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October 17, 2019

Not since voluntary student unionism has Flinders Uni had gigs like these

With stunning views to the ocean and a new architectural reality, the Flinders Tavern is ushering in a new live music era for the university, starting with gigs every Thursday in October.

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  • Pictures and words: Josh Fanning

It was 1998 and word had spread around Mercedes College about the huge gig at Flinders Uni. Frenzal Rhomb were playing O-Ball and Venuetix were selling tickets quicker than butchers down beers at a picnic.

This writer missed out on the show and still rues the day. Friends came to school on Monday with epic tales of mosh pits and sneaking beers at the Flinders Tavern.


Spring Concert Series

Every Thursdsay at The Tavern at Flinders University. See Max Savage play tonight with Frets Patrick. More details of consequent gigs available from the Tav’s facebook page.

“I saw Frenzal Rhomb at the Tav in ’98,” says Rob Dean, founder of Burger Theory and current owner of the Flinders Tavern.

Sure Rob, rub it in why don’t you.

“That was the year Midnight Oil came through, too,” says Max McHenry.

CityMag has ventured out of our favourite postcode to catch up with the publican and musician about the series of Spring concerts they’ve organised for every Thursday in October.

The pair met on a flight to Hobart, where they were attending Dark Mofo, and hatched a plan to resurrect quality live shows at the Tavern.

“We went and saw the North Hobart Demons lose horrendously to Glenorchy, very hungover on a Sunday at North Hobart Oval,” says Max.

“We just thought there had to be a way of putting on the gigs we saw and loved when we went to uni here,” says Rob.

The two Flinders University alumni have a good grip on the legacy of live entertainment at Flinders University.

“In the 1970s there were two main strippers in Adelaide,” says Max. “One was called Big Pretzel and the other was Stormy Summers.

“And Big Pretzel was famous because she could make the tassels on her boobs go in different directions independently and that was the sort of show – it was quite bawdy – that you could see here. Flinders was always quite a radical university.

“It’s got music in its DNA. It just hasn’t had regular music for quite a while.”

Max – an accomplished and traveled musician himself – recalls the impact of the Howard Government’s decision to make student unionism voluntary, and how this totally disrupted the campus music ecosystem across the country.

“The unions all had money and they all had members and they could afford to give a whole bunch of services, but they could afford to put lunchtime concerts on too,” says Max, about the days of compulsory student union fees.

“So it didn’t matter if you were in Wollongong, Wagga Wagga or Canberra, it basically meant that all the big touring bands would come through and they knew that they could play an afternoon or lunchtime concert and it would basically augment their tour, so they could visit all these regional locations.”

Kaurna Cronin.


For Rob, the Spring Concert Series is about nudging the re-emerging live music scene out of the city centre.

“The south, there’s really nothing for southern Adelaide. Even Five Four – they do all those city venues but nothing down south at all, and there’s a massive band culture down here,” he says.

Max nods.

“From St Marys all the way through to McLaren Vale and Sellicks, there’s a bunch of great bands that are there – Victor Harbor as well. But from here to the pub in Victor Harbor that’s probably the two main spots where you can turn up for live music.”

The program Max has curated is wild and features nearly every genre of music imaginable.

The Thursday we visit it’s acoustic ballads by Kaurna Cronin followed by the most epic grunge revival set from CityMag favourite Chelsea Lee’s new thing – The Loves.

“We’ve got electric, jazz / hip-hop, punk, grunge, pop, country music, and I think we’re just going to have a look at what sticks,” says Max. “It’s all quality and we’ve got bands coming in that are undeniably excellent.”

The sun is heading slowly towards the sea as we finish up with Max and Rob.

The picture of Adelaide from the Flinders Tavern balcony is captivating, and the sound of Kaurna warming up his guitar for his set adds a beautiful layer to the din of the healthy amount of pub chat going on around us.

Adelaide has an incredible depth of culture if you care to scratch beneath the surface and even we at “CityMag” must admit we have to get out beyond the four terraces more often.

Flinders Tavern 

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