Festival Hall Melbourne, January 2004

Everyone has a Festival Hall story. The old barn of a place on Dudley Street, West Melbourne was THE venue back in the day. Once upon a time the name bands would play either Festival Hall or the Myer Music Bowl. I recently heard a poignant quote – ‘Festival Hall these days – you’re either on the way up or on the way down’. However, to me, it is still hallowed ground. The Beatles played there (before my time!).  Anyone and everyone has performed there. My first ‘real’ concert was Billy Joel in the late 70s. I saw Elton John there in the early 80s and I saw a re-formed Cold Chisel play there as part of their Ringside tour in 2004.

I regret that I never saw Cold Chisel in their heyday of the late 1970s/early 1980s. The alcohol fuelled antics of Jimmy Barnes and brilliant guitar playing of Ian Moss provided legendary pub shows .

In my late teens I got a Clarion tape player for my car and played the East album endlessly at loud volume. When Chisel got back together to tour the old boxing stadiums, hence the Ringside tour title, I jumped at the offer to finally see them play.

As well as the gems that appear on East, I don’t mind Saturday Night from the Twentieth Century album. I love the ambient Sydney street noise at the start of the song and always look forward to the sound of the frustrated Pizza Shop guy who, after the ninth repetition of Saturday Night yells at a customer “Well, if you don’t like it what are you doing standing there for twenty minutes for?” (Check the video clip, about 46 seconds in.)

The Ringside performance was great. The stage was in the centre of the hall. Chisel played all the favorites as well as some lesser-known tunes. A great singalong. Their act was tight and, as expected, was not wild like the days of their youth.

Come time for Saturday Night I couldn’t help myself. I hesitated, and then thought, Nah, here goes. Chisel got in the groove and just after the ninth repetition of ‘Saturday Night’ I yelled out the famous line: “Well if you don’t like it what are you doing standing there for twenty minutes for?”

You should have seen the stares I got. “What, didn’t you know that it’s part of the song?” I wanted to say. Perhaps it wasn’t the done thing to do when amongst a more ‘senior’ audience. Luckily I wasn’t shown the door. I might have been red-faced but I had a grin from ear to ear.

Rather more recently I dropped into Festival Hall for about thirty minutes or so. My son, Dan, and his band Jarrow, had scored the support band gig for Liverpool indi rock band The Wombats.  You wouldn’t believe my swelled pride – Dan is playing Festival Hall – FESTIVAL HALL! I helped him with the load-in and then hung around for the sound check. The huge PA and brilliant light show was great. For that check Jarrow played a couple of songs.

While standing there in that almost empty cavern I could not stop thinking of the rich history of the venue and even had a smile at the memory of my antics at the Cold Chisel concert.

In telling others about Dan’s Festival Hall gig I started to glean lots of information from friends and work colleagues in relation to their memories and experiences of that place. I set myself a literary goal. It’s a bit like an A to Z acrostic poem:

Hugh saw AC/DC., supporting Skyhooks
Molly saw the Beatles
Gill saw