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March 13, 2017

Live Music in Adelaide: The Jade

Adelaide's most resilient venue.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Julian Cebo

It’s easy to forget how quickly things change in Adelaide.

If you were to turn off Grenfell Street and walk down Twin Street today, your attention would likely be caught by the shiny new Ibis Adelaide building, and you might not even notice the drab parking lot by its side.


You can find The Jade at 160 Flinders Street, Adelaide. They are open Monday-Wednesday from 8am-3pm, on Thursdays and Fridays from 5pm-late, and on Saturdays from 5pm-late.

See the Jade’s website for gig and other event information.

CityMag is celebrating Adelaide’s status as a UNESCO City of Music with this series on the industry – from front bars to the local talent that’s gone abroad.

Produced in association with the City of Adelaide.

Scroll back a few years (literally – thanks, Google Maps) and you’ll see an entirely different Twin Street.

Where now there is a paved vacancy for cars, only five years ago stood The Jade Monkey, a little indie dive venue run by Zac and Naomi Coligan.

“We got 10 years out of it, which is actually pretty lucky, to be honest,” Zac says, while perched comfortably in The Jade’s new home on Flinders Street.

Having played in bands since the early ‘90s, Zac had been involved in Adelaide’s live music scene for a long time before opening the original Jade Monkey. For him and Naomi it seemed like a natural transition to become venue owners.

“We were very passionate, and that was the time when a lot of live music venues were closing down, when we opened up,” Zac recalls.

“Literally [the year we opened] a whole heap of venues closed down, and there was a real big resurgence about live music being saved.

“We were young and silly enough not to think too far. We were like ‘Let’s just start our own business, let’s do this.’”

“We were young and silly enough not to think too far…”

But, inevitably, real estate pressures came knocking at the door of centrally-located but under-developed venue, and with a healthy amount of furore the hunt for a new home began.

Despite reams of media coverage, a Save The Jade Monkey campaign, and help from the likes of Renew Adelaide, there was a one-year gap where Zac and Naomi’s business had nowhere to go.

“I call it my gap year,” Zac laughs.

“We found out, I think, a year before we left the old venue that we had to go, and it literally took us a year to find a place. That’s how difficult it was.”

Their saviour came in the (unlikely) form of the Department of Planning Transport and Infrastructure, who helped to sell the value of having a live music venue next to the St Paul’s Creative Centre, and after “about six months of round table discussions with the Lutheran Church, local residents and the police,” The Jade (sans Monkey) was reborn.

“This is kind of what we wanted to do in the first place, to be honest. We always wanted to have live music as a focus, but to be able to have separate areas so you can have live music and have people off the street, just having a drink or a bite to eat, is ideal,” Zac says.

“We were the hub of the young indie band crowd at the old Jade… [whereas here] we’re kind of that middle ground because we’ve got 320 capacity [so] we’re kind of that middle step.”

Diversifying The Jade’s offering has been a focus for Zac, and the venue has continued to evolve, taking on more functions and bringing Phat Buddah Rolls in from the street to become The Jade’s official kitchen.

“The band scene was very good for our small space, but it can be tough because a lot of people don’t have a lot of money to spend in the band scene, and so it can be really good or it can be really slow, so for us [being versatile] is really important,” Zac says.

There is an ease to the way Zac speaks about running his venue that can only come from the experience of weathering an upheaval, and knowing that there will always be something on the other side. So when we ask what he hopes will be in the future for the venue, there is calm optimism.

“We just want to keep growing, I guess. The more regular stuff we have here, the better.”

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