There’s no denying that the gig game in Newcastle is strong.
With venues like the Cambridge, The Wicko, the Hamilton Station, 48 Watt Street, and the Lass (to name but a few) offering up a massive selection of talent on a regular basis, gig culture in Newy should be the envy of most regional centres in the country.
However, with the passage of time, some of our favorite ‘gig holes’ for whatever reason have fallen by the wayside.
With the news, last week that Newcastle Leagues Club’s band room was getting a new lease on life in the form of The Badger’s Lair, we got to thinking about some venues of yore that we still wish existed.
So, here is a little walk down memory lane with some of the best defunct venues this town has seen.
The Palais Royale
This once-glorious entertainment Mecca was the place to get your show fix from the 1950s right up until it was closed in 2008 (after the 2007 Pasha Bulka storm) in favour of the largest KFC in the southern hemisphere.
Now, we here at Newcastle Live are partial to fried chicken, but we love gigs more and some that we experienced in our time going to this venue will live long in the memory.
Standouts for this writer include an absolutely manic This Is Serious Mum playing to a packed house on the back of their hit (He’ll Never Be An} Ol’ Man River and punk icons Radio Birdman making a triumphant return to Newcastle on their 1996 reunion tour, backed up by MC5 hero Wayne Kramer and Newcastle legends The Fools.
Guns N’ Roses axeman Izzy Stradlin rocking Newcastle with his stellar outfit the Ju Ju Hounds and ’90s riot grrls Babes In Toyland in cahoots with Spiderbait and Fur, circa 1995, helped to further stitch this icon into the fabric of Newcastle culture.
The Hunter on Hunter Hotel
Ahh the Hunna! Sure, the beers may’ve been watered down (allegedly) and the toilets were some of the most undesirable in the Hunter Valley (think the bathroom scene in Trainspotting for a frame of reference) but this tiny venue was responsible for giving a leg up to pretty much anyone in Newy and beyond who had a tune and a dream.
This place became the home of the, then prolific Newcastle DIY punk scene and hosted some of the best bands in that milieu such as No Reason, Angry Earth Mutha, Anomie, Pitfall, Nihilist and One Minute Mile.
On the national front, acts like Frenzal Rhomb, Front End Loader, Downtime, One Inch Punch, and even the Whitlams cut their musical teeth in the venue’s ‘dingy backroom.’
The Hunna was a venue with character and one that is sorely missed.
The Black Box
Along with with the Loft Youth Venue (another venue we definitely still wish existed The Black Box provided a much-needed space for the kidlets to experience live music up close and personal.
This place was all about multi-band bills with a punk rock bent that offered a space for much of the Australian ’90s underground scene to come and do their thing.
It was a place that was all about acceptance. It didn’t matter what sub-cultural milieu you identified with, you could always do you at the Black Box.
This venue’s absence highlights the need for Newy to establish a regular all-ages spot.
The Mercury on Watt Street was the place to be if you wanted to lose yourself in the heady sounds of ’90s electronica, funk, and hip hop.
This place was known to pack out from 9pm right through to the wee small hours with some of the country’s best DJs and producers stepping up to thr turntables.
This place also hosted some great local talent of the era such as DJs Tone, Kato, Mathmatics, Patsan, Skoob and Nasenbluten.
Also, if memory serves you could grab a carafe of Illusion – a heady cocktail of pineapple juice, vodka, Midori and triple sec – for around ten bucks. Bargain!
Located just a couple of doors up from the aforementioned Mercury, the Tattersalls Club, or Tatts as it was better known had one of the best band rooms in the region.
Another spot where punk rock and hardcore shows were a frequent occurrence, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see the place literally packed to the rafters with eager, finger pointing gig pigs
Also, a little band called the Innocent Criminals, who of course later went on to become Silverchair played a mammoth gig there just before their big break winning the national demo competition hosted by now-defunct SBS show Nomad.
This list barely scratches the surface of great venues this town has said goodbye to over the years. Give us your suggestions in the comments.