One thing Melbourne always needs more of is live music. And Vue de Monde chef Shannon Bennett is throwing his hat in the ring to open Geddes Lane Ballroom, a new 400-capacity live-music venue, with developer Lorenz Grollo.
The pair is taking over former adult entertainment joint Showgirls Bar 20, returning the venue to its roots. In another life it was the Grainstore Tavern, which hosted the album launch of John Farnham’s iconic album Whispering Jack.
“We’ll see Johnny Farnham covers, we might even see the real Johnny Farnham up there one night,” jokes Bennett. “There’re no rules to this venue. We want to appeal to as large an audience as possible.”
Bennett tells Broadsheet he was surprised to find the Grainstore Tavern’s original furnishings hiding beneath plasterboard.
“We found beautiful dado panelling, historical beautiful timber, beautiful arched leadlight windows. Just some real legacy from when it was the Grainstore,” says Bennett, whose first concert experience was seeing U2’s Rattle and Hum tour in the late ’80s.
The venue will be spread over two storeys with the main bandroom on the second floor. Inside you’ll find a menu of bar snacks put together by the Vue de Monde team and a some novel vending machines.
Bennett is getting a pizza vending machine shipped over from Japan from which punters can order margherita or marinara Napoli-style pizzas. The sourdough bases are run through an internal oven, popping out in six minutes flat. Elsewhere you’ll find a champagne vending machine like the one found in Vue de Monde’s lobby. Food trucks, including Bennett’s own Benny Burger, will take over Geddes laneway on band nights.
Bennett wants to shepherd in the next wave of Australian musicians with his new venue.
Melbourne classic rockers Kingswood will play on opening night. Before the show they’ll get to prepare in a literal green room – the walls will be lined with luxurious green velvet.
“It was a stipulation of Kingswood that they had a green room, otherwise they weren’t playing,” Bennett says. “We said, ‘We’ll do it for you boys.’”
Kingswood is one of Bennett’s favourite bands and the celebrity chef is chuffed to have them kick things off.
“I’ve always had this fantasy about being the back up lead singer to Kingswood,” he says. “[Lead singer] Ferg one day is going to get food poisoning and I’m going to be in the right town at the right time.”
In light of that revelation, don’t be surprised to see Bennett on the stage living out his own rock-star dreams.
“Give me a couple of beers and I’ll get up there. It’s not the first time. I’ve got a bit of a mullet, I’ll be up there.”
Geddes Lane Ballroom opens in October at 46 King Street, Melbourne.