The setting up of a new Live Music Taskforce has been the immediate outcome of the first Newcastle Live Music Roundtable held last Friday at The Edwards venue.
Possible outcomes are for the City of Newcastle to bring back all-ages venues and for NSW to consider introducing Agent of Change to protect venues from noise complaints.
The Rountable was convened by Labor after warnings that Newcastle bureaucrats needed to act if music venues were not to be swallowed up with the unchecked rise of apartment buildings.
Labor MPs from state and local levels – including Lord Mayor ‘Nuatali Nelmes, and MPs and party members as John Graham (who heads Labor Loves Live Music), Tim Crakanthorp, Sharon Claydon and Carol Duncan – met up with 60 members of the industry.
These included artists as former Screaming Jets guitarist and writer Grant Wamsley, guitarist and record producer Mark Tinson, venue owners as Brian Lizotte and Rolly de With as well as booking agents, artist managers and reps from the Australian Hotels Association NSW, Big Apachee and EAO Entertainment.
The Roundtable was told how concerning it was that major venues as the Lass O’Gowrie Hotel in Wickham, The Cambridge Hotel in Newcastle West and the Wickham Park Hotel were falling prey to noise complaints and “unchecked development”, as one attendee put it.
Musicians and booking agents recalled how in its glory days, Newcastle had 22 live gigs in Hunter Street alone, and new generations of acts could cut their teeth at the now-closed the Jolly Roger, Fannys, The Family Hotel, The Palais Royae and The Civic.
These included Silverchair, Screaming Jets, Rabbit, Judge Mercy, Catherine Britt, The Last Kinection and The Porkers who went on to national and international success.
Grant Wamsley was pulling no punches when he highlighted the importance of these small venues.
“The Jets became a great band because we learned to play and develop at all these great places.
“We tried out our very first #1 hit (‘Better’) at the Civic.
“My great-uncle was a bassplayer ay the Palais Royale in the 1940s, it’s a place where all our (Screaming Jets) parents met.
“It should have been heritage listed, but it slipped through the cracks on someone’s watch and it got sold and is now the biggest KFC in the southern hemisphere.
“What’s next? The Cambridge? The Wicko? The Lass?”
The Lass O’Gowrie’s owner Ian Lobb said that after showcasing young indie acts for 20 years, a block with 22 apartments was being built next door.
Resounding was a call for an Agent of Change, inspired by Melbourne, where developers had to provide enough sound proofing to stop noise from existing venues.
Also ranked a high priority were for the Council to bring back all-ages shows, stopped six years ago due to budget issues.
All-ages music organisers Spencer Scott and Andrew Brassington said a void was created after The Commons and The Loft closed where young musicians and music fans no longer had that catalyst of going out to see live gigs.
Another attendee made the point that these no-alcohol events were closed just as three Newcastle venues were put on the NSW-wide register of the most violent hotels.
Lord Mayor Nelmes stressed that Newcastle’s live music industry was a cornerstone of its “nationally significant night-time economy which is a major employer in this region.
“We have to make sure our music venues remain open and they should be diverse.”
The Roundtable dispersed on a high note with, Walmsley telling TMN, “There was certainly an awareness that a commitment be there for youth-based arts events.
“We’ll just wait and see what the next step is.”
MP Tim Crakanthorp said he was “really inspired” by the meeting with the music industry, and that it would help create Labor’s state policies.
The music industry was also urged to make submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Music and Arts Economy in NSW, through the NSW Parliament website.