Why We Need To Save The Palace

StereophonicsStereophonics at The Palace, April 2010

Should it come as any surprise that another Melbourne music venue is at risk of closure? Over the past few years we’ve said goodbye to The East Brunswick Club, The Arthouse and The Tote [which was thankfully reopened], and now it seems that some greedy investors want to take The Palace from us as well. And it’s not fair. I love The Palace. That venue has been the setting for some of my favourite live music memories. It’s an incredibly important part of Melbourne’s music scene, and without any suitable replacement, the loss of such a brilliant concert hall will damage our reputation as the music capital of Australia – not forgetting, of course, the Palace Theatre’s historical significance.

The Palace Theatre was built in 1860 and served on and off as a performance space until the 1980s, when it became a nightclub. I may be just the slightest bit too young to have experienced the days of Metro, but I turned eighteen at the right time to watch the Palace’s transformation into one of Melbourne’s best music venues, after the Palace in St Kilda [a fairly ordinary place] burnt down. With its ornate interior and history as a theatre, The Palace is an excellent space for local and international bands to perform, but is somehow not protected as an historical landmark. While it’s significantly smaller than Festival Hall, it’s a far more pleasant venue for seeing live music [as it wasn’t built as a boxing hall, for starters].

photo-4Kylie Minogue’s Anti Tour at The Palace, March 2012

The size of The Palace is one of the reasons why it is a crucial part of the local music scene. Fitting in between the Forum’s 1500 capacity, and Festival Hall’s limit of 5445 people, the only other venue that is vaguely similar in size is The Palais in St Kilda, which with its strict seating arrangements has a completely different atmosphere which isn’t suited to all performers. During sideshow season, The Palace, with its capacity of 1850, is the venue that the mid-sized bands play; those which are not quite big enough to fill Festival Hall, but are too big for The Corner or The HiFi Bar. It’s hard enough for all of our local venues to accommodate sideshows during festivals like Splendour in the Grass. This year, Babyshambles and Passion Pit will all be playing sideshows at The Palace. Where would they go if the venue were to be torn down? During Splendour, Big Day Out, Soundwave, and the like, every music venue in town is booked up with sideshows. Losing another venue – particularly one with The Palace’s unique capacity – would make these times of year even more difficult.

1954_60015401927_9319_nThe Kooks at The Palace, January 2009

Every single one of Melbourne’s music venues is important. I have a soft spot for all of them – even the abysmal Festival Hall – because of the memories and experiences that they all hold. The Palace is where Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs tried to throw me his drumstick and I ducked and shielded my face [an instinctive reaction]. At two separate shows, one year apart. The Palace is where I watched Johnny Borrell climb around the outside of the balcony, while security yelled at him to get down. The Palace is where Kylie Minogue chose to have her Anti-Tour, and I saw her perform songs that I never imagined I’d get to see live. No matter what the venue, live music memories are pretty special, and we need to keep the scene alive so that more memories like these can be created. The fact that The Palace is one of the better places in town to see a band just makes the thought of losing it even more devastating.

If The Palace is demolished, it’ll be a sad day for Melbourne. Let’s try and stop that from happening. The first thing that you can do is to like the Save the Palace Theatre – Melbourne facebook page that’s already been set up by some thoughtful people. Next, ensure that you sign the petition that’s been made by some other good people. But finally, and most importantly, keep seeing live music, and reminding everyone how important our local venues really are.

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