Planet of Sound: Saying Goodbye To ANU Bar

Column: Planet of Sound   |   Date Published: Sunday, 14 May 17   |   Author: Dan Bigna   |   1 month, 2 weeks ago

     "This turn of events has brought on the inevitable nostalgia trip for those of us who now wear a shirt and tie at the day job and spend too much time wondering what went wrong."

When it comes to the ANU Bar and how it used to be, I am reminded of that line in The Simpsons when Moe the bartender decides he wants to convert his dingy bar into a family friendly restaurant. Homer’s workmate Carl immediately protests with, “but, Moe, the dank. The dank!” Not that the ANU Bar ever had that much dank as such; it was really more about the general vibe that suggested a good place to hide from looming essay deadlines while playing a game of pool and drinking Carlton Draught on tap. 

I often hid in there. You might run into someone you knew such as the dude who invoked deep thinkers like Sartre and Derrida while attempting to explain why he found everyday habit and routine so distasteful. This was easily recognisable code for justifying why he was about to fail a subject. Then there was the girl who came up to me one time and said she really liked the Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt I was wearing. This trifling remark instantly led to an intense three-month relationship that ended on the night Dinosaur Jr played at the ANU when I became attracted to a girl standing at the refectory midpoint who was wearing a Sonic Youth t-shirt, had long brown hair and great legs, and was dancing to Dinosaur Jr as if they were the greatest band in the world. 

Those were the good times, but eventually the ease of heading out to see a band was replaced by the similar ease of sinking into everyday habit and routine my philosopher friend loathed so much. Now the ANU Bar is to be demolished to make way for a brand spanking new arts and entertainment precinct on the University campus. This turn of events has brought on the inevitable nostalgia trip for those of us who now wear a shirt and tie at the day job and spend too much time wondering what went wrong.

I saw some great gigs at the ANU (Mudhoney, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Lou Reed) and some not so good (Nirvana). I have seen gigs where the place was packed to capacity (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) and some where there were like three people in the audience (Chris Knox, Hoss). I once observed an ANU bar regular snoring into his beer while Swiss post-punk band The Young Gods hit a sonic peak and also distinctly recall the girl stopped by Henry Rollins as she was about to stage dive with Rollins in that intense voice of his, yet with a big grin on his face, asking the audience what they thought about this while the girl in doc marten boots and short black skirt mock quivered under his penetrating gaze. 

All this local history will be preserved in memory as the place is torn down and replaced with something more functional and possibly more in synch with the assembly line approach to tertiary education these days. 

When I heard a final ANU Bar show had been organised by local promoter Garry Peadon, I raced out to get a ticket so those many fond memories of the ANU Bar ‘dank’ could come flooding back one last time. A bunch of bands had been booked with 1990s alt music icons Regurgitator as the headliner. Then all this stuff started coming out about how no female acts were on the bill and a number of bands, including the headliner, pulled out. I have kept my ticket but am not quite sure where this leaves the show that was supposed to be one final burst of glory. 

Garry Peadon tells me that losing the ANU bar, “will have a major effect on gigs in town – there is no other venue that has its facilities, capacity or location.” I was also curious as to why Peadon had taken on organising the show and his response was typically blunt. “Why not do it? Nobody else came forward to do it and I’ve had a long history with the ANU Bar both as a punter, supplier and as a promoter so to me, it was a good fit.”

Peadon, who recalls checking out indie Canberra band The Mighty Few as his first ANU gig, had been a key player in setting up and promoting much missed Woden venue The Green Room where I saw some fantastic shows from the likes of Howling Bells and The Hard-Ons. His reputation as a major contributor to cultural activity in Canberra is sealed for this alone but he chooses not to engage with the so-called controversy surrounding the final ANU show, and I must say I’m a tad puzzled myself about what happened. But whatever the outcome, a smile still comes to my face at the spectacle of steamy vocalist Niagara from Detroit punk rockers Dark Carnival thrusting a frightening looking stiletto at some idiot drunken punter who was attempting to inflict further damage on her already ragged and torn fishnet stockings. This was one female singer with attitude gracing the stage at the ANU bar who will be sorely missed.




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