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Why the UpFront Club on a Monday night rocks

Note: This post was written in 2012 before the UpFront Club sadly closed πŸ™

The UpFront Club was where I landed when I first drove into Maleny on a Monday afternoon after the 2004 Woodford Folk Festival. I knew one person, Nigel. By the end of that Monday night, I think I knew most of the town.

The UpFront Club is Maleny’s communal loungeroom.

I must admit, I’ve bagged it out a bit over the years, having been accustomed to Sydney nightlife. But truth be told, I don’t know if I could have stayed living here if it weren’t for ‘the Club’, as we call it.

Last night I went along to the Club’s Monday blackboard night for the first time in ages and I remembered what I loved about it when I first angle parked a hire car out the front eight years ago.

To fill you in, the UpFront Club is a cafe, bar, restaurant, music venue and art gallery all rolled into one. It’s also one of Australia’s longest-running co-ops.

Back in 1994, a bunch of hippies and folkies decided the townsfolk needed a decent place to hang out, eat, play music, have committee meetings and plan festivals, so they started their own club. As you do.

There was a bit of a co-op craze happening in Maleny back in those days, so the Club was one of many co-ops that gave Maleny its reputation as the groovy, socially-progressive town that it is.

Financially, the Club hung by a thread for years, but now it’s thriving in a climate where most restaurants and clubs are struggling.

Danny Rose, entertainment manager

There’s a blackboard night every Monday at the Club, organised by the Club’s eternally devoted entertainment manager, Danny Rose. Performers take the stage for 15-minute slots and the variety is great, from big name musos passing through town, to local regulars, to spoken word performers, to kids banging out a tune.

When I first arrived in Maleny, I used to go along every Monday night. I think some people have gone every Monday night for 18 years, like Roger β€” everyone knows Roger. Likewise, Natalie Richy and Murray Wall from the Afro-Cuban outfit, Canta la Tumba. ‘Nat and Muz’ rarely miss a Monday night and like many professional musos in our area,Β  put their names on the blackboard week after week, just for the sheer love of playing music.

Nat and Murray

After years of going to the Club I got a bit over it and didn’t go for a while.

But last night I realised, having just returned from New York with all its cool places to go out, that the Club’s got it’s own kind of cool going on.

For a start, it’s genuinely ‘all ages’. And I don’t mean 15-year-olds mixing with 21-year-olds. I mean, babies mixing with schoolkids mixing with elders mixing with young adults. It’s a true community space that’s just so snuggly and welcoming.

And, it surprises you. Just when you think it will be a quiet night and you’ll go home bored at 10pm, everyone comes out of the woodwork and the place goes off.

Taylor

Last night there was a heavily pregnant woman, Ninindi Johnson, performing. She balanced her guitar on her bulging belly and sang with a bell-like clarity. Lucky baby in there, hearing such sweet sounds. Her wild-looking man and their tribe of barefoot kids just chilled while their mum was up there doing her thing.

Then a kid called Taylor got up. He’d booked himself in for a 15-minute slot to play his hand drum. He did not seem in the slightest bit nervous. He and his mum are new to town. I think they’ll like it here.

While Taylor played his drum, a man in the audience who did not know him was sketching him. Beautifully. Turns out he’s an artist from Brisbane, Colin Merrell.

Colin Merrill sketching Taylor

In one evening, I felt so touched by the generous sharing of creativity of a mother and her unborn child, a ten-year-old boy, and a grey-haired man.

Oh, and the Club’s bartender Alex told me he loves my blog, and I wasn’t expecting that. Thanks Alex!

We all need to have somewhere to go where we feel like we belong. The UpFront Club offers that, even to strangers.Β On Thursday nights they have a Welcome Mat night, where newcomers to town can go along and join in on a board game. If you’re feeling a little lonely, you can always drop into the Club and chances are, you’ll see a friendly face. You may even share a coffee and a table with someone you’ve never met before. It’s that kind of place.

Local artists have a nice space to hang their work. Local musicians have a place to play. Young people can do work experience and learn how to work a coffee machine. Volunteers help out in the kitchen or in the back garden. There are ‘on the couch’ evenings where issues affecting our community get discussed. Plus, the food and coffee are great and the staff are uber-friendly.

Why am I singing the Club’s praises so highly?

Because when I’m old and looking back on my life, I know I will remember the Club fondly. I will think of it as a quirky, endearing little haven that provided a steady anchor for my emotionally tumultuous transition from city to country life.

I may not make it down to the Club as often as I used to, but I like knowing it’s there.

In fact, I can’t begin to imagine Maleny life without it.

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16 thoughts on “Why the UpFront Club on a Monday night rocks”

  1. Nice thanks Leigh. I get so many comments that we provide a great venue for a town of our size. I must add we have quality local and visititng musicians friday nights (older) and saturday nights (younger). Program and other details via upfrontclub.org.

    1. Hey Danny, thanks. Am going to do another Club post about the ‘characters of the club’, of which you are one. The Club wouldn’t be what it is without your input over the years.

  2. hi Leigh..seen your post about the upfront club…Jill Jordon and i were sitting around winging about the local pub being crap…we decided to open a coop club to give people an alternative venue…i’m a muso and at the time wrote an article about music in the Range news…so jill jordon being the “Queen of the coops” and a person who got things done decide to run with it…Of we went..the first year i ran the music and was a director…then i left town and passed the baton on…..the rest is history cheese billy

    1. Aha! So it’s YOU we need to blame for creating such an institution in our town, Billy! I’m so glad you and Jill got together to create one of the world’s best venues. I interviewed Jill a few times for stories, so I do know a bit about the history. I’d love it if you wanted to write a guest post about the Club back in those days (in a humorous way, perhaps?). Or on any other topic related to Maleny? I’m Herrin’s partner by the way, he has spoken of you a lot. Perhaps I’ll meet you one day, when you’re back in this neck of the woods. Thanks for commenting, Lx

  3. I’m sorry I missed it the other night now. Yes we owe a great debt to Danny and to Billy for their work in the now and past in making music something important in this town. Where would we go for a little love otherwise?

  4. Great blog Leigh.. Surprising to hear myself talked about. Will keep an eye on your writing, and I’m not sure when I’ll be at the club next, being ‘heavily pregnant’ and all!

    Hopefully next Monday night.

    And hopefully the baby stays in for the next gig I’ll be performing at the Up Front in Oct 20th Saturday night.

    Love to see you there.

  5. eggandchips69@gmail.com

    hi Leigh…just realised who you are….Master larkings lovely partner i hear…heheh…yes when i get time,i’ll fill in a few wholes about the history of the club…i love the place and all it stands for.. and it’s a fitting monument to one of the loves of my life ” Jill Jordon” may she rest in peace…hi to Herrin

    1. Hi Billy, yes I am master larkin’s ‘lovely’ partner, though sometimes not so ‘lovely’. Just ask him. Please do fill in some holes about the Club. It needs some holes to be filled in. I love the place and all it stands for too. We are of one mind. I would LOVE you to write a guest post. Especially since your sense of humour is famed across the hinterland…

  6. I first visited Maleny from Sydney about 12 years ago when my much loved friend, Gay Liddington, made her break from the big smoke and found absolute joy walking down the main street of Maleny. Gay has lived and loved Maleny ever since and truly become part of the local community.

    I camped for a week at Woodford in 2000/01, along with Gay and Arcadia and Jasmine, and loved mucking around in the cheesecloth dress and the mandatory gumbos. A far cry from the corporate clobber and the perfectly coiffed hair and the manicured nails.

    My early visits to Maleny included many jaunts to the Upfront Club and I came to know many new people in short spaces of time. Every time I go back to Maleny I pop into Upfront and can usually find a familiar face (always and ever Douglas, our dancing man) and I think Danny Rose made my first Upfront coffee all those years ago.

    And I really feel at home and welcome. Walking down Maple Street there is always a smile from strangers and those I have had the pleasure of meeting on earlier visits, Renee and Chris, Dearest Audrey, Karen, Charmaine, Kel and Lizzy. And so many others whose names may escape me for an instant, but the smiles do not.

    At one stage I owned a house in North Maleny but sadly that dream was short lived. Although I still live in Sydney I remain a huge fan of Maleny and its lifestyle. Your article on the Upfront Club says it all, the town is so welcoming and has so much to offer.

    Warmest regards to all in Maleny
    Marilyn

    1. Thanks for painting such a lovely picture of your time in Maleny, Marilyn. I always like hearing about other city-dwellers’ reactions when they come here. It’s immediately beautiful environmentally, of course, but whether you can fit into the community and feel like you belong here is another story. I know lots who came, loved and left. And lots who stayed…like me! Thanks for commenting, Marily. Lx

  7. hi Leigh and the blog- ettes…Been busy in Melbourne and just received a visit from Mr Matt Davies a long time Maleny resident and purveyor of Trinidadian Pan music….now off Eumundi…well we were talking about the old days and the things we got up to in and around maleny and the upfront club…I took him on wee jaunt of the guitar shops in Fitzroy…Actually Gerry Hales guitar shop and bumped in to “Evil Graham Lee” the pedal steel player from the Triffids ( Google them) anyway we got talking and he expressed that he was brought up in Conandale and went to maleny high school and the conversation began…small world huh?….There is many stories about the Upfront club over the years…When i’m up on the sunny coast,i always make a point of traveling to the U/F/Club to play and catch up with old friends and i will be around from 16th December….so lets play!!!….stories…well, they will have to wait, as i’m late for my appointment…check my youtube channel out thenudgels@youtube…cheese billy

    1. Leigh and the blog-ettes! I like it! Thanks for taking the time to write Billy. I remember seeing Matt Davies and his steel pan band play around here a while back. Looking forward to meeting you when you head back up to these parts in December. Cheers, Leigh

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