Northside: The Tote’s Jon Perring (pictured) knows a thing or two about live music in Melbourne, having lived on both sides of the river. “I used to live in St Kilda in the 1980s when it was all happening, before the venues and musos moved north to Fitzroy and Collingwood.”
These days the migration’s in full swing with venues like The Phoenix Room in Brunswick and The Prague in Thornbury extending options beyond traditional venues like The Tote, Northcote Social and The Corner.
Jon says that while the south has bigger venues and gets bigger names, the variety of pubs in the north can’t be beat. “We’ve got so many venues that are intimate, there’s something for everyone. If you want rock you go to The Tote, funk at Bar Open, dancing late try Yah Yah’s.”
When you throw in 3RRR and PBS spinning local artists 24/7, it’s almost impossible to escape the sound of music in the north. And if you’re still unconvinced, Jon points to the ‘Save The Tote’ poster on his office wall. “We brought The Tote back from the dead, what more proof to do you want?”
Southside: St Kilda might look to be all lattes and condos these days, but in the not too distant past this place was the centre of punk rock in Melbourne, with folks like The Boys Next Door, Chrissie Amphlett and Tex Perkins calling the beachside ’burb home. While notorious venues like The Crystal Palace and the St. Moritz might be gone, venues like Revolver, The Espy and the Prince of Wales keep the music candle burning south of the river.
Wally Kempton’s been booking bands at The Espy for years and reckons free music seven nights a week makes his place hard to beat. Beyond the sticky carpet, the Meanies bassist likes the buzz of the St Kilda Festival “whenwe run five stages at once. It’s awesome fun.”
Prince of Wales owner John Van Haandle thinks his 900-capacity pub is the best place to see the big acts up close. He’s had everyone from Prince to Lenny Kravitz and Katy Perry play “in front of punters standing shoulder to shoulder, drinking beer and completely immersed, the way it should be.”
The champion: North