Former Powderfinger bassist John ‘JC’ Collins is opening an ambitious new live music venue in Newstead.
The Triffid will take over 7 Stratton St. “It’s an old World War II hangar,” JC says. “It just looks awesome! I just walked in and said, ‘Wow, we won’t have to do too much with this — we’ll let it look like this and just make sure it sounds good’. If you come from overseas and you play The Triffid, you’ll walk in and go, ‘This is cool, I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere’.”
JC says the mid-sized venue (it’s an 800-seater) will address a gap in the Brisbane market that everybody knows about, but nobody has been able to fill. “We played a lot of shows around this capacity in the States, and I always thought they had a really good vibe. It’s not too small or too big. It’s all about the size of the stage… if you go to a 400-seater, the stage is normally quite small. And if you go to a 10,000-seat venue, then everything gets a bit lost. So around 800 is a good number.
“I don’t know why Brisbane doesn’t have a mid-sized venue, and it’s a gap I’ve tried to fill very deliberately. The reaction I’ve had from talking to agents in Melbourne… they’ve thrown their hands up and said, ‘Finally’. But I don’t want to take anything away from other venues; I want to co-exist with the current venues. I don’t think Brisbane needs less venues, it needs more at different sizes. That’s my approach.”
This is JC’s first foray into owning a venue, but in a way, he’s spent most of his life preparing for it. “With the ‘Fingers, we always said that would be half our career, half our working life, and we always imagined doing something different after the band. After the band finished, I got away from music for a year or two, until I realised that’s where my passion and my heart is. And I’ve always enjoyed the other side of music, the business side of music.
“When you’re in a band, of course you think about owning a bar. You spend your life overseas, traveling the world and playing all these different bars, and it’s a pretty good study. You see a lot of cool places and some not-so-cool places, and you pick up on what works and what doesn’t, so it seems really natural to me to open a venue. But I’m glad I took some time away from music first. Those two years away were really refreshing for me.”
Crucially, JC sees The Triffid as more of a hangout for Newstead locals than a traditional live music venue. “In Brisbane, people usually just go to see a band and then they leave, whereas what we’re trying to create in Newstead is a space for locals as well. It’s a one-stop shop — you can come here to have something to eat, have a drink, and go see a band. That’s something I’m concentrating on as our point of difference, not just from other venues in Brisbane, but from other venues around the country. We want it to be a hangout as well as a live music venue.
“We also want to be proactive with the locals. We want to make sure the soundproofing works, we don’t want to be a problem in our area, we want to actually add to the Newstead experience instead of being something that people won’t like. We’re working pretty hard at that because we want locals to love it. So it’ll be different from most venues in Brisbane, I think.”
There’s no Powderfinger reunion on the cards, but JC says the venue will play host to a slew of interstate and international acts. “I definitely still want a few of the young, local bands,” he adds, “because I think it’s important that you have a place with a good stage that young bands can play.”
Above all else, JC says he and Graham Ashton — who signed Powderfinger to Polydor in the ’90s and will be handling bookings for the venue — are looking to be “creative” and “original” with their programming. (Cover bands need not apply.)
Renovations will be completed in October, followed by a soft launch for locals before an official launch (which may blow out to a three-day celebration) in November.