08 – Pink Palace (Cnr. Eastment St. and Westbourne Grv.)

Images: (a) Drunkard (b) Cookie and friend at a Daggy Disco (c) DJs James and Sim (d) Snappy Tom from Drunkard (e) Pink Palace Portal. All photos by Cookie.

08 – Pink Palace (Cnr. Eastmint St. and Westbourne Grv.)

Next: 09 – Commercial Hotel/NSC (301 High St. Northcote)

Featured tracks- Drunkard- Confused and Deconsume- Rhetoric


Narrator: You’ve arrived at the Pink Palace on the corner of Eastment Street and Westbourne Grove in Northcote. The pink warehouse originally was an sewing factory that had been empty for a number of years. Around 1999 three Melbourne based punk rockers signed the lease on the Pink Palace with the ambition to create an activist and gig space as they were finding it hard to squat spaces to hold workshops and gigs where people could also live.

Rocky, Wayno and Snappy Tom had been living at the docks during the Maritime Union of Australia’s waterfront dispute in 1998. At that time political activists had joined unionists in one of the longest industrial disputes that we have seen in Australia.    

From there they squatted in Richmond and then decided that the pressure of being moved on from squatting was stopping them from creating the spaces they wanted to have, so they looked for a place to rent. After being active in the Brown Warehouse and Fabrica they had been successful in holding workshops that included martial arts training, shiatsu and other healing modalities that was an alternative to what was being offered in mainstream.

They applied for the Pink Palace to rent and Rocky remembers the day they went to a service station and got dressed in the toilets before they met the real estate agent. She says they were trying to hide our coloured mohawks under berets and found some fancy clothes second hand clothes from somewhere. They were successful in their application and that was the beginning of the Pink Palace.

This segment is dedicated to Snappy Tom, Wayno, Maltby.

James: I moved in I think, early 1999 it was. It started off as a kind of a punk and activist space and then it moved for a while towards more of a punk oriented thing I guess. We had quite a lot of forestry activists within a year or two of myself moving in. I was there I guess seven years or something, It took a long time to get over it, after that kind of an investment in a space. I had a lot of great times there, all kinds of times (laughter).

Narrator: James from Drunkard looks back at his time as a resident and organiser at the Pink Palace. After living there for seven years he was involved in packing up the warehouse in its final days. He shares his memories of being in Drunkard and touring with Stand Against on their world tour of Tasmania.

James: One of the other guys in Drunkard, who unfortunately passed away at the Pink Palace just before I moved in, was the guitarist. We had planned on being able to get together and play gigs and whatnot, but unfortunately he passed on. Drunkard was a band that seemed to go it seemed like a lifetime but It was only probably two and a half years. Now I think I’ve been in bands for over 10 years and it’s a different story altogether, but Drunkard was a good fun thing. It was fairly indicative of the name. I think the first rehearsal we ever had we bought 60 cans of beer and drank them between the five of us. That pretty much set the scene for the test of the time. It was a good fun band at the time and we made it to Tassie, Adelaide and Sydney. They all seemed like international tours at the time. We did a few tapes and a few 7-inch record Eps, plenty of gigs.

Narrator: The Australian and international punk scene has in many ways become a united front forming lifetime friendships along the way. James talks about the connections made between activists, bands and other travellers who visited or stayed at the Pink Palace.

James: Definitely made some good life-long friendships through there, both locally and internationally. I guess one of the aims of a space like that is to try and create community whether it be directly in your neighbourhood or further around where you create contacts and connections with people and hopefully go onto have fruitful and long-lasting friendships and relationships with people.

Narrator: The Pink Palace also held space for Food Not Bombs to cook so they could hold street kitchens for disadvantaged people across Melbourne. Food Not Bombs is an international movement cooking nutritious meals whilst sourcing food that will get thrown out but is still good to eat.

Sarah from the band Deconsume co-ordinated the Melbourne Uni food co-op and she recalls Pink Palace being a space to hold community dinners without having to pay for a venue. Although the majority of the punk and hardcore scene reflected values of inclusiveness, the scene was still quite male dominated. Her time in the band and her early days of activism was a time of self discovery and empowerment.

Sarah:  I do remember it was a very different Northcote to what it is now. People had been used to living in Fitzroy because it had meant cheap rent places, but that was no longer the case. They wanted to find another way to do it.

Deconsume was a five piece It was a time when a lot of the writing I did in terms of lyrics was angry at some injustices I saw In the world across a whole lot of different areas. And that was really what the music reflected, the dissatisfaction with the way systems of society were operating, and in many ways still have the same effect.

The other place we always used to play it was The Arthouse. I didn’t find it was difficult for women to get shows there either but the punk hardcore scene at that time was very male-dominated. There was always a disproportionate amount of women appearing on stage in that particular genre.

It was a big time of discovery for me, having that platform, and yes the ferocity of the music was empowering. It was pretty interesting, a lot of new ideas, clashing ideas. People trying to make the space work.

Narrator: The Pink Palace became a space where First Nations and other marginalised people were welcomed. Queer politics also attracted punkers to the scene and James recalls how the Daggy Discos brought in people from the broader underground and queer community who might not have been into punk and hardcore music.

James: To be honest I couldn’t really tell you [how it started]. It just kind of evolved I guess. I know that I hung out at Barricade Books with people there like Glenn Maltby, who only recently passed. He’d come down from Sydney and Ryan who was living there at the time. We’d just got into a bit of a thing of going to op shops and buying daggy records. Basically started with Tijuana Brass, Oktoberfest type records, German oompah type stuff. You’d be buying the records for 50 cents and it was a bit of a laugh. I kind of got into it through that.

I remember Sarah, Sozza, who’s in Spain now, just before I moved in had a bit of a birthday party and had a daggy disco party with types of disco on mixtapes. I guess that really helped to plant the seed.

All the Daggy Discos were about raising money for whatever particular cause at the time. From there they just blew up and people were dressing up that you wouldn’t expect see dressing up and that leads to more people dressing up. You think, “If that person’s going to dress up who I never thought I’d see dressing up then I’m going to outdo them.” All of a sudden you have theme nights and these amazing outfits and people would spend three months in between every disco looking for a new outfit from the op shops or wherever around.

 By the end of them they were huge nights and we have 400 or 500 people come during the night  and dance the night away until the early hours. We had a few parties for things like Bite magazine, various queer-centric things that definitely helped break down the barrier between punk rock having that, “They all dress in black and look a bit scary” kind of thing. Deep down most of them are pretty good but people can see that look and be a bit put off. Threatened by it. And didn’t feel that comfortable coming to a dark dingy warehouse with people all dressed in black. But they would come to a party where they could really let their hair down. Once they had their foot in the door they realised this place was pretty cool, that they could come back and use it for their own events, come back and help out when there are things going on. So it was good for that definitely and there certainly were some fantastic fabulous outfits that went through there over the years.

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