Town Hall aims to capture thrill of the '70s 

If there's one thing Belinda Biondich and Karen Barnes remember about their first concert, it's not the great music Sherbet played, but the fact they couldn't hear a thing but screams.

"The screaming, I mean, I was probably adding to it, but you couldn't hear the music at all," Biondich says.

Both women were 14 when they attended the Sherbet show at Wollongong Town Hall in June 1976, an event that squeezed more than 2000 fans, mostly enthusiastic teenage girls, into the main auditorium.

As members of the Wollongong Youth Committee that brought the band to the Illawarra, they were supposed to be helping to organise the show, but once the doors opened, it was every woman for herself.

"I've been feeling guilty all these years that I was supposed to have helped as well, but as soon as they opened the doors, I just ran to the front," Biondich says.

The women, now in their early 50s, were captured by a Mercury photographer as they screamed for Daryl Braithwaite from the front row all those years ago and are now featured on a poster recounting the hall's history.

Though almost 40 years have passed, they still remember the thrill of seeing the band in the flesh, after spending hours watching them on Countdown.

"It was such a big deal to be 14 and be allowed out on a school night and on top of that we were seeing Sherbet and they were inches away because we were at the front," Barnes says.

"Now you're older you think back [on] what it would have been like for these 20-something men to play the music that they loved and have all these girls just standing there screaming."

Sherbet was one of many popular bands that performed at venues such as the Wollongong Town Hall in the '70s and '80s.

Biondich remembers Skyhooks and even British pop band Hot Chocolate playing at halls and leagues clubs across the region for between $5 and $10 - a price that seems unbelievably cheap compared to the $100-plus bands with huge teenage followings now charge for a ticket.

Barnes says it wasn't until the '80s that entertainment centres became the fallback venue for popular bands, pulling shows away from the smaller spaces.

She thinks it is a good thing that intimate venues such as the Town Hall are renewing their focus on bringing back live music.

Last year the hall was host to a number of music events, including classical performers, as well as rock and alternative bands organised by cafe and live music venue Yours & Owls when they needed more space.

Wollongong Town Hall's marketing director Terri Rowe, who remembers seeing The Cockroaches perform there, says since they reopened in 2011, they have been trying to diversify what they offer to the community, particularly live music.

"In general, there's a bit of a push to reinvigorate the live music scene in Wollongong, to cater for local artists who want a venue, but also to increase venues that provide live music," Rowe says.

She says they are especially focused on classical performances by groups such as the Australian Chamber Orchestra because the acoustics in the main auditorium suit the genre perfectly, but will be responding to some of the feedback from a competition they ran on the hall's Facebook page that asked what people want to see.

With suggestions as varied as cabaret, flamenco, big band nights and requests for performances from Paul Kelly and What About Tonight - a boy band from reality show X Factor - Rowe acknowledges the calendar for the next few years could be varied.

"We want to be able to provide to all age groups and whatever the needs are of the community, to respond to that."

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