Lifestyle & CultureUni Life

Bar on the Hill finds its roots

Live, local and limited. Chris Daniel talks to local band Arcades and Lions about the local music scene and how the campus bar provides more than a cheap schooner.

Some could deem the local music scene in Newcastle as a dying trend, with only a few venues on offer providing exposure for local artists, whilst others devote most of their stage time to bigger, more established acts. One of these venues is UON’s Bar on the Hill.

In its earlier years, Bar on the Hill not only stood as a proud music venue, but as a platform for upcoming bands in the Hunter region. The venue, which was built in the eighties, soon framed its success around these live performances and began to attract a roster of headline acts. Recent years have since seen sellout crowds flock to the campus to catch unmissable and intimate gigs with leading national acts.


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Bar on the Hill interior. Photo by Student Central.

This live music has seen The Rubens take centre stage as part of their ‘Hoops’ tour; Courtney Barnett slogging her ‘Milk Records’ crew to the courtyard as part of her ‘Good For You’ tour and other acts including Allday, Eskimo Joe and Boy and Bear draw a diverse crowd.

In an interview with Arcades and Lions, a four piece from Newcastle, they opened up about some of their experiences as young artists in a city where local music is sometimes overlooked.

“The Newcastle music scene isn’t dying, but the exposure is,” they said, “The lockout laws don’t help either, having to finish any form of live music at 12. I think nowadays Newcastle is more tilted towards clubbing than it is towards live music.”

Although some venues still provide a platform for upcoming artists, it is undeniable that the music scene in its current state is far under appreciated.

“If you think about it, every big band that has ever existed was once a local band. It contributes a lot to society as well, its more organic and rich compared to the clubbing scene. It all comes down to exposure, and that’s something we lack in Newcastle,” they said.

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Arcades and Lions on stage at The Cambridge. Photo by Robert Bailey

“That being said, most of the bands in Newcastle kind of stick together. I mean we have RAAVE TAPES, Auxfire, Treehouse Children, PALS, Split Feed and thats just a few. Since the band scene is so small, everyone knows everyone and we expose each other” they further stated.


Joab Eastley from RAAVE TAPES. Design by Paige Cooley

For most, having a bar located on campus served as an excuse for day drinking, however Bar on the Hill has now brought back the foundations of its success, with a new string of shows and a range of student central showcases. Previously, bands including Something For Kate, Jebediah and Powderfinger were initiated into the music scene by the bar, which stood as one of the few venues that nurtured this upcoming talent.


ASTA onstage at Bar on the Hill for ‘The Future Is Now’. Photo by Siobhan Kelly.

In early 2016, the venue introduced a showcase of musicians who are provided an opportunity for exposure in an intimate environment before they explode onto the international music scene. The project titled ‘The Future Is Now’ saw Tasmanian artist ASTA bring her sensual vocals to life, supported by other upcoming acts from different locations. The series of shows are expected to continue throughout the academic year.

Bar on the Hill is located on the Hunter side of campus and operates as a cafe and bar during weekdays of the academic semester. For upcoming events, visit their Facebook page here for details.

Feature image: Bar on the Hill by Brooke Nash (no changes made).


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