Mary Mihelakos showcases Melbourne’s local history with her Music Bus Tour

From humble beginnings as a volunteer at a local radio station to DJ’ing on stage with American singer Iggy Pop, Mary Mihelakos has had a wild ride with her career in music.

It’s a career so wild it led to the establishment of Melbourne Bus Tours – a tour service that travels across Melbourne for two hours with a tour guide and a special guest musician sharing stories about local sites.

In an interview with The Greek Herald, Mary tells us all about the tour and her relationship with music.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a music lifer who began volunteering at community radio as a teen. I went on to manage bands and book live music venues while studying media at university. I edited Beat Magazine (1995 – 2005), and for six years contributed to the weekly ‘Sticky Carpet’ column in The Age newspaper covering Melbourne’s live entertainment scene. I went on and founded the Aussie BBQ at SxSW in 2003, now a global showcase for Australian music managed by Sounds Australia. I have also produced the stage show of Buried Country – Live in Concert based on Clinton Walker’s book and documentary telling the untold story of Aboriginal country music.

I established the Melbourne Music Bus Tours which run regularly from the Australian Music Vault at the Arts Centre Melbourne sharing local music history. In recent years I returned to live music bookings for venues such as the Spanish Club, Prince Band room, Yah Yahs Bella Union, Thornbury Theatre, the Spotted Mallard, Brunswick Ballroom and Federation Square. I also work closely with a number of musicians and individuals who she believes in as a manager and a mentor.

I have been DJing for over 20 years all over Melbourne and inspired the Jet song “Roll Over DJ” and have also jumped on stage to dance with Iggy Pop and the Stooges 6 times in 3 different continents. In December 2020, I was honoured by being inducted into the Music Victoria Hall of Fame for my services to Australian music.

How has your Greek Australian heritage influenced your work?

Although my parents were very protective of me, they never stopped me from attending concerts or being involved with the community radio station. They facilitated it so I was always safe. I was a sensible teenager and not interested in drinking or partying – I just followed the music. I often went to concerts with my older sisters and spent a lot of time in record shops.

When I first started going to see bands, it was a happy coincidence that some of the venues were places like the Old Greek Theatre in Richmond, which was also a Greek cinema, so they were familiar with the venue I was going to and often dropped me off and picked me up. Both of my parents are hardworking and involved with their community so perhaps that has influenced me.

I am no longer working as a music writer. I am now booking a live music venue called the Brunswick Ballroom on Sydney Road which is still owned by the Apostolakos family and used to be a wedding reception and Greek events space called Metropolis House.

What are the Melbourne Music Bus Tours?

The Melbourne Music Bus Tour initially started as part of the City of Yarra’s music festival – Leaps and Bounds in 2013 and we shared stories about historical music sites around Fitzroy, Collingwood, Abbotsford and Richmond.

When the Australian Music Vault opened in 2018, I proposed expanding the tours to depart from the Arts Centre Melbourne and expanding the bus route to also include St Kilda, Albert Park, South Yarra, Carlton and the CBD.

The idea is simple, we travel on a bus across Melbourne for two hours with a tour guide (Bruce Milne) and a special guest musician who shares stories about Melbourne locations. There is no performance on the bus – we share sites.

I have done similar bus tours overseas about the Beatles in London and Liverpool, a grunge music bus tour in Seattle, as well as The Sopranos and Sex in the City-themed bus tours in New York – and decided to set up the Melbourne Music Bus Tour. 

What is next for you? 

We are about to begin the fifth season of the Melbourne Music Bus Tours in conjunction with the Arts Centre Melbourne, the Australian Music Vault and Always Live from October 15 through to December 10, after stopping in March 2020 when the pandemic hit.

In April and May this year I also produced the Geelong Music Bus Tour as part of the inaugural Surround Sounds festival. I have a lot of ideas which I combine with my passion for music. I always keep myself busy and hope I have created events and projects that others appreciate too.


About the author

Related Post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *