In another massive blow to the Australian music scene, the NSW government has seen fit to shut down the iconic Sydney music venue Frankie’s Pizza at their Hunter Street location in order to make way for their new light rail system. All of this is happening on the back of increased Covid restrictions for music and entertainment venues, whilst sporting events have been given the green light for some time now with capacity at some sporting venues permitted to run at 100%. (but sports is outdoors…well so was Bluesfest but you canned that you donkeys).
Frankie’s Pizza is renowned worldwide as a must visit venue for musicians and their road crew since they opened over 8 years ago, having hosted a billion legend musicians including Phil Anselmo and the Illegal’s, Bare Bones, Tom Morello, Endless Heights, Stand Atlantic, Guttermouth, Bruce Kulick (KISS), Goon Squad (Alice Cooper’s band), Dune Rats, Black Rheno, Nunchukka Superfly, The Porkers, Flangipanis, Hard-Ons, DZ Deathrays, Heists, and more recently, King Parrot and their first show back from Covid (not to mention and their very own Frankie’s World Famous House Band). This plus the million other mad kents that have walked through the door to sing Karaoke with Michelle Madden or just munged on pizza and drank piss while having their ears blown out by the best fucking music going.
If Frankie’s is gone for good, they’ll make movies about this place for sure and if they relocate (which seems to be the general consensus) then they should make a movie about it anyways. I don’t give a fuck. Fuck Gladys and her clandestine war on bad taste and good times. The evil thing in charge should just go to bed, ignore the denim-clad night-owls with beer breath, destroyed hearing and bloodshot eyes. Leave us to our own devices. Let us age gracefully under the eyes of the dark lord. We don’t give a toss about you either mate. Most of us voted for the legalise weed party anyways.
We asked a few regular punters, bands and staff to share some special words about one of Sydney’s most iconic venues and it’s hard not to shed a tear reading their words…
King Parrot – Matt ‘Youngy’ Young (Vocals)
Frankie’s has been our home away from home for a number of years now. We most recently played our first live show back after this Covid debacle and the atmosphere there was just electric. Jordan and the entire team there have taken band hospitality to another level and the punters absolutely love being there. Frankie’s is a unique creature and a venue to be revered for years to come. The fact that these politicians and governments show little regard for the arts, entertainment and culture of their cities is a crying shame and it’s times like these we need to band together to have our voices heard. Saving these iconic cultural landmarks is more important than a train station and I hope Sydney stands up just like Melbourne did for The Tote several years ago. Long live Frankie’s!
Trudy Johnson aka Brutal Trudes – Wall of Sound Writer
Where else could you see Phillip H Anselmo and the Illegals do a full set of Pantera classics, supported by your favourite band (King Parrot)?.. for FREE, might I add! Up close, personal and surrounded by like minded people with nothing but their love of music to fuel a fucking great night. Frankies Pizza, that’s where! Conveniently located just a short stagger away from Wynyard Station.
Queues that stretched up the length of the street, racing for the front booth, candles, building towers with plastic beer mugs, challenging mates at pinball, eating pizza during and after a night of witnessing a bunch of talent.. these are just some of the things I loved and will miss about Frankies. The place that didn’t leave us hanging out until the weekend for something to do, they gave us shows mid-week too! No temptations for the gambling folk, as there are no pokies in sight.
Frankies was all about having a good time and the staff were included in that fun. No pretentious bullshit, not even from Security (something very rare these days). As long as there’s life, there’s hope and I’m hopeful that Frankies will re-birth with a new home, so the good times never have to end.
Chris Maric – Publicist
I have a long history with 50 Hunter Street, Sydney. What is today the iconic Frankie’s Pizza used to be a very plain looking ‘room’. Nearly 20 years ago I had to find a place for a showcase by this new act we had at Sony Music named John Mayer. We ended up choosing this subterranean cavern in the middle of the boring district of the city. The night of the showcase, John was introduced to the stage by his label manager who was rather short. He turned John’s mic down towards him and said to the very stiff industry crowd in his British accent, ‘oooh I feel a bit like Lemmy’. Mayer and I, side of stage laughed – no one in the room got the joke. Mayer comes out, turns the mic the right way up and has to stoop down a bit to speak into it, to which he said ‘oooh I feel a bit like James Hetfield!’ Label manager and I, side of stage laughed, no one else did. Thus was the mainstream music industry hahaha
I think it took me 3- 4 times at Frankie’s many years later to actually realise it was the same place we had the Mayer gig in (which was killer). In a few short years, the place had transformed itself into a rock den that looked like it had been there since the dawn of time, which gives me hope that the realness of the place can soon be replicated wherever it gets relocated to (eventually).
Many a Soundwave afterparty ended in the small hours at Frankie’s. I have stories involving rock stars, industry people and overexcited fans at seemingly every nook and cranny of that place. The front bar, the band room, side of stage the secret downstairs bar (my favourite part of it all), the cool room and more.
It’s a massive shame that the last bastion of rock n roll in the Sydney CBD will be going, in favour of a metro line that ironically will be bringing more people to the area, that now will have less going on. It was a place where the stiffs from the ASX could come and let their virtual hair down and a place where people like us could literally let their hair down.
Like all that has fallen before it, Bar Century, the Agincourt, Club 77, The Hellfire, ALL of the Cross, the crusty dressing room at the Metro Theatre before it got sterilised and hell, even Bar Broadway, it was a part of Sydney’s edgy character that has given way to gentrification, noise restrictions and the fun police. The memory remains…
James Dean – Bare Bones (Guitarist)
Frankies has a special place in all of our hearts, it opened the year Bare Bones formed and we quickly went from supporting amazing Australian heavy bands to headlining the venue ourselves, which are to this date some of the wildest shows we have had the pleasure to play. The venue is dripping in music history, not only a stomping ground for local and international artists, but Jordan has managed to put on some absolutely bonkers (and free!) lineups for a club of its size. I was lucky enough to catch Phil Anselmo perform an entire Pantera set in the main bar which was fucking surreal, and a memory that will remain with me for my lifetime! They can tear down the building, but the spirit of Frankies will forever live on, and when the time comes for the reemergence I’m sure we will all be in for a treat.
Jarrod Anthony Martin – ex-Frankie’s Pizza Manager/Caulfield Vocalist
I recently returned to Frankie’s Pizza on a Monday afternoon, and was greeted with that familiar feeling that comes over an individual as they enter the venue for the first time, or the 100th time. You can taste the sweat soaked into the walls, the smell of the beer soaked into the carpet, and the memories of fun and festivity flashback.
Rewinding the clock to June 2016, and I enter the venue not for the first time, but for a job trial at Sydney’s iconic rock and roll venue. Nervous as shit, and worried I’m not gonna be good enough. The fear sets in, and the rust on the joints tighten everything up. I’m unemployed, bedridden with depression and anxiety, a shell of my former self. I’m greeted by Jordan, and he’s ecstatic and proclaims we’ve met before. Trying to be polite, and unsure of myself I’m convinced we haven’t.
“You’re Batman” he cries out. “Your band played here before and you hung from the fucking roof whilst you were screaming.” Another flashback occurs, oh yeah, I did that here when Caulfield played almost a year prior. That’s when I knew I was a part of the crew, and one of the best moments of the venue, because those moments are real and dear to me. This was the moment I came out of my shell and finally felt alive.
We can recreate and replicate Frankie’s Pizza 2.0, and you best believe my shirt will be off, beer being poured over my body and I will love it. Frosty’s Pale Ale, in putting my order in now for what I’ll be drinking. But one thing that won’t be the same is the history engrained in that space. That’s the sweat in the walls, the beer in the carpet, and the countless memories I’ve created and others have in that venue.
It’s not every day you’re crowdsurfing whilst on shift and kick the keyboard off the stand whilst Wolfmother are belting out Joker and the Thief on a Sunday night. It’s not every day you’re in the middle of the pit smashing a beer and acting as a human barrier with your coworkers and best mates because the crowd have gone ape shit and snapped the barrier during King Parrot’s set.
Every single person who has set foot through those doors, whether they’re a punter, a musician playing that night, or a touring band in town that’s coming to the world renowned rock and roll bar. I’ll always have those memories, and I’ll recreate some of them, but never in the place where I stood before. The fear with getting older is not realising you’ve already lived your glory days, and you wish you held onto them longer.
Well this is happening for me right now, and everyone else. We are losing the glory days of live music and nightlife in Sydney.
Whenever the doors close for the final time, that’ll be the day NSW Government put the nail in the coffin for our city. Frankie’s Pizza helped me come alive, and it will always burn inside of me, just not in my home town.
Black Rheno – Milla (Vocals)
From the very start of Black Rhen, Frankies have been a huge supporter and a god damn fucking brilliant place to play. Every show has been super memorable from playing alongside some of the sickest bands in town to even playing alongside Philip H Anselmo and The Illegals. That’s definitely a night that will be imprinted in my memories for the rest of my life. We were on first and from the first note we played the crowd fully erupted. Literally hanging from the ceiling and being slammed against it while crowd surfing and screaming at everyone, it was proper out of control.
Then seeing Phill and the boys absolutely tearing the place apart with a full set of Pantera tunes… Like seriously, how many Pizza joints can get that shit happening… Only the best fucking pizza joint on earth. That’s a moment I’ll hold in my heart for life. From day one they have done everything right to the point that not only the staff are rad as fuck, but even the security crew are total legends and make you feel welcome when you walk in the door. Once again, how many places can you say that about, FRANKIES FOR LIFE! Frankies, we love you cunts and will never forget how well you have treated us over the years. Thank you so fucking much!!!!!
Flangipanis – Josh Murphy (Guitar)
For some reason, the thing that struck me the most about Frankie’s is the curtain that closes and opens between every band. In a world of fake basement dives Frankie’s is the real fucking deal. I’m storing my gear on/around cleaning equipment and tiptoeing through the toilets trying not to breathe. But you gotta use the curtain! But we’ve played there a couple of times and it’s a confusing venue in general. You load in through a restaurant, trying not to smack diners in the head with your case, before walking into the diviest dive. The first time we played there was a group of people in 1930s loungewear dancing in one corner seemingly as at home in the bar as any of the dirty punks.
And the pizza! I don’t know if it’s because it’s normally the last show on a long weekend of going a little too hard, but if I didn’t have to wake up the next day to drive home I reckon I could easily lose track of time and spend a couple of days just sitting in the dark with a slice in one hand and a weird plastic stein of cider in the other.
Candace Krieger – Photographer @candacekrieger
At no other venue will you go to a show to find the staff acting as the best stage barrier you’ve ever seen. Devastating to hear we’re losing/relocating an iconic Sydney institution – but wherever Jordo and the rest of the crew end up, that’s where Frankie’s will be.
Here’s hoping Frankies rises like a phoenix from the ashes of this shit situation and re-emerges in a bigger, louder venue covered in offensive neon lights so bright they can be seen from Elon’s orbiting roadster. Here’s to a moment in time. Get in before it’s gone forever. Shit.
Words by Duane James @duanejamestattoo