Top 10 Victorian pub rock gigs of the past
30.10.2020

Top 10 Victorian pub rock gigs of the past

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Words by Alex Callan

Ah live music.

While researching and racking my memory for this retrospective journey of some of the best pub rock shows Victoria has hosted; I couldn’t help but think back to a quote Ross Knight of the Cosmic Psychos said to me during an interview.

“My worst and best experience of Geelong was playing New Year’s Eve down there. Doddsy had just taken over The Barwon Club. It was ’86-87, pretty early on, and I think there was about nine people and four of them were my friends… If you publish that there would all of a sudden be 50 people that were there…”

And that’s it to a tee. Some of us are lucky enough to witness the tiny intimate shows that turn into legend, while some others will spend the rest of their lives telling their son’s friends “I saw them before they were big.”

Here’s a look back at some of the shows that you may have been lucky enough to attend.

AC/DC at Corio Village, Geelong, 1975
When I mention Dad’s referring to a band they saw live before they were big, most of you probably thought of someone telling you about AC/DC. The hardrock veterans frequented Geelong, playing a tonne of shows at the Sundowner Hotel (now the Gateway), but possibly the most iconic set Acca Dacca ever did in our region was on an afternoon in November 1975, at the upstairs food court of Corio Village.

Delivering a set that included ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top’, ‘High Voltage’, ‘The Jack’ and ‘T.N.T’, you can see why it has gone down as one of the most iconic shows in Geelong ever.

Radio Birdman at Eureka Hotel, Geelong, 1977
That’s right. Before Eureka turned into ‘spewies’ and adopted the nightclub crowd, they were a band venue. Even up until a decade ago acts such as Tame Impala played live set’s at Eureka, but it’s hey-day as a venue is without a doubt the late 70’s, early 80’s.

There were a lot of different acts that I could have chosen for this one, but Radio Birdman are one of Australia’s most important punk-rock bands ever and the setlist of their ‘77 performance really caught my eye.

Opening with a cover of psychedelic pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators song ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’, the set goes on to include absolute classics like ‘Murder City Nights’, ‘Aloha Steve and Dano’ and ‘Descent into the Maelstrom’. They even threw in a few more covers including The Doors ‘LA Woman,’ and The Stooges ‘T.V Eye’, which isn’t a surprise considering the group got their name from a misheard lyric in the Stooges song, ‘1970.’

Deakin O’ Week, 1981
Ahh, Uni in the 1980’s. Courses were free, the ‘Iron Man’ drinking challenge was a Deakin staple and so were the string of up and coming bands to grace the stage during the University’s orientation week.

Whilst many notable artists have played Deakin, none are as special as the 1981 lineup.

Supported by acts that were relatively unknown at the time, the curated bill was opened by The Satellites, Hunters and Collectors, INXS and headlined by Midnight Oil.

Having just released ‘Place Without A Postcard’, the Oils played a set atop the food court pavilion, with now iconic songs like ‘Back on the Borderline’ and ‘Don’t Wanna Be The One’ being premiered to Geelong crowds for one of the first times.

Canned Heat at Collendina Hotel, Ocean Grove, 1982
The Collendina Hotel in Ocean Grove was also known to host a huge influx of the pub rock bands of Australia. Located in Ocean Grove, the ‘dina hosted a huge range of acts looking to play a warm up show and have a brief getaway before headlining in Melbourne that weekend.

Getting multiple international acts including ‘Simple Minds’ and ‘UB40’, the most notable act to headline a pub show at Collendina were Woodstock veterans Canned Heat.

Having a career that spanned over a decade at this point, Canned Heat delivered a special Thursday night set playing hit’s like ‘On The Road Again’, ‘Amphetamine Annie’ and ‘Goin’ Up The Country’.

Admittedly Canned Heat aren’t a ‘pub rock’ band, but seeing them in a setting so intimate is something incredibly special.

Rollins Band at the Barwon Club, Geelong, 1989
With Doddsy having recently taken over in the late 80’s, the BC turned more from a bistro with a function room out the back to an actual band room. One of the first acts to grace the stage was none other than Black Flag frontman and hardcore pinoeer Henry Rollins.

With Black Flag disbanding three years prior Rollins dished up a dose of his (at the time) new material with The Rollins Band, as well as a cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Gonna Move Right In.’

Jebediah at Deakin University, Warrnambool, 1996
Jebediah’s 1997 debut album ‘Slightly Odway’ still stands up as one of Australia’s best punk-rock releases ever. The albums opener ‘Leaving Home’ set influence for modern songs such as West Thebarton’s ‘Moving Out’, whilst songs such as ‘Harpoon’ made history by being the first song to make the Hottest 100 twice, by two different bands.

That’s why it’s all the more special that Jebediah premiered this material on the ‘Unipaloser: College Tour.’ Supporting Bluebottle Kiss and Something For Kate, Jebediah hit the road playing at a huge selection of Australian Universities. Their set at Deakin Warrnambool is still seen as iconic for the few lucky enough to see the band right before they broke the mainstream.

The Superjesus at Falls Festival, Lorne, 1997
Playing at Falls Festival couldn’t be more opposite to playing an intimate pub show. But, there isn’t a single doubt that Adelaide based rockers The Superjesus cut their teeth on the pub rock circuit. That’s why their 1997 Falls Festival set is so important.

Being a year before the release of their debut album studio album ‘Sumo’, which saw the group gain national acclaim, their Falls set is a true testament of what’s to come.

With the 1997 lineup being headlined by Iggy Pop and You Am I, The Superjesus put absolutely everything into their mid-afternoon set, clearly winning over legions of fans in the process.

The crowd is loving it so much, that it’s no surprise ‘Sumo’ reached number two on the charts upon its release.

Killing Heidi at Ballarat Records & Tapes, 2000
When Killing Heidi won a triple j competition in 1996 of the bat of their song ‘Kettle’, they were instantly shot to stardom. By the time their debut album ‘Reflector’ dropped in 2000, they had become one of the biggest acts in the country. So much so that the teenage singer, Ella Hooper actually dropped out of high school to pursue the band.

With that amount of hype, it makes sense that the ‘Reflector’ album tour is one of the biggest tours ever. They played EVERYWHERE. Anywhere you can think of, they played it twice. But one promotional stop saw the band perform inside ‘Ballarat’s Records & Tapes.’

It’s been so long since it’s happened that you almost forget bands used to play at record stores, but what an incredible setting to see songs like ‘Weir’ and ‘Massacre’ live for the first time.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Queenscliff Music Festival, 2012
When Gizzard got booked to play the tiny pavilion stage at QMF in 2012 (shit, it may have been 2011), I don’t think anyone expected just how big the group would end up. One person that certainly didn’t anticipate it, was the person who booked Gizz for the tiny stage at QMF in 2012.

Capacity for the room was thrown out the window with every youth at the festival in attendance, going absolutely wild. At point’s I remember questioning if the room had the structural integrity to stay standing for the remainder of their set.

Performing early material like ‘Muckracker’, ‘Cut Throat Boogie’ and ‘Uh Oh, I Called Mum’, the up and comers which had at the time recently formed from the disbanding of other local groups like ‘Sambrose Automobile’, ‘Revolver and Son’ and ‘The Houses’ highlighted early on that they were something special.

Now, less than 10 years later the group is selling out their own festival, getting headliner shows at Red Rocks and number one on the US charts.

The Peep Tempel at The Barwon Club, 2017
The Peep Tempel’s set at Negative Waves in 2017 has almost ruined every other act I have ever seen at the BC for me. It was that good.

Playing in the barn, the crowd got so raucous that security guards got relocated onto the stage purely to hold the amp stacks in place. Songs like ‘Big Fish’ and ‘Vicki The Butcher’ got the crowd going whilst ‘Carol’ provided one of the loudest live singalong’s I’ve ever encountered.