Fortitude Music Hall to open with ‘celebration of Brisbane music’

Sun 20 Jan

Brisbane’s replacement venue for Festival Hall is slated to open in July in Fortitude Valley with a celebration of Queensland music.

Right now, it’s all about the roof, Fortitude Music Hall co-owner John Collins said.

Render of The Fortitude Music Hall

Artist’s impression of the Fortitude Music Hall in the Brunswick Street Mall.

Collins was the bass player nicknamed “JC” with Brisbane’s successful rock band Powderfinger, before he became owner and manager of The Triffid music venue at Newstead.

Powderfinger, which won 18 ARIA awards over 16 years, named an album of theirs Vulture Street after their practice room in the Brisbane street. They held their final concert in November 2010 in Brisbane.

“Assuming nothing goes wrong, we are still on track for an open date in July, I think,” Collins said. “The builders (Hutchinsons) will know more when the roof goes on.”

The roof begins to go on in early February, meaning Brisbane’s long-awaited replacement for Festival Hall – which stood on the corner of Albert and Charlotte streets – is inching closer to completion.

The new venue is in the middle of Fortitude Valley’s Brunswick Mall. Look diagonally across the mall from Ric’s Cafe and you can’t miss it.

The site of the new Fortitude Music Hall

The Fortitude Music Hall is being being built opposite the restored TC Beirne building and across from Ric’s Cafe. Photo Credit: Tony Moore

It could host dance festivals, music awards nights, speech nights, future ARIA awards ceremonies, events hosted by QMusic, even industry dinners, Collins said.

Come July, expect a celebration of Queensland music at the Music Hall’s opening, he said.

“I would like to make it Queensland-based,” he said.

“That’s my feeling right now, to have a celebration of Brisbane and Queensland artists, rather than getting one big artist.

“But obviously I need to have [an opening] date and I’d like to talk to Mark as well.”

“Mark” is Mark Gibbons, the Sydneysider who announced earlier this week a shift to Brisbane to become the full-time booking agent for The Triffid, and eventually the Fortitude Music Hall.

Mr Gibbons has for the past six years booked artists at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre in Newtown, the Metro Theatre – still the city’s main independent music rock venue – and the smaller Factory Theatre at Marrickville, which gets good raps for the venue staff.

Collins says Mr Gibbons will move to Brisbane for Secret Sounds to book artists at both Brisbane venues, choosing him after talking to various booking agents on the east coast.

“I think being able to run multiple venues is one thing he is very good at,” he said.

“I just wanted someone fresh. Footstomp Music (label and band managers) has been fantastic, but it’s not their core business.

“I wanted someone full time to step up and ‘sit next to me in a room’ so we can communicate about things every day.”

He wants the Fortitude Music Hall to be a flexible venue.

It can offer a music or event venue for 3300, with flexible flooring and seating for variations of concerts for 1200 and 2000, with a smaller upstairs “bar-style” venue for about 300, he said.

John Collins at the Triffid

John Collins at the Triffid. Photo Credit: Chris Hyde

“We can have a 300-capacity room, then you’ve got The Triffid which is about 800-person capacity, then you go to the Fortitude Music Hall, which will have two capacities.

“We will be able to curtain off the mezzanine, so we will be able to have a 1900-capacity downstairs and then the full capacity, with 3300 with the mezzanine open.

“And then you have the 800-person Triffid, as well.

“So it really gives that flexibility for artists to ‘take on’ the venue.

“So, if they don’t sell it out, it doesn’t look … too bad.”

He said he and Mr Gibbons would begin to consolidate different artists “between all of those different venues”.

The Fortitude Music Hall already has bookings for the second half of 2019, he said.

“I have bookings, yes. But they are not confirmed yet. They are all pencil [bookings].

“I’d get shot by the agents if I dropped a name,” he laughed.

The site of Brisbane's new Fortitude Music Hall opposite the restored TC Beirne.

The site of Brisbane’s new Fortitude Music Hall opposite the restored TC Beirne. Photo Credit: Tony Moore

He doesn’t see too many changes for The Triffid, at nearby Newstead, with the opening of the Fortitude Music Hall in July.

“Not really. I think with The Zoo and Brightside and The Foundry, it just forms a part of the Brisbane music scene now,” he said.

“But there will be plenty of action this year,” he added.

He said he would talk with other Fortitude Valley venue operators, other businesses and police to try to spread the benefits of having 3000 patrons coming to the Fortitude Valley.

“Obviously if we are going to have 3300 people coming on a Tuesday night we will give them a heads-up – give them a look at our calendar maybe – so they can staff for it.

“Hopefully everyone makes money off the back of this. That’s the idea.”

Originally published on Brisbane Times by Tony Moore on January 20 2019