This morning’s announcement about the fate of iconic Townsville music/function space The Venue and it’s future incarnation as a fitness centre has sent shockwaves through the local community and music scene.
Comments from the public on social media range from, “because that’s what Townsville needs – more gyms,” to, “another one bites the dust!” and, “haha Townsville needs another gym like we need another 300 disabled car parks.This fucking town has more fatties than a cake convention and now you wanna shut the Venue down… the only place the played consistent live music…”
Former Townsville resident John Watson has been a key figure in the Australian music industry for many years, working with acts ranging from Gotye, Missy Higgins and Silverchair to Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil and Birds of Tokyo.
He said the closure of The Venue could be detrimental to the local music scene, however it also left room for opportunity.
“Like any other city of its size, Townsville needs a club or pub that can stage shows for 500-1000 people because there are a lot of bands who tour venues of that size right up and down Australia’s east coast,” he said.
“If they can’t find a venue that size then they will skip the market as their production will be too big for a small pub and too small for the Ent Cent. Having venues this size is actually even more important nowadays when musical tastes are so much more fragmented. These days you typically have 10 new bands of varying musical styles each being able to sell 1000 tickets rather than 2 big new bands who can each sell 5,000 tickets, like it was a few decades ago.
“Hopefully the closure of this particular club will provide an incentive for someone else to grab this opportunity and cater to this growing market segment in Townsville.”
As a member of punk rock outfit Frenzal Rhomb, former Triple J presenter Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougall has been well-acquainted with The Venue through many incarnations.
“Frenzal have been playing that venue since way back in 1997, when Grinspoon took us for a booze-soaked cruise up the Queensland Coast,” he said.
“It was called The Playpen then, and had a sister venue of the same name in Cairns.
From memory it was in the Cairns Playpen, not the Townsville one, where I threw up all over Pat Davern’s pedalboard, much to the appropriate disgust of Richie, his guitar tech. So the Townsville venue always had that edge, as the place I DIDN’T throw up in. And we’ve played there countless times since, under all its different names.
“My family is from Townsville, and so many of those times have seen my Dad and uncle, cousins or aunt side of stage as I jump around like a fool,” he added.
“I’m pretty sure my Dad was there the night that Gordy, our drummer, played so hard he pushed his drum stool, with him on it, off the back of the stage, pausing our show while he woke up and got back on stage.”
As for the concept of turning a venue known for the past two decades for live music and events into a gym? The Doctor’s opinion is pretty simple.
“I’ve seen the people in Townsville, they already look awesome, they don’t need another gym,” McDougall said.
“Places like Townsville need that musical centre, a hub that everyone can congregate at to see original, great (sometimes just average) music. It’s a shame to see it go.”
A representative for The Venue has said the centre will honour all existing bookings until 4 December this year. Patrons affected by the sale have been notified and refunded where necessary.