One of the most disheartening news of recent times was the closure of Sydney’s Hopetoun Hotel – long a staple of quality local music, and one of the last few legitimate music venues left in this sad city. But the growing issue of venues to support the Australian music scene doesn’t start or end there – it is merely one of the more publicized instances in recent times.
A range of factors have combined to essentially rob Sydney of a strong grass-roots local music scene – everything from noise restrictions, expensive small venue licensing costs, insurance costs (especially for all age shows), growing cost/taxing of alcohol, poker machines, residential complaints, dance clubs and DJs.
The result has been very strict finishing times for venues like The Sandringham Hotel – who require the headlining band to finish up by 11:45 PM – not to mention exorbitant fines being gaily handed out. Take for example the Annandale Hotel, who were engaged in a 5 year court battle over late-trading and noise compliance costing them over $200,000.
In the case of festivals, one need not look further than this year’s Soundwave Festival, which was located at Eastern Creek Raceway – a full 40km from the centre of Sydney! Such saddening news of course does not stop there:
- The Hopetoun Hotel has been boarded up without warning and put on the market.
- The Harp Hotel closed after a management dispute with the venues owners.
- The Annandale Hotel is rumored to be in great financial woe and may have to close its doors.
- The Metro is now owned by Virgin Mobile, and is to be rebranded the Virgin Mobile Metro.
- Maggotsville Warehouse – a valued DIY venue – has been forcibly closed by police.
- The Empire Hotel – once an incredibly valued staple of Sydney’s rock, metal and punk scene – has since deteriorated into a paunch, faux-upper class bar which refuses to book such low class ‘riff raff’. It’s sad to see a venue like that turn into Opera Bar Lite®.
- And let us not forget the likes of The Crest Hotel in Sylvania cancelling live music and and The Arncliffe Hotel completely closing its doors
It is certainly a sad time indeed, wherein we are left only with a smattering of smaller venues that are forced only to support larger-scale local music. Fewer still are now willing to support up and coming bands – let alone non-mainstream genres. One can no longer even find a fucking jazz club in Sydney. It should be no surprise that pathetic, riff-and-song-stealing frauds like Wolfmother represents our 'healthy rock scene', while truly innovative bands in the same genre who have been dropping the jaws of all spectators (I'm talking of Looking Glass) remain anonymous and unknown.
We are faced with a rising cost of venue licensing, insurance and alcohol coupled with residential and council pressure for stronger noise control. It is no wonder that the likes of Melbourne have long been seen as a city of taste, culture, art and creativity while Sydney has slowly been relegated to a gray, drab, burnt out husk of popular whim and the mainstream. The more time goes on, the more I agree with that assessment.
Compare a snapshot of Sydney to say, a show in Adelaide. I have been to Adelaide a total of 4 times in 12 months with my bands. Why? Because noise restrictions are not enforced in central city venues – you can have a headlining band not play until 2AM when punters are sufficiently in party mode. What’s more, you can play fucking LOUD – like dissident music is always supposed to be. Adelaide is also the only state which differentiates between "noise" and "music" when it comes to laws regarding "noise restrictions".
When you add up the cost of all of the above, coupled with the cost of bands, mixers, promoters and all the other growing financial headaches of the music venue world, it really becomes just a matter of time before all Sydney venues descending into an impalpable gray haze of poker machines, jukeboxes, ridiculous iPod DJs and those fucking acoustic-guitar wielding jerk shitheads who do nothing other than play horrible Jack Johnson covers to pre-programmed backing tracks for ample cash.
The concept of a small, old-style pub in Sydney has been long dead - sacrified for up-market, snooty psuedo-clubs. Now it looks like venue support for our local music scene is the next to go.
I want live music - so I go to gigs (Facebook support group thang)
Call for live aid (SMH)
Musos suffer new blow as Harp Irish Pub closes (SMH)
Howls of protest as Hopetoun shuts (SMH)
Is Australia's live music scene dying? (ABC radio - from all the way back in 2003)
Nostalgia can't save the Hopetoun (Daily Telegraph)
Save the Hopetoun Hotel Blog (Some decent resources here and a push to help Sydney music)
Another rock hotel faces heartbreak (SMH)
I finally got around to uploading videos of the Insect Warfare Australian tour. Enjoy these few clips of Beyond Terror Beyond Grace, Kill A Celebrity, Agents of Abhorrence and Insect Warfare. I only have the first bit of most sets as the AoA and Insect Warfare pit was fucking insane; I couldn't resist it for long.
Cheers to Agents and Insect for being top blokes on the tour and for being kind enough to put Ebolie and Kill A Celebrity as supports. Also cheers for Insect Warfare for finding amusement at our ear-bashing at the hands of feminists during and after what will more than likely be our first and last set at Maggotsville.
Mmm, thats good grindcore.
Beyond Terror Beyond Grace at The Empire Hotel
Kill A Celebrity at Maggotsville
Grind of the Everyday, Dying for Meth, A Cancer With Eyes
Agents of Abhorrence at Maggotsville
Insect Warfare at Maggotsville