The first gig I ever saw at Sydney’s Hopetoun Hotel- I’m ashamed to say it was in 2005, and that I squandered the first 3 years of my ID-possession without a single visit there- was Jens Lekman.
It was an amazing gig, back when my brother, a keen Jens fan, has to special-order “When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog”. I read in the paper that Jens was coming, and called Joel up. “What are you doing tonight,” I asked. He gave some explanation, something that could-but-probably-shouldn’t be avoided. “Well,” I said. “Would you like to see Jens Lekman instead?”
He was excited.
It was a magical night, the crowded room, and Jens up the front, with his ukulele and his elfin bass player Therese.
Since, I’ve had many a wonderful night at the Hopetoun. After watching the wonderful Cloud Control play at innumerable gigs across the city, none quite matches those at the Hopetoun. There’s an energy there, something to do with the space and the people and the kind of gigs. It’s a place that loves music. Every time I’ve been to a gig at the Hoey, I’ve felt really privileged to live in a city with such an interesting music culture, and with venues that do so much to promote live, local, quality music.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had bad nights at the Hopetoun too. Nights that have ended in tears. Nights that have involved way too much drinking. Nights when finding a parking spot was so difficult, I gave up and went home. And I once ate the food there, which was a mistake never repeated. But even the terrible nights were great, and were part of the wonderful patchwork that has been living in Sydney in my early 20s.
But the best nights I’ve had there were spent dancing to great live music with friends. You can take your clubs and bad dancing to retro music- never really my thing. Instead, give me a night of music of live music I love- and the thrill of discovering a new local band. I first saw Cloud Control way back when they were first starting out, at a dodgy little pub near Central station. Now I feel a strange sense of pride when I see them play big venues, but nothing quite beats hearing those first few notes of “Death Cloud” at the Hoey.
And now, Hopetoun has been forced to close. It’s had problems with licences, and meeting absurd security requirements. Rather than risk forced council closure, the Hopetoun closed its doors this week.
It is a real blight on the City of Sydney that it could allow such a wonderful venue, with such character, to die. Rather than making it more difficult for the Hoey, it should have been doing everything it could to save a really important part of Sydney’s music culture.