Crowbar closure leaves gap in music scene

GARRY LONG

Crowbar Brisbane’s decision to close its Fortitude Valley venue for the foreseeable future has left both bands and fans of the live music venue mourning its loss.

We Set Sail at Crowbar Brisbane

Benjamin Breitenstein (second from right) and his band We Set Sail were firm supporters of live music venue Crowbar Brisbane. Photo: Matt Walter

 

In a statement on their official website, Crowbar’s owners Trad Nathan and Tyla Dombrowski said they were thankful for the unending support for the Brisbane venue from fans and bands alike during these challenging times.

“We’ve shared thousands of gigs, good times, beers, shots, sing-alongs, laughs, hugs, tears and triumphs with friends from all around the world,” the statement said.

“These are trying times for the music and entertainment industries, and the future is uncertain for a lot of us, but we hope to be back in Brisbane sometime with a very loud bang,” it said.

Crowbar Brisbane, which was considered by many to be the home of Brisbane’s live metal, punk, hardcore, indie and rock music scene, was established in Brisbane in 2012.

Following its success, the owners opened a second Crowbar venue in Sydney in 2018.

Collectively, the two venues hosted more than 1500 bands each year, showcasing the best local, national and international talent, including local heroes Violent Soho to international punk acts such as The Melvins.

While the Sydney venue will stay open, the closure of the Brisbane venue has left bands questioning the future of the rock scene.

The closure is a particularly tough blow for bands given the pressure that is already on the live music scene thanks to the current coronavirus restrictions.

The current COVID-safe restrictions limit audience capacity to 100 (not including the band) and force venues to allow for seated audiences only, which has meant that the majority of live performances are acoustic sets, with fewer fans and no dancing.

Drummer from local rock band We Set Sail, Benjamin Breitenstein, said the Crowbar environment had been tremendously helpful for the band’s progression towards becoming better performers and live musicians.

“The Crowbar was unique because they placed the emphasis on the artist and their hospitality was talked about a lot in the Brisbane music scene,” Mr Breitenstein said.

“These are weird times for us, as we’ve had to postpone many events we had planned and are hoping that everything will go back to normal later this year,” he said.

California rock band Knapsack

American drummer Colby Mancasola and his band Knapsack had heard great things about the Crowbar before playing there. Photo: Courtesy AP/Knapsack

 

Drummer from California rock band Knapsack, Colby Mancasola, said the Crowbar’s atmosphere and crowd participation made the Australian leg of their reunion tour a memorable experience when they played at the venue in 2014.

“Although we were halfway across the world, the Crowbar made us feel at home,” Mr Mancasola said.

“We heard great things about the club through mutual friends and it didn’t disappoint,” he said.

One of the reasons for Crowbar Brisbane’s popularity can be attributed to the way it was managed, as a venue run by artists (owners Trad Nathan and Tyla Dombrowski, who also own Hearts MGMT, are both former musicians), in conjunction with artists, and for artists.

Official Crowbar photographer Matt Walter said Crowbar was the only dedicated venue in Brisbane that was known throughout the world as being a safe space for heavy music lovers.

“The absence of Crowbar would be a known hole in the Brisbane music landscape,” Mr Walter said.

“Crowbar gave me a place where I was able to do anything and have access to bands that I admired so much and truly connect with,” he said.

“I felt like I was not only just a part of creating the brand, but also contributing to an ongoing legacy,” he said.

Crowbar Brisbane

Crowbar Brisbane was packed with punters earlier this year when Indie and alternative rock band Pandamic launched their single, “Sweater”. Photo: Courtesy Crowbar Brisbane

 

The Crowbar’s influence was felt not only by bands, but also by the dedicated fans who have treasured memories of the venue.

Heavy metal fan and regular Crowbar attendee Harrison Waycott said the Brisbane venue would be missed because of its grungy interior and intimate feel, which separated it from other music venues.

“Its basement stage and bar underneath, along with the low ceilings, made the gigs feel more personal,” Mr Waycott said.

“It was a place where strangers could come together to form bonds over something they all shared in common, being their love for music,” he said.

“They were a tight-knit group who seemed to love the community they had grown and it could be felt just by looking at how they interacted with people at the shows,” he said.

Although the Crowbar Brisbane is no more, the Sydney-based Crowbar plans to begin a new series of live acoustic sets for music lovers later this month, in line with COVID-safe measures.

Patrons will need to maintain a 1.5 m distance from each other, and Crowbar Sydney are recommending the use of masks and will provide hand sanitizer inside the venue.

Shows are strictly seated only and are limited to 75 fans.

There is also a maximum size of no more than 10 people in a group booking.

For more information visit the Crowbar Sydney website.

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