It’s an immutable fact that Thebarton Theatre (let’s call it The Thebby) is the most iconic mid-sized music venue in Adelaide. Full stop. I’m not the only one to say it, and I hope I won’t be the last.
The Thebby is a recently renovated 1920s theatre with gently sloped dark timber floorboards, ornate ceilings, opera booths, and the best character front bar going round. It is THE venue for mid-to-large profile national and international bands to perform to up to 2,000 fans at a time when they visit Adelaide.
WHAT IT MEANS TO US
West Theb loves The Thebby. We love it so much most of us have spent the past two to three years of our lives living within throwing distance from the venue. The Thebby is revered amongst live music fans in Adelaide and it’s revered amongst touring bands, too. The reverence stems from the simple fact that live shows sound amazing here, and also because the space has an aura that only thousands of gigs performed by the world’s best bands can instil in a room.
The dark timber floorboards are gnarled and aged, with nicks and grooves from the million dancing steps that have scuffed them. There’s a spring to them, as if they’ve absorbed the tears and the sways of thousands of families, friends and lovers witnessing unrepeatable moments in music history.
The Thebby means a lot.
The Thebby also sits on the really busy intersection of Henley Beach Road and South Road in the inner-west of Adelaide. South Road is also part of the North-South Corridor, an arterial commuting and freighting roadway that links Gawler and Old Noarlunga.
The current North-South Corridor is undergoing renovations because the current roadway is not able to handle the projected number of vehicles that planners anticipate will be using the Corridor.
Premier Steven Marshall has described the upgrade to the final section to the Corridor (the part that goes past The Thebby) as “…the single biggest infrastructure project in South Australia’s history.”
The concerning thing for South Australian bands, fans, and concert promoters is this: from what we know, there are three upgrade options on the table and, as part of one of those options, there is a possibility that The Thebby could be demolished to enable the expansion to the roadway (seemingly if the plan involving its demolition proves to be the most economically viable option).
Marshall sat frontrow at the Music SA Awards last year when West Theb played Bible Camp (a song about wanting to make things right). He also came out yesterday on Facebook confirming that the Liberal Government had invested $500,000.00 into the rejuvenation of The Thebby. He has shown he cares about the arts in the past, but just how much he and his government are willing to sacrifice to preserve The Thebby going forwards is what we wait with bated breath to find out.
Of course, there are business plans, ongoing contracts and existing agreements, project planning, cost efficiencies, disruption mitigation strategies, and economic progression and viability concerns that the South Australian Government must navigate.
Hopefully, the passionate and vocal 45,000+ signatures (as well as the hands, arms, hearts and heads they belong to) that want to see treasures like The Thebby protected are read and heard.
The Thebby is sacred. The first time West Theb played there was only last year and rolling our amps across that cavernous room into the echoing black was nerve-wracking, daunting, and undeniably holy. The Thebby dwarfs the individual and, if demolished, would leave a craterous hole in the foundation of Adelaide music, right there on the corner of Henley and South.
Let’s just hope that the Thebby, and its place in the South Australian arts scene as a whole, can prove to be worth the hurdle that the final stage of the North-South Corridor project presents to the Marshall Liberal Government.
WEST THEBARTON'S FAVOURITE SHOWS
Bon Iver’s (2012)
The Thebby is a chameleonic space - no two gigs are the same. It turns sharply night after night, the blank canvas for gorgeous and life-changing live performances. Bon Iver’s tour in 2012 (my favourite) reduced the cavernous space to the intimacy of a lounge room set within a swirling dream.
Sigur Ros (2012)
Sigur Ros’ show later that year (Guitarist Brian Bolado’s number one) picked us up and transported us on flaming angels’ wings to Iceland, spun us around and dropped us back in Thebarton.
Refused’s pre-reunion show (Guitarist Josh Heals’ favourite, even dueting with Dennis Lyxzen on the barrier) saw the space morph into a snarling, white-hot blitz of hardcore and punk from one of the finest purveyors of the genres.
Gang Of Youths (2017)
Gang Of Youths’ Go Farther In Lightness show (Vocalist Ray Dalfsen’s pick for gig of 2017) affirmed thousands of South Australians, telling them it was right to love and good to hope, in turn transforming the Thebby into a place of healing.
Gang Of Youths @ Thebarton Theatre. Pic by Dave Rubinich
Adelaide CBD East End, Adelaide
Open Air Stage, Jindabyne
Stuart Park, North Wollongong