This article was originally published by The Australian — March 22, 2019. 

This excerpt has been republished with permission from the author, Andrew McMillen, National Music Writer at The Australian.

Brunswick Street Mall is familiar to every Brisbane music act of note over the last four decades – from late 1970s upstarts such as punk forebears The Saints and indie-pop frontrunners The Go-Betweens, through to the alternative music boom of the 1990s led by Powderfinger, Regurgitator, Custard and Screamfeeder.

Following a public vote in 2008, these acts were immortalised in a “walk of fame” of bronze plaques embedded in the footpath. They sit alongside country musician Keith Urban and pop groups Savage Garden and The Bee-Gees. More recently, Violent Soho, Ball Park Music, Sheppard and DZ Deathrays have grown national audiences after years of performances in this densely populated area of the city.

Now, metres from the bars, restaurants and music rooms that make Fortitude Valley the noisy centre of Brisbane’s nightlife, work is underway to add something new to the city’s live entertainment landscape. In the mall’s busy pedestrian strip a vacant building has become a $43 million construction project for the Fortitude Music Hall. The expansive mezzanine is taking shape and a raised stage from August will host some of the most popular performers in world music in front of up to 3300 guests.

That’s a number that has been tough to match since Festival Hall – which hosted The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana – made way for an apartment block in 2003. With American global entertainment giant Live Nation as a full financial partner, the new venue will fill a gap between The Tivoli, which holds about 1500 people, and the Riverstage, an outdoor venue attached to the city’s botanic gardens which can accommodate up to 9500 on its lush green hill.

“Brisbane lost an absolute essential when Festival Hall got skittled,” says the new venue’s co-owner, Scott Hutchinson.

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“If we don’t have the small venues providing the opportunities for new acts to be discovered, then nobody will ever get to the stage of being able to play our venues and attract a big enough audience. We thought The Triffid was a great step, but the Fortitude Music Hall (under construction in Fortitude Valley) will be fantastic. It’s right in the hole that we have in venue sizes. It won’t be what Festival Hall was back in the 1980s, because the scene’s different now. In fact, I suspect it will be better because it’ll be air-conditioned, it’ll have great toilets and good food and beverage services.”

Rod Pilbeam

COO, AEG Ogden

John Collins 'JC' and Scott Hutchinson. Picture: Glenn Hunt