To say that lockdown has hit Melbourne and its people the hardest would literally be an understatement. Venues closing. Stage 4 with a seemingly endless span. Music trying to survive through various means such as streaming, merch sales and dropping new sounds. When will it end and how has it impacted those who are in it? We decided to ask five of these folk: all with a common denominator but from differing points of view.
image via 3 Chord Images
Matt (3 Chord Images)
So being a live music photographer during the Melbourne lockdown has sucked balls. Don’t get me wrong, I think the lockdown has been entirely necessary from a public health perspective, however it’s been difficult to stay motivated creatively when the thing I love doing, shooting bands in the face, has been taken away.
don’t think I’m unique in this but from a personal perspective it has been a difficult period both from a creative and business point of view. I find shooting bands in the face and other creative pursuits therapeutic and so keeping myself even a little sane during this time has been tenuous at best.
The saving grace has been watching the music community rally around each other, checking in with each other regularly and even raising funds to ensure that the venues we love will be in some kind of shape to reopen when restrictions are finally eased.
COVID has been a real body blow to Melbourne music and the weakest link in the chain is the venues. The dive bars that I love working the most operate on pretty slim margins at the best of times, and let’s face it, this isn’t the best of times. I’m fully expecting that the face of live music in Melbourne will have changed dramatically by the time restrictions have eased, with some venues closing to never reopen in the same way again. While this might sound pessimistic, I also hold some hope. With any great disruption comes new opportunities. Bands, promoters and some venues are all used to fending for themselves, and hold a great DIY ethos. I don’t think anything that governments will do will necessarily save our scene, so it will be up to the people who live it to do so, and my experience is that people are more than willing to do just that.
image via 3 Chord Images
Sasha (Whole Lotta Love)
Trying to describe how COVID has impacted us, the venue, and the live music scene is a tough one. I could tell you about the tears (so many fucking tears), the anger, the despair, and the feelings of helplessness, but honestly I don’t think I could truly articulate what it was like. I remember the first night that they dropped our capacity down all too well. We had a huge line up of bands planned for that night, but as the world started to change in the weeks leading up to that night, shows were getting cancelled all over the place, some people wanting to play, others not, everything just seemed to be falling apart. The line up for Friday night was finally settled, and everyone involved was committed to the show. Dillan and I thought that it would be a great last show to earn us some money before heading into the lockdown… but then the inevitable happened. At about 4pm they announced capacity limits on venues. We toyed with the idea of trying to stream, and just letting 20 people in to the show, but realistically, that was never going to cut it. We had to think about the bands and punters, and how we could make them feel safe. We just didn’t know what to do.
That night was the first of many examples to come of how the live music community has come together throughout the lockdowns. Kacey (ex Bombay Rock, in DickLaser) managed to organise with Wade from the Spotted Mallard that we could move the show there, which meant more space for the bands on stage, and more space for more punters to enjoy one more gig before getting locked down. Although it meant Whole Lotta Love wouldn’t be making the money for the show, we didn’t care, we just wanted to party with our mates and watch some rad bands to relieve the fear and stress of what was coming with the lockdowns.
The bands (Lindsey Kingswood, DickLaser, The Stripp, and Udder Ubductees) not only let us set up a merch stand with them, they donated cash from all of their sales to Whole Lotta Love. The bands, who were going to be just as impacted as us, were donating their money to us, we couldn’t believe it. All of the punters were spending their hard earned on merch to support, giving us donations and showing us an enormous amount of love. I don’t remember all of the night, honestly I got myself so drunk that I remember crying on the balcony, taking myself down to Townhall Kebabs for a snack pack, then hiding in the toilets until Kacey got Dillan so he could take me home ha ha.
Since that night, we have had to fight to keep our heads above water. We turned to doing home deliveries of Fruit & Veg boxes and booze at the start (where most of the customers were musos and punters, always giving us messages of hope). That helped us get through until the blip in the middle of the lockdowns where we could have just 2 shows. Again, this fucking community rallied, with the bands offering to pay us to play… these muso’s, who had lost their income streams and jobs, offering to pay us to play!! It blew us away. We then entered the second lockdown and decided to just open for take-away booze. Our cashflow was fucked, and we started to talk bout what options we had, when without even a discussion, Tom (in Keggin) started a virtual tip jar to support his 3 favourite venues; The Last Chance, The Bergy Seltzer, and us. Again, this fucking amazing community was giving their hard earned to us, even though everyone is struggling. Smash (ex Bombay Rock, in Ferocious Chode) has single handedly been the biggest donator in the tip jar, and a personal support blanket for me this entire time. It hasn’t stopped there either. Rob (in The Closer Talkers) and Tom have been running virtual open mic nights online, raising money for the tip jar! We’ve also launched a VIP Membership to the bar to try and raise some extra funds, and this same group of amazing and extraordinary people have been the first ones signing up!! These acts of kindness have been what have kept us going, have pulled me out of one of the worst bouts of depression I have had in decades, and have literally (not figuratively) given me the motivation to get out of bed in the morning.
So, what does the future hold? I honestly couldn’t tell you, and i’m not even certain that we will make it. But I do know that the scene will survive purely off the goodwill of this community, and their love of live music.
The Band Member
image via Wolfpack
Hey gang it’s Tom from Wolfpack here, we are an anarcho-Punk band from Melbourne in Australia and been asked to say a few words on how Covid-19 has effected us. There isn’t much I can say that wouldn’t have been said already, yes it’s really tough (especially for mental health) not being able to jam or tour and I know both punters & musos are struggling without gigs plus it’s super scary seeing everything grind to a halt around us because lives are at risk.
I don’t wanna get bogged down in details or the current situation though, what I wanna say is let’s smash this going forward. The time is gonna come for gigs again and we as bands need to step the fuck up please when it does. Venues have been lost, others are hanging on by a thread so let’s do it for them as soon as we can. Play for free to get people coming out again, if there is an entry charge then donate any takings to help the venues continue now their doors are back open. Promote really hard and keep that as a focus because now we know how much it hurts without shows we wanna make sure our scene is stronger & more protected in the future. Watch the other bands, support each other and be sure to book young bands to play on your gigs with inclusive & more diverse lineups cause it will be like starting over once shows are back so let’s make those shows the absolute best for everyone that they can be.
image via Dee
Dee (Writer, Photographer, Live Music Lover)
Going to a live gig was more than just heading out to see a band play. It was running into others who also love the live music scene and checking in with how they’re going, having a beer and settling into the night to let the music rip through your soul and was away life’s bullshit. You know the feeling you get when an awesome song comes on at home that makes you want to dance around your house? It’s like that, but the feeling becomes one of belonging when you are in a room full of people who love the same music and you’re all feeling it at the same time. When you’re seeing a band that puts out energy to the audience, the back and forth that builds from that interaction is unbeatable.
The first stage of lockdown was ok; it felt like it was temporary and everyone was in it together, everyone was doing something to support venues, watching gigs online and buying merch. But as time has gone on, it’s hard to keep supporting venues and bands as much as you want to because Covid life has brought so much other bullshit with it for a lot of people. Add to that that most of our communication is done in front of screen and by the time the weekend rolls in now, interacting with more video can get exhausting. Plus finishing a show and then you’re suddenly just drunk and hyped up with no where to go can be pretty shit. There’s no release like one that comes when you’re seeing a band at a venue.
I see live music still being a big thing in Melbourne’s future, but i don’t know what form it will take. My hope is that our beloved venues can get through this somehow and we can continue on as we were, but it also seems so long ago that we were able to hug or even be within 1.5 metres of each other that sweating against a room full of people seems incredibly strange now also.
We are humbled and thank you guys for giving us a perspective from inside the storm known as Covid Lockdown. We ache for normality to return and have that street party, the gig to end all gigs and basically catch up and get smashed with you all