Wordy-Gurdy wrangled the radio waves with Mario Maccarone, who took over the turntable – spinnin' his faves, talkin' Marios Cafe turns 25 and walkin' the wet-dream roster of talent that graced Prahran’s Continental Cafe upstairs music room (1993–2001).
‘The Conti’ lives on in memory as a finely wrought venue with attention to detail in all it did, from its very first premise of offering gigs in a comfortable, stylish environment to marrying in good food and great service. The two Marios (Mario DePasquale is the other half) brought a food–music dowry to Marios: as well as sharing foodie history, Mario M was managing Bachelors from Prague and had noticed venues around the world that offered sit-down gigs that were more intimate than concert-hall seating.
They dreamed up a gorgeous stage, lush drapes and decor that looked just as good in daylight as evening; fabulous lighting overseen by none other than the grandfather of rock’n’roll productions, Chipmonck himself; plus world-class musician facilities. And it was indeed a memorable venue. Even now new venues bill themselves as ‘the new Conti’ but fail to live up to it.
An amazing array of local and international artists included Renee Geyer, Kate Ceberano, Vince Jones, Ross Wilson, Joe Camilleri, Stephen Cummings, Chris Wilson and Shane O'Mara – all regulars who spearheaded a who's who of Australian talent – and Amazing Rhythm Aces, Steve Young, Joshua Redman, Coco Robicheaux, Kurt Elling, Ron Sexsmith, Keiran Kane & Kevin Welch, Melissa Etheridge, Leo Kottke, Nick Lowe, Jimmy Smith, Luka Bloom, Loudon Wainwright III, Guy Clark, Charlie Musselwhite, Keb Mo', Harry Connick Jr, kd lang, Jimmy Webb, World Party, Alex Chilton, Taj Mahal, Mike Stern, Shawn Colvin, John Hammond and Jonathan Richman! ‘You’ve missed a few,’ Mario laughed.
Mario was in the studio to talk about the new Marios website, launching 28 April, which will build a section on the Conti. It will evolve as content grows, opening up an online community and sending out news and special events.
‘We will fly away’, Coco Robicheaux, Spiritland
‘Before’, Joshua Redman, Passage of time
‘I got a woman’, Jimmy Smith, Home cookin’
From a live recording on a Bob Dylan theme at the Conti:
‘You got a lot of nerve’, Rebecca Barnard
‘It’s all over now, baby blue’, Stephen Cummings
OK there’s Bluesfest stars galore, but our own locals shine:
Luau Cowboys Saturday April 23, 1–4pm Hickinbotham Winery, 194 Nepean Hwy, Dromana; 8.30–9.30pm Cornish Arms Hotel, Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Rocky & the Two Bob Millionaires Thursday 28 April, Thornbury Theatre, 859 High St, Thornbury
Jimmy Stewart’s solo at Town Hall Hotel, North Melbourne, April Tuesdays
Steel guitarist Chris Altmann will relocate indefinitely to Canada in May to tour Que Paso in USA and Europe. Big farewell, Saturday 7 May, John Curtin Bandroom, Carlton