The demolition of the ANU bar claims its first victim

Boy and Bear at the ANU Union 2014, photo via ANU Union

How we got here

The ANU Bar is a Canberra institution.

Which is not to say it’s very good.

In fact it’s pretty damn awful.

For a venue that has played host to hundreds of the very best bands in the world over the last 60 years, (Nirvana, Violent Femmes, Tool, Lou Reed, the Cure, to name just a few) it frankly should have been better.

Month after month truly great bands touring Australia have looked at the map, and decided they can get a mid-week date in between Sydney and Melbourne.

A long low room with mediocre management (often a prized gift of student political warfare) was just barely good enough to warrant a tour date.

Growing up in Canberra it was the big time.

Part of seeing the world was realising how much better pretty much every other live music venue on the planet was.

It doesn’t matter that the room and its management might have left a lot to be desired. The bands that kept coming through were a gift we’ll never properly appreciate.

That’s why it was with a bit of sadness I heard the ANU’s efforts to re-invent itself as a playground of the very wealthy would include demolishing the old hole.

(At the same time I’ve got some hope that with it gone a better mid size live music venue might emerge.)

The Finale

When I heard a final show was planned, with Regurgitator headlining, I didn’t look too closely at the lineup, I just paid for tickets.

Being a bloke and roughly as conscious of my male privilege as a fish is aware of the water it swims in, I didn’t think too much more about the line-up.

But other people did and then things started to explode because there was not one woman to be seen, and that’s just weird.

The Music has a solid take on the whole awful mess.

(The ABC audio of poor Garry Peadon trying to justify himself is a cracker)

Now in a sane world a normal person would slap their forehead, exclaim “What a silly bugger I’ve been!” and ask if anyone knew any female acts that wanted to be on the lineup for what was promising to be a cultural high water mark for the Canberra music scene.

Sadly Garry didn’t get that moment of clarity and instead launched into weird diatribes about how there just weren’t any women with enough musical talent to make his list.

What I find particularly upsetting is that the ANU bar back in the day certainly had the same gender bias that has long afflicted the music industry, but it was no cock-forest.

IIRC the very first band I saw play there was the Falling Joys (and as I dimly recall they threw a bucket of whiskey over the audience to wish us a merry Christmas).

Many many a righteous woman has strutted the stage of the ANU bar in the past.

If there’s some sort of concept that women don’t belong on that stage it’s nothing to do with the bad old days, it’s something very new.

Almost worse than Garry’s tone deaf responses (and in 2017 there’s no excuse for arguing from ignorance, if you don’t know what “non-binary” is just google it) were his supporters piling onto forums across the country with the neo-nazi language of the alt-right.

Here’s just one example from Regurgitator’s facebook page.

So Garry’s willful sexism melded with a support base of white supremacists and an all around roster of the worst people in the world.

In turn I’ve requested a refund. No last send-off for the ANU bar for me.

We’ve all been guilty of digging our heels in but it’s not so hard.

When you’re wrong just admit it and try to make things right.

Some people will never forgive you, but a lot of them will.