Inside Newcastle's newest gig venue, The Badger's Lair

CHRIS Barnett remembers the moment he walked into the room that was once known as The Vault.

Located upstairs in the auditorium of Newcastle Leagues Club, the cavernous room with a 'real' gig stage certainly had appeal but it was the PA system that caught the sound engineer's eye - and ear.

"I toured with Ian Moss for three years with the same PA system," Barnett said. "I walked into the room and saw the PA and just thought 'it's meant to be'. I was like a kid in a candy store."

Barnett has been a sound engineer for 15 years, working with the likes of Thirsty Merc, The McClymonts and Adam Eckersley to name a few.

As the former manager of the Enmore, Metro and Factory theatres, Barnett could not be more credentialed to revitalise the room which he has renamed The Badger's Lair.

And revitalising the room, turning it back into one of Newcastle's premier music spots, is Barnett's ultimate goal.

"I moved back [to Newcastle] from Sydney after I finished up at the Enmore," Barnett said. "I was just working a desk job but my dream was to open my own venue.

"In July [2018] the guy that ran The Vault moved to Adelaide. My opportunity came up and I grabbed it.

"I'm working towards getting the room back up and running again. It used to be a pretty popular gig spot. Some big acts have gone through there through the years like Wolfmother, the Hilltop Hoods.

"It was really known for its metal scene. When it was The Vault, it was 'the' metal venue in Newcastle. Some big metal bands have also played here."

After taking over the space, Barnett repainted and added a new lighting system to the room.

He also established a company, Barnyard Promotions, which ran the Frostbites reunion at the Crown and Anchor Hotel in June. About 600 people turned out to that event.

Through Barnyard Promotions, Barnett has established the Noisy Neighbours brand. Under this brand, Barnett's aim is to run band events at The Badger's Lair with the long-term goal of establishing a string of Noisy Neighbours events along the coast.

"We've done one Noisy Neighbours event at the Lair so far," Barnett said. "We had three bands from Sydney and three from Newcastle play.

"The idea for Noisy Neighbours is to build up a roster of bands and to provide them with venues up and down the coast to play a gig that's not in a pub where all you can hear is the drums or blaring guitar, and to attract fans they would't otherwise have the opportunity to reach.

"Ideally we want to provide bands a strong of up to six shows along the coast, to make the cost of touring away from their hometowns more viable. It doesn't really make sense for them to travel so many hours away for one gig.

"The first Noisy Neighbours event was a bit of a learning curve. But we're refining and working on making the next one really great."

The Badger's Lair kicked off on June 8 with a free hip-hop and vinyl showcase hosted by the popular Madhouse DJs.

The first Noisy Neighbours event was held on June 21 seeing the likes of The Uplifting Bell Ends, Spruced Moose and Manalion from Sydney plus Newcastle bands Bluetide, The Fighting Fish and Hazel Dazel tear up The Badger's Lair stage.

A second Noisy Neighbours event will be held at The Badger's Lair on Friday, August 2. It will kick off at 8pm. On the bill for the night is Straight To A Tomb, Billabong of Blood, Human Failure, Crucial Times and Speedball.

Chris Barnett in The Badger's Lair. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Chris Barnett in The Badger's Lair. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Sydney hardcore punk band Straight To A Tomb have been kicking since 1995. After a long hiatus, the band got back together in 2018 and will hit the road to Newcastle to play at The Badger's Lair next month.

Sydney punk rock and metal band Speedball, which formed in 2000, will also make the trip up from Sydney while Human Failure will be the hometown heroes.

The metal band from Newcastle, who play "self proclaimed s/crap metal", released new music in January.

"I listen to anything but I grew up a metal head," Barnett said. "This will be a Noisy Neighbours metal event. I think it [gig] will appeal to everyone who knew The Vault as a metal room.

"We found some awesome bands for the bill. Some of these guys have been around since the 90s. There's some really good hardcore punk bands around and we want to give them a place to play."

The Noisy Neighbours gig is a ticketed event. The cost to see all five bands is $10.

Tickets are on sale now through stickytickets.

"People love live music," Barnett said. "You see how packed pubs are when there's music.

"But it seems people aren't willing to pay for music. They expect to have people display their art for free. That mentality needs to change. We have a low ticket price, which is split to pay the bands."

There's some really good hardcore punk bands around and we want to give them a place to play.

- Chris Barnett, operator of The Badger's Lair

For more information about the gig check out The Badger's Lair on Facebook.

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