When the Music’s Over: How the Annandale Hotel Survived a Backlash and Reclaimed Its Rock History | australian music


In late October, priceless pieces of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia began to litter Parramatta Road in Sydney’s western suburb of Annandale.

Like unwanted trash, pieces of history from the Annandale Hotel – an establishment famous for nurturing live music over decades – were offered free of charge, including many framed and hand-signed photographs featuring the Hoodoo Gurus and Midnight Oil. The giveaways were also announced on Facebook. Anyway, a dumpster was waiting around the corner.

The new tenant, Neil Thompson, had not predicted the abuse to come. The tenor varied, but the guideline was the same: Thompson and his wife and business partner, Amy, were the latest symbol of gentrification that had hammered the city’s music scene – and he didn’t even understand the significance of the pub he s. ‘came out.

“Yes, we got hammered,” he conceded to Guardian Australia. “Someone shared one of the photos, saying we were disrespecting the hotel’s heritage, and it just blew up, it got completely out of hand. It was a total stack on social media. .

Some 200 yards down Parramatta Road, Phil Thomson sat behind the counter at The Vintage Record, an equally renowned music industry establishment he had owned and operated for nearly two decades.

“I sat there and simmered and simmered, and then on Friday I finally decided I was going to go over there and tell this guy what I thought of him,” the Thomson says. -without-aP.

“I sat there and simmered and simmered”: Phil Thomson, owner of The Vintage Record. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

Thomson likes to think he has a warm relationship with his surrounding neighbors, which include the Church of God Bible Study Center, to his immediate right, and the Fantasy Brothel, to his immediate left. They are an inclusive lot at the inner west end of Parramatta Road.

He remembers countless intense nights spent at the Annandale, where many Australian rock bands had cut their teeth on the live music scene. The place had been barricaded since Sydney entered its first lockdown in March 2020.

So when Neil Thompson took over the abandoned venue a year later, Phil Thomson had high hopes – until the memories began to appear on the streets.

“You could say I gave him a history lesson,” says Thomson. Armed with his muscular Scottish brogue, he let rival Thompson know exactly what he thinks about this guy and his ignorant, London suburban lifestyle. “Starting with, ‘Do you know what you did to the Annandale story, man? “”

Some of the souvenirs left in the street in front of the Hotel Annandale at the end of October 2021
Some of the memorabilia left on the street outside the Annandale Hotel in October. Photography: Phil Thomson

Somewhat unexpectedly, Thompson began to agree.

“I admitted that I had done something I probably shouldn’t have done – it looked awful [on social media], my wife was really facing a lot of online abuse, and I should have been a little more thoughtful in my approach, ”he says.

“But when I found this place, it was in such a state of disrepair, I really thought no one cared… I think I’m doing my best to rectify it now.”

The tax collector proceeded to collect much of what he had donated the previous days. A local resident had taken possession of around 80% of the collection, planning to send it to a friend in Geelong who ran a guitar shop, but the shipment had not yet left Sydney.

Phil Thomson and Neil Thompson at The Vintage Record store in Annandale, Sydney.  Australia
“You could say I gave him a lesson in history”: Phil Thomson, owner of the Vintage Record, with Neil Thompson of the Annandale Hotel. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

With the record store now in the honorary post of curator, the Englishman Thompson set out to overhaul the hotel’s interior design with the advice and encouragement of the Scottish Thomson, recognizing the building’s significant contribution to the music scene of Sydney over the decades.

“It’s been a big learning curve for me,” says Thompson. “I would like to think that my wife and I, with Phil’s commitment, are building trust and engaging with the community.”

“History sweats from the walls”

The Gordon Gekko spirit of the 1990s saw musos get carried away and pokies move to the Annandale. It wasn’t until the turn of the century, when it was taken over by Matt and Dan Rule – brothers known for their talent at straightening out struggling pubs – that the Annandale Hotel began to come to life.

In his blog From the Pit, Sydney-based music photographer / videographer James O’Connor paid a loving tribute to the ‘Dale in an August 2012 post.

The alumni of the place, he noted, read like a who’s who of the Australian music scene: John Butler, Jet, the Vines, Gotye, Front End Loader, Regurgitator, Mark of Cain, the Butterfly Effect, Baby Animals , Rose Tattoo, Hoodoo Gurus, Spiderbait and Jimmy Barnes.

Memories saved from the renovations of the Annandale hotel.
Memories of the heyday of the Hotel Annandale. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

“There is so much history, it sweats from the walls, you could roll over in it,” he wrote. “We should get the new bands to do just that. “

Some well-known musicians started their careers at Annandale behind the bar, including Jake Stone of Bluejuice and Hayley Mary of Jezabels.

Dan Rule regaled O’Connor with some of the most memorable concerts. There was a time in 2004 when Vines lead singer Craig Nicholls lashed out at a photographer, called sheep audiences and asked them “baaa.” Or the moment when Dananananaykroyd drummer John Baillie Jnr decided to join the moshpit and slammed his arm. A favorite hangout for Big Day Out afterparties, the hotel has served its local beers to members of Metallica, Kings of Leon and the Strokes.

Some of Powderfinger’s earliest concerts were at the Annandale – and some of their later ones as well.

Powderfinger (seen here in 2007) has made regular appearances at the Annandale Hotel throughout the group's existence
Powderfinger, seen here in 2007, has made regular appearances at the Annandale. Photograph: Martin Philbey / Redferns

Back on the block

Less than six months after O’Connor’s 2012 tribute to his favorite concert venue, the Annandale is once again extinct.

Over the time that the Rules had reinvigorated the ‘Dale, the suburb of Annandale had undergone its own transformation. Trendy cafes, upscale restaurants and household goods stores had usurped the area’s old fish and chip shops, Vietnamese bakeries and laundromats. Just 4 miles from the CBD, the suburb now has some of the most expensive real estate in west-central Sydney.

Faced with mounting debts, the Rule brothers launched a ‘Buy a Brick’ fundraiser, and plaques outside the hotel began appearing, highlighting the generosity of local musicians, music lovers and houses of music. multinational records (“I bought a damn brick,” says Phil Thomson). The $ 50,000 raised saved the Rule brothers time, but not enough. By mid-2013, the company had been placed under administration, with the brothers blaming part of the blame for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in municipal fines paid over the years for noise violations, following complaints from neighbors.

The Oscars hotel chain bought the Annandale and tried to revive the live music scene there. But the problem of noise-sensitive neighbors persisted.

Butterfly Effect frontman Clint Boge claims he practically grew up in the Annandale – since he first threw up in the pub’s notorious toilet after playing one of his first concerts at the age of 18 years old.

“We never stayed upstairs, we partied so late a few times that we did,” he told O’Connor.

“Each time, we had to leave quietly because of the screwed up neighbors. What is that ? If you are buying near a pub, what do you expect? “

You Am I were the last group to perform live at Annandale during the Rule brothers, although they returned to perform in 2013 and 2019, less than a year before all the live music fell silent under Covid restrictions.

The Annandale Hotel in Annandale, Sydney, Australia
The Annandale Hotel is scheduled to reopen on November 11, with no live music. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

According to the I Lost My Gig Australia survey, as of July 1 of this year, 32,000 concerts and musical events have been canceled, equivalent to nearly $ 94 million in lost revenue.

The new Annandale hotel will open its doors on Thursday 11 November. But Neil Thompson’s newfound respect for the region’s local history extends to the enduring standoff with local residents: there will be no live music.

Instead, the hotel will serve as a living museum, at least partially responding to O’Connor’s claim that the ‘Dale has always been more than just a pub.

“It’s more than just a concert hall, more than just a place for music fans to gather, more than a miserable toilet,” he wrote.

“It’s the memories, the ringing ears, the sticky ground, the nervous young band taking the stage for the first time, the place where the guy you saw playing last week pour himself a beer tonight.

“It’s the sum of all the parts that make it such an integral part of the social fabric of Inner West and Sydney’s live music.”


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