Interview: The Croxton opens its doors
Heads-up Melbourne music-lovers. You’re about to get an awesome new live venue. We chat to venue booker Andrew Parisi about what we can expect from The Croxton:
Hi there! Thanks for taking a moment to chat with us here at Something You Said. How’s it going? Where are you as you write this?
I’m at The Croxton putting the final touches on the venue ahead of our grand opening. The sound system has just gone in so we’re ready!
To get the ball rolling, would you like to introduce your venue? What is The Croxton?
The Croxton is a new live music venue in Melbourne with a long history.
The Croxton Park Hotel next door was built in 1844 and the band room was built-on some time in the mid twentieth century. In the seventies and eighties, it was one of Melbourne’s most successful rooms – literally anyone who was anyone played at ‘The Crox’ in those days, from AC/DC and Skyhooks to Rose Tattoo and Midnight Oil.
The venue went completely of the radar for a couple of decades, left to the occasional club night or cover band show, but it was begging for a re-launch. It’s a large capacity room that was rarely ever used, so we took it over. We’ve completely refurbished the room, built a new front bar and beer garden and installed a proper PA system. It’s on par with any large-sized band room in Melbourne.
Could you describe what The Croxton looks like on the inside? Is it a big space, is it cosy, what’s the ceiling like?
The room is massive! It’s wide and long, with a freshly painted, all black interior. It’s got a really good feel. The stage is 14 metres wide and there are completely unobstructed sight lines, no matter where you stand, and there are two long bars on either side of the room, easily accessible from the front or the back of the crowd.
We’ve put a lot of effort into the foyer and front bar too – they are decked out with plush wallpaper, leather couches and new lighting fixtures. There’s even a chandelier haha! It’s pure class. But my favourite part of the venue is actually the band room back stage, which we’ve dubbed ‘The Shiraz Lounge’. It’s sort of a cross between a gentlemen’s club and your grandmother’s sitting room and it has a singing fish. We haven’t named the fish yet.
For punters, there’s a beer garden that you access from the front bar with plenty of seating, foliage and all the rest of it. Across the road, there’s a carpark with 300 parking spots. The 86 tram stop is right outside and the Croxton train station is just around the corner. It’s an incredibly user-friendly venue.
How did you get started out with this adventure? Why did you decide to start a live venue/revamp the old bandroom? Is there a gap in Melbourne’s live music scene that you’re hoping to fill, or an existing vibe that you’re hoping to expand?
I have a long history in the music industry. I was editor of Beat back in the dark ages and I went on to book the HiFi in Melbourne. After that, I managed a few high profile Australian indie bands, but I burnt out after a while. I felt like I needed to do something else. I moved into film distribution and game development, and did some management and consulting work, but in the last year I’d been thinking about getting involved in music again. An acquaintance introduced me to the owners of the Croxton Park Hotel and we developed quite a good rapport. It all kicked off from there.
With The Croxton, it’s just a matter of right time, right place. The northside of Melbourne – from Fitzroy to Brunswick and Northcote, up as far as Coburg and Preston – is where you see the critical mass of musicians and music fans today. I’m not just saying this – this is based on APRA data. Our venue is right in the middle of Australia’s music heartland.
Thornbury is particular is going through this huge renaissance. We’ve got the Northcote Social Club just down High Street, the Welcome to Thornbury food truck park across the road and the Thornbury Theatre just up the street, plus heaps of cool bars and restaurants and vintage stores all around us. The neighbourhood is really heating up.
In terms of filling a gap in the scene, things have been a bit de-stabilised in the old regime of band rooms lately and that has created an opportunity for us. The Palace in the city closed, sadly. The Hifi went into administration and St Kilda doesn’t have the same pull as it once did because a lot of the music community has moved Northside. Promoters need more options and this room is pretty awesome.
You’ve already announced some stellar gigs to set this ship into the sea. Can you tell us about them?
Our opening weekend is massive. We’ve got You Am I kicking things off on Thursday 1 October, Grand Final Weekend Eve, with support from Bahamas and Fraser A Gorman. It’s sold out, sadly, but there are still a few tickets for the second night – The Drones and Augie March in an epic double header on Friday 2 October, with support from Money for Rope.
We’ve announced another double headliner for Friday 4 December – Goat and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. That’s sold out already, too! And there’s a fantastic slate of gigs coming up in the new year which are still under wraps. It’s a pretty diverse slate – indie rock, soul, electro, hip hop. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for announcements.
Is there a gig you’re involved in at the moment that particularly excites you?
I have to say, I’m pretty excited about The Drones and Augie March gig on Friday. It’s not every day you get to see such legendary bands play back to back for a hometown crowd – in a newly launched venue, on Grand Final weekend! Short of booking Prince to play The Croxton, that’s about as exciting as it gets.
What are you looking for, or what grabs you, when you decide to work alongside/support an artist/band?
It’s pretty simple – it’s about whether the act is a good fit for the venue and whether there is a big enough audience for that act. I’ve already been offered things that I’ve turned down, because they just don’t make sense to me. I don’t have to love every band that I book but I want to feel like they are serious about what they do and they have serious fans.
Could you tell us about some of the more challenging or unexpected aspects of starting and running a venue, from your experience thus far?
It’s challenging to convince promoters and booking agents to take a gamble on something new. People are very risk-averse in this industry. It’s also been a challenge to explain to interstate-based agents that Thornbury is in the middle of the scene and not some out suburban venue. But once you get them to the site, that all goes away pretty quickly. People are just blown away by the space.
What is it that you love/enjoy the most about what you do?
I love having the opportunity to build a venue up from scratch. I hope that The Croxton becomes a landmark venue in Melbourne, just like The Corner or The Forum. I like the idea that I could contribute to the music scene in that way.
Is there any advice that you’d give to somebody hoping to go down a similar path and open or run their own venue?
That’s tough, it depends on the venue. Think about the space – does it work for music? Is the PA and infrastructure adequate for the type of acts you want to play? Will you have issues with the neighbours? Does the license run late enough? Is it accessible? Beyond that, I’d say be patient. It takes a while to build trust, build a reputation and build an audience. It won’t happen overnight, but if you are committed and you know your audience, you’ll get there.
For details of everything The Croxton has got going on, head to http://thecroxton.com.au/
Interview by Chloe Mayne.