After moving to Sydney from Brisbane just over a year ago, alt-rockers Interim – featuring long-time mates Alec Snow, Jock Houston, Jimmy Basnett, Matt Hollonds and Lachy Becke – were shocked by how much the local music scene was operating in total counter-culture. They saw it as some sort of subsistence mentality driven in by the closure of a great deal of the live music venues. With lockout laws driving bands to play earlier to less people, for less money in less established venues, the band spent the first few months in Sydney not really sure if there was just a major disconnect between local artists and punters, or if everyone involved that didn’t identify as a property developer were all as outraged as each other.
The 2015 lockout laws protest cleared all confusion the band might have, with a huge turnout from musicians and the local community demanding change. The band attended and performed, with local videographer Richie Miller capturing the performance for the first single ‘Millennial Blues’, to be taken from their forthcoming debut album Escapism.
Counting the cost of the venues that have, or are about to fall by the wayside as a result of lockout laws, noise complaints, rising housing and rental prices and homogenisation of the inner suburbs over the past few years, Interim gathered a few fellow Sydney locals to reminisce on the venues that have, or are about to become part of the ghost town that is Sydney’s live music venue scene.
Tobias Atkins from Glass Ocean: The Imperial Hotel
The Imperial Hotel used to be one of those venues where fresh bands could book their first launch. As Glass Ocean, we played one our very first gigs there, and the proximity to Newtown and the city made it an easy commute for fellow punters. The place still had an aura about it that gave you a taste of what its heydey was like. The promoters were open minded, the venue catered to upcoming artists and it was easy to get all your friends down there to see you play. Another classic example of this city swallowing the opportunities for young bands, artists and the scene.
Carlos Romanos from CREO: The Annandale Hotel
We have some fond memories of the Annandale Hotel. It was the first venue we played together as CREO and became the first venue we headlined and eventually sold out. There was something about that venue, the sticky as fuck floors, the stage that looked decrepit and felt as if one more gig and it would collapse, the toilets that were merely there to be graffitied – you knew it had seen some the best nights Sydney had to offer in terms of live music. It had serious character and this awe of heritage-listed pub rock royalty. It was by far our favourite venue and holds a lot of special memories for us as a band starting out.
One of my favourite memories of the Annandale (apart from playing there) would be going to watch the Bronx play three sold-out shows in a row before its initial closing for “renovations”. It typified everything the place was about. You could hardly breathe it was so packed, the place stunk of sweat and beer and every time Matt Caughtran pounded his foot into the floor of the stage it looked like it was about to fall in, but the room was explosive, the kick was thumping into your chest, and the sound was deafening. It was the perfect “fuck you” rock and roll send off to a venue that stood up for everything that comes with that phrase. There’ll never be another Annandale Hotel.
Michael Watson from The Dardi Shades: Exchange Hotel, Spectrum
The first ever headline show I played was at the now closed Spectrum on Oxford Street in Sydney. We were a pretty fresh band who only ever really played to our own parents but for whatever reason as we began that night people started rolling in until the room was pretty much at capacity. There were people in cow costumes and other fancy dress mixing with people in collared shirts and skinny jeans. I still remember the look of disbelief we gave each other throughout our 45 minute set people were actually watching and actually cheering and were eating up everything we did. Our solos sounded better, vocals always pitched perfectly and the drums didn’t sound like a $200 kit anymore. That was the first night I realized the power of music to not only bring enjoyment to the onlookers but fulfilment to the people actually playing the music that night is what made sweating in your friends garage for hours on end all worth it. Music and music venues for me provide platforms for everyone to feel something unique and strange that for some odd reason in that moment unites us. Like it did for me that night, 6 years ago.
Tomi Gray, Solo Artist & Frontman from The Ruckus: The Lansdowne
The Lansdowne was one of the last remaining relics of the old school rock n’ roll spirit embodied in stone and splinters. Everything about it was wrong all the way down to the smell but there is no room for places like that in today’s polished world where nobody says what they really mean in case it insults someone else. The Lansdowne was insulting. It was rock n’ roll. It was ugly and dangerous. It was exciting. A place where chaos and magic were always on the cards and so had to be silenced like all things that run against the grain. Things like that always return in new and exciting ways, however.
Jock Houston from Interim: The Newtown Social Club
“The Newtown Social Club, great place, cool vibes… would be better if it was a mini-golf bar like Brisbane has,” – said No One Fucking Ever. Whilst still currently operating as one of our favourite live music venues in Sydney, the Newtown Social embodies a lot of the best aspects of Sydney’s music culture. It’s not genre-elitist, and we always come in for drinks with this running joke of “what rando act are we gonna see this time?” before getting stuck into whoever’s playing from rock to acoustic to electronic (or an altogether too competitive match of trivia/drunk history). We’ve lived as a band in Toowoomba, Brisbane and now Sydney for the past few years and, across Australia, it’s almost impossible to find a venue like the Newtown Social Club that’s just as open to putting on local musicians as national and even international touring artists. After being such a massive success in the inner-west live music scene, closing down due to the regulatory environment is just another kick in the teeth both for artists of all levels trying to secure opportunities to perform and hone their craft, and for punters across the state who are starting to realise that almost all of their favourite venues are now gone…
And Sydney, like the NSC, will become a glorified fucking mini golf bar, the kind of “trendy” (One choc top or two??) tick-off roll through tourist experience with no real substance or cultural identity.
Gallery: The Best Signs From The Keep Sydney Open Rally (October 2016)