The Basement Sydney

by bumbalee

At some stage in the last 10-12 months, I discovered the music of Olafur Arnalds. This entry is not specifically about him, thank god, because I don’t think I have the words to explain how much I love what he does. It’s just stunning, perfect music. When I found out that he was coming to Australia I promptly lost my freaking mind, bought tickets to see him here in Sydney, and then ticket/return flights/hotel room for the Melbourne show too. Like, I really love this guy… really. In order to better understand what is to follow, have a look at this: my favourite youtube performance of his. And for good measure: I’m linking my favourite song again. And now that we’re all nice and prepared:

Screw you, Basement.

We all know that I have a tendency to ramble, so I am going to try to keep it somewhat in line by grouping my gripes as follows:

Their bar service sucks ass

The Basement itself is an underground space with seating/stage/bar and food, but up the stairs at street level they have another bar, and it  was here that we met up with some friends who were not going to the gig for some drinks beforehand. My friend and I went to the bar for a couple of glasses of red, got our hands on the one wine list, and made our choice. And waited – which is fine, it’s a small bar and there were a few people waiting. But then when it was my turn, the bar guy grabbed the wine list off me and handed it to someone else, and then looked all aggrieved and surly when I could not point out which wine we were after. My friend remembered though, and told him – he then grabbed a completely different bottle and was about to start pouring when I told him it was the wrong one; “This is all we have”, he told us, again with all the surly, which irked me to no end because a) you don’t simply start pouring another wine because you’re out of the one that was asked for, and b) there were numerous other wines on the shelf behind him, one of which I chose in preference to the one he tried to force on me. And c) don’t be an asshole.

The subject of dinner came up. The top bar that we were in had a burger menu only, which was not suitable for the vegetarian in our group, and when asked about other dining options the staff had told our group that more food was available downstairs. This was confusing to us, as “downstairs” is where the event was happening and only half of our group had tickets and were attending. After some discussion, it was decided that we would split up, those of us attending the gig to stay behind for burgers and the others to head elsewhere. So I approached the bar at 7:45pm on a Friday night to order a burger and was told that “the kitchen is closed. There is more food downstairs, but they’re really busy and probably won’t be able to serve you.”

Okay then!

Small matters on their own, but all up, a pretty shitty service experience.

We almost missed the whole fucking gig on their advice

There was some confusion as to when Olafur would start, because the tickets simply said “6:30pm” and the website said “doors open 6:30pm”. So one of our group, who got to the bar before me, asked the staff. She was told that the support act would start at 8:30pm and that Olafur himself would start at 9:45pm. Heaps of time, right?

So after our burger attempt at 7:45pm was thwarted we went to the pub next door and ordered food, figuring we had time to quickly eat and make our way into the venue in time for the support act to start. At about 8:30pm, when we were about to start heading over, we received a text from a friend already inside asking where we were and telling us that the support act had just finished and it was jam fucking packed. We ran down there, got inside, found our friends, and I quickly used the bathroom. As I came out, Olafur had started – it was that close. Another friend of ours had to come from Slip Inn and was lucky enough to get a lift. Had he not, he also could have missed it.

They ruined the performance with noise pollution

Firstly, I note that when I was using the bathroom there were signs posted on the backs of the toilet doors that said something to the effect of “Olafur’s performances contain moments of extended silence, we ask that you respect them”. So they know what he is like. They know what the experience is like. And to the audience’s credit, everyone shut the fuck up and stayed shut the fuck up for the entire performance (which is no mean feat for a big group of people).

Our group were situated on the right side of the stage as you are facing it, and almost as soon as Olafur began, we could hear chatting, laughter, furniture being moved, high fives… so much noise, and really disruptive. After a particularly loud burst ruined a particularly poignant moment, I took it upon myself to see what the hubbub was. I made my way through the people, passed a barrier and turned a corner, and there were the stairs joining the basement to the upstairs bar, and this is where the noise was coming from. I quite forcefully told the security guard standing there to tell them they needed to shut up because they were ruining the performance, and it worked for about 20 minutes, but then started up again. Clomping up and down the stairs, laughing, shouting… what can I say, it was fucking infuriating (and before you latch on to the fact that I’m a whingy bitch and assume that it was only annoying me, no, everyone in the same area as me was affected by it). They asked us to respect the artist, but not their own staff, and the performance was seriously disturbed by it.

To sum up:

  • Their bar service sucks ass
  • We almost missed the whole fucking gig on their advice
  • They ruined the performance with noise pollution

Olafur himself was perfect, amazing, beautiful, ALL THE THINGS… but boy, am I glad I have another performance to go to in Melbourne, because if that had been my one and only, I would have been extremely disappointed. The Basement, as a venue, tainted it.