Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2018 Mar-Apr Contents 10 Rhythms
too young to go then. Anyway, I am not even sure how you got tickets to concerts
back in 1964. (I think you had to write in.) I did get to see the Fab Four relatively
close up, however, when they appeared on the balcony of the Southern Cross
Hotel (sadly, now also gone). Less than two years later, a friend from the local
cricket team took me along to see my first concert: The Rolling Stones at The
Palais. Dylan played at Festival Hall just two months later, but I was vetoed from
I am afraid to admit that my first concert at Festival Hall was Peter, Paul & Mary
sometime in 1967. I had been asked to go along by the sister of a school friend
but the relationship didn’t survive the concert. It was not that PP&M weren’t
great but by that stage I was firmly entrenched as a Stones fan! I am not sure I
even told my friends I had been to see them!
Later, in the ‘70s, another relationship managed to survive an atrocious Eric
Clapton concert at the Hall when the guitarist was high on drugs and played with
his back to the audience looking backstage at George Harrison’s ex, Pattie Boyd.
The verdict was, “Please never ask me to another concert!” (Things must have
improved because we are still together.)
It was in the ’70s that my friends and I seemed to go to Festival Hall every second
week. There were some fantastic blues shows and some of the greatest rock acts
played there before stadium shows became popular. I got lucky and saw Joe
Cocker in 1972 in the only show of the three he did there when he wasn’t paralytic
drunk (he was in the process of being kicked out of the country).
I vividly recall Frank Zappa’s 1973 tour that was dazzling, hilarious and a little bit
worrying. Frank kept stopping the band and making them restart the songs; and
we are talking about musicians of the ilk of George Duke and Jean-Luc Ponty!
(A few years later when Frank toured Australia he had Norman Gunston as guest
harmonica player for a Hordern Pavilion show in Sydney!) John McLaughlin had
Ponty in the Mahavishnu Orchestra for a show that was even more spectacular
than the Yes concert with Rick Wakeman.
Someone recently reminded me that The Dingoes had supported Osibisa at
Festival Hall in 1974 in a weird double bill. (I knew I had seen them somewhere.)
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest shows I witnessed at Festival Hall was The
Clash in 1982 with Ross Hannaford as support, which also seems strange except
when you recall Joe Strummer’s love of reggae.
Last year Patti Smith and Courtney Barnett were at Festival Hall in what I am
told was a memorable concert (I was in the USA). It was Smith’s final ever-
Australian show. During the concert she told the audience, “I’ve never had much
time for the past, only for the future!” Perhaps that was a fitting epitaph.
FESTIVAL HALL R.I.P.
Some will mourn its loss, some will
no doubt be glad to see it gone. Yet
whatever one’s attitude, the soon
to be extinct Festival Hall in West
Melbourne will be remembered as
a musical icon where The Beatles
played in 1964.
In yet another sign of the rampant
development that is going to make
Melbourne one of the world’s most
unliveable cities by the year 2030
– with a projected population of 8
million – much of the famous venue
is to be bulldozed and replaced by a
multi-storey apartment building (and
don’t we need more of those?).
The owners, the infamous Wren family
(as portrayed in Frank Hardy’s 1960
novel Power Without Glory), have
decreed that the entrance to the venue
and perhaps the stage or boxing
ring might be preserved but that is a
Unable to compete with some of the
more modern venues, the Hall remains
empty for most of the year and, I
suppose, it is understandable that the
owners look at it as an unrealised asset
worth many millions. Let’s face it,
Festival Hall is hardly the Taj Mahal. It
didn’t get its nickname Festering Hole
because of its architectural aesthetics.
Apart from music, it acted as a venue
for boxing and wrestling and always
seemed more suited to those bloody
pursuits. Still, it is sad to see part of
our musical history destroyed.
I would love to be able to tell you that
the first concert that I saw at Festival
Hall was The Beatles, but even I was
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