Friday, October 2, 2009

Nostalgia can't save the Hopetoun

Nostalgia can't save the Hopetoun

EVERY morning this week on my way to work I have been confronted by the forlorn reality of the boarded-up Hopetoun Hotel.

Closed. Indefinitely. Maybe forever. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Most gig pigs in Sydney have spent a decent proportion of night hours at this Surry Hills pub, which has nurtured aspiring rock stars and singer songwriters for decades.

And none of them would be happy to see the windows covered with plywood and blackboards advertising a Save The Hopetoun blog rather than this week's gigs.

We want someone to blame.

The City of Sydney Council, the police who enforce the licensing laws, a resident who complained about noise. The fact is none of them are culpable, they are all just doing their jobs or, in the case of an irritated neighbour, exercising their right to whinge.

The truth is, the friends of the Hoey must blame ourselves.

As my good mate Loren points out on the Save The Hopetoun Hotel Facebook page, if the 10,000 plus people who have joined the group this week had actually set foot in the pub, bought a beer and checked out a band any time recently, then the pub's doors would still be wide open.

The Hoey's managers would have been able to spend the hundreds of thousands required to renovate - especially those seriously disgusting female toilets downstairs.

They would have had the cash to employ security as demanded by licensing laws.

For all the chest-beating about how small live music venues like the Hoey have made Australian rock music the ferocious and world-beating beast that it is, there is only a few thousand people in Sydney who actually darken the doorsteps of these establishments on a regular basis.

Come on, 'fess up - was the last gig you saw at the Hordern Pavilion, Acer Arena or the Annandale Hotel?

I'm proud to say one of mine was at the Annandale Hotel and it was the showcase of Wollongong band Porcelain, who have come home to relaunch their career after a few years based in LA. They were pretty good too.

But the 'dale is also my church, a place where my friends gather, where the owners know what I drink and the bands I love play.

I'm sorry I didn't treat the Hoey with the same amount of love, especially seeing it's only about a kilometre away from my desk.

My memories of it - besides the ladies' loos - have always been fond.

My best friend attempting to avoid all three of her ex-boyfriends who shared the first name Peter.

Countless rockers almost losing their head to the ceiling fan as they attempted to score some serious air with their star jumps. One of Wolfmother's first gigs. Kram's solo album launch. Iota playing his heart-soaring songs all by himself. Old Man River weaving a kaleidoscope of musical colours. Crow and Jet and Decoder Ring and Dappled Cities. EMI boss John O'Donnell's farewell featuring Daniel Johns and Bob Evans and Paul Kelly and Tim Rogers. So many bands I can't remember now.

The Hoey has shut its doors before and managed to rise again. But blogging your pain about its travails isn't going to fix it. Only walking through the door is going to keep local live music alive in Sydney.


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