Melbourne Live Music Venue Ding Dong Lounge Announces Reopening
Back in 1998, a young Billy Walsh (the former drummer of Melbourne rockers Cosmic Psychos) conceived a bar idea after one-too-many margaritas at CBGB’s.
A bar where musicians came to hang out and hoped that the DJs might play their record. A place where the DJs had very large record collections and it was always all about the music.
Liam Gallagher demanded that they sell the bar to him. Billy’s mum Janet Walsh was introduced into the mix as a secret weapon. Thom Yorke described her homemade sausage rolls as heavenly at a Radiohead end of world tour party.
Dan Auerbach helped out behind the bar on a particularly busy Saturday night. The Melvins played two shows in one day and ripped the bar another arsehole.
J Mascis and Mike Watt played Stooges covers. Watt got the Stooges to reform the following year, with him on bass. Chris Cester wrote Rollover DJ about the bar. Billy played the bar several times and was so proud to have been a part of it: ‘it’ is Cherry Bar.
Fast forward to 2012 and a more grown up Billy Walsh is doing it all over again as the sole owner with the long awaited return of Melbourne live music institution Ding Dong Lounge, which was previously known as Melbourne’s underground & alternative rock’n roll bar that delivered live eclectic local, national & international bands.
Ding Dong has already hosted the likes of The Melvins, Silversun Pickups, The White Stripes, Plan B, The Kills, Peaches, Mike Patton, Ariel Pink, Death From Above 1979, Supersuckers, The Ting Tings and locals Wolfmother, The Living End, Rowland S Howard, Children Collide, Shihad, Phrase, Little Red, The Grates just to name a few.
Ding Dong re-opens its doors Friday 6 July having received some major cosmetic surgery after the German Restaurant downstairs caught on fire late last year forcing the venue to close its doors.
The new Ding Dong has been completely reinvented from top to bottom but has stayed true to its underground roots. The throbbing red neon sign will draw Melbourne’s musically-enlightened like moths to a flame, down our dark alleyway, and up those stairs.
But the physical similarities will end there. Inside you’ll be presented with Marc Bolan’s bedroom with booths, the playground for Melbourne’s music community that it has begging for for all these years.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is that the venue is now split up into multiple rooms – a saloon bar modelled after the ladies lounges of Aussie pubs from yesteryear, a lux 70′s studio 54 bandroom and disco complete with sunken dancefloor, and a private den for when special guests are in town.
For those of you packing rollies or taylors, they’ve even built a luscious garden balcony, designed by Dutch born vertical garden artist Joost, which promises to be an oasis of its own and is destined to be a favourite spot for afterwork drinks.
The lounge features an array of booths and tables, with high ceiling and mood lighting enticing you to take a look at their brand new cocktail menu, yes, cocktail menu, featuring a range of margaritas and old American classics designed by their in-house mixologist, while you sit and watch the world go by.
At Ding Dong the beer was always cold and the cider crisp, and behind the bar you’ll also see a large selection of international and local beers and cider, including craft beer, on tap, so there’s something for everyone.
Open from late-afternoon each day and free until midnight on weekends, the lounge looks set to become a favourite spot to meet up with friends after work, before and after an gig, or take a date out for when you really want to impress.
While you’re sitting there you may also notice that they’ve taken off the cloak of darkness that used to envelope the venue by opening it up all the way along with huge windows overlooking Chinatown.
Sunlight beams into the room wrapping you in its warm glow during the day, and at night when the sun goes down the electric twilight atmosphere of Chinatown helps transform the venue into an all-night party.
Moving through the big theatre-style double doors you’re suddenly transported back to New York in the 70s as you enter the bandroom and disco, with booths lining the sunken dancefloor, a second bar, and a huge stage built to host some of the world’s finest bands.
Being a musician himself, Walsh understands the importance of keeping live music venues alive in an age where live music venues are being closed down for new developments, and despite changes to the layout the room will hold 300 patrons.
The new and improved room boasts a brand new PA and lighting system supplied from Johnson’s Audio, and a built in DJ booth where our disco overlords will be serving up to you greatest new tunes, with a keen eye for the classics.
The whole venue has also been fitted out with a brand new lighting design by Melbourne’s most famous pyjama designer and the genius behind the Lilypad at Big Day Out – Duckpond – so prepare for a truly psychedelic disco experience late night.
Live bands will grace the stage early on weekends, and from midnight the disco will take over the whole venue so can dance the night and early hours of the morning away.
Those of the female persuasion however needn’t worry too much about the stresses of all night dancing, their brand new bathrooms include a powder room designed by Walsh’s wife herself for those late night touch ups, and the male toilets have been modelled after Barwon Prison for minimal fuss.
Finally the den with private bar will be available for smaller functions or for when very special guests roll into town, but while celebrities always add a certain dash to a room, the best bars are those where the locals feel welcome.
And Ding Dong was always a venue where the locals could feel welcome.
Keeping in tradition of great acts that have graced the Ding Dong stage, Walsh’s great mate Mark Lanegan (USA) who you may know from Screaming Trees, Queens Of The Stone Age or The Gutter Twins will be returning to Australia for the second time this year to play a very special one off and intimate solo show to launch the venue on Friday 6 July before taking off to Europe for a festival tour.
Saturday 7 July will see Australia’s favourite female rock quintet of Zappa, Hendrix and Zeppelin lovers the four Findlay sisters otherwise know as Stonefield return to the stage of Ding Dong with their blistering live set fresh off the road from a sold out National Tour for their current single ‘Bad Reality’.
Friday July 6th – Mark Lanegan (USA) – Solo (300 Tix Only)
Plus Guest – Doors 8PM
$42.00 + BF – Oztix
Saturday July 7th – Stonefield (300 Tix Only)
With Royal Blood & Little Casino
$15.00 + BF – Oztix
On 23rd February 2010, the SLAM rally saw 20,000 people march through Melbourne to the tune of AC/DC’s definitive ‘Long Way to the Top’, in protest against the Victorian Government’s misguided policy link between live music and violence. Out on the streets of our city, we showed our support and love for a truly great live music community. The SLAM rally was the largest cultural protest in Australia’s history. Now all of Australia has the opportunity to participate in a national event that celebrates our local musicians in our small venues.
Thursday 23rd February 2012, is National SLAM Day and a huge number of gigs are being held around the country to support local artists and venues. You can see a ful gig guide here of the day here. To celebrate our friends at SLAM have got together some of Australia's best musicians and asked them through a series of speech bubble photos what live music in small venues means to them.
Check out their answers on the following pages, and on Thursday help support the industry by getting out and experiencing the spontaneous excitement and intimacy you only get at a small venue. Watch this slideshow »