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February 6, 2019

First look at Lion Arts Factory before they open this week

Sneak a peek at the new-look live music venue and learn a little more about its rebranding and interior design by Frame Creative.

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  • Words: Josh Fanning
  • Pictures: Andrè Castellucci

We leave Lion Arts Factory shouting, ‘goodbye’ to the owners. We shout twice – the second time louder – so the group hears us over the hissing power tools and active hammers on site.

The group, simultaneously, look over their shoulder, raise their hands, and wave. ‘CityMag interview: done’ – one less thing to worry about before they open on Thursday night. 


Lion Arts Factory
Opening Weekend
Thu-Sat: 9pm – 5am

See who’s playing here

Lion Arts Factory is a work in progress with a deadline for completion of less than 48 hours when we visit.

Paint has been stripped off of old brick walls, old stages ripped out, new stages dropped in, miles of electrical conduit fastened to and through walls, connected to state-of-the-art sound systems while a good couple hundred meters of glycol tubing billows up from the bowels of the building, ready to pipe ice-cold beer from the basement coolroom into your mouth.

More than creative consultants in charge of Lion Arts Factory’s branding and interior design, Frame Creative are co-owners of the venue.

The design agency has steadily evolved its business model in recent years, with forays into fashion and hospitality, proving Frame are willing to invest in some of the businesses they help launch.

But the business doesn’t need equity in a company to do good work. Over the duration of our tour of this venue, the trio refer to other clients and deadlines that have either preceded or coincided with Lion Arts Factory.

Frame have just wrapped on a new website for the SANFL (set for launch on Friday, 15 February), delivered branding and digital for RCC Fringe, a custom publication for Great Southern Rail – now known as Journey Beyond – and a new brand identity for the Superloop Adelaide 500 (née Clipsal).

Sam and Simon Pearce hold up one of the giant flags that will hang in Lion Arts Factory

Project builder, Dusty Weatherald hangs a new neon sign with care

Simon Pearce has led the way with branding and interiors for Lion Arts Factory, while co-owners of Frame, Sam and Tim Pearce, have worked on strategy and digital for the new business they share with Hugo Pedler of West Oak Hotel and Craig Lock and Ross Osmon of Five Four Entertainment. You can read more about the origins of the group in our original story.

While work is still well and truly humming along at the corner of North Terrace and Morphett Street when we visit, it’s hard to reconcile the current space with its previous incarnation.

Windows onto North Terrace have been opened up and now brilliant sunlight floods into what we had always assumed was a bit of a cluttered, dark and dingy space.

And while heavy fabric curtains will obscure the windows during gigs and help deaden the reverberation of amplified music, Lion Arts Factory is anything but cluttered and dingy. It is huge, with seven-metre ceilings and clean straight lines at every wall and bar top.


Previous incarnation through to today

The previous look and feel of the venue – Image courtesy Frame Creative

The same view, now featuring Maxline 340-fronted bar and a brand new, old brick wall

What you’ll see on opening night, Thursday February 7th 2019 – Image Frame Creative©


“That’s Maxline 340,” says Sam when he notices us touching the cladding on the bar. The material has the appearance of a corrugated shipping container but is almost soft to the touch. “It was the same material we used for Lot 100, but we used it on the exterior for that project,” adds Sam. Oh, Lot 100, yeah Frame designed that whole thing too.

As we’re admiring the material’s versatility, there are shouts from the front bar announcing the hanging of the venue’s neon sign by the entrance and coat check. The announcement coincides with the arrival of Hugo and Ross on site, who, with Craig, complete the ownership group.

We take a photo to commemorate the occasion and later promise Ross we won’t ever publish the image of him in his gym gear.


A non-exhaustive list of upgrades

The mood in the building is uplifting. Each detail Frame draws our attention to has been considered and pared back to the point at which its impact on the overall look of the venue feels minimal. Together, however, these details add up to something.

“We had to make this a space that every live music performer and their fans feel comfortable in,” says Tim Pearce as we climb the steel stairs to the mezzanine that overlooks the small stage and main bar.

Reading through the comments of our last article, we learnt that Fowler’s Live had closed the mezzanine to public access during shows. The mezzanine will once again be open to the public at Lion Arts Factory.

A lot of simple changes have taken place here since the venue’s previous incarnation to ensure the venue lives up to Adelaide music-lovers’ high expectations. Floor space has been increased in the main stage room and the PA by Novatech will be the equivalent of the Thebarton Theatre. The main stage room now has a bar – a bar with a sound desk built into it at the back of the room.

What you won’t necessarily see however is the work Frame undertook on the VIP area downstairs.

Backstage is underground at Lion Arts Factory and it features a common area for all the acts and a private room with in-built bar for the main attraction. The space looks more like a high-end recording studio than a locker room. The wormy chestnut timber cladding and pendant lights seem superfluous to the function of the venue, but Craig Lock from Five Four Entertainment says Frame were right to spec the space out like this.

Backstage is downstairs at Lion Arts Factory. Pictured here is the common area where artists can mix and mingle for a show


“Venues, even the best in Australia, often give no consideration to the amenities they’re offering bands. We want bands to love playing here, to talk the place up and look forward to coming back,” says Craig.

That sort of empathy really defines Lion Arts Factory’s design. The heritage Lion brand custard factory has a readymade charisma that Frame have managed to unlock. The whole place feels reminiscent of The Gasworks – an excellent heavy metal bar – you might remember from a certain cult classic of the ’90s.

In truth, the place makes us want to see more live music, to turn off the computer and forget about the phone in our pocket and maybe bang our heads a little.

We’ll try not to embarrass ourselves too much.

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