1978 - 2008

Indie Brisbane

State Library of Queensland

As a teenager living in 1970s Brisbane, live music was a difficult and sometimes dangerous proposition. The ‘police state’ mentality of the conservative Bjelke-Petersen government viewed youth culture with deep suspicion, and maintained a brutal hold on licensed and unlicensed live music venues. The determined efforts of many, including radical student radio station 4ZZZ, helped support local indie acts through years of promoter instability, venue shortage and fractured audiences. The rise of music festivals in the 1990s ushered in a new era, in which Brisbane artists are nurtured, and live music is diverse and plentiful.

Alternative venues
The rise of ‘pub rock’ in late 1970s temporarily improved the number of live music venues in Brisbane. Hotels such as The Exchange Hotel and The Queens Hotel converted their beer gardens to concert spaces, however the scene unstable and opportunities limited. Larger venues fared marginally better, as the Playroom, Festival Hall and Cloudland continued to attract interstate and international bands and support local acts. Ironically, the oppressive conditions of 1970s Queensland spawned one of the most important bands of the punk era worldwide - The Saints, whose song <i>I’m Stranded <i/> put Brisbane on the world map in 1976, and its lyrics held a potent double meaning for young people living under Bjelke-Petersen. The repressive political environment provided plenty of scope for protest from creative and alienated young people. Club 76, a residential venue, represented not only the ‘do-it-yourself’ ethos of the punk movement, but also the lack of viable live music alternatives for radical musical subcultures. Community halls, such as Baroona Hall, home of the Go-Betweens, provided temporary avenues for performance, and radical student radio station 4ZZZ ‘Joint Efforts’ at the University of Queensland supported a diverse range of local bands, advertised by local street press
Not so stranded
By the early 1980s, 4ZZZ had extended its activities beyond the University to cultivate live music in a number of city and inner suburban pubs, and staged a series of successful events at Cloudland. A small indie underground scene presented a mixed bag of subcultures including goths, punks, mods, swampies, rude boys and rockabillies, however efforts to nurture local acts amid the chaos of promoters, licensing authorities and fractured audiences proved impossible. On the whole, the band scene in 1980s Brisbane was characterised by instability, venue shortage and exodus, as several bands sought opportunity elsewhere. As 4ZZZ Joint Efforts became increasingly sporadic, Market Days were instituted in 1988 as a fundraising measure, and paved the way for a new avenue of live music –festivals. Peter Walsh’s Livid Festival, first staged at the University of Queensland in 1989, became a major annual event in the 1990s, and other festivals emerged as the decade progressed. Brisbane finally came into its own in the 1990s, as a succession of local bands achieved prominence beyond the border. National radio station Triple J’s Unearthed initiative added to Radio 4ZZZ’s efforts in sourcing and promoting independent local artists. When Powderfinger released their 1998 album Internationalist, not only did it win multiple ARIA awards and spend 100 weeks at the top of the ARIA Albums charts, but the band did it all without leaving home.
Bands and venues of Brisbane's indie music scene
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