Whilst the iconic HiFi bar on Boundary Street may be home to a sea of music lovers by night, by day it is a home away from home to one very passionate venue manager.
FRANCES OLSEN IS The HiFi’s only full-timer and works long hours alone in the empty hall between gigs. She is also known for spending countless days, non-stop, at The HiFi during its peak periods, and laughs as she explains some sneaky nap spots where staff have found her having a rest — including various couches and under her desk.
Frances left what she calls her “cushy Queensland Health job” to pursue her passion in the music world. While she jokes she is musically inept herself, she has created a lasting impression on crowds with the events she has organised during her seven years in the live music industry. “I absolutely love it,” she says. With The HiFi in Brisbane celebrating its fifth birthday last April, Frances describes her time with the company as bizarre and energetic. She attributes much of this community feel to the venue’s eclectic location. “There’s something about West End … it feels like home,” she says.
The venue originally opened in West End due to owner Luke O’Sullivan’s desire to move to Brisbane. Frances says West End was the prime location because when they opened five years ago, there was a gap in the 4101’s music scene. “There were some amazing smaller venues,” she says, “but there was a need for something bigger.”
The HiFi has a 1200-person capacity and has played host to countless bands across almost every genre, including Thai pop, death metal, hip hop and pop. As Frances casually name drops some of the best bands from around the globe, she struggles to name her favourite gig, saying it’s a tie between Prince and their fundraiser after the 2011 floods. She says, “(Prince) was just wild,” and the benefit to raise funds was really positive and brought the community together. The keen manager is also a big fan of the their all-ages events. There are currently eight to 10 each year, but Frances would like to see that number increase.
This music lover is very passionate about the casual team with whom she works. She says there are about “30 or 40 people per night”, who mostly live in West End. Frances jokes that one of the biggest struggles she faces in her role at The HiFi is getting her staff to work during music festivals, particularly Brisbane’s Soundwave Festival and Byron Bay’s renowned Splendour in the Grass. With many of her team members in bands and skilled musicians themselves, the muscle behind each of The HiFi’s gigs is what makes it such a fantastic venue. “We are the kids up the front,” says Frances.
To check out the latest gigs at The HiFi in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, visit www.thehifi.com.au.
Words by Kayla Millhouse | Images by Eric Wang