When one of Sydney’s iconic live music venues, The Basement, was put up for sale mid-last year there was concern about what it would mean for the future of the venue, which is set to celebrate its 40 year anniversary this month. The Basement was opened in 1973 by Bruce Viles, and has been hosting jazz and blues music since then, but there were looming concerns that new owners would not continue that legacy.

Having been recently bought by restaurateur, David Wallace, owner of Circular Quay’s Opera Kitchen, there have been some staffing changes as well as planned physical updates to facilities at The Basement, but thankfully Wallace has confirmed the ongoing status of the bar as a live music venue, as The Music reports.

The Basement is the first live music venue for Mr Wallace, who has investments in the nearby Cloudy Bay Fish and Steel Bar & Grill. The Basement is located in Sydney’s Circular Quay, The Basement has seen everything from jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie and blues-man BB King perform, as well as hosting shows for Prince, KD Lang, and Ryan Adams, it also helped form a part of the Sydney leg of the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival.

The bar was “spruced up” by the previous owners in the past few months, and with the prime location as well as the venue’s 24 hour, 7 days a week hotel licence, its 550+ capacity and a ten year lease, it seems like Wallace has made good investment, hiring Joey Caruana as the new venue manager.

Today, the outgoing owners Tim Read and Jane Burridge, who were in charge for 13 years, are set to hand over the reins. They were previously reported as saying the move was due to a shift in “personal priorities”, and that it was “time to hand the baton on to the next generation to take care of the legacy and be part of the future history of this wonderful club.” “My musical vision moving forward will be with love and respect for the history of venue but also firmly giving it a new contemporary identity.” – Nathan Farrell, The Basement booker

The Basement’s newly instated venue booker, Nathan Farrell – former booker of The Mac – told The Music that he was very excited about the new position. “I am absolutely thrilled and honoured with my new role at The Basement in the lead up to its 40th anniversary,” Farrell said. “My musical vision moving forward will be with love and respect for the history of venue but also firmly giving it a new contemporary identity.”

All the shows that had already been booked and ticketed in the coming months – such as The Hillbilly Killers, Mark Seymour, Bruce Mathiske, David Bridie and Evermore – are set to go forward. Farrell’s vision for the future is to “constantly juxtapose traditional acts with the cutting edge. Exciting things to come and plenty more news soon.” This is a nod to the booking styles of some of his favourite venues around the world, including London’s Jazzcafe and New Orleans Tipitinas.

The previous Artist Bookings and Liason Manager Nicolle Lane told The Music she was sad to be leaving the position but ultimately she had faith that the venue would be able to carry itself through the changeover. “It’s been my great honour and privilege to be the custodian of this legendary venue – Sydney’s oldest live music venue, in fact – for the past 14 months,” she said.

She also commented on the status of The Basement as an institution, “40 years of incredible live music are being inherited by the new team, and I look forward to seeing how they maintain that legacy.”

Concerns about the future of The Basement first cropped up when it appeared on a ‘For Sale’ listing in June/July last year, a time when many Sydney bars, as well as venues in Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane, were being closed. But now that The Basement has been purchased and plans are moving forward to maintain its status as part of Sydney’s music scene, there’s faith that old and new staff won’t provide reason for much worry.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine