City Replies 2013
Lord Clover Moore and The Laurels. Photo credit: @aliciakish
Some quick thoughts on last night's City Conversations 2013:
1. Why so negative? There seems to be a constant focus on how live music is failing in Sydney. Sure, there's some notable gaps and more than a few legislative problems. But there's also plenty of great things going on. Dan Zilber from FBi (a last minute fill in for Megan Loader) did bring up Red Rattler and the great work they're doing filling the space between (illegal) warehouse spaces and "proper" venues, but there was still far too much time spent simply tracing over the same old negativities. The fact the scene has (geographically) compacted. The fact some nimby dickhead with too much time on his/her hands tried to destroy the Annandale Hotel. The fact the Hopetoun closed down
2. Bloody pokies. I agree gambling in this country continues to have more than a few negative repercussions on our society as a whole and that, in the past, laws governing the acceptable number of fruit machines per establishment has definitely played a decremental role in suffocating creative endeavours. But it's been a while now since Kevin Whitlam blew up all the pokies and while some lingering effects of that era are still being dealt with, in the wise words of Sir Mike Skinner — "lets push things forward, init".
3. Some great points raised, but there wasn't any sort of direct outcome from the conversation. It was more of just a general update on the current state-of-play, most of which was probably common knowledge now to those in attendance. It felt a bit like an exercise of preaching to the already converted.
4. The Live Music Taskforce's recommendations are just a few months off. John Wardle — the standout information source on the panel — shed a little bit of light into how this is all unfolding and there definitely seems to be some positive progress being made.
5. Dave Faulkner made some good points. It's interesting to view the issue from a historical perspective, but it's obvious he's fairly disconnected from the current scene. His negative remarks about the role of DJs in the live music scene were especially disparaging. His keynote address was almost entirely focused on his time as the frontman of Hoodoo Gurus and the role that live music plays on the wider economy. It was disappointing that he didn't speak at all about his experiences as curator of the Dig It Up festival, which, in Sydney, operates on Enmore Road and combines traditional large-scale venues (the Enmore Theatre) with small bars and spaces that aren't quite as synonymous with hosting live music.
6. The economic perspective was mentioned a few times, by Clover Moore and Faulkner, as well as being one of the focus topics during the panel discussion portion of the night. I understand that there's some value in placing a monetary figure on the live music scene, as well as highlighting the lack of funding assistance from the government and the (often overlooked) "trickle down" effect — ie. employment in the sector and the money those employees spend outside of the industry etc. But it seems dangerous to be so focused on this economic viewpoint. Measuring culturally significant elements solely in monetary terms feels like the wrong way to go.
7. Interesting insights from Mark Gerber from Oxford Art Factory, especially in regard to the pragmatic approach he has taken in regards to complaints from neighbours.
8. There seems to be an obsession with drawing a distinct line between arts and sports. Idiots starring at big screens watching thugs grapple tackle each other to death. As one of these idiots — I hastily went straight from the meeting to watch game 2 of the State Or Origin in a nearby pub — I take offence. I see both culturally-enriching pastimes as valuable elements of our national identity. And I'm sure I'm not alone. There's not much progress to be made here if we're getting bogged down in an argument of whether or not music is more important than sport. I don't agree with the unbalanced funding allocations, but I also don't agree with the attempts to mimic European cultural models which we share little in common with. I don't think people watching sport in a pub are the enemy here.
9. But, on that, who is the enemy? What are we trying to accomplish? More venues in the suburbs? Later trading hours? More music in small bars? The actual agenda wasn't too clear, thus the conversation did go around in circles a fair bit. MC Zan Rowe from the Triple J Funk Collective did an admirable job in moving things along, but there were several occasions where (albeit valid) points were repeated.
10. Interesting insights from Mark Gerber from Oxford Art Factory, especially in regard to the pragmatic approach he has taken in regards to complaints from neighbours.
11. Brett Murrihy from Artist Voice didn't add to much to the discussion. Not his fault, it's just his job (as the agent for big local artists like Empire Of The Sun, The Jezebels etc) doesn't have too much in common with 100-capacity pubs and bands playing their first ever show.
12. It would have been interesting to hear what people thought about Triple J's involvement in all this and how their power to accelerate a band's career is possibly (indadvertedly) having a negative effect on the traditional gigs-on-gigs approach of yesteryear. I know beating down our national radio broadcaster is now a bit of an overdone practice, but there's an increasing trend of bands with very little live experience suddenly being thrusted to the national spotlight and opening up for big international acts, skipping entire steps in the old pathway of slowly building up to that level.
13. No mention of Good God, which IMHO is one of the better run venues in Sydney. Would have been good to have GG Chief, Jimmy Sing, on the panel to get his insights into their success and how they've taken a varied/modern approach to live entertainment in a "pub" — ie. The Dip restaurant, hosting multiple events on a single night, providing a very wide coverage of genres and crowds etc.
14. The most powerful argument of the night was put forward by The Laurels, in the form of two songs. (Still) probably the best live band in this city.