view-gallery-outline View as gallery

Live Review: The Zoo's Last Ever Show: Skegss, Ixaras, Concrete Surfers

8 July 2024 | 9:37 am | Emma Newbury

“I think the memories of this place will live on forever.”

The Zoo closes shop.

The Zoo closes shop. (Credit: Emma Newbury)

Image 1 of 3
More Concrete Surfers More Concrete Surfers

An air of bittersweet nostalgia hung heavy over Brisbane’s entertainment precinct on Sunday night as the glittery steps of one of Ann Street’s oldest venues prepared for one final hurrah.

Endearingly known as “the home of live music in Brisbane”, Fortitude Valley venue The Zoo officially announced it would be closing its doors earlier in the year; its thirty-two years of unwavering dedication to the city’s live music scene no match for the mounting cost-of-living pressures.

The indie venue tapped Northern Rivers “surf-rock scallywags” Skegss to help provide a send-off so unquestionably wild that people would revel more in the excitement of the night than the misfortune of the closure. 

The Zoo, nestled inconspicuously at the top of the heritage Shannon’s Building, has been synonymous with intimate live performances since its inception in 1992, providing the springboard for mammoth acts such as Powderfinger, Silverchair, Violent Soho, Nick Cave and The Dirty Three, and hosting international acts such as Lorde, The Pixies, and The Black Keys. The venue’s iconic bathroom walls have long been caked with decades of memorabilia and graffiti, bearing witness to years of Brisbane narratives. 

While Sunday would be the last show to end the story, The Zoo’s funeral procession has been taking place for several weeks. This eulogy was headed by The Zoo’s own ZooLove event on Friday, July 7th, with 65 artists putting on a show for old-time’s sake. ZooLove sold out all 500 spots within 1 minute, providing sheer proof that sometimes a venue closure is more than just putting feet to a sticky hardwood floor.

Half of the original Zoo pairing, Joc Curran, expressed her gratitude for Brisbane nurturing the seed she planted all those years ago.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

“Firstly, thank you for being you and for having loved the Zoo. Let’s make one last impossible thing happen. Getting to share a moment in time together, to celebrate and say goodbye.”

Brisbane locals Concrete Surfers were a late but grateful addition to the bill, having cut their teeth within the tropical venue well before hard-to-come-by slots at the likes of Falls Festival and Mountain Goat Valley Crawl. The four-piece kicked off the evening with their signature blend of infectious energy and unfiltered angst. 

“When we got asked to jump on the last show at The Zoo, we couldn’t have felt more privileged. It’s been such a staple in the Brisbane music scene since it opened its doors, and we’re sad to let it go. It was so nice to be there one last time, and we’ll cherish that,” they said, reflecting generously. There is just shy of a decade’s worth of big nights had at The Zoo, both on and offstage, the indie-rock band reflected on their first-ever gig at the venue. 

“I reckon it would have been Bleeding Knees Club in maybe 2015-16 on a summer night. It was hot and sweaty, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Ixaras, the 17-year-old prodigy, took the stage next, her presence a testament to The Zoo’s legacy of nurturing young talent. Nurture it did, as Ixaras and her punk sensibilities have garnered her spots at BIGSOUND and SXSW Sydney, meanwhile she champions other young artists in her free time with ownership of record label Anti-Dismal

Donning a pin-clad checker blazer and wolf cut and armed with a talented band, the singer thrashed her way through several original bangers. Her convulsing dance moves were infectious, with energy bouncing to and fro the stage like a high-stakes game of catch. A particularly hardcore moment included Ixaras screaming lyrics into a rotary telephone, oozing an erratic stage presence that reminded some matured crowd members of the punk glory of the seventies. If fans weren’t paying attention before, they were now. 

“It was a really beautiful send-off, and I’m really grateful to have been a part of it. I remember the Zoo being one of the first venues I played at when starting this project,” the singer said fondly. “As well as memories of sneaking in to see some of my favourite bands when I was about 15 or so, bringing my camera and pretending to be the photographer just to catch a glimpse of my favourite acts. I think the memories of this place will live on forever.”

As the young pioneer gave her best performance yet, her own mother watched on in awe. Gen X punters and their Gen Z offspring replicated similar scenes, taking the opportunity to mosh together in the crowd. 

The crowd reached its peak as Skegss, the pioneers of modern Aussie surf-rock culture, went on stage. Introducing their return with the anthemic Dire Straits hit Money For Nothing blaring in the background, the crowd crescendoed into a full-scale frenzy.

Songs such as Mustang and Save It For The Weekend saw punters singing in unison. Certain punters took the relaxed closing rules as an opportunity to engage in activities they’d never tried before - crowd surfing of all ages occurred as agile fans heaved themself onto the stage and into their peers.

Despite a sheen of light, lead singer Benny Reed constantly gave the impression that he was looking out at his fans. When they smiled, he smiled, mimicking the emotions directed at him. “(It’s) pretty sad but a pretty cool run as well,” he said about the venue. Skegss played their first show at The Zoo in 2017 with the launch of their Holiday Food EP.

As the evening took its final breath, Skegss returned for an encore performance that featured some much-loved hits and unexpected delights. Their falsetto-laced beer ballads elicited a sense of closure for those lucky enough to catch the swan song of a musical institution.

Just like the soundscapes that have existed throughout it, The Zoo’s legacy transcends bricks and mortar.

“This is taking a different attitude. It's like, let's dance it out. Let's be together. Let's not mourn it; let's celebrate it because it's been a huge achievement. How lucky were we to have had an amazing 32 years?” Co-founder Curran remarked, encapsulating the sentiment of the final concert.

In bidding farewell to The Zoo, Brisbane will have a huge hole to fill in the patchwork that makes its entertainment culture so rich. Long Live The Zoo.