For over thirty years, the ANU Bar and Refectory was the focus of a lively music scene. By day it was a bar and cafeteria with tables, chairs and pool tables. By night it was a rowdy venue for drinking and live music.
From the 1970s, the ANU was an important stop for many Australian and international bands on a touring circuit between Sydney and Melbourne. Faith No More, Public Enemy, Violent Femmes, and the Black Eyed Peas are just some of the overseas acts to have played there. Nirvana's 1992 performance has become part of University folklore. Leading Australian bands also graced its stage, including Cold Chisel, INXS, Rebecca’s Empire, the Cruel Sea, Silverchair, and the Whitlams.
Students and music fans from the time will remember sweat-soaked nights, the combination of big crowds, vigorous dancing, and the building’s underperforming air conditioning system.
The ANU nurtured local musical talent as well as the emerging icons of Australian music. Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett, who studied law at the campus, said he learnt his craft playing cold winter nights in the capital.
What a Blast !
During the 1990s, before mainstream internet usage, the ANU Bar and Refectory promoted upcoming performances with a spirited advertising campaign on local television. For a generation of Canberrans, the ANU Bar’s tagline ‘What a Blast’ captured perfectly the anticipation of a night out of drinking and loud, live music.
In the late 1970s, a young and unassuming ANU forestry student began photographing bands and other live performers at the Uni Bar and Refectory. His name was Kevin Prideaux. But most people knew him as ’pling. He had earned the nickname that became his professional moniker from a fellow student who remarked that he was too slight to be a forester. Instead, he was merely a sapling.
After graduation, Prideaux worked for the ACT public service. Over the next four decades, he returned to the ANU at every opportunity to photograph live performances, including music, theatre and dance. The small sample of ’pling’s work displayed below shows bands that played at the ANU from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. His work captures a vital element of university life, a music scene that was diverse, experimental and always vigorous.
What was your favourite night out at the ANU Bar & Refectory?
7 August, 2021
Susan Carcary says:
“Fave OS bands at the Uni bar were The Pogues and The Cramps, sensational! Fave Oz band was Do Re Mi, I think the gig was on New Year's Eve”
5 August, 2021
“Maybe The Cure (1981)? But, honestly, how do you expect anyone to choose a single night? I treasure the memories of countless Refec nights.”
30 July, 2021
John Carver says:
“Midnight Oil (they were very loud!) and Dr Feelgood ('Living on milk and alcohol'), both in 1979. 'Pling was always there, camera in hand!”