The Wesley Anne 10th Anniversary Spectacular
Northcote’s invitingly quaint live music venue and epicurean pub kitchen, Wesley Anne, celebrates its 10th anniversary this Sunday with plenty of good food, drinks and a long list of local talent appearing throughout the day. Wesley Anne might best be described as a friendly pub with an air of sophistication, offering a variety of dazzling original music - and as venue owner Nathan Muller suggests, “it’s the sort of place where you can catch up with your mum, your grandfather and bring your kids along as well.”
Along with Noel Fermanis, Muller set up the venue on High Street Northcote in 2003 with aims to create an accessible setting to showcase the area’s thriving music community, something he believed was lacking in Melbourne at the time.
“When it started it seemed like not many places were really doing an intimate original band/ music [venue], certainly not in the suburbs –Northcote was the suburbs back then, people didn’t realise how close it was,” he says.
In contrast to ten years ago, Northcote is now a well-known cultural hot-spot and the Wesley Anne indubitably had a role in stamping High Street into popular regard. Despite its seemingly unshakeable eminence, Muller indicates that running the venue wasn’t always a successful enterprise.
“Don’t get me wrong the first couple of years it was like there were tumbleweeds rolling down the street and you could park there if you wanted and there was many a night where I’d have a tear at the end of the bar thinking ‘What’s going on here, what have I done?’”
Nowadays people are more than willing to ride the 86 tram up to Northcote, but Muller recalls a time when the journey north didn’t exert such wide appeal. “Friends used to suggest that they’d come out and visit if we had a courtesy bus!”
However, as word about the casual vibe and intimate setting began to permeate the community, Wesley Anne quickly became known for offering an impressive standard of diverse entertainment. Muller recounts some of the artists who came to the fore in the venue’s early years. “Everyone started to realise how many talented people there are around Northcote and the surrounding areas. In the early days we had great acts like Holly Throsby, Ned Collette, Jordie Lane, all those guys.”
One notable on-stage regular at Wesley Anne over the last decade is musical humourist Justin Heazlewood, AKA The Bedroom Philosopher. The Bedroom Philosopher is perhaps best known for the 2010 album Songs From The 86 Tram, which contributed to Northcote’s alluring mythology, but most recently he was behind “Politics in the Pub”, a series of live broadcasts from the Wesley Anne for Radio National in the lead-up to the Federal election. Along with a stack of rising local talent, such as Sal Kimber & the Rollin’ Wheel and The Bon Scotts, The Bedroom Philosopher is certain to make the 10th anniversary celebration a night to remember. Muller discusses how throwing a big party is actually somewhat at odds with the venue’s prevailing ethos.
“It’s been interesting trying to celebrate the 10th anniversary because it’s never been a place that we’ve wanted to push on people, but more a place of discovery, which I think has worked in its favour. We do definitely appreciate that it works well as a humble place – it is what it is and people come there because it is what it is, rather than trying to be too pushy.”
Wesley Anne’s distinguished modesty looks set to endure into the future and Muller reveals plans to uphold a diverse entertainment roster and thus further encourage the venue’s unique atmosphere.
“There is a few things happening around at the moment which seem to be more involved with community and people in general. One of those things is the Politics in the Pub radio show, another night is a night called Fluid Learning, which is basically like a TED Talks night but in a pub by local people who would like to engage in an interested conversation, [then] there’s some cabaret performances, one called The Moulin Beige, which has been running once a month on a Tuesday night, all mixed in with the music performance and intimate setting of the band room that’s become synonymous with the place.”
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY
THE WESLEY ANNE celebrates 10 years with an Anniversary Spectacular on Sunday September 22 from 12pm.