Memories of the Metro
From George Clinton to James Brown, Shortlist editor Martin Boulton reflects on some of the biggest moments at The Palace, previously known as the Metro nightclub, a popular and iconic Melbourne venue that closes its doors this weekend.PT3M27S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-38cjk 620 349 May 15, 2014
A solitary figure wanders through the Palace Theatre the morning after the night before. The cleaner with his mop slowly strokes the floor still sticky with spilled drinks, as the old building creaks.
They say the gloomy venue harbours secrets in the tunnels and rooms long boarded up or forgotten. But soon all this could be turned into rubble. A big yellow poster stuck out the front of the Bourke Street entrance advertises the owner's bid to have the building demolished to make way for a five-star hotel.
On Saturday night a final show will be held at the theatre, more than 100 years after it was first opened as Brennan's Amphitheatre. The venue's operators are preparing to sell ''everything not nailed down'' in a $5 million fire sale, following an unsuccessful bid to extend their lease.
The Palace Then and Now
Palace Theatre in Bourke Street. Items for sale including a massive disco ball. Photo: Joe Armao
They will sell the art deco chandeliers, glittering disco ball, smoke machine, front ''Palace Theatre'' sign and speaker stacks valued at $750,000.
There are about 10,000 items up for grabs. ''If it moves it goes,'' Palace Theatre operator Greg Young said.
It is a gloomy conclusion for the former disco once hailed ''the most beautiful club ever seen'' by a bevy of 1980s celebrities who attended the November 1987 opening of the Metro nightclub.
The event was broadcast on Network Ten and hosted by Molly Meldrum. At the time Meldrum said the Metro was probably Australia's ''most important'' performance venue.
Then Victorian premier John Cain made a video appearance with a good-luck message for the owners, along with Olivia Newton-John who told the ''Melburnites'' she was looking forward to ''boogying'' there when next in town.
The crowd can be seen bopping along to Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up, in archive footage posted on YouTube.
Almost three decades on, Meldrum is back to host Saturday night's closing show. He said he still believed the Palace Theatre was ''one of the best live music venues in the world'', a place that should have been protected from the bulldozers.
''I feel very strongly about the Metro, it's very hard to get a place like that … People wanted to go there, it is just a perfect location.''
The venue's long-time entertainment booker, Jenny McEwan, said the theatre had made Melbourne one of the great cities of the world and ''its loss will leave a void''.
''What happened in here was important, not only for me but most music lovers. I'll miss seeing all of those happy post-show faces,'' she said.
James Brown was among the biggest names to play the venue, along with international bands Sonic Youth, Jane's Addiction, the Black Keys, Wilco, the Killers and Macklemore.
The keys to the Palace are due to be handed over on May 31, once it is emptied of its final microphone stand, cash register and ice machine.
However, an unknown number of artefacts are likely to remain. Above the highest balcony, there is a top room that can only be reached through a hole in the ceiling.
Amid a cluttered maze of boxes, Mr Young glimpsed a treasure trove of old paintings, furniture, newspapers and original drawings of the venue. ''It was eerie up there. It's like a time capsule,'' he said.
A couple of years ago a cleaner found an actual time capsule hidden in the cloakroom wall, containing a tram ticket and condom packet, probably from the 1970s.