Dire Straits
Eric Clapton (all 3 nights in 1975)
Procol Harum (both nights)
Little Feat (front row)
Wishbone Ash (front row)

And l almost forgot, John Mayall twice. The first time The Bluesbreakers featured a big many with tiny glasses, and a bit of a walrus type moustache, although the resemblance didn’t stop there. His name was Putter Smith* and he played an upright bass, superbly.
The second time was a couple of years later and Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs were the support band. Thorpie thought he was it and a bit, and had his ginormous PA cranked up to 11 throughout the entire set, never a great idea in Festival Hall with its dubious acoustics. John Mayall came out with a 30 watt amp by comparison, and after tuning up, turned the volume down with words to the effect that he thought it was loud enough, a pointed comment on what he thought of Thorpie.
This second band featured a jazz/blues guitarist named Freddie Robinson. He was a tall and thin guy from Chicago l think, and dressed immaculately in a three piece suit in contrast to the sea of denim and flannel all around him. He also had an unusual technique, with his big Gibson guitar carried high, almost under his armpits, but he was a tasty player.

  • Fast forward a couple of years to my first overseas trip in 1977. I arrived in Delhi and for something to do l decided to go see a movie, James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever with Jill St. John. Since the theatre was air conditioned, l thought it was an okay way to spend 50 cents. At the end of the movie Bond is having dinner with Ms. St. John on a ship when he is attacked by two guys. He eliminates both of them of course, but l remember thinking as l watched the final scene that one of the would be assassins had a strong resemblance to Mayall’s bass player Putter Smith. So l stuck around for the credits and sure enough Putter Smith’s name came up.


Granted permanent Heritage status.


Melbourne’s Festival Hall wins heritage protection, complicating redevelopment plans

4-5 minutes

Updated about 8 hours agoWed 21 Nov 2018, 11:05am

Melbourne’s Festival Hall has received Victorian heritage listing, putting a major obstacle in the path of efforts by its owners to have the 63-year-old building partially demolished.

Key points:

  • Festival Hall is awarded protection due to its “cultural heritage values”
  • Planning Minister says listing does not ban redevelopment altogether
  • Co-owner says the venue is not viable as a privately-run business

The owners of the iconic venue — which hosted The Beatles’ Melbourne concert in 1964 — revealed in January they were planning to sell the site to developers due to concerns over its ongoing financial viability.

A planning application was lodged by the owners with the City of Melbourne to demolish most of the original building, and build two 16-storey apartment buildings on the site.

But in May, Heritage Victoria recommended the building be added to the heritage register in recognition of its social and cultural significance to Melbourne.

In a decision last week, Heritage Council Victoria ruled that the building should be listed on the register as a place of “cultural heritage significance” to Victoria.

“Festival Hall was a principal live music venue in Victoria from the 1950s until the 1980s and hosted some of the most important national and international musicians of that era,” the background to the decision said.

Six key features of the interior of the building were identified as “intrinsic to its cultural heritage values”, including the timber floor, its tiered seating and “highly intact original amenity areas”.

The site was originally home to the West Melbourne Stadium, constructed in 1913, but after a fire in 1955, the building was reconstructed and renamed Festival Hall.

The venue hosted boxing and gymnastic events during the 1956 Olympics, as well as world-class bouts featuring the likes of Lionel Rose.

Since then, it has hosted international music acts such as Frank Sinatra and Fleetwood Mac, and more recently the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ed Sheeran and Lorde.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the heritage listing did not stop redevelopment, but did restrict it.

“Important elements of Festival Hall will have to be retained, including the facade, the box offices, the tiered seating, and the developer will need to work with the Heritage Council to ensure that any future development of the site respects the rich heritage of Festival Hall,” Mr Wynne said.

“It means that it can be redeveloped, but it has to respect the heritage of what is one of the most iconic buildings in Melbourne.”

Co-owner warns venue cannot continue

One of the owners of Festival Hall, planning barrister Chris Wren QC, said the venue will no longer be able to host concerts.

“It’s not going to be able to continue to operate, it’s probably going to become a warehouse or something like that in due course,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

He said the Victorian Government has poured money into upgrading other inner-city venues.

“It’s difficult because of the fact that the State Government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars building competition for us — and then to expect us to continue to operate as a private enterprise is unrealistic,” Mr Wren said.

“If they want it to continue then perhaps they should buy it at the highest, best price, and we’d be happy to sell it to them.”

He said his existing proposal to develop the Festival Hall site had tried to recognise its historical significance.

“The proposal we’ve put together is obviously a proposal that [takes] into account … what our view of the heritage value of the building is, and we’ve kept elements of it in there that we think appropriately recognise people’s memories,” he said.

“Whether the Heritage Council ultimately agrees with that will be a matter that will have to be adjudicated on, I suppose, if we can’t resolve it amicably.”

Topics: community-and-society, architecture, design, urban-development-and-planning, melbourne-3000, vic

First posted about 9 hours agoWed 21 Nov 2018, 10:02am


I was at that Jethro Tull Concert. I can remember some of it particularly vividly the start where they all threw off their coats. Tickets to concerts cost $5 close to the same amount as the album $5.75. (I worked at a record shop at the time)


They all came out in the dark, there were no stage lights, so it from the audience’s POV it looked like it might have been the road crew coming out again to make some equipment adjustments.


Yes I remember that vividly. We talked about it for years. How all the road crew threw off their coats picked up their instruments and played. It was so good.


Wren, eh?

Any relation, you think?

Edit: Just “had a quick goog”, they’re his grandchildren…


A few years later Talking Heads played at Dallas Brooks, it was their first tour and l think they had only released about 2 albums by then. During Psycho Killer a man walked on stage, stood in front of David Byrne and waved a huge knife under his nose. The band didn’t skip a beat. At the end of the song 2 of the road crew came out and escorted the man off the stage, without any drama,. The whole audience was completely stunned. Nothing more was said or heard about the incident. It was a set up. As a piece of performance, it was incredibly effective. They had picked the right song for the theatrics.


Vividly remember that concert - It’s about the best concert, I’ve ever attended.


There were some great concerts there, but it’s a truly ugly building that has reached the natural end of its life. I hope the sensible thing happens and it’s pulled down.


Exactly. Nostalgia shouldn’t trump the reality of the situation. Especially now that we have a glut of mid to larger sized venues


For ■■■■’s sake, Little Feat played there with the incomparable Lowell George, I saw them twice, the 2 best rock concerts I’ve ever seen and daylight third - well Talking Heads in truth. What more do the National Trust and you economic drys need, besides a …


I saw Bob Dylan there in April 1966. And before him, Peter Paul and Mary. Later Procol Harum. But I’m not going to go back there just because those concerts were major events in my life at the time. Nor are you. Not even if it’s converted into some sort of museum with pictures of Bob and JOK and Jack Little and Killer Kowalski and the rest. And I remember thinking at the time that it was a truly grim building to walk into.

So what’s the point?

If it’s pulled down there will arise in its place some generic residential tower, probably with a café at street level. It won’t be anything remarkable. But it will have people in it and it won’t be any worse than the disused eyesore that Festival Hall is now.


Just quietly, Zimmerman couldn’t tune the great Lowell George’s guitar. And as for Procol Ha Ha and Peter Paul and Hairy, well the answer my friend is running down your leg.


Careful Shelton, these jazz guys can be pretty tough and very dangerous.