Venue focus: Take me back to Bakehouse Studios in North Richmond

Compared to other corners of the world, Australia might not be your first choice for a music history-packed tour.

But Melbourne surely is a city full of landmarks for music geeks. There are countless venues that have welcomed both global megastars and trendy indie artists and where events changing the face of the business have taken place numerous times.

Bakehouse Studios is one of them.

PART 119 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE / THE SILLY & GREEN PROJECT

You might have realised by now that this post is going to be a trip down memory lane for me. Because Bakehouse Studios is one of my all-time favourite places Down Under.

Run since the 90s by Helen Marcou and Quincy McLean, a pair well-known for their contribution to the local music industry, Bakehouse is an institution and a true hub for creativity in Melbourne. The city itself recognised the venue’s role in building its reputation, featuring it as a Music Landmark on the tourism map.

Bakehouse’s centric location in the suburb of North Richmond, very close to CBD (the Central Business District), is another element that makes it attractive. It also happened to be my neighbourhood when I lived in the Victorian capital.

The list of acts who have chosen Bakehouse for their music projects over the years is beyond impressive: from Australian legends, like Olivia Newton-John, The Avalanches or Spiderbait, to acts that have emerged in more recent decades, i.e. Courtney Barnett, Tones And I or The Chats. Not to mention international artists: Ed Sheeran, Jane’s Addiction and Beck, just to name a few.

But the venue welcomes everyone, no matter how famous or big they are. It is an inclusive and accessible space with a great vibe and an impressive history. In all fairness, it’s a pretty cool place to just hang out with fellow creatives.

I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with Bakehouse on two separate occasions in 2017.

The first time, I was a runner at a music video shoot for a local band that, sadly, no longer exists. We were filming in the Jezebel room, named after a song by an Aussie group, The Drones that, apparently, particularly enjoyed playing in that space. And I’m not surprised – with the heavy, velvet curtains in the colour of red wine, it’s a pretty special vibe to be immersed in.

Even though it was a long and hectic day, I got to explore the other parts of the maze which is Bakehouse Studios. And I fell in love with its casual, friendly atmosphere. You see, it’s no ordinary place. Being there is more like walking into a house of a friend who happens to be a muso than an actual working office. And that’s exactly what Bakehouse prides itself on.

The second time I experienced the venue’s generosity and hospitality was during a live-streaming event filmed in the legendary Scrap Museum (known as The Scrappo). That room is simply stunning, architecturally speaking. The exposed brick and natural wooden elements are my favourite bits. Plus, the piano, small stage, green room, and an actual bar/kitchenette make you feel like you’re entering a small, underground club.

I’m a big fan of converted industrial places, like former warehouses, and Bakehouse definitely has this kind of vibe. So those beaut, unpretentious interiors are another huge advantage. All the rooms are tastefully decorated, making them perfect choices for those creative songwriting or recording sessions. I mean, they even have a lush courtyard garden in the middle of the mansion to start with!

Check out the interior that features in this Angie McMahon‘s video:

Let’s also clarify one thing. Bakehouse is not a venue in the strict sense of the word. Even though memorable showcases and intimate gigs do take place there from time to time.

But it is a perfect rehearsal space, where you can chill out in a rustic kitchen with free herbal teas, freshly brewed coffee and snacks during breaks. It’s also a fully functional recording studio offering sound engineering support if needed. Last but not least, heaps of awesome music videos and live performances have been shot there over the years.

The owners, Helen Marcou and Quincy McLean, are well-known in the industry for speaking out on many issues regarding the music business itself and Australian society as a whole. So it comes as no surprise that Bakehouse is a progressive and forward-thinking institution with its grants program, too.

In March 2021, “bursaries for women and non-binary musicians to encourage greater participation in the music community” were announced. The first recipient was Bonnie Mercer, an internationally-renowned guitarist residing in Melbourne.

Additionally, as an incubator, Bakehouse offers other creative opportunities.

One of them is the art project, which invites leading Australian visual artists to make installations in the rooms used by musicians. Those works of art are then pasted up as giant billboards on Bakehouse Studios’ facade for all passers-by to appreciate. They tackle different topics, not necessarily related to music. Their objective is simply to inspire musos working in Bakehouse. 

The last time I visited Bakehouse was in the first half of 2019. And I know from their socials that the pandemic didn’t go easy on the venue. 

On the other hand, they used their downtime wisely to refurbish and spruce up some spaces within the building. So I’m really looking forward to returning one day to see the results.

For all details about renting the fab space and collaborating with the venue in other ways, check out Bakehouse’s website here

And no, I don’t get paid for the promo. I simply think this iconic Melbourne landmark deserves a little recognition on my blog for all the good memories and lessons I learned there.


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