Sydney live music icon The Bald Faced Stag Hotel is taking a stand by ditching its pokie den to make way for a refurbished band room.
The Leichhardt watering hole has been a bastion of live music since before Australia’s pub rock heyday, but rather than go the way of so many other venues in Sydney’s dogged cultural climate, the Stag is saying “fuck that” and renewing its live music vows with the aggression of a pissed off Bambi.
For one thing, they’re taking The Whitlams’ advice and blowing up the pokies/dragging them away (despite the fact that the machines have been single-handedly raking in over $10K a week in profits) to clear space for a whole bunch of pimped new features including a merch shop and band gear lockup area.
“The Band Room is turning into a fully fledged stage with band gear lockup, raised VIP section, dedicated entrance with merchandise counter and band accommodation,” the Stag owners revealed on Facebook earlier this month. “The old girl is about to shift gears!”
To go along with the new facelift, the venue has also hired a full-time entertainment manager to bolster its live music agenda.
“There’s a huge gap in the market at the moment for decent live music venues,” owner Scott McKenzie tells 7’s Weekend Sunrise, adding that The Stag is in a luckier situation than many of Sydney’s live music venues (like this one and this one and who could forget this one) because they have “very friendly neighbours” who don’t complain about the noise from the bands, as well as “a very supportive council”.
“I think it’s something Sydney needs more of,” adds venue manager Josh Stewart.
With a history dating back to the 1830’s, The Stag — which was originally owned by The Tooheys brothers who FYI used the pub’s iconic stag head in their beer branding — bills itself as “The home of live and loud music… [blasting] metal to punk and every genre in between.”
It currently hosts free live music in the front bar, as well as bigger events in the massive band room, with upcoming performances from the likes of ex-Queens Of The Stone Age legend Brant Bjork, Nashville Pussy and Superheist.
News of its refurbishment comes at a time where fight-or-flight seems to be the order of the day for many Sydney venues, with fellow iconic livehouse Newtown Social Club shutting up shop for good this week at the same time as previously shut-down venue The Landsdowne scores new owners who are on a mission to see it return to its former glory as a live music hub “with a fucking vengeance”.
This is a ballsy move by the Stag’s owners to be sure, and we fkn hope it pays off.