If you’ve rounded the corner into Solomon Street over the last year, you’ve likely been greeted by sights and sounds of Adelaide’s resident dive bar, Cry Baby.
It’s been (just over) a year since local industry heavyweights Jon di Pinto, Sean Howard and Thomas Hector joined forces to repurpose a sleepy carpark into a backstreet rock and roll bar. Since then, “it’s been endless late nights, sleeping in the booths and waking up early for meetings with no voice, red eyes and a huge smile,” says Sean.
Tomorrow, to celebrate a year of “complete and utter debauchery”, the trio are launching yet another ambitious venture with the inaugural Cry Baby Fest.
According to Sean, “Cry Baby Fest has been at the back of our minds since the first month we opened” when the bar began welcoming frequent visits from touring bands.
Now, with the nod of approval from the council and the backing of Umbrella Winter City Sounds, Solomon Street will be cordoned off as Cry Baby plays host to KINGSWOOD, The VANNS, Teenage Dads, Venice Queens, Psychobabel, Fripps & Fripps and the first 1500 punters to cross the line.
In keeping with Cry Baby’s first-in, first-served ethos, the Fest is free of charge. “If you’re in, you’re in. If you aren’t, tough luck,” says Sean.
Neighbour and unofficial caterer Sunny’s will be slinging dough from their mobile wood-fired oven alongside local vegan favourites Staazi & Co. Young Henry’s and local brewer Pirate Life will be cracking tins while Barcardi and Red Bull head up the spirits offering.
They’ll be joined by an onsite tattooist, piercer, barbers and a fully stocked merch store.
When I first caught up with Sean, Jon and Thomas ahead of the 2018 launch, the boys spoke excitedly of the hotdog cart they envisaged rolling around the venue. Little did they know, Cry Baby’s near-immediate surge in popularity would see “people literally spilling out of the booths with the pool table pushed to the side to make more room for patrons,” hardly leaving room for the roving cart.
“Cry Baby was always supposed to be a party bar with loud rock and roll but we never really predicted it becoming what it has.
“We’ve somewhat acquired a reputation of being a black hole bar. You walk in for one beer and when you leave you can barely walk at all,” says Sean.
The bar’s mission to create “a comfortable environment for people to present themselves as they please without scrutiny” has been instrumental in its success.
“Drink what you want, wear what you want, say what you want, with who you want,” says Sean.
“We’ve made a serious effort to reiterate the fact that Cry Baby is free of demographic channelling. This is a place for everyone.”
The once pristine Studio AKA fit out has been worn in by the thousands to cross the monochrome-tiled threshold over the last twelve months. Cuttings from vintage Playboy magazines now adorn the toilet walls and a collection of discarded jewellery has taken up permanent residence hanging from the light shade over the bar.
Meanwhile the glowing pink neon namesake still adorns the eastern wall, commanding the immediate attention of all who enter.
“The big thing for us was wearing in the place. There’s a special feeling when you walk into a bar and you just know that it has been there for years and years,” says Sean.
“It gains a certain kind of life that creates an instant sense of flagship in the community. We have been and will continue to encourage that process of our venue looking weathered”.
As for the future, Sean hints at a growing back bar and beer list, and maybe one day, even a hot dog cart.
“In a year and a half we’ve turned a carpark into a black hole filled with rock and roll and booze. We intend to take that to a whole new level with a personality that screams ‘revelry’.
“Never once did we remotely anticipate ever managing to pull off that kind of response and it still blows us away to get that,” says Sean.
“The best bit is we know it’s only going to keep going further down the rabbit hole.
WHERE: Solomon Street, Adelaide
WHEN: 16.00 – late