Vale: Bridge Hotel

Bridge Hotel, Richmond

The Bridge Hotel, Bridge Road, Richmond looking sad

PASSING the Bridge Hotel last Sunday (2 October 2011) we were presented with this dismal sight!   From across the road the sign on the front door seemed to read  “DEMOLITION PROJECT IN PROGRESS”.

But on closer investigation it appears that it’s not the wrecker’s hammer  but renovation which faces the old pub. The owners have a grandiose plan to create a “cool” venue in the heart of Richmond, which is definitely on the upward spiral from grunge to gentrification!

Here’s an exerpt from the owners’ press release on  their website:

The idea our architects had in designing the new Bridge Hotel was to borrow from Melbourne’s eclectic laneway culture and run a cobblestone laneway right through the centre, complete with outdoor tables, heaters, umbrellas and an enormous three metre high glass-encased wood burning fire. It’s an extraordinary concept – and we can’t wait to see it!
Sitting off the laneway will be a host of smaller spaces incorporating public bars, wine bars, dining rooms, private rooms, function rooms and casual dining areas.
Sitting above the laneway (on level two of the Hotel) will be a series of three private lofts that can also be linked into one giant (and very cool) function space. Each loft will have a couple of balconies that sit out over the laneway below, so from every angle the hotel looks and feels like a cool working laneway. Suffice to say, we are really excited about the end result!

Whatever the result – due to open in November 2011 or thereabouts – it won’t be THE BRIDGE as we knew it in the ROARING EIGHTIES and it certainly doesn’t sound like a jazzers’ haven.

Admittedly there hasn’t been jazz at The Bridge for more than a decade, but if you ask anyone around the jazz scene in Melbourne where they used to listen to jazz  “in the old days”, The Bridge is one of the first they mention.
Bands like HOTTER THAN SIX, FIREWORKS, DES CAMM, THE NEW MELBOURNE, DAVE HETHERINGTON’S JAZZBOS all played there on different nights of the week.

Ross Anderson, founder and leader of THE NEW MELBOURNE JAZZ BAND, said in an interview last year that his band played there for 16 years for “the best ever publican, Trevor Birchall”.  Ross was asked to put together a Dixieland band in 1981 for a one night gig at another hotel, the Limerick Arms in South Melbourne  (which turned out to be a much longer residency).  That was how The New Melbourne Jazz Band was formed, and it’s still going 30 years later, as are Des Camm’s Jazz Band and Dave Hetherington’s Jazzbo’s.

I haven’t got a video of any of these bands performing in the days of The Bridge,  but here’s one of THE NEW MELBOURNE playing in about 1991, possibly at  Monsalvat .  The lineup is Ross Anderson on bass, Derek Reynolds on trumpet, Willy Purcell on banjo, Ian Walkear on clarinet and saxes, John Murray on trombone, and Chuck Smith on drums.  The tune is PANAMA (sometimes known as PANAMA RAG) .   Derek Reynolds remembers that they   worked up the arrangement to include a couple of phrases from the Black Dogs’ version (Black Dogs’ Cassette Tape “Dog Daze”).

And just to remind you about the Black Dogs, they were a Dixieland band put together in 1988 by Steve Yocum from musicians who played at Disney World. Here’s a clip recorded in Dubuque, Iowa on 23 March 1991.

You can find out what THE NEW MELBOURNE JAZZ BAND is doing now by visiting their website.

PS. Tony Orr has just reminded me that Steve Waddell’s CREOLE BELLS also had a couple of long stints at THE BRIDGE. Thanks Tony!



Tony Orr


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