LIVE music can again be enjoyed in small numbers outside, as restrictions ease in regional Victoria and local music venues the Torquay Hotel and Anglesea’s The Sound Doctor gear up for a big return.
Before lockdown, the Torquay Hotel found a rhythm booking shows by quality artists and re-establishing Torquay as a regional destination for contemporary touring artists.
Booking agent Luke Hindson is motivated to maintain that momentum.
“We had 12 or 15 gigs ready to go pre-COVID that were already sold out. We postponed and postponed them. But artists like G Flip, The Rubens and Thelma Plum are still coming,” he said.
“In the last week I’ve been hit up by a bunch of agents who are booking shows again.”
He said the easing of restrictions was a start, but most venues are not set up for quality live music outside.
“It is still not enough to sustain live music.”
Despite this, he remains optimistic.
“It’s going to be a big welcome back to live music. We’re working on a giant party – something big in the community.”
Hindson grew up playing music and seeing gigs in Geelong, when the Barwon Club and The Nash would host You Am I, Magic Dirt, Augie March, and in the past decade, The Vasco Era and local boys King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
He wants to recapture the spirit of a coastal gig community.
“We want to build a strong culture of strong music in our community,” he said.
“When we book bigger bands, we have a clause in the contract that lets us choose a local support.
“I have seen music and arts thrive in small communities in other parts of Australia and want the same for ours. Its not about dollars and cents.” he said.
Before lockdown, Hindson said the Torquay Hotel was on track to sell 27,000 tickets in 12 months. He said their analytics showed people visited from other regional areas and stayed overnight to see their favourite band.
With assistance from the City of Greater Geelong, Hindson has started looking at other possible venues along the coast.
“We are working on other ways our community can embrace live music. We are working on bringing live music back to the Barwon Heads Hotel. We have heard stories from the ’80s and ’90s when NOFX, Sonic Youth, Paul Kelly, INXS and Tina Turner played shows in Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove, and we thought ‘why isn’t that happening anymore?’,” he said.
Hindson said the venue used the recent downtime to finish the renovations and make improvements to the sound system.
In Anglesea, the Memorial Hall has become a bespoke venue run by local GP David Corbet as The Sound Doctor, and has hosted Australian acts such as Archie Roach, Cash Savage and Claire Bowditch since 2017.
Like Hindson, Corbet grew up playing and touring in bands such as Cuttlefish and Linus in the ’90s. But when he relocated to Anglesea, he realised he was trekking back to Melbourne to see good live music.
“I got sick of it. So I approached a few people around here who work in events and marketing, who weren’t initially confident,” he said.
“But it has gone from strength to strength. We dress the hall up for each gig. We create an environment where people feel welcome. We have a fire burning and a beer garden – it’s a social event.
“Our biggest cost is production, we have a high standard and that’s what people love and the artists love it too.”
Corbet is hopeful that shows will resume in March 2021.
A community stage is also in the works for Jan Juc.