Last weekend I spent two nights at The Forum, which was under the guise of the Beck’s Festival Bar, for a couple of gigs that were part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival.(MIAF).
Here is the MIAF promo text for these gigs - "Beck’s Festival Bar transforms Melbourne’s iconic Forum Theatre into a house of worship for a series of performances designed to respond to themes of Shamanism, cult bands and music as religious experience."
I'm sorry, but the the beautiful Forum Theatre was hardly "transformed"...no...not at all. There was Becks signage on top of the drink fridges behind the three bars, as well as some lame Becks-imaged spot-lights shining on the high roof between acts, but that was it.
But for the real issue...
...I fully understood that attending such a commercially-branded event will no doubt limit my beer drinking options to Becks and several other beers, which - as a craft beer lover - I would probably never otherwise drink. However, I was not quite prepared to be hit with the choice of ONLY two (shit) beers, which really do not deserve a place in the Melbourne music scene.
Those choices were, of course, Becks ($6.50 per bottle) and Kirin ($9 per bottle!!)!!
Both these beers are brewed by Lion Nathan (under licence for their parent company, Kirin), with Becks coming from Lion Nathan's Malt Shovel Brewery in Camperdown, Sydney, and Kirin from the South Australian Brewing Company in Adelaide.
First - how Kirin, which I find tasteless and under-carbonated, can be worth $2.50 more than Becks astounds me (....I know I know, it was because Becks was the "showcase beer" of the night...therefore it was on "special"...but honestly?!?).
Second - why could Lion Nathan not provide one of there local brands, such as something from Boags, or a different style of beer...other than a premium lager, possibly something from the James Squire range? But no, it was just Becks or Kirin, boo.
So...*sigh*...on the Friday night, for The Drones, I drank Becks. I enjoy drinking session beers during rock gigs, especially when it is over 4 hours of standing, but I struggled to make it through a second bottle of Becks, as it was leaving my mouth dry and rough, with a tinge of metallic medicinal burn. WATER PLEASE!
On returning Saturday night, for Mariachi El Bronx, we had some time to kill before the first support began, so we grabbed a booth and considered the other (also limited) drink options available at the bars - Magners Cider, Jack Daniels and Coke premix, UDL premixes and a couple of other brightly coloured beverages which I do not care to recall.
No wonder there has been issues with crowd behaviour at large events that provide bars like this. Such a drink selection will make anyone violent on sugar and chemicals!
Deciding not to rape our mouths with bad beer again, we drank a glass of house red wine. After that first glass, I knew that drinking this house red was not going suffice for another 4 hours of live music. I moved onto Jack Daniels and Coke and WOW/OUCH...sweet sweet terrible sugar hit! (note: my diet has very little sugar in it these days.) I am afraid that I had to wash away the JD+Coke with a Becks...and once again I was done with drinking for the night.
But what's a Melbourne rock gig without beer?!? And I serious had to wash away that JD & coke.
Oh, and The Forum needs to learn from other bars at major venues, which provide an "express queue" for people ordering just beer. The bar queues were annoyingly long and slow, as many people tried to order drinks that were not available or mixed spirits that took time to put together. Since the beer option was so limited, surely there could have been a "Becks only" queue to streamline those wanting to place a simple order of one, two or four figures.
And whilst I'm ranting...LIGHTEN UP Crowd Controllers! Do security staff not realise how much their menacing presence and disdain towards the crowd really sours the mood in a room? People are there for a good time, not to make trouble! Yet the Crowd Controllers stand their and scowl, as though only bad can come of this gathering...and get they ready to jump at any flinch by someone to reach into their bag for a tissue. Joy killer!
But back to the lack of a good bar...
For an event that seeks to be cultural relevant, artistic and even bohemian, to be so bound by the corporate dollar is just sad! Any true artist would be appalled (...expect that all real artists are very poor and need the money. yeah?).
MIAF says "Melbourne Festival is quintessentially Melbourne's festival"...then give us some MELBOURNE BEER! Please? Hell...I'd even drink Melbourne Bitter during a Drones gig! Becks and Kirin is not Melbourne.
Awesome music, brilliant artists, excellent crowds...but terrible beers and bars in a venue that could be so much more!
Thankfully, both nights were ultimately rewarding due to kick-ass performances by The Drones and Mariachi El Bronx
Friday night was opened slowly by the uninspiring post-stoner new-wave hipster rock of The Twerps. The night turned for the better when almost everyone was surprised by the awesomeness of China's P.K 14 as they completely lifted the tempo with a high energy and thoroughly entertaining set! Rocking out, high kicks and love for the crowd...these guys were fun! All songs were sung in Chinese...but that did not matter a bit because they were just so fun! Closing the night was The Drones, who I have declared my love for previously in this blog.
At first I was concerned that their dark pub rock style would not fit the large venue...but that was soon put to rest as they easily engrossed the room with their beautiful mess and noise. The volume might not have quite been turned up to 11 for The Drones on this occasion, but it was definitely at 9 and the performance was nothing short of typical Drones passion and talent.
Saturday night was opened softly with The Ukeladies, with their mysterious Captain Manas - who received the biggest cheer of the night when he stepped up for vocals on one song - as well as Drones guitarist, Dan Luscombe, in a very different mode to the previous night's rock out. Local indie up-and-comers, Eagle and the Worm were next, with a big sound and possibly a little too much desire to be cool, but they were enjoyable enough.
Finally, the usually angry punk rockers of LA's The Bronx were simply joyous in their Mariachi El Bronx persona! They had so much love to share with the Melbourne crowd, engaged the audience and were all class and quality with their punk roots never too far away. They ended the night in authentic Mariachi 7-man lineup mode, singing live rarities such as "My Love" and, crowd favourite, "Sleepwalking". Great stuff...want more!
So my wrap up of the Becks Festival Bar is as follows:
- Beer - Fail
- Bar (in this incarnation) - Fail
- Bands - WIN!