An Ode To Crowbar 243 – Tales of Music, Memories + Beer To Celebrate The End of an Era in Brisbane

Crowbar Brisbane at 243 Brunswick St,
Fortitude Valley QLD 4006 – Photo by Natalie Blacklock

Words by Natalie Blacklock

Photos by Natalie Blacklock, Elizabeth Sharpe – Ummagummamumma – Live Music Phototgraphy, Luke Sangiorgio – & Sam Townsend – Melting Wax Photography

Today marks the end of the era for one of Brisbane’s most beloved live music venues. After tonight’s Comeback Kid show, Crowbar will be moving! The Crowbar Crew are set to throw open the doors of their new digs – the former Presbyterian Church on Warner Street previously occupied by The Brightside later this month. So in the spirit of reflection, we at Good Call Live want to take you on a walk down memory lane and reflect on some of our favourite memories at the 243 Brunswick Street incarnation of Crowbar over the last 7-and-a-bit years.

With former The Amity Affliction keyboardist, Trad Nathan and partner Tyla Dombroski at the helm, Brisbane’s resident ‘Home of The Heavy’, Crowbar has become a staple in the Metal, Punk and Hardcore scenes as a haven for good beers and friendly faces since its opening in 2012. In this time, Crowbar has definitely changed. Starting as just a downstairs bandroom / bar, over the years, Crowbar has grown (just like the punters who frequent it) as they expanded from one to three rooms and even dabbled in late night bar snacks (those toasted sandwiches were killer) and a coffee cart! There’s been pizza + movie nights, trivia, cult parties, birthday week festivities, charity fundraisers, art shows, DJ sets, pre-parties, after-parties and late night floor shows, beer launches for Brissie mates like Dune Rats and Violent Soho, the much beloved Crowieoke and even the occasional Boatrocker down the Brisbane River.

Bakers Eddy at Crowbar Black at BIGSOUND 2019 – Shot by Luke Sangiorgio for Good Call Live

However, this place is far more than the walls and the debauchery that happens within them – for many of us, Crowbar has become a second home. To a certain extent, I put this down to the wonderful staff (both past and present) including Denis, Meg, Kate, Tara, Matt D and for a while there, Luke H from Violent Soho, that welcomed me (and countless others) through the hallowed 243 doors night after night. This atmosphere and sense of belonging is a big part of what makes Crowbar one of the best venues in the city. Crowbar offered a place of safety and security, a place for fun and good vibes, and a place to make lifelong memories with mates probably met in the venue at some point and for that, I will be forever indebted to 243 Brunswick Street.

Being Jane Lane at Crowbar For BIGSOUND 2019 – Shot by Luke Sangiorgio for Good Call Live

In honour of Crowbar and the good times I’ve had at 243, I want to take you on a trip down memory lane – looking at a bunch of standout moments from over the years. Each of these tales are moments in time that mean something to me and remind me of the relationships built, the good times had and the love I have for music and the people who make it all possible. So strap yourself in, and come and reminisce with me!

Darkcell at Crowbar – Photo by Luke Sangiorgio for Good Call Live

1.Telling Time With Wil Wagner – 25/11/12

I had seen The Smith Street Band for the first time in September 2012 at X & Y Bar and it was love at first sight. So when Wil announced a solo show supporting Joey Cape (The same week as The Smith Street Band were due to support Lagwagon), I was there! It was a really intimate set – a handful of people surrounding the downstairs stage. Towards the end of the set, Wil asked the crowd for the time, to see how many more songs he could fit in. I had a watch and a phone handy, so I knew the time but when I went to say it – the words literally would not come out. For one of the first times in my life I could not speak. Someone else in the crowd that night jumped in and spoke when I couldn’t, but luckily, it wasn’t permanent. I managed to get some words out after his set and I’m so glad I did for it was the start of a beautiful musical friendship!

2. Crowieoke With The Ataris – 16/11/2013

There was a lot of drama surrounding Hits n Pits Festival (which only ran for 3 years from 2012-2014) and The Ataris appearance at the festival. As it turned out, Frontman Kris Roe actually never left the USA, owing to a fear of flying and the rest of the band cancelled their appearances but not before playing at Crowbar in a strangely awesome version of full-crowd Crowieoke as the after-party to the Brisbane leg of the Festival. They played their set with Marko from Bad Astronaut and some other Hits n Pits legends on vocals. Singing along to Boys of Summer with a bunch of rad (and pretty drunken) mates including Joey Cape from Lagwagon was easily the highlight!

3. Kill The Music, is Fucking… Dead So Let’s Party – 23/12/2013

Like me, many Brisbanites would remember visiting Kill The Music – the upstairs record store on Elizabeth Street run by super friendly punk, Paul Voge. I spent a lot of my teenage years there, rifling through CDs and Records and fronting up early in the morning to buy tickets to shows, when you still had to do that. Naturally, when it was announced that KTM had to shut up shop, there was a fair bit of sadness. However, like I’ve come to learn, when the chips are down, the Brisbane scene pulls together and throws a hell of a party. Headlined by none other than Violent Soho, this was the second fundraiser that weekend, with the first headlined by The Amity Affliction at The Hi-Fi the night before. ‘Hungry Ghost’ had been released a few months earlier and things were really heating up in the Soho camp. The room was full, sweaty bodies were everywhere and this was one of the wildest Crowbar shows I’d ever experienced. Nights like this is definitely what earnt Crowbar the reputation of one of the city’s premier venues – yet one that still felt like family.

Pagan’s Nikki Brumen at Crowbar – Photo taken by Elizabeth Sharpe of Ummagummamumma – Live Music Photography

4. Barriers & The Bronx – 15/06/2014

Have you ever wondered why there is a barrier downstairs? Would it surprise you to know it wasn’t always there? One reason that it is there now is the two-show stand from The Bronx in 2014 – a Sunday / Monday night double hit that absolutely tore Crowbar apart. It was my first ever time seeing The Bronx and I was pinned in my ‘spot’ against the wall on the front right hand side of the stage. I felt every push, shove and every bit of sweaty energy from Frontman Matt Caughthran as I finally got to experience the insanity that is The Bronx and their support act at that show, Melbourne’s High Tension. That Sunday night show particularly is still one of the most energetic and messy in Crowbar’s history and cemented my love for that front row wall spot.

5. Brisbane Music Royalty, Books and A+ Parenting – 16/08/2014

Anyone who know me knows I’m a bit of a music nerd – and how much I froth Brisbane / Australian music, so I was sold on this line-up. The headliners, Sydney’s Palms, had become great mates in recent years and an old High School friend of mine played in the support act Tempura Nights. The openers, The Goon Sax, had one huge connection to the scene. Frontman, Louis, is the son of Robert Forster, co-founder of Brisbane icons The Go-Betweens. As I waited for the bands, I found a seat on the bench along the wall, next to an older man wearing a thick coat, reading a book. It took a moment to register, but it was indeed Robert Forster himself and I was starstruck! However, before I could even think about how to say hello, The Goon Sax took to the stage, and Forster transformed from Bookworm to Proud Dad – clapping, cheering and singing along! It definitely wasn’t the last time I would see proud parents rocking up to their children’s shows, but it was a cute moment.

6. Borrowing Bar Stools From A Punk Legend – 28/02/2015

Crowbar Black opened for the first time on the weekend of the final Soundwave Festival in 2015. If there’s one thing I know about Crowbar, is that if you say there’s an After-Party, they will come! Sure enough, bands and punters alike were streaming into the venue in search of beer before having to back it up again the following day. Across the room, I spied none other than Joey Cape from Lagwagon, sitting at a barrel enjoying a quiet beer on his own. At this point, my group had grown and we needed more stools, so with a bit of forceful encouragement from my Sister (she literally pushed me in his direction); I went over and introduced myself. I sat down and had a chat with him and he was super lovely– we talked about Soundwave, his One Week Records project and he told me that Lagwagon were coming back that November to play The Triffid. The point of the story – I got the bar stools, I chatted to Joey Cape and I enjoyed the hell of that last ever Soundwave!

7. Gig of The Century – 05/06/2016

Need I say more? Still riding the wave of excitement from seeing The Smith Street Band and Luca Brasi the night before at Max Watts and partying on until the early hours at Crowbar, rumours started doing the rounds about a Sunday afternoon show not to be missed. Soon enough, an announcement surfaced online about a pay-as-you-feel fundraiser for Brissie community radio station 4ZZZ, with Violent Soho, The Smith The Smith Street Band, High Tension, Jess Locke and Joelistics on the bill. As quickly as I could, I rounded up the crew, threw on a black t-shirt and got down to Crowbar to hold down the front of the longest line I’ve ever seen for the venue. As punters streamed through the doors, the bandroom quickly reached capacity, raising about $3500 for 4ZZZ, following the Coalition Government’s $1.4m defunding of the sector. What went on downstairs sure lived up the Gig of The Century title and is still a show that is fondly talked about to this day. If you were there, you know!

Private Function making full use of the wooden pillars at Crowbar Black at BIGSOUND 2019 – Photo by Luke Sangiorgio for Good Call Live

Here’s a bonus for you, because this memory is far too special to leave this out.

8. When Worlds Collide In The Best Way Possible – 29/07/2017

When I’m not at gigs, or writing about them, I’m a High School Teacher. In my second year of teaching, I was lucky enough to cross paths with a number of young people who left a lasting impression on me and my career. One student in particular, built a strong connection with me through music – he wanted to be a musician, idolised bands like Nirvana and Silverchair, was just discovering Violent Soho and had a thing for The Amity Affliction at the time. When I told him that I frequented a bar owned by an ex-Amity member (yes, that’s you Crowbar!) and that I was going to meet the band that weekend, he was sceptical. He wrote a letter to Joel and I got the whole band to sign something for him and took it back to class the next week. That awoke something in him – for his assessment, he taught our class to play guitar and did really well! A few years later, he invited me to see his band, Pablo, play their first few shows. Soon enough, they landed a support slot at Crowbar and that was exciting. Seeing Jay get up on that downstairs stage – a stage that I’ve seen countless musicians, mates and idols grace over the years was a really special moment and was a powerful reminder that the things I say and do in the classroom pay off for the young people involved well beyond their time at school. Hands down, this was the proudest moment of my career and it didn’t even happen in a classroom!

Bongzilla at Crowbar – Captured by Elizabeth Sharpe of Ummagummamumma – Live Music Photography for Good Call Live

From this list, it’s fair to say that Crowbar has given me a lot – as I’m sure it has for you. Over the past 7-and-a-bit years, I’ve met some incredible people, made some lifelong friendships, learnt a lot about life, love and loss and definitely drank a few too many beers along the way – but I wouldn’t trade away a single day, night or memory for anything. Although, some of the people we started with are no longer with us, their memory will live on, just like the ones we hold of 243. So my dear friend Crowbar, this is cheers to you, cheers to 243 and cheers to all the memories made in this place. For one final time tonight, we will party on until the early hours and then in a few short weeks, Crowbar will throw open their doors on Warner Street, ready to do it all again.

DREGG at BIGSOUND 2010 with some of the artwork that fills the walls at Crowbar Brisbane in the background – Photo taken by Sam Townsend of Melting Wax Photography for Good Call Live

To stay up to date with all the big changes and exciting new things happening at Crowbar Brisbane, follow them here:

Crowbar Website
Crowbar Facebook
Crowbar Instagram

Note from editor – Shannon- Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer: Extra shout out to ALL the Crowbar Brisbane staff, past and present. Special shout out and love to Matt Day, Denis Hogan, Hannah Gregor, Tommy Muz and Daniel Miller for always looking out for me and making Crowbar a home away from home for me and so many others. All the staff, especially those mentioned have gone above and beyond for me at times when I needed it most and that is what makes Crowbar even more special as a venue. If only the walls could speak! So many good times at 243 and so many more to come at the new location. I am looking forward to the next chapter for Crowbar Brisbane. Good Call Live love and support Crowbar wholeheartedly.

All photos included in our article are taken by Good Call Live contributors and depict many wonderful live music memories separate to those mentioned by our writer. Bands include some of Good Call Live‘s favourites; Bakers Eddy, Being Jane Lane, Darkcell, Pagan, Private Function, Bongzilla, DREGG and The Black Swamp

The Black Swamp – Crowbar Brisbane – Photo by Elizabeth Sharpe of Ummagummamumma – Live Music Photography for Good Call Live
The Black Swamp – Crowbar Brisbane – Photo by Elizabeth Sharpe of Ummagummamumma – Live Music Photography for Good Call Live

One comment

  1. What a heartfelt send off!!! I want Nat to write my eulogy .. only she can take a grungy punk/rock/metal haven and make it sound like heaven 💛

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