12 Feb 2024

Back to the Future

by Julius Grafton

at Old Manly Boatshed.

I took a call in early 2022. Someone wanted a sound engineer at The Old Manly Boatshed. Greatly surprised I was, as I thought the place had burnt down last century! I spoke to the owner, Goff, about money; “….and a free feed. With beer!” he pitched. I’m in! I went along, down the narrow stairs from Manly Corso, straight into 1990. Complete with an analogue Soundcraft GB4 mixer, sitting in a cozy bio box.

Somehow the Boatshed keeps going in 2024. Hosting comedy on a Thursday, its main work is bands, late into Friday and Saturday nights. Sometimes three bands on a Saturday. And they all arrive expecting miracles from the audio system. Which sadly never occur.


I was so surprised that first evening, as I appraised the four dusty, ancient Crown amplifiers and scattered a small crowd of tiny cockroaches living in the back of the outboard rack. Cleaning up the bio box, I fired up the system, which appeared to have been custom made sometime before or during the Cretaceous period. Two 15” front loaded speakers, some kind of mid horn over an 8” and a high frequency horn that might have been JBL.

At some time this century, someone had installed a Behringer PA processor to do crossover and system tuning. It seemed to work despite showing absolutely no indication; dead screen, dead LEDs. But it worked. In fact, the whole thing seemed to be just turned on, all the time, as it was playing Spotify when I arrived.

The tiny stage was barely big enough for a four-piece band, and a single Bose 802 on either side wall comprised the entire two send monitor system. Once I got over the feelings of inadequacy, virtually small man syndrome I’m guessing, I found it all to work kind of OK.


I kind of regressed to the 80s, fuelled by free beer, which was forced upon me by the bar manager. I had some fun nights out there, running into musicians I hadn’t seen in decades. But my work demands were stepping up as I established myself post-pandemic as a modern live sound engineer, as opposed to the half drunken touring guy I had been back when the Old Manly Boatshed first came into existence. It, like me, has aged. One of us had to call it quits.

Old Manly Boatshed remains today, exactly as described.


Published monthly since 1991, our famous AV industry magazine is free for download or pay for print. Subscribers also receive CX News, our free weekly email with the latest industry news and jobs.