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.

cold chisel

Cold Chisel (Jimmy Barnes, vocals) playing at the ANU Bar and Refectory, 1979. © ’pling

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.

Crowd of people dancing in front of a rock band

Punters at the ANU Bar and Refectory enjoying a concert by The Cruel Sea, 1993. Image: National Archives of Australia.

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.



Photographer Kevin Prideaux (1955-2018), better known as ’pling. Image: Konrad Lenz.

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.

See more of ’pling's photography at, on Facebook and Instagram.

What was your favourite night out at the ANU Bar & Refectory?

12 April, 2022

BRICKS says:

1983 was the year the Dead Kennedys played and i still have the Poster saying 2XX present "The Dead Kennedys" A.N.U REFECTORY -SAT 20 AUG.

4 December, 2021

moby says:

The Cure, mid 80's, Robert Smith in signatory makeup & hair, saying to crowd: "you can keep your soggy sandwich to yourself". RIP 'pling

6 October, 2021

ProfessorM says:

Public Image Limited in around 1981 - to hear Johnny Rotten sing "Anarchy in the UK" was priceless. Close 2nd was XTC - similar time frame

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

Shelley says:

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!