A Sydney Music Legend

A Sydney Music Legend

Selina’s @ The Coogee Bay Hotel, Sydney

Blue January

It was a blue January day indeed several years ago when Selina’s – a Sydney music legend – closed her doors. At the time, the owner of the Coogee Bay Hotel (CBH) cited tighter licensing laws in New South Wales and tougher Health and Safety regulations. Both, apparently, contributed to the fact that it was much more challenging to make the best of all Sydney live music venues successful than had been the case previously. This was, of course, long before the worldwide pandemic struck in 2020…

In Excess

Any band who’s anyone in Australia will have performed at Selina’s at some point. It’s one of the most important Sydney music venues ever. INXS – a Sydney music legend themselves – even scribed the wall of the loading dock in 1993, and they were probably just a smidgeon past the very peak of their fame back then. The rest of the group even returned to the venue in 1998, just 4 months after Michael Hutchence’s death. Then again as late as 2006, some 9 years after the former lead singer’s demise. 

As well as a legendary music venue, Coogee also has a lovely beach

The 1990s

It wasn’t just Australian artists like INXS who rocked Selina’s. In 1992, Nirvana graced the stage. Belinda Carlisle performed just days after Primal Scream, in 2011. Later the same year, Good Charlotte played. There were The Pogues in 1990; The Beastie Boys in 1992; Iggy Pop in 1993;  Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead in 1994; Blink 182 and The Offspring in 1995; Anthrax n 1996; The Prodigy and the Foo Fighters in early 1998, through Deep Purple in 1999 to the Fun Lovin’ Criminals in 2004. I could go on… and on.

I was there…

For me, it’s the fact that the Sex Pistols played in October 1996 that is surprising, because I was actually living in Coogee right then. Just a hundred or so metres away from one of the loudest Sydney music gigs ever, in fact. When I was in Oz on my one year Working Holiday Visa, I didn’t even realise what a legendary place I was living so close to. For me, it was just somewhere to get drunk every weekend. (Every weeknight too, if I’m honest; I was 22 and having the time of my life.)

Crowded House had played there too, long before they performed their final, farewell gig at Sydney Opera House in late 1996. That most seminal of 90s Sydney music events also occurred during my year Down Under.

Selina's Coogee Bay Hotel
Me (centre) at the Coogee Bay Hotel in 1996

Beds are burning

As for Midnight Oil, they deserve a paragraph of their very own, as they have played the venue so many times that the band themselves have more than likely lost count. Suffice to say they’ve graced the hallowed venue on many occasions, and are regulars once more, since Selina’s flung open her doors again in September 2016. Cue a collective sigh of relief from Sydneysiders and music fans the world over. Plus, of course, backpackers like me, with the warmest, fuzziest recollections of the place. The memories may be somewhat hazy, but they are certainly very fond.

Not about the music

As I mentioned, I didn’t really go to Selina’s specifically for the music – although I do have some idea that I might have ruined a pair of heels in the mosh pit. I went more for the atmosphere, and, admittedly, the alcohol. The place buzzed with life, from dusk until dawn when were kicked out for the place to be mopped, swept and made presentable once more, before it all began again that very night. Or even earlier.

I spent my first evening in Australia at the CBH, and very many more. Stars from Aussie soap ‘Home and Away’ – which was almost as big as ‘Neighbours’ at the time – were often spotted knocking back a schooner or few. All the backpackers in Coogee (of which there was some number, there being at least 3 hostels nearby) when I was there in 1996, spent the vast majority of their nights out – and their hard-earned cash – at the CBH.

live music Sydney

CBH? aka a Sydney Music Legend…

‘CBH?’ someone would say, adopting the typical Aussie inflection at the end to make the three letters into a question. The answer was very rarely no and the time had was invariably good, yet oddly forgettable. Too many of the old schooners again, tut tut. We never learned, but would we have wanted to?

My next trip down under simply has to include a night at the CBH – the most important of all Sydney Australia music venues. In my eyes (or ears), anyway. I think I’ll stay there too; noise or no, I doubt it’ll bother me too much after the sort of evening – and early morning, no doubt – that I plan to have there. For old times’ sake. The next day, the best walk in the world awaits, to blow away the inevitable cobwebs – the Coogee to Bondi coast path. Sydney sure is a city of legends.

Marcy x

You can see the latest room rates for the legendary CBH here. Don’t miss it if you’re planning a trip to Sydney!

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