Two to Tango: A panel discussion on musicians and venues

photo by Chris Familton

Last night at Sydney’s Annandale Hotel a panel of musicians, venue owner/bookers and industry people was convened to discuss the state of the live scene in Sydney and in particular the relationship between musicians and venues.

The genesis of the discussion was a FasterLouder opinion piece by musician Brendan Maclean detailing his frustrations with The Sandringham Hotel when news came to light about their current financial problems. The Annandale’s Matt Rule took Maclean to task via an open letter online which resulted in the two meeting in person (mediated by FasterLouder) to clear the air and discuss some of the points raised.

The panelists were the host Jay Katz (musician/DJ), The Doctor (Triple J), Matt Rule (The Annandale), Brendan Maclean (musician, actor), Urthboy (musician), Siobhan Poynton (MusicNSW), Dave Rennick (Dappled Cities), Tony Gosden (Jam Music/ The Beresford).

Much of the discussion revolved around the importance of the relationship between bands and venues and the need to treat it as a business partnership between the two parties. Siobhan Poynton made some very pertinent comments about the need for both musician and venue to create a worksheet detailing all facets of the performance from arrival times, the payment deal in terms of dollars vs expected crowd and who will pay them and when to avoid any confusion and miscommunication. She also pointed out the roles MusicNSW can play in assisting new bands to understand the machinations of the live music scene and the types of funding available to musicians.

The musicians on the panel stressed the need for acts to do their research before approaching potential venues and to make sure they were being realistic about the crowd they could pull and clear on how they could promote the event to ensure they had a good audience and the venue would get numbers through the door and to the bar. Rule and Tony Gosden both made additional comments on the importance of the approach bands take when it comes to talking with venues and the shared responsibility for promoting gigs.

In response to a question from the audience Rule gave an insight into some of the battles the Annandale (and many other venues) face from external factors such as residents and councils and the often crippling costs that go with defending their business that is contributing economically and culturally to Sydney. Urthboy backed up those comments by reminding the audience of the cultural significance of a venue like the Annandale to a large number of people that have experienced life-changing music and forged friendships and relationships within its brick walls. He also made an important point that ‘supporting’ the live music scene shouldn’t be seen as a charitable act. It should be part of one’s life and social experience and the quality of the music should engender passion for it in the hearts and minds of music fans.

Hopefully this event was a kickstart for more dialogue on the issues raised and most importantly continued action by the Sydney live music scene from the musicians, the venues, the media, local government and the people who are passionate about hearing and seeing musicians performing on stage.

photo by Chris Familton
photo by Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Jack Colwell & The Owls, Brendan Maclean, Packwood @ Goodgod (07/06/12)

by C. Familton

Goodgod may not have been host to such fragile music as was on display from Packwood. Featuring Bayden Packwood Hine on banjo/vocals and some wonderful violin and cello accompaniment the trio silenced the small crowd with a handful of songs from Packwood’s debut EP. Space was the key to their appeal and generous helpings of it were used to accentuate what was played between the silence. You hung on individual banjo plucks and zoomed in on Hine’s confident and colourful folk vocal. Bats was a playful lyrical dance with his instrument while Charlotte highlighted Hine’s darker material.

Brendan Maclean (also a member of The Owls) gleefully showed off his new orange tracksuit which was decidedly at odds with his music but definitely not his personality. He had a way of delivering a devastating and emotional song and then flicking the switch to a light hearted story of seeing Dolly Parton in concert. Maclean’s music sits in the same vicinity as the baroque pop of Rufus Wainwright and Patrick Watson. His keyboard and ukelele (which he named Murphy Brown) playing was a key part of his set, casting the songs in quite a different light to his denser band sound on record and shifting the focus to his swooning voice and its wonderful melodic turns.

Jack Colwell & The Owls were celebrating the release of their debut album Picture Window and though the venue was far from full the enthusiasm of those present easily filled the room. Colwell is a classically trained musician who now operates in the world of indie chamber pop with his dramatic, ornate and textured songs. Flutes and recorders appear through the set to colour the songs and the dynamics and composition of them were handled near perfectly by The Owls. Colwell pushed his vocals hard and though an occasional easing of intensity would have been welcomed it worked well to amplify the emotive content of the songs. His quieter moments were reminiscent of Antony & The Johnsons though his voice is a deeper, more masculine instrument. There was certainly a fascinating range to Colwell’s set with the fun upbeat singalong of Captains Melody and the brilliantly dark and sordid Banquet complete with Nick Cave styled pelvic thrusts and floor writhing. Colwell is still somewhat of a hidden gem on the local scene, though that may well be about to change.

this review was first published in Drum Media