Sydney’s live music institution The Basement saved by owners of The Lansdowne Hotel
John Butler of the John Butler Trio giving his all during a performance at The Basement in 2013. (Facebook: The Basement)
The music will live on at Sydney’s oldest licensed live venue The Basement, marking a rare win for the city’s struggling nightlife.
The Basement, the country’s first jazz and blues club, was forced to close its doors in 2018 after 45 years of hosting local and international talent, including Prince, Herbie Hancock Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie and James Morrison.
The shutdown was seen as a devastating blow to Sydney’s night culture as The Basement had survived the worst of the lock-out slowdown, and there were fears the site would become corporate real estate.
But a duo who have already proved their passion for live music have stepped in.
Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham, who own the Lansdowne Hotel in Broadway and the Unicorn Hotel in Paddington, decided to let the “old girl sing again”.
The Circular Quay venue will re-open as ‘Mary’s Underground’ and will set out to prove that live music in Sydney is not dead.
“Musicians just haven’t had a home to play,” Mr Smyth said.
“The smaller venues [that have closed] were the homes where musicians got to explore and create their sound … that’s what we are missing.”
Mr Smyth said the pair were bowled over by enthusiasm by artists who would bang down doors to play at the Lansdowne.
“We want to foster that community,” he said.
Mr Smyth said they felt an energy when they were given an opportunity to look inside the site of The Basement, and they were confident it would thrive despite the dulled nightlife industry.
“There has been no lack of crowds coming to the Lansdowne … the more venues we have the more artists come out,” he said.
Although The Basement was an altar of jazz, Mary’s will be a “broad church” of genres that won’t discriminate.
Young and emerging musicians whether they be local, national or international will be welcomed with open arms.
A month after The Basement’s closure, Melbourne jazz musician Albert Dadon, who owns Bird’s Basement in Melbourne, bought the business and its assets.
At the time “he doubted” he would renew the lease on the premises in Macquarie Place and began a search for a new CBD home for The Basement.
Mr Dadon said he wanted a space that was near or connected to a hotel and that could cater to fine dining.