Welcome to Hellbourne! My name is Matt and I’ll be your tour guide. In this instalment of the Welcome to Hellbourne series I’m showing you round the legendary Bombay Rock on the corner of Sydney Road and Phoenix Street, Brunswick.
Bombay Rock has an enviable rock and roll pedigree, having played host to the likes of Cold Chisel, INXS, Midnight Oil. In more recent times the venue has languished more as a cherished memory for many (ahem… the older amongst us), rather than a current hot bed of rock and roll hedonism. I suspect that the venue’s low profile is about to change however with a new management team charged with revitalising Bombay Rock, a project that seems to have gotten off to a flying start on this cold Hellbourne Friday night. To atrociously paraphrase Claire from the original "Blues Brothers" movie, Bombay Rock play both kinds of music here… punk and rock! And I’m here tonight to catch some of my faves, Melbourne drunk punks Strawberry Fist Cake, those dads from NSW with old heads and a new band Radio Rejects, and south side rockers and rollers Smash Bros. In amongst all this mayhem Tomi Gray provides some acoustic interludes.
Entering through the side entrance on Phoenix Street, I’m immediately greeted by a covered and heated beer garden. In deference to the neighbours there’s no drinking in there after 11:00, but it still makes for a good spot to prop and talk shit, and there are plenty of people for me to talk shit to on this Friday night. Probably the single most appealing feature of Bombay Rock is the community. The sense of community that I felt when I first started shooting bands years ago is the thing that has kept drawing me back, and Bombay Rock, more than any of the venues that I’ve reviewed for the Welcome to Hellbourne series so far, has it in spades.
As stated earlier, a new management team has been focused on revitalising Bombay Rock and as I make my way from the beer garden into the first of two bars operating on this night, there’s no mistaking that this venue is about the music. The walls are seemingly haphazardly plastered with copies of old gig fliers. Off to the side there are several free pool tables in play, near a space dedicated for solo acoustic performances. The long central bar proclaims the other great central theme of the venue… shots! Five dollar cans of beer and various other drinks specials are also on display and I soon found out that the venue managers have catered to my preference for Red Bull cans by the dozen, which to this punter is a nice touch (and ensures I’m not sleeping for a quite a while).
Moving on to the band room I’m greeted by a décor more suited to a turn of the century gentleman’s club, complete with plenty of wood panelling, old pictures and I kid you not, a motherfucking grand piano! The lighting in this room is a live music photographers wet dream, providing plenty of light to get those killer shots (did I mention Bombay Rock is all about the shots)!
The openers for tonight are south side punks Smash Bros. I use the term ‘punk’ pretty loosely here as there is definitely a range of influences on display through out their set, with a nod towards southern rock, stoner blues and funk threaded throughout their set list. The culmination of this mildly bizarre melting pot is a band that throws down a fun and energetic set (and even manages to introduce a toy accordion into the mayhem). These guys are just a whole lot of fun!
Next to hit the band room are Northern visitors, Radio Rejects. A self proclaimed dadcore band, the Radio Rejects bring their own particular brand of 90’s style melodic punk and combine it with lyrical content referencing their humorous insights on fatherhood. The Radio Rejects are a new band, but none of that shows as they smoothly run through their set, and even with a fill in guitarist (Mik – Strawberry Fist Cake), they deliver the goods.
-Strawberry Fist Cake-
Last band for the night are my old pals Strawberry Fist Cake. While it might seem strange that a straight edge punk with a dodgy liver is number one ticket holder for Hellbourne’s self-proclaimed drunk punks, there is no real mystery when you hear these guys play. Delivering straight up fun couched in choruses that just invite punters to sing along, audience participation is a must. All in all it’s the perfect way to end a cold Hellbourne night.
Bombay Rock is without doubt my favourite stopping point in the Welcome To Hellbourne series thus far. With a great sense of community, red bull cans by the dozen and great band programming, not to mention the spectacular space, it won’t be just a cold night in Hellbourne that you’ll find me at Bombay Rock.
Band Roster: 21/25