We check in with booker Mary Mihelakos to get the skinny on the regal lineup performing as part of Leaps and Bounds Music Festival’s ‘Fitzroyalty’ event.
As part of Leaps and Bounds Music Festival, Fitzroyalty celebrates “the soul, funk, blues and hip hop legends of Brunswick Street” in a one-off event.
Dry your eyes, mate! The Punters Club Reunion show may be sold out, but check out the Fitzroyalty lineup. Both of these standout Leaps and Bounds events are activating the same Fitzroy Mills site: Fitzroyalty first, on the Saturday arvo, and then the Punters Club Reunion the following day.
“Siu Chan [City of Yarra’s Unit Manager Arts, Culture & Venues] asked me to put together a show at the Fitzroy Mills, met up with me and took me to the site,” Mihelakos tells Beat Magazine.
“I knew that a market operated there, but I hadn’t really wandered into the car park to see how big it is and how perfect it would be for a gig! It’s great, because now we’ve got a partially-outdoors venue that can potentially hold 1,500 people down the track.”
Keep up with all the music news, reviews and interviews here.
Mihelakos says her first-ever concert experience, the mighty INXS at Festival Hall in 1983, cemented her music obsession. Soon after, she started volunteering at 3RRR, which became her second home as a teen.
Paid to work for licensed establishments before she was officially old enough to enter the premises, Mihelakos became band booker for The Evelyn and Swinburne University (where she studied media) aged just 17.
She’s a music lifer, no doubt, and Mihelakos’ CV also includes running a PR company, managing bands, DJing, editing Beat Magazine (for a decade) and penning The Age’s weekly ‘Sticky Carpet’ column as well as founding/producing ongoing enterprises such as Aussie BBQ (at international music conferences like SXSW), Leaps and Bounds Music Festival and the Melbourne Music Bus Tour.
But, most importantly, she’s danced on stage with Iggy Pop & The Stooges six times across three continents – no wonder Mihelakos was inducted into the Music Victoria Hall of Fame in 2020.
“I feel very lucky that I’ve got this very comprehensive knowledge of the scene,” Mihelakos acknowledges of her varied work experience in the music industry.
“Some of the bands on the Fitzroyalty lineup are not necessarily even bands I was seeing live myself at the time; I’ve just been aware of them for a long, long time because Melbourne gig guides have been the way I’ve navigated my week for over 30 years.
“I have a deeper appreciation of all these artists that are on Fitzroyalty now and it means a lot to me now to show them my belated appreciation; I’m quite familiar with those band names being in the gig guide and how frequently they were playing back then.”
View this post on Instagram
Confined to her home for the majority of last year during Victoria’s COVID-enforced lockdown, Mihelakos sorted through rooms full of music memorabilia. So did anything turn up from the ‘90s?
“Well I was the booker of The Evelyn from ‘92 to ‘94, that was my first job, so I found a whole lot of grids that I’d print out a month at a time. It was fun going through my stuff and finding things. I used to collect setlists and then not know who the band was.”
Thanks to the Sound As Ever (Australian Indie ‘90 – ‘99) Facebook group, Mihelakos was able to identify the corresponding bands after uploading these ‘mystery’ setlists to the page.
Founded in February 2020 by Jane Gazzo and Popboomerang label founder Scott Thurling, Sound As Ever is an online space where fans can connect and geek-out about their shared love of Australian music from the ’90s. Many of the bands immortalised via Sound As Ever had slipped through the cracks, remaining largely undocumented (because pre-internet and social media), until the group was created.
Some of the bands her setlists belonged to were “really obscure”, Mihelakos points out. “I’m glad I’ve kept a lot of that stuff; it’s an archive.”
After visiting her at home recently, a friend observed, “Your house is like the Australian Music Vault!” Mihelakos shares, laughing. She then confesses, “I used to worry about where all my stuff would go when I die, now I know: the Australian Music Vault.”
From the reputation of Mihelakos to the acclaim of the Fitzroyalty lineup, we asked the legendary music industry chameleon to introduce us to the artists performing on the night. Here goes!
Kylie Auldist (MC)
“Someone like Kylie Auldist is an incredible artist who has been playing on Brunswick Street for 30 years and I just love her story, you know, she had that big number one song with Cookin’ On 3 Burners, ‘This Girl’, and she’s just been this stalwart of the scene who keeps getting better just doing what she does,” Mihelakos says.
“Kylie is someone I really wanted there. She’s incredibly talented. She’s sort of the queen of Fitzroy and I’m really thrilled that she can MC the event. She’s actually got an album launch the Friday after the Fitzroyalty show so she’s not playing, because she doesn’t want to impact that show, but her presence will be felt for half the day before Dylan Lewis takes over.”
Dylan Lewis (MC)/The Brown Hornet
“I also remember The Brown Hornet – Dylan Lewis’s band, you know, from Recovery. When I was booking The Evelyn in the early-‘90s, The Brown Hornet hadn’t quite started, but once I then moved to Beat they were playing The Evelyn heaps in the mid- to late-‘90s. So I’m really thrilled that they are part of the lineup.”
“Walking around the back streets of Fitzroy, on the corner of Argyle Street and Fitzroy Street is that 1200 Techniques graffiti art, of their faces. So when I saw that car park, I was like, ‘I’ve gotta have 1200 Techniques be part of this!’ I was so thrilled when they said yes.”
The Feeling Groovies
“And so I really tried to get the Bachelors From Prague to play and the Bachelors From Prague are a ten-piece band from the late-‘80s, but they had this really great reunion tour a couple of years ago and I think they just wanted to leave it at that,” Mihelakos says.
“I tried to get [vocalist] Henry Maas to be a guest on the night, couldn’t make that happen but The Feeling Groovies actually feature members of the Bachelors From Prague. And The Feeling Groovies are sort of that bridging act between the Bachelors From Prague and something like The Bamboos.
“Jeff Raglus, who was in the Bachelors From Prague – it’s his band and then they had a few incarnations that became progressively more funky … So I thought it was really great to get The Feeling Groovies back together for this. They are an amazing band.”
“Of course, he has that song, ‘Old Fitzroy’, so I just went, ‘I have to have Dan closing the show and playing that song!’
“This Fitzroyalty show is a bit of a homecoming for people. Even someone like Dan Sultan, he lived in Fitzroy for at least the last ten years up until a couple of years ago when he moved to Sydney and he’s started a family now. But, for him, I feel this show – and he’s closing the show, Dan is playing a 40-minute set – is a bit of a homecoming; he’s got a personal connection to Brunswick Street.
“Even though Dan Sultan came onto the scene a bit later – probably when the Punters Club was closing, Dan started. He’s probably the youngest in this lineup; him and The Wolfgramm Sisters.”
The Wolfgramm Sisters
“The Wolfgramm Sisters, Kelly, Talei and Eliza – their mum owned the café above 3RRR when 3RRR was in Victoria Street so The Wolfgramm Sisters were a big part of Fitzroy in my 3RRR days and they have gone on to be backing singers for Jet and You Am I and also do their own thing. Eliza toured with The Avalanches, so they are just incredible, talented women who are up there with Vika and Linda.”
“So the Acapelicans are actually an a cappella band but they’re three funk-band lead singers. They came together in the early-‘90s, it’s Simon Nugent, Carl Pannuzzo from Chequerboard Lounge (also on the Fitzroyalty lineup) and Sarah Liversidge,” Mihelakos says.
“They used to to get frustrated by organising their band rehearsals and everything and then I think they were just at The Evelyn and said, ‘Why don’t we just do an a cappella band of just the three of us?’ – the lead singers – and then they started playing. They’re just amazing! Simon Nugent was in a band called Sedan and he’s done his own records. So that’s gonna be special.”
Land of Milk & Honey
“Land of Milk & Honey are this sort of heavier funk band and Kylie Auldist used to get up and sing with them so I hope that’s the plan for this show!”
The Swingin’ Sidewalks
“The Swingin’ Sidewalks are more of a jazz band, but they’ve even supported Prince! They supported Prince when he did the Diamonds and Pearls tour. It was early-‘90s and it was when international bands had to have a local support and every international tour would get approved by The Musicians’ Union,” Mihelakos says.
“And so if Prince had ten musicians on stage they would need to have a support band with ten Australian members. I remember going to that gig and The Swingin’ Sidewalks played in the foyer, because Prince didn’t want to share his stage! But they were still technically the support band.
“But also, The Swing Sisters – The Swingin’ Sidewalks’ backing singers – are Rebecca Barnard, Shelley Scown and Kerri Simpson. So on July 17, The Swing Sisters are gonna be playing with the band – we’ve got proper legends of the Melbourne music scene on this show.”
Paul Williamson’s Hammond Combo
“They’ve had a Monday night residency at The Rainbow in Fitzroy for over 29 years or something!”
The Band Who Knew Too Much
A lot of the Fitzroyalty bands played The Evelyn, The Rochester, Bar Open and they’ve been playing those venues for decades – some of them still are! I think The Band Who Knew Too Much are still playing around the traps.
Fitzroyalty takes over Fitzroy Mills from 3pm – 9pm on Saturday July 17 as part of Leaps and Bounds Music Festival. Grab tickets here.