Local Legends: THE HARP HOTEL

In terms of consistent pulling power, the Harp is probably the top venue in town.

The Corrimal St venue has arguably been the performance space that has ‘benefited’ most from the closure of other mid-sized venues in town, picking up acts that would have previously been hosted by the Oxford or Night Eats Day at Cooneys; the Harp has hosted the likes of Boy & Bear, The Jezabels, Ash Grunwald, Bodyjar, Parades, The Mission In Motion, Die! Die! Die!, and Howl in recent months, and the list of upcoming shows includes Oh Sleeper, The Chariot, Strange Talk, Pez and Maya Jupiter.

Largely dealing with tours from upcoming Australian talent – i.e. whatever you’re hearing on Triple J this week – its relationship with the team at Various Industries mean that the Harp is also usually a good place to check out local talent; Various seem to strive to put a local band or two on every gig that they can, helping local bands gain experience alongside more established acts.

A fairly classic representation of the ‘pub venue’ prevalent – but sadly in decline – in Sydney and Melbourne, it doesn’t try to be something it isn’t; a bar along one wall, a stage along the opposite wall, chairs and tables and a dancefloor between (and Buck Hunter and a pinball machine over in one corner). It’s a simple venue, but that is what makes it an effective venue. It’s a good venue for bands to play, it’s a good venue to see bands play. The sound system is great, you can see from wherever you are, you can sit down or stand up or dance, and – for some reason – it is never crowded.

Its proximity to the centre of town, to public transport and to essential amenities (i.e. McDonalds and Oporto) just helps to make the Harp one of the best venues in the area. A good lineup of bands, great facilities and an effective set-up; the Harp is a venue that you should become a little more acquainted with.

The Harp Hotel, Wollongong
124 Corrimal Street, Wollongong
See Various Industries website for info on upcoming gigs.


Local Legends: OTIS BAR

For the first of the ‘Local Legends’ posts, I thought I’d write about my favourite venue in Wollongong; the Otis Bar, on Crown Street.

Only a relatively new addition to the local nightlife and music scenes, the Otis has nonetheless quickly established itself as a classy, relaxed, upmarket venue in its own right. Whereas the vast majority of Wollongong venues fall into one of two stark categories – ‘nightclub’ or ‘pub’ – the Otis lies, in terms of aesthetic, somewhere in the middle of these two.

The small size of the Otis creates a sense of intimacy and warmth, with comfy couches lining the walls, and a large – and, it must be said, well-stocked – bar. It’s a spot to indulge in a quiet drink, but maintains a classy, sophisticated feel that’s hard to come by in Wollongong.

In terms of music, the acts hosted by Otis Bar largely reflect its image; acoustic, folk and jazz acts are the main fare of the Otis, the bar’s small size again creating an intimate atmosphere suited to these sorts of music. Otis also plays host to some of the smaller, ’boutique’ bands that pass through Wollongong; sell-out crowds have enjoyed performances from Matt Corby, Kyu, Grace Woodroofe and Guineafowl, acts that would have been passed over – or been horribly out of place in – most other local venues.  The bar is almost always packed out when there’s a band playing, and the sound quality is really excellent.

All in all, a wonderful and unique venue; classy and sophisticated, yet warm and welcoming, and a great place for live music.

Otis Bar, Wollongong
226 Crown Street (opposite Subway)
For gig information, see In Spite of the Weather’s website or Facebook

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