Hey Welcome to Hellbourne! I’m Matt and I’ll be your tour guide. This edition of Welcome to Hellbourne I check out a mixed bill of bands at The Bendigo Hotel. A very important fact about The Bendigo Hotel… it’s not in Bendigo. In fact this punk rock and heavy music institution is located in Johnson Street in the inner city suburb of Collingwood.
It’s a cold winter’s night as I wander into The Bendigo Hotel. I’m here to catch a mixed bill of thrash, punk and metal. A last minute gig put together to replace the slot that was previously allocated to PEARS, a U.S. punk outfit whose national tour unfortunately fell through.
Walking into the small front bar about an hour before the show it’s easy to believe that the place is in fact the scene of some arcane satanic ritual. The walls and the beer taps are festooned with skulls galore, while old skateboard decks hang from the ceiling. The front bar is dominated by a pool table and solid timber bar stools with the kind of weight that make them difficult to move around. I have a fleeting thought that maybe the shit house design of the bars stools is intended to discourage patrons from throwing them at each other.
I went straight edge quite a while back so throwing stools is probably not on my agenda for the evening, but it also means I’m not really qualified to comment on the drinks selection. I do know they have energy drinks on tap… which ain’t good, but it ain’t a deal breaker either. The Bendigo does have a great selection of bar meals catering to carnivores, omnivores and the vegans amongst us. There’s no human flesh on the menu, so maybe the skulls on the wall are for decoration only.. I go to order a burger, intending to eat in the beer garden at the rear of the band room, when I’m reminded that meals are no longer served in the beer garden due to the recent changes to Victoria’s smoking laws… not very punk rock. Fuck it, I order an energy drink and walk on through to the band room.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Bendi’s band room. Whilst the Bendi isn’t a huge venue, the band room and stage are of a reasonable size and the venue has routinely played host to a surprising array of quality international and local metal, rock and punk acts. I’ve had the pleasure of catching the likes of Nekromantix, Slapshot, Mach Pelican and Guitar Wolf here. The drop-ins are just as impressive (Tom Morello – Rage Against The Machine dropped by just last month to catch a few local bands). My only complaint is that as far as live music photography goes, the Bendi sucks balls. It’s a difficult venue to shoot in, and they often put on bands that you really want to shoot the shit out of. Talk about being torn.
On this particular night, I’m here to catch a few mates play along with some bands I’ve never seen before. Opening proceedings is True Believer, a hard rocking 4 piece who channel fat rock riffs that would keep any panel van driving stoner happy. It ain’t punk, but I still find myself nodding my head along in time with the music.
Next on the bill, Protospasm smash out there particular brand of hardcore punk. Whilst the band is relatively new to Melbourne’s punk scene, the members are not, and they are a joy to watch as they hurtle through their set list. Even better news, Dani the lead vocalist drops the news that a recording will be let loose upon world sometime in the near future.
Crust influenced hardcore punks Removalist up the brutality, slamming through a set list that is punctuated by references to them being ‘Nasty Boys’. The music was good, but I felt like I was witnessing some kind of in joke that I wasn’t party to.
What I love about a good mixed bill is the sheer diversity of music that can hit the stage in one night, and old mates Diploma could not be further removed from the previous bands if they tried. With both skate punk and emo influences kind of peeking through, Diploma’s music remains somewhat difficult to define, something that seems to please guitarist Matt Howard, when I tell him just that. The band’s LP doesn’t do the band’s live performance justice, taking a much gentler and polished approach to their catalogue. Diploma’s front man appears particularly manic tonight, throwing himself into other members of the band and ending the set with a blood crusted forehead and microphone.
The penultimate set for the evening brings the totally not for profit thrashers Wolfpack to the stage. The Melbourne three piece donate all funds raised through merch and shows to animal welfare charities. This is not a passing fad for the band who routinely play all over the country and have supported the likes of Suicidal Tendencies and Anti-Flag.
I’ve watched Wolfpack play on numerous occasions, but tonight offers up something a little different as usual guitarist Chaise informs me that he’s not playing with Wolfpack currently. He’s keen to see the band as a punter though, and later tells me that it was rad to see Cam from Party Vibez take on axe duties.
Last band for the evening Party Vibez thrash out to a litany of 420 themed songs and like always, look like they are having way more fun than anyone else in the room, as the deliver up some good times thrash.
Overall The Bendigo is a solid Hellbourne punk rock institution. My only major gripe is the difficulties taking good live music shots in the place, but if your there to simply enjoy some bands and get a little shit faced, this venue has all you need and more. The roster of shows on offer over the years, puts many of the larger venues to shame. What you see is what you get with the Bendigo. This is no hipster wannabe bar, but a dive that has a full punk rock/heavy music tradition.
Go visit if you like your music heavy and you can dig a good mixed bill.
Band Roster: 25/25