When Joe Downey announced the opening of former famous Hunchbax theatre restaurant and Eureka Hotel as new Melbourne music venue, The Leadbeater, tongues were wagging.
They launched three months ago, with a night of performances from Jess Locke, murmurmur and Huntly kicking things off. Fast forward to February and the venue is thriving.
As the former owner of Nevermind Bar in Hawthorn for a decade and having done ad hoc shows for friends, Downey saw real potential in the space to become a premier music venue in the city.
“That was a real thrill for me to help people showcase their talent but I’ve also been a big fan of music – I’m not a musician – so to be around it in that capacity to support musicians and artists has always been a thrill for me,” he says.
“When we saw this venue was completely underutilised, we strolled into the front bar and thought ‘this is okay’ and then walked into the back where the theatre restaurant used to be and thought ‘oh god, can’t let this go’.”
The venue saw a facelift and much needed attention paid to their bandroom. With a stage extension to allow more room for the musicians and to attract bigger acts, the making of a green room, the fitting of a new sound system and lighting rig and the recruiting of a winning team, The Leadbeater was open for business and catching the eyes of the masses.
“We’ve managed to leapfrog into the upper echelon because of the quality of the sound system,” Downey says. “We really wanted to nail it first time because our focus is on the artist experience and I think the crowd will follow. We do ensure the patrons are having a good time but we feel if the artist experience is fantastic and they are cared for and able to sound their best, the rest will follow.”
Part of that recruitment process included getting a key ingredient to the venue’s success covered – the dedicated position of the venue booker, and Downey struck gold with extraordinaire Will Clancy of Melbourne outfit DIET, who has gone strength to strength with bringing in fresh talent and filling the room.
“When we started looking into bookings for the place, the mantra around here was that we are not a genre-fied venue. We won’t discriminate against any music types or different genres of music. It was more about having a bit of diversity across the board and getting more Melbourne bands in as well as trying to pull some interstate people in as well,” says Clancy.
Since its inception, the 350-400 capacity venue has laid host to enormous talent, including Ali Barter, Holy Holy, Elizabeth, The Slingers, Ruby Gill, Howlite and Sisters Doll, with the latter set to return to the stage for their ten-year anniversary following a gigantic set at Good Things Festival.
“Sisters Doll called me when KISS cancelled their Melbourne show or Australian tour and wanted to do a tribute night and it so happened that we had an opening that night. They put on an absolute show and after that night they were like, ‘We want to do our 10th anniversary show here’ and I was like ‘absolutely’,” Clancy laughs.
The Leadbeater calendar is fully booked for Friday and Saturday nights for the next couple of months with the likes of The Brungas, Moustache Ant, Tarcutta, Elusive, Dal Santo and Eat Your Heart Out gracing the stage. Along with their musical acts they also have trivia on Wednesday nights and are set to launch an open mic night on Tuesdays.
The Leadbeater Hotel is at 1 Church Street, Richmond and is open seven days with live music on Fridays, Saturdays and some Sundays. Find out everything about the venue at leadbeaterhotel.com.au.