Chris Windley and Mathias Northway are both music industry veterans. They met on the road while Windley was tour-managing The Teskey Brothers and stopped off in Adelaide, where Northway was living at the time.

They’d both experienced the highs and lows of the music and hospitality industries –
which often go hand in hand – and a lot of conversations around running their own venue emerged as a result. So, last September, when 744 High Street, Thornbury (formerly Swamplands Bar/Tago Mago) became available, the pair decided to go all-in.

It’s now Shotkickers, a rollicking live music venue that’s run “by music-lovers for music-lovers”. The team completely gutted the place and spent hundreds of hours sanding back an exposed brick wall and building a stage, booth seating, a long bar with neon lighting and stained-timber wall finishes. It’s got the feel of a Midwest-saloon-meets-Melbourne-music-venue, and the design is pleasing both aesthetically and acoustically.

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“As much as we want the bar to feel warm and inviting, all the timber and furniture is primarily designed to make bands sounds great in here,” Windley says. “The building was actually a [factory] way back when – with the high ceiling and bricks it’s not exactly designed to be an acoustic space. But we’ve spent a lot of time with timber, soundproofing and the PA system to make it sound really nice in here.”

The menu is as American-inspired as the decor. Get Out of Here Burger has a kitchen residency, serving up some impressive burgers, fried chicken and vegan options. The spicy fried chicken burger packs a punch, and the Triple Stacker is more than a handful.

Booze-wise, local is the primary focus; Bodriggy’s Stingrays Draught, Blackman’s Reginald IPA and pale ale by Young Henrys are all on tap, plus there’s a rotating sour. Wine is all from Australia and New Zealand, and cocktail highlights include the Jamaretto Sour – a twist on the classic amaretto cocktail with Jameson whiskey – and a killer spicy Marg.

Windley says up to 200 punters can expect live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, with laidback sets on Sunday afternoons. The guys are also hoping to bring back some of the music scene staples that Melbourne has all but lost during the pandemic – including residencies, afterparties and festival sideshows.

“We’re hoping that when a big band is touring, Shotkickers becomes part of the sideshow circuit,” he says. “We like the idea of hosting kick-ons from a show at The Croxton down the road, and we also want to give young bands an opportunity to play to a great room, get paid properly, get fed and get some drinks in them.

“We’re just trying to bridge the gap between venues and musos, because there’s often a bit of a disconnect there. And sometimes bands or venues can end up worse-off for playing a show if it’s not run properly.”

And as for the name? It’s a reference to a bar in The Simpsons. But, contrary to popular belief, Shotkickers is not a Simpsons-themed bar.

“All the press we’ve been getting says we’re Simpsons-themed – and it’s just not true at all,” Windley says. “We’re a live-music-themed bar and we’re all about making this a great venue for bands to come and play at. Shotkickers is just a name we thought was kind of funny and rolled with.”

744 High Street, Thornbury

Mon to Wed 4pm–11pm
Thu & Fri 4pm–1am
Sat 12pm–1am
Sun 12pm–11pm