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August 23, 2023

Jive has planned a live music blowout for its 20th birthday

The Wanderers, Special Patrol, The Trafalgars and a “special guest” are billed to play at the birthday party of one of Adelaide’s most beloved live music venues, Jive. To commemorate the milestone, we speak to owner Tam Boakes about the gigs, gaffes and green room moments that have made the decades

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  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Pictures: Supplied

When Tam Boakes clicked her cigarette lighter to life at 181 Hindley Street in late August 2002, she saw the next 20 years unfold before her.

“I was walking around the inside of the building with a cigarette lighter, going ‘Oh wow, there’s a stage; Ooh there’s a bar. Yeah, I’ll take it!’,” she tells CityMag.

“Site unseen, pretty much, signed a lease and went back and found the lights and went, ‘Oh, my god, this is amazing’.”

At the time, the former A&R rep – who worked at labels EMI and Universal – was on the hunt for a space suitable for her next business venture: a live music venue.

In the paper, the avid music punter saw an advertisement for the then-doomed West End location on the corner of Hindley Street and a car park. She booked an inspection with the agent, who couldn’t find the lights.

After the 27-year-old signed the lease, returned to the property and flicked on the found lights, she laid eyes on the venue’s wrap-around mezzanine: a design quirk allowing punters of all sizes to see the stage, whether on the bottom or upper levels.

Tam Boakes at the 2021 South Australian Music Awards.

Among other things, such as Tam’s consistent programming and the site’s carefully-cultivated sense of intimacy, the mezzanine sealed the deal for the venue’s next two decades of success. (This merit isn’t subjective; Jive, with Tam at the helm, has taken out the South Australian Music Awards’ Best Venue gong for 2018, 2021 and 2022).


Jive turns 20

181 Hindley Street, Adelaide 5000

7pm ‘til late Saturday, September 2, 2023

Tix $33


Thousands of gigs, hundreds of hangovers and many years later, Jive is on the cusp of its 20th birthday. To celebrate the milestone, bands like the funk-infused Wanderers, indie-folk outfit Special Patrol, jangly rock duo The Trafalgars and a “special guest” will take to the stage on September 2, 2023, for a birthday bash.

“It’s a big deal, 20 years,” Tam says.

“I’m going with joyous. I think it’s going to be really really great.”

Once Jive calls curtains on the live music, DJs will spin disco ‘til late. Punters will also have the opportunity to sip a specially-brewed Golden Ale beer by Big Shed Brewing, an age-old friend of the venue.

In the 20 years since Tam first opened the doors to the 300-capacity space, which mainly operates as a touring venue for indie-rock bands but also welcomes outfits from all genres, the business owner has been through it all.

This includes monumental highs, such as the 2003 sell-out The Cat Empire show that kicked off just after the Melbourne jazz-ska group blew up internationally with the stomper ‘Hello Hello’.

“It was just a door ticket, and there was this lineup around the corner and we had to turn away about 300 people that night,” Tam recalls, laughing.

Another bright spot was the brilliant 2018 Chic and Nile Rodgers gig – a “bucket list” moment for Tam as never thought she would see the disco behemoths play, let alone at Jive.

“He (Nile Rodgers) walked in the room that day, and he looked around he’s like, ‘Wow, this is like Studio 54!’ and I was like he was at Studio 54 and he thinks it’s like that!’

But the venue’s history is also pockmarked by lows, the most notable when the state government mandated the closure of live music institutions across the city during the pandemic. In December 2020, a group of music industry stakeholders launched a fundraiser to Keep Jive Alive as the venue couldn’t pivot into other trade.

But Jive pushed through the challenges, with Tam fronting the storm face on.

She is “always in the bar every night” pulling pints and pouring drinks, with her mum Anne Boakes, “the first female music director” in the country, working the door, she says.

Tam is at the coalface of the city’s economy, so when she reports still feeling the aftershock of the pandemic, suggesting that punters aged 30 and above stopped seeing live music during COVID-19 and stayed away, even today, we believe her. This lost demographic, coupled with the rising cost of living, means selling tickets for gigs has become increasingly difficult. “At the moment, we’re probably having our worst winter on record,” she says.

“Bands aren’t touring. It’s really cold. They’re broke.”

Despite these challenges, Tam is still optimistic, and her efforts are being recognised by the music community.

Christine Schloithe, CEO of the state’s peak music industry advocacy organisation Music SA, congratulates the venue for an “incredible” two decades.

“Jive is known for its bedrock support of local live music, is a local pillar of the music industry and has facilitated the rise of some spectacular Australian talent over the years,” she tells CityMag.

“It’s also important to note that Jive would not be the success it is without the determination and drive of Tam, who has earned the lasting respect and trust of the entire local music ecosystem and is one of the biggest champions of the South Australian music sector.”

Established music photographer Jack Fenby – also a long-time friend of CityMag – says Jive was his introduction to live music. Tam gave him his first bartending job, which opened him up to seeing “great bands” and photographing them.

“[Jive is] a little melting pot that joins together musicians and music lovers,” he says.

Gareth Lewis, co-owner and booker of North Terrace venue Adelaide UniBar, also believes that Jive has set the “high watermark” for independent live music venues in South Australia, with Tam being “the hardest working person” on the scene.

“She is a fine role model for any aspiring owner and it is the heart and soul of the South Australian industry, long may it continue,” Gareth says.

Although Tam has “no idea” how many years she has left in the tank with Jive – “I never would have even thought 20,” she says – she is looking forward to the many more gigs to come.

Right before CityMag signs out of the Zoom chat, Tam thanks us for being able to recount the venue’s past with her.

“It’s nice getting to recount the history,” she says, smiling.

“You forget about it, I think, ’til you start saying things out loud, and you’re like ‘Oh yeah, it’s pretty cool!’”

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