Time Out Melbourne

Great Melbourne Venues #2: The Punters Club

Now the site of a pizza joint and nightclub, the Punters used to be the sort of venue that gave you character

If you were in a band between 1987 and 2002 and you never played in the Punters Club then you weren’t really in a band. No matter what genre you played, or where you were from, if you were competent then you would pursue gigs there – even if that meant third on the bill on a Monday night. And even that was some kind of badge of honour.

This, after all, was a room which hosted most of Australia’s dominant bands of the era. Powderfinger, Regurgitator, silverchair, Spiderbait. Overseas visitors such as Cat Power and Mike Patton played there before they became concert attractions.

As corner pubs go it was modest. One side faced onto busy Brunswick Street but the other slid down a narrow one-way artery, so if not for a large flat metal sun affixed where you would normally find a Carlton Draught sign, it was easy to miss.

The band room accommodated only a few hundred with a hideaway for the two most sought-after pool tables in town. The front bar boasted booths against the windows and stools against the bar, and the distance between them as you fought to get from the front door to the toilets was about half a metre wide. You squeezed, edged, gave way, collided. Seats were a precious commodity.

The pub was the hub of the music scene north of the river for more than a decade. Venues like the Empress, further north and similarly set-up were always smaller siblings. Sometimes there would be transits across the road to the Evelyn, or up to the Royal Derby, but late into the early hours you always ended at the Punters. Its loss was the first step in Brunswick Street losing its soul.

First published on . Updated on .

By Michael Witheford   |  
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