We've all been there. The stairs, the lack of parking, no green room to store your gear, dodging patrons while you loadout, getting someone to watch the car while you load in. Unfortunately, horrible load-ins are just part of the job description. All you can do is try to make your gear more portable (sorry drummers).
Some venues, though, are MUCH worse than others. These venues are not necessarily shit venues, but they will definitely give you a solid workout.
1. Black Bear Lodge - Brisbane
Black Bear, is a SOLID venue. Smack bang in the middle of Fortitude Valley, it is frequented by some pretty fetch bands such as; Mother's Cake (Austria), Waax, The Steele Syndicate and tonnes more up-and-comers (ew...I can't believe I just said up-and-comers). But despite being a go-to stomping ground for punters all throughout Brisbane, the load-in can only be described with one word...SKETCHY.
If you load in from the back, which you usually have to, you have to drive down a ridiculously narrow alley similar to the shrinking hallway in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and if you're driving anything bigger than a Daewoo Matiz then the only way you'll get through is by folding in your side mirrors. Oh, and make sure you REVERSE IN! If you drive in headfirst then, when you leave, you'll have to back out onto Ann Street into oncoming traffic going about 80kmph exiting the Story Bridge.
Once you're in the alley, you then have to carry your gear up an external fire escape that is four flights and rickety-rickety fucked. Lead singers, make sure you help your drummers here. Don't be a dick. These stairs are dodgy.
All in all, BBL is a pretty great venue. But the reward ain't gonna come easy.
2. Revolver Upstairs - Melbourne
Many of you can already see where this is going. Every time I say to a fellow musician, 'Yeah, just played Revs Upstairs on the weekend', the response is always the same. Laughter and a super sarcastic 'That would've been fun'. Yeah, it's that shit.
I find it odd that I've never heard a band cover Stairway to Heaven there because Rev's literally has a stairway to Heaven. Although, when you get to Heaven, you realise that heaven is dank, smells like weird incense and has UV lit toilets with condom dispensers that have 8 different types of rubbers. Parking is a shocker too. If you are lucky enough to find a park within a 2km radius, it's usually either a permit zone, 1-hour limit or just obscenely expensive.
And then there's the load-out. You know that road in South America that is considered the most dangerous road on Earth? The one that's named DEATH ROAD...yeah. Looking down these stairs with an extremely heavy road case in one hand and a bass cab in the other after 4 or 5 pints is akin to being on a tour bus on Death Road looking straight down the side of the mountain. Except there's 1000 wasted punters scrambling up the mountain at the same time, and you have to dodge them. Sounds like a game, but, like, a real shit one.
I could say that it's not that bad of a venue. I could say that. But I'd be lying. You literally play behind a cage that is only slightly better quality than the chicken wire cage from Blues Brothers. Make sure you've added Rawhide and Stand By Your Man to your set list. You're gonna need them.
Also, someone died there...just saying.
The sound system is pretty good, though.
3. DV8 - Melbourne (No longer exists, but too shit to leave out)
Here we have our dishonourable mention. If you played here before the de-funking (not that there was any funking to begin with), then you'll know exactly why I say 'dishonourable'. DV8 was a Melbourne nightclub (strike 1) that has been closed for a couple of years now. Most likely due to extremely shotty electrical wiring and the invention of the internet, which single-handedly ruined their ability to control the wildfire of negative comments and reviews that would inevitably flood in.
I will say this; they had an elevator. Did it work? Sure, like, π% of the time (for the non-geeks, that's 3.14159265359 etc etc etc percent of the time). So usually you had to use the stairs which were narrow and shit (strike 2). In case you haven't noticed, stairs are a strong indicator of a shitty load-in. The third strike comes in the form of the electrical wiring, which I mentioned earlier. Now, I heard this from a friend of a friend of mine, but apparently, if you touch the outside door and the inside of the elevator at the same time, you die. As I said, it was from of a friend of a friend of mine. So BYO surge protector and some SUPER thick gloves. Luckily though, you don't have to worry about this horrible venue plaguing us any longer. Die DV8, DIE!
4. Valve Bar - Sydney
CBD venues ain't fun. We all know it. Parking is non-existent and you can pretty much guarantee that you'll need a shot of Jamo before your set just to relieve the frustration of lugging your drum gear and bass cab 5km up the street, praying that you don't get a parking fine.
Obviously, this is one of the reasons why Valve Bar makes the list. Getting out of the venue when you've done your bit is exceedingly difficult, though. Picture it; You've had a pretty decent show, the place is packed and the punter-party is still kicking hard after your last tune. Now you need to push your way through the sea of drunken debauchery, climb up and out onto the streets of Sydney and lug your gear 5ks back to the shaggin' wagon only to find you have a fine cause it turned into a loading zone while you were playing. This is a very specific example and maybe you've had a different experience. To that I say, good for you...I'm happy for ya.
*side-note* Valve is ridiculously loud. You'll be chewing up your 'crownie' coaster to macgyver yourself some earplugs if you forget to bring 'em. So bring your earplugs if you want to continue down this thank-less career path.
5. Ric's Bar - Brisbane
The amount of crazy s**t I've seen go down at Ric's deserves its own blog. I once saw the lead singer from 'Dead Wolves' climb underneath the stage mid-song and then a mate and I had to grab him by the ankles and pull him out, after which he smashed a beer bottle on the bar and proceeded to cut his chest with the glass. You know, just good, wholesome fun for the whole family.
This is the only venue on this list with no stairs (collective gasp) but is still a very crappy load-in. If you've ever played a gig in Fortitude Valley then you know that you're in for a decent hike. Ric's is no exception. That coupled with the fact that there is nowhere to store your gear and the bouncers usually have the God complex of a ticket inspector, makes it a very frustrating gig. It's fun while you're on stage, but every other moment is an exercise in futility. Resolve yourself to expecting a night riddled with unrelenting effort, and you'll feel a lot better when it's over.
If you have any load-in horror stories, then let us know in the comments section below. Don't agree with this list? Tell us why!
Written by 'That Guy' | A Studio Truth publication