Let’s get loud – Brunswick Street’s Fortitude Music Hall opens its doors
After months of curious postulation, drip-fed gig announcements and a gradual increase in percolating excitement, Brisbane’s newest (and Australia’s largest) ballroom-cum-theatre-style venue is officially open. The hoarding has been removed and the lights switched on – Fortitude Music Hall is here and it’s set to reinvigorate Brisbane’s live-music scene. Before the amps were ignited for the venue’s inaugural performance, we took a look inside …
The genesis for Fortitude Music Hall can be traced back sixteen years to Festival Hall’s closure in 2003. Scott Hutchinson of Hutchinsons Builders – an avid live-music fan – lamented the beloved venue’s closure and the disappearance of its storied history. Years later, when the opportunity arose to purchase the former Festival Hall location on Brunswick Street (then home to an Optus call centre and the site of a proposed high-rise residential development), he jumped at the chance to replace it with a music mecca for future generations to enjoy. Although a die-hard music tragic through and through, Scott was inexperienced when it came to conceiving and operating a dependable live-music venue. Enter co-owners of The Triffid, John ‘JC’ Collins of Powderfinger and Paul Piticco of Secret Sounds. The duo was only a few years removed from cementing The Triffid as one of Brisbane’s best music venues, but they were already thinking of what was next. JC and Paul began inspecting potential sites for a ballroom-style venue, and when Scott showed the crew the site he had secured off Brunswick Street Mall, the idea of restoring the spirit of Festival Hall and delivering a premium mid-to-large-scale live music option to the inner city was too hard to ignore. Two years on since the initial announcement of Fortitude Music Hall’s plans, the 3000-plus capacity venue is now open to the public and set to be an anchor venue for Brunswick Street Mall and The Valley as a whole.
The Fortitude Music Hall experience starts on the street – where an impressive Art Deco-style sign shines like a beacon across the mall, drawing punters in towards the entrance and into the inviting interior. The box-office foyer gives a small taste of the elegance waiting beyond. A large light installation from Luxxbox helps create a feeling of grandeur – but it’s the multipurpose main foyer that cements Fortitude Music Hall’s stately aesthetic. Here sits the venue’s largest bar and main gathering point – high tables and couches dot the room, while stairs split off upwards the hall’s mezzanine level and to the upstairs bar and venue-within-a-venue The Outpost. Just past the main bar sits the doors to the central music hall, a cavernous space that eclipses most nearby band rooms in size and wow factor. The tiered mezzanine upstairs has been designed to give guests a top-notch sight line to the stage no matter where they stand. Maintaining an ideological link to the venues that inspired it, Fortitude Music Hall’s nooks boast numerous items of memorabilia and photos of icons such as Cloudland, SS Fortitude and, of course, Festival Hall itself. The venue is geared to house 3000 patrons at full capacity, but the room has been designed with versatility in mind – a halo railing is fitted with heavy curtains, which can block off the mezzanine and condense the space for intimate shows of 1800 guests. The ceiling chandeliers can also be lowered, further shrinking the hall for more intimate gala-style events (although capacity can still stretch to 1100 guests seated). Fortitude Music Hall boasts five bars across its various nooks, each stocking a substantial range of tap beers, an extensive back-bar selection and wines. JC has put his years on the road and time working behind the scenes to ensure the venue is not only crowd friendly, but a top-tier experience for touring bands and crew. Considerable investment has been made into the gear, staging set-up and load-in capabilities. Semi-trailer trucks can park onsite via a loading dock on Warner Street, with elevator access making set-up a breeze. The band rooms are located on their own level, where touring acts can relax and prep in peace. Good news for punters seeking VIP treatment – a special viewing platform looks out from side of stage, with exclusive bar access available to boot.
Officially launching on Thursday August 1, The Outpost is a regal 300-capacity multipurpose venue geared towards small-scale shows featuring a diverse range of local and interstate artists. Comfy booths and red velvet curtains create a slick lounge-bar aesthetic, a far cry to the raucous (now-defunct) dive-bar it was named after. Here, the bar will be slinging top-notch cocktails curated by the crew at Proof & Company, with a 3:00 am license guaranteeing good times until the early morn. Also to come is The Sound Garden, an adjacent two-level venue that will further bolster Fortitude Valley’s reputation and live-music central.
Fortitude Music Hall officially opened on Friday July 26 with a jam-packed (and sold-out) show featuring performances by Ball Park Music, DZ Deathrays and Tia Gostelow. Gigs in the coming weeks include shows by Skeggs, Allday, Kasey Chambers and more. Head to the Stumble Guide for more information.