11 Mar 2003

1990’s tech production history

In the early nineties in Melbourne you wanted to work for Troy Balance or McLean Audio. Troy’s seemingly had hundreds of Meyer MSL 3’s and UPA’s, mostly powered by Yamaha amplifiers, Yamaha PM 2000’s, 3000’s, Lexicon Processors and all in really nice wood grain racks and road cases. I still remember how easy it was to EQ those Lord Nelson wedges with the wooden horn flares.

McLeans were running mainly JBL modular systems with Yamaha or Aussie Monitor amps. I think they had a few Crown amps for serious bottom end. The whole scene was big black boxes in big trucks, heavy small black boxes and massively heavy mixers.

The good thing about Melbourne was that there weren’t too many stair gigs but, the recession was biting and a lot of equipment got quite old before it was updated to fit into the newer, smaller venues that were slowly replacing the old, large ones. The interest rates from the early nineties really bit when you had borrowed long term money to get the latest and be the greatest.


Around ’96 or ’97 Troy Balance started to get rid of their old inventory of Meyer boxes and Bruce Johnstone bought quite a few of them, along with their drive racks. This was the gear that got Johnstone Audio off the ground in a big way doing medium size tours around regional Victoria and New South Wales.

Intelligent lighting was taking off at medium size gigs and made it’s debut at the 3rd last ever Broadford Concert, held every year for two decades by the Hells Angels until it was shut down by growing public opinion that it was a hot bed of criminality and loose morals. (Hey, it’s rock’n’roll!)

Billy Thorpe was a mainstay here while Rose Tattoo and The Angels took turns headlining year after year. A few other large annual shows were dying quiet deaths while travelling shows sponsored by radio stations got bigger and bigger.


Nova Sound was alive and kicking down here with PA’s going out with the likes of Chocolate Starfish and Weddings, Parties, Anything. They still used proprietary mixers and amp racks with bathroom type exhaust fans in the bottom! The late nineties was filled with a mind numbing blur of thrash and grunge bands in flannel shirts.

I was working at a pub in Warrnambool doing a house PA gig with bands like The Badloves and The Sharp while The Mavis’ and Frenzal Rhomb came to play in the basement for $100 bucks and a slab! Rock above the Falls debuted on a farm near Lorne at New Year of ’97 and became Silver Chairs annual pilgramage South. Tribute bands plied their John Cougar, AC/DC, Cold Chisel, Creedence and Pink Floyd covers to any-one who’d pay $15 dollars at the door to cover their high production values.

A well known regional venue – The Lady Bay Hotel was knocked down in 2000 to be replaced by holiday flats. This was an old fashioned pub gig that held anywhere from 500 to over 1000 bodies and was used by a lot of acts to see if their latest tour was going to go over well in country venues.

dB Concert Sound in Geelong split into two parts, one doing concert sound and the other retail and driveway hire. On the other side of the highway Music Workshop made the move from proprietary composite boxes to X-Array, got rid of the Yamaha 1532 mixers and bought Allen and Heath GL’s (boat anchors to battle ships!). And so we ride into the ‘noughties!

There’s more but I’m hoping some-one else will get inspired to tell it.


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