Vale Selina’s - A Tribute From Richard Kingsmill

21 May 2024 | 2:25 pm | Richard Kingsmill

In his first piece for The Music, Richard Kingsmill farewells Selina's by sharing five treasured memories of his years rocking out at the Sydney music venue.


Selina's (Image supplied by Selina's)

Like many music fans, I’ve long felt that the iconic Sydney venue Selina’s has often been on the brink of using up all nine of its lives. This month’s confirmation that the redevelopment plans had finally been approved, without the band room playing any part in the future, was sadly its last gasp of breath.

Selina’s has never been a perfect venue. If you weren’t in the front half of the room, you battled to see past walls and mixing desks. The lowered ceiling that stretched across the first half of the room cut off the top half of the band for anyone whose viewpoint was more than halfway back. The large upstairs mezzanine was fantastic if you got there early enough (headliners often didn’t hit the stage until 12.30 am). The steep view down to the stage from there also had restricted visibility if you were standing more than two deep.

If you were in any of the prime positions, though, Selina’s was an intense and exhilarating experience for punters. The high stage gave everyone in the large front pit area a clear view, often with the feeling of the bands being right in your face. The beer garden out front provided space to catch a breather between acts. And the venue (which held upwards of 2000 in its heyday) booked a huge range of international and local acts across all genres and at varying stages of their careers.     

As a venue, Selina’s existed for six decades, too. It outlasted other iconic Sydney venues that once were its peers - the Manly Vale Hotel, The Sydney Trade Union Club, the Sydney Cove Tavern and The Phoenician Club, to remember a handful.

When it started, Coogee wasn’t really the fashionable beachside location it’s since become. Selina’s was pretty much it when it came to entertainment in that area. But in a familiar scenario that’s played out across Sydney and our other capitals over the last couple of decades, money moves in, real estate changes hands, prices soar, and bands become either unwanted or economically impractical for venue owners to accommodate.  

As part of the redevelopment, the new restaurant laneway will be named Selina’s in the venue’s honour. I’ve never really struggled to find food in Coogee before, so I question the need for more eateries. So, if you really wanted to honour Selina’s legacy, it might have been better for the powers that be to zone the area a Special Entertainment Precinct, protect the band room, and provide Sydney’s east with at least one decent live music venue for the thousands of keen locals and backpackers.

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I started going to gigs at Selina’s in the early ‘80s. Here are just five (of many) memories across all those years. These ones came instantly to my mind when news of its closure came through last week.

Midnight Oil - April 13, 2017

At the start of their Great Circle comeback tour, the Oils played at a venue close to their hearts. Forty years prior, it was one of the first big rooms that booked them outside the northern beaches. Watching this show, it was clear the surroundings energized them. If this was supposedly a warm-up gig for the eight-month world tour, no one told Midnight Oil that.

Across two and a half hours, they threw around 30 songs at us, many of which they had not played on stage for years. When they started dropping one song after another off Head Injuries (1978), the place was also transported back in time.

The intensity of Garrett was razor sharp. For years, he had been far away from music, navigating the political stage. Free from those confines, he and the band let fly, with a stack of fire still in their belly and plenty of cathartic venom from the singer’s mouth.       

Jeff Buckley - March 1, 1996


Having already sold out three Enmore Theatres, a final Jeff Buckley show was thrown in at the very end of his Hard Luck Tour. So Selina’s was not just the end of his second Australian tour; it was his final ever show here and the end of his world tour off the back of his debut album. It was a hugely significant show for sure, but to be truthful, it was not one of his best.

The band had been touring long and hard off the back of Grace, and it felt like inspiration was running a little dry. Buckley was clearly searching for something during the whole show. He wanted to pull a little magic from the air, even talking at one point about the hum of the air conditioning, what key it was in, and trying to play along with it. But then the brilliance came.

After Lover, You Should’ve Come Over, he launched into an unfamiliar song. Introducing it as All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun, it was the highlight of the show. For years after, I waited for a posthumous release to include it. Finally, the sublime demo of it leaked online. A duet and co-write with Cocteau TwinsElizabeth Fraser, this treasured Buckley moment had one of its only public performances late one Friday night in this sweaty beer barn.  

Hummingbirds/Falling Joys/Ratcat/Ups & Downs/Caligula - January 5, 1991

Billed as a mini-festival called Spinal Pop 1, it was clear from the energy, positivity and excitement in the room this Saturday night that something was changing on the music scene. The Big Day Out was still a year off, and the international explosion of new music across 1991 was yet to come. However, this little lineup of local indie bands attracted a full house and captured the impending excitement everyone was feeling at the time.

Hummingbirds had been knocking down doors after loveBUZZ, their 1989 debut album, went Gold. Falling JoysLock It was turning into a hit around this time, too. Plus it was only a few months away from Ratcat mania hitting us all hard, thanks to Don’t Go Now and their Blind Love album.

In all the years I saw bands at Selina’s, this was the only show where the euphoria drove someone to stage dive from the mezzanine itself. Sadly, the sea of people below parted, and the gig ended a little earlier than planned for that crumpled punter. Still, he only spent $10 to get into the gig (yep, no joke, that was the ticket price).

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds/Screamin’ Jay Hawkins/Died Pretty - November 8, 1985

Even though Nick Cave had been covering the cult classic I Put A Spell On You for a number of years in his shows, it was still a huge surprise when he actually got the song’s owner to come tour with him.

To be truthful, I would see far more powerful and unforgettable shows from both the Bad Seeds and Died Pretty in future years. However, the memory of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins that night is still freshly etched. He presented himself as his reputation demanded, with an open coffin on stage, a skull cane constantly waving in his hand, and an attire and presence that simply spelt l-e-g-e-n-d.

How did he sound? Exactly like his records. His voice split the air, making us tremble one moment and laugh the next (Constipation Blues was a highlight, a blues song about ‘real pain’ he said), and by set’s end, he’d rightfully earned an encore. It was a wonderfully strange meeting of worlds when a little bit of voodoo was cast across Coogee.

Simple Minds - February 8, 1984

Within a few years of this tour, Simple Minds were playing arena shows here. In the process, they lost some of their appeal for me, steering away from the edgy influences that drove them early on. However, on this Australian tour in 1984, the Scottish band were still hungry for success and out to prove themselves as worldbeaters.

Sparkle In The Rain, their sixth album, was released just a couple of days before this show. Working with U2’s producer Steve Lillywhite for the first time, their new material brought out the muscle in the band, with a live show to match it. The Selina’s stage seemingly grew that night, too, as Jim Kerr launched himself almost on top of us as the band kicked in with Waterfront. Their underrated 1981 semi-hit The American followed, making it a one-two punch that had the crowd heaving. By the time the sonic swirl of Love Song wrapped the whole venue up in a trance, Simple Minds left us floating as we exited into the sea air.