Earlier this week, there were rumours flying around that The Espy in St Kilda had given staff notice they were going to be closing their doors for renovations. Now, normally when we hear this sort of news in music circles, it’s a red flag for “we’re renovating and turning into a gentrified, family friendly venue, with a few pokies out the back”.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, except when it hurts our live music scene.
And there have been plenty of that in recent times; The Palace, The Annandale Hotel, The Lansdowne Hotel, The Sando…you get the picture.
When HEAVY Mag got wind of this rumour earlier this week, we contacted the venue for comment. Our email didn’t receive a reply. Later that day the venue released an official statement on their
After 15 years at The Esplanade Hotel we are excited to announce that extensive renovations are about to begin, including the opening of new and exciting spaces, some of which have never before been open to the public.
Out of respect for our colourful history and long standing tradition of live music, we are upgrading our world famous “Gershwin Room”, the home of Rockwiz, with sound and lighting upgrades whilst preserving the charm of the much loved room. Improvements will strengthen and sustain our commitment to the music industry, with live music being maintained as a central part of the culture and identity of the venue.
The renovations will also include the introduction of new food and beverage spaces. These spaces will offer Melbournians a diverse dining experience that will cater to the fully-fledged foodies, and offer something new that the whole St Kilda community can enjoy.
Once our renovations are complete, The Espy will have opportunities to view the stunning bay and sunset views from this prime location overlooking the foreshore. We plan to revitalise this beloved local into the place to be.
As we transition and breathe new life back into this iconic music venue we unfortunately will shut The Espy on Sunday 17 May 2015 in order to fast track the work and to open in time for summer 2015.
We hope you can be patient with us – we will keep you updated along the way as we share our progress, news and announcements.
We will be back shortly even bigger, even better. We thank you for your continued support.
The Espy Hotel
What they didn’t address in their statement was the long list of gigs booked in for May and June (now removed from their gig listing on their website). Would they be cancelled? Would they be moved to other venues?
Yesterday we received information from Wallapalooza, whose festival just happened to be booked in for 12 June at The Espy.
Here’s how the events have unfolded from their point of view.
According to the promoters, they were made aware of the renovations via media, rather than the venue itself that their gigs were going to be cancelled, and in the case of the Wallapalooza festival, which was scheduled to take place at The Espy on June 12th, a bunch of interstate bands were going to be left out of pocket with airfares already booked, and the Espy pretty much wiped their hands of the whole thing. This is how Wallapalooza promoter Andy Clarke tells it:
“A bunch of interstate bands have been left high and dry with no venue and non refundable airfares booked 4 weeks before hitting the road, not being told by the venue before it was announced publicly. No offers of compensation or any solution given by the Espy.”
But at least for Wallapalooza, there has actually been a happy ending. Local live music champion and Cherry Bar owner James Young has swung into action and negotiated with some local Melbourne bands to completely reschedule a bill at Cherry’s sister venue, Yah Yahs, on June 12th, thereby single-handedly saving the day for Wallapalooza, including all the bands and crew who’ve been working tirelessly to make sure the first ever Melbourne instalment of the festival is a big success (including the team at killer FX, who’ve constructed a fully operational fire breathing dragon, just for the Melbourne event).
Here’s another statement from Wallapalooza promoter, Andy Clark, in response to the Espy’s Facebook announcement of their closure:
There is no acknowledgement or subsequent apology to any of the artists who have been left in the lurch. We heard conjecture through credible sources over Facebook on the weekend, we had not been notified by the venue of any concerns with our booking. On Monday morning, we read a post from a media outlet, which was the first official confirmation of any sort we he’d received about the closure of The Espy. I had been ringing the Espy from 9 am to seek clarification on our show. We were contacted by the venue at 1:20 pm and told the show was cancelled. I expressed my concerns and dismay to the fact that my bands had booked airfares and they weren’t able to transfer them, and that the show was in 4 weeks and we would find it near impossible to find a venue as they would almost all be booked up. There was no solution given, no compensation or subsequent booking date given. We had a show for 6 bands, 5 of whom were travelling from interstate with airfares and accommodation booked, plus my crew and SFX team and suddenly no venue, 4 weeks out, we were in a very bad position.
I reached out to the musical community in Melbourne and was not coming up with any viable solutions that would incur more financial outlay on our behalf. This was predominantly due to the short turn around time.
When all was looking lost, a friend sent me James Young’s’ phone number. I rang James and explained to him what had happened. James was very sympathetic to my circumstance and told me he would look at a few things and call me back. James did call me back. He moved the local line up that was playing at Yah Yahs on June 12th (thank you to the bands) and agreed to take Wallapalooza and all its acts. James graciously supported the show financially so myself and the bands didn’t haemorrhage with the mess we were left in.
Wallapalooza will go ahead. Wallapalooza will be held on Friday June 12th at the amazing Yah Yahs, 99 Smith St Fitzroy, $10 cover charge at the door. On behalf of myself and the bands I would like to thank James Young for his overwhelming support of live music and in reference in particular, Wallapalooza. Without his support, we have not been able to make the Melbourne show happen after the mess we were left in. Wallapalooza can’t wait to tear it up in Melbourne and this Dragon themed show will have “extra fire” now thanks to the support of James Young.
We hope the rest of the gigs booked into The Espy for the coming months are just as well accommodated. Again, we invite The Espy for comment.
Full details on Wallapalooza Dates can be found here.