After a first visit to The Crowbar the night before, tonight makes it two new venues in two nights. Although the Eaton Hills Hotel has been putting on shows for a while now, maybe a year, I was always flummoxed by what this place was and why so many larger bands were playing shows in the middle of nowhere rather than in the city itself.
I really wanted to dislike the place. Although I said I’d cover tonight’s show (these things always seem like a good idea when they’re offered to you…), I had a resentment against the venue making me drive three-quarters of an hour and 30 kms to the other side of Brisbane on a rainy Sunday night, especially after a late Saturday night. Being in the middle of nowhere, public transport just isn’t an option, which on one hand would seem to be a crazy premise for anyone running a live music venue but on the other only reinforces Australia’s huge and ever depressing car culture. Only losers take the bus, hey? Trying to put it into perspective in relation to other Australian cities, it’s like living in Newtown and having to go to the Northern Beaches (except without the public transport options) for a show or like living in St Kilda and having to get over to somewhere near Tullamarine. Through the city and way out into the outer suburbs on the other side of town; essentially it’s far enough out of the centre of Brisbane that it could be argued that marketing and band playing there as a Brisbane show is false advertising.
With so many reservations and a premeditated verdict of the place, I was expecting the worst.
But when you make your mind up ahead of the facts, you often find yourself being surprised. To assume is to make an ass of you and me and this really is the case with the Eaton Hills Hotel: despite being in the middle of nowhere, it’s a really good venue.
Although it’s tacked on to the existing hotel building, the venue is an impressive structure. It’s a big, wide open room, with its main selling point being that wherever you stand, there’s an unobstructed and clear view of the whole stage. For all its plus points, the restricted views at The Tivoli are one of its major irritants. Like The Tivoli, the Eaton Hills Hotel also has a horse shoe-shaped balcony wrapped around the top of the room. Tonight it’s being used as an all ages so there’s plenty of space, with only a very small number of under 18s coming out on a Sunday night to see a show.
From a punter’s point-of-view, the lighting is good. It’s just a shame that from a photographic point-of-view, it’s tricky, particularly for the headline act, where the lighting options are either everything on or everything off. With time being of the essence with the usual three song, no flash requirement, it is a rare occasion of hit and hope, with little time to stop and review photos and fine tune the settings, not that it is much of an option under these lighting conditions. The on/off lighting means a load of photos that are underexposed and a load that are overexposed. It becomes a case of setting for when the lights are all on and trying to coincide taking photos for when that happens.
By the end of the night I end up with a not very impressive set of photos and also am the only photographer who missed the all-important jump shot. Jump shots are always an interesting proposition. Often you find yourself setting yourself up for it, only for it to not happen. The recent Big Day Out was proof of this, with guitarists from some of the mid-afternoon punk bands climbing up on the drum risers or the side-of-stage speakers, giving every indication that they were going to provide a prime photo opportunity, all the photographers setting themselves for ‘the moment’, only for them to then just gently step off their raised platform back to the stage.
Largely thanks to the surroundings, I stay and watch the majority of Refused’s set. I duck out straight after the first three songs to the foyer to download the photos on to my laptop (even out there the sound is fairly clear), before heading back into the main room and watching from towards the back. At The Tivoli, you’d be struggling to see anything happening on the stage from this far back but that’s not an issue here.
Staying and watching Refused also goes a long way to making up for an unsavoury event that happened during Nuclear Summer’s supporting set. While trying to photograph them, a guy in the front ear kept sticking his index finger in my ear. There isn’t much that causes me to really lose it, but I hate people invading my personal space and someone jabbing their finger in my ear a few times easily meets the criteria to get me really riled, particularly on a Sunday night when I’m tired and cranky. So I end up giving this guy a piece of my mind with quite a lot of base Anglo-Saxon. As much as it was irritating it was also really painful and most of the rest of night was spent with a sore ear. It also questions why on earth someone would chose to do that for amusement. It makes a change from people on the barrier at the front of shows stroking your hair, which I know a lot of photographers have to endure.
Annoying punters aside, it might have been the first trip out to the Eaton Hills Hotel but in the future I’ll be a lot less dismissive and a lot more enthusiastic about putting in to cover a show here.