MILESAGO - Performance - Venues - Sydney



Alison Road, Randwick, Sydney



Located 5km from the city centre, Randwick is Australia's largest racecourse. Like the Hordern Pavilion, Randwick Racecourse was pressed into use as a concert venue after the demolition of the Sydney Stadium in 1970. The Hordern was Sydney's main indoor venue throughout the '70s but its relatively modest capacity (5,300) precluded its use by many 'big-name' acts, whose tours were by this time geared towards the huge sports arenas available in North America and Europe.

In the 1960s large outdoor concerts were comparitvely rare, for a simple practical reason. The Beatles had started the trend towards "arena" concerts with their famous US tours from 1964-66, including the historic Shea Stadium concert in 1965 which was the largest concert crowd ever seen up to that time. But concert amplification for rock music was still in its infancy and the puny PA systems available to The Beatles were hopelessly inadequate when ranged against combined lungpower of 60,000 screaming teenagers. Considering that the most powerful amplifiers group possessed were only 100 watts, and that they were forced to sing through PA systems designed for commentary and announcements, it's no wonder that they were constantly drowned out by the deafening screams of teenage fans, and that they rapidly tired of being unable to be heard and gave up touring.

Things began to change in 1966, with the invention of the "Slave" PA amplifier by the great English engineer Charlie Watkins, founder of Watkins Electric Music -- WEM. This was followed by the ground-breaking sound system put together by audio engineer Alan Markoff for the Woodstock Festival, the largest and most powerful PA systen ever created up to that time -- so powerful, Markoff recalls, that at the amplifiers' lowest setting the Woodstock speakers would cause pain for anyone standing within 10 feet!

Prior to Woodstock, providing quality concert amplification for a crowd of even 50,000 people was unheard of, and creating a system for the anticipated 100,000 patrons was at the very outer limit of what was technically possible in 1969. In the event, the crowd exceeded 500,000. The system performed poorly and it failed on several occasions, but the Woodstock PA worked well enough to prove that it would soon be possible to make sound systems far bigger and more powerful than anyone had previously thought possible. More importantly, Woodstock proved that rock music could attract audience of wholly unprecedented sizes, and in so doing it ushered in the so-called "Stadium Era".

Within a couple of years concert amplification had made huge strides in development and by the early '70s groups finally had access to large, very powerfu, portable multi-channel mixing desks and PA systems, as well as lighting rigs of ever-increasing size and compexity -- systems that could easily project sound to an audience of tens or even hundreds of thousands. In Australia these concert systems were first supplied by the Sydney-based Lenard company, who also supplied the PA for Australia's first rock festival at Ourimbah in 1970.

Because of Australia's relatively small population, there were no large American-style indoor arenas, so when major rock tours began visiting Australian in the early '70s promoters were obliged to stage the concerts in large outdoor venues like Randwick Racecourse and the RAS Showground in Sydney, the Kooyong Tennis Centre in Melbourne or the WACA cricket ground in Perth. These sportsgrounds were used to stage numerous large concerts in this period including as The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. The shortcomings of this practice soon became obvious, howewver: these large arenas were not acoustically designed for rock music and of course they were uncovered. Some events were rained out, since overseas acts tended to tour in our summer months (Dec.-Feb.) but the situation wasn't recified in Sydney until after the huge public outcry over the disgraceful standard of the Sydney Showground for the Bob Dylan concert in 1978. That show was staged only a few days after the end of the Royal Easter Show, and it had rained solidly during the entire Easter period, with the result that patrons (including the author) had to stand in a fetid, inches-deep mixture of mud and animal manure. Only after the outcry following the Dylan concert was finally taken to construct a large-capacity indoor venue -- the Sydney Entertainment Centre.


Major Concerts 1964-75

June 1971 - The Kinks

May 1971 - Deep Purple/Free/Manfred Mann/Pirana

August 1971 - Pink Floyd

October 1971 - Elton John

February 1972 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

February 1973 - The Rolling Stones


References / Links