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Melbourne punks are at the forefront of protest

  • 18 December 2018


Recently, the iconic Esplanade Hotel reopened in St Kilda. As a devoted punk who spends most of her spare time going to live music gigs across Melbourne, there are not enough superlatives to describe just what the Espy meant for so many of my adult years.

To walk through the venue's doors and be greeted straight away by live music on the front stage was a magical experience. Should the act in the front bar not be to my taste, I would tread the 'punter path' between the Basement stage and the Gershwin Room until I found my groove. It was at the Espy that I first saw Cosmic Psychos, The Vasco Era, X, The Peep Tempel and The Pretty Littles.

Times change, and not always for the better. In place of the front stage at the renovated and reopened Espy is a DJ spinning top 40 tunes from years gone by. Live music lives on at the Espy, just not in the ways I was accustomed to.

Yet despite the gap the Espy created with its multi-year closure, the Melbourne music scene has gone from strength to strength. Melbourne has been pumping out quality music of every genre for a long time, and we are currently in one of the most exciting times to witness it.

Most articles that I read celebrating the Melbourne live music scene miss key aspects of why I think what I'm seeing now is so special. While Melbourne has long been the city of protest, it is also a major global centre for quality protest music. The songs are defiant, political, loud and proud; they're staunch, they're angry, they're educative, they're funny and they demand to be listened to.

Many of these local punk bands stunning their audiences are full of women, queer-identifying people, or people of colour. Initiatives such as Girls Rock have played a large part in fuelling this shift but so too have these music communities themselves — supporting and promoting each other via local record labels or collaborative works.

It's become normal to go to a gig and hear a band do an acknowledgement of country before launching into their set. It's getting more normal to go to a music festival run by these communities and see a more equitable gender breakdown of performers.


"What drew me to them were their storytelling and their often political messages about toxic masculinity, racism, anti-fascism and so forth. They backed these ethics