The Arthouse: ?A Festering Oasis In The Melbourne Night

In the first of a series of tributes, frontman of Melbourne punk band Yidcore BRAM PRESSER spews his last goodbyes to Melbourne’s The Arthouse, which will soon [shut its doors](/news/4215365) after 20 years of operation.

God knows how many times I found myself bent over the toilet bowl, thrusting my leg out behind me to keep that shitty door from swinging open, while I puked my guts out. More often than not it was speckled with chunks of potato and tinged radioactive red courtesy of the cheap curry joint across the road. Performance bulimia was a pre-show ritual, borne of nerves but lived out in perpetuity, and nowhere was it less dignified that in that tiny two-by-two cubicle. The damn thing never flushed. Or it was clogged with toilet paper. I’d try plunge with my hand, but to no avail. And we were always on in two minutes. No time to hide the evidence. As the blood trickled back from my eyes, and the feeling of pins and needles subsided, I would look around at the anarchic collage of graffiti and band stickers and think, ?Fuck I love the Arty?. But then again, who didn’t?

I’m not sure I’d ever have called The Arthouse the lifeblood of Melbourne’s underground music scene, but it most certainly was some goddamn serious shit you could inject into its veins. It was the quintessential dive, a world of its own, far removed from the saccharine wankiness of city venues and completely uninterested in the manufactured cool of St Kilda or Fitzroy. On a good night, when it was packed, when punk kids spilled into Queensbury Street or blew each other in the alleys around the corner, The Arty was a festering oasis in the Melbourne night. There was something about the locals, the dero drunks who held up the bar irrespective of who was on the bill. They had no hesitation stumbling into the middle of the pit and pretty much dictating the tenor of the mosh. That’s the thing. The Arty was always the great equalizer. Punters, bands, local winos. Everyone was welcome and nobody was a rock star. When Pour Habit were in town to support NOFX and Bad Religion they played a sideshow at the Arty. The small crowd that turned up included Eric Melvin, Greg Hetson and Brian Baker. Punk rock gods mingling with the kids, shooting pool, downing beers. They were simply there to watch too. I went up to Melvin to say hi. He looked up with the most bloodshot eyes I’d ever seen, laughed to himself and said, ?You? Fuck, I forgot I was in Melbourne.?

?I’m not sure I’d ever have called The Arthouse the lifeblood of Melbourne’s underground music scene, but it most certainly was some goddamn serious shit you could inject into its veins.?

Every local band I ever loved cut their teeth on that stage. Caustic Soda, Commissioner Gordon, Oddball, Seeling, Mindsnare. You name it. Back when I was a uni student and feeling my way out in the punk scene, I remember leaning against that annoying column in the middle of the room watching on in awe as some new band called One Inch Punch tore us all new assholes. The sound was shit, I didn’t feel totally safe, but I knew I’d found a home. As the years went by that column became an old friend, trumped only by the jukebox and the vending machine near the entrance. Of course, it wasn’t just about the local shows. Countless international bands first played to tiny audiences there, often a matter of months before hitting it big. Against Me!, Terror, Municipal Waste, The Gaslight Anthem. And while trends came and went and then came back again, The Arthouse stuck through it and outlived them all. Every now and then management kicked in some money to up the sound system, so by the time Yidcore got to play we had the chance of sounding good. Of course we blew it, over and over again. For us it was always more about the hummus fights and offensive antics. But if there was one venue where that shit flew, it was The Arty.

When it came to filming a video for our song ?You! Toilet Wall! Me! Marriage!? the choice of location was a gimme. The four of us crammed into that disgusting little cubicle and thrashed out the song over and over again, miming over ghosts of vomits past. Then we went elsewhere for a finale where I passed out in the urinals and people pissed on me. I think the clip only ended up getting played a few times on Rage but I still laugh about it.

On April 30 The Arthouse will close its doors forever. Or maybe it will find new life as a pokies venue or one of those fancy gastro pubs. Melbourne Uni students will probably be enjoying chocolate pizzas there this time next year. But at least we have a month of Last Drinks farewell shows to say goodbye. So many great gigs, with so many bands I never thought I’d get to see again. Whether they went their separate ways amicably or exploded in supernovas of mutual disdain, they have all reunited to pay tribute to a true Melbourne legend. I, for one, can’t wait to play there tonight (April 7) with a bunch of old mates I haven’t seen in ages. I can’t predict much of what’ll happen but one thing is for sure. I’ll be the one hunched over that toilet, spewing my last goodbye!


##Yidcore will play a one-off reunion show at The Arthouse tonight (April 7). Other acts performing include 99% Fat, Mr Coffee, Final Warning and This War.

More tributes…

[The Troubadour: 2003-2010](/articles/4127022)
[Ben Salter On The Troubadour](/articles/4126991)
[Lofly Hangar: 2007-2010](/articles/4165093)
[The Pitz: 2006-2009](/articles/3575347)