FANGZ bassist Jameel Majam discusses the importance of small to medium music venues as the band prepares to release new music.
The Excelsior Hotel, The Annandale Hotel, The Gaelic Club, Frankie’s Pizza, Q Bar, Spectrum, Brighton Up Bar and Hideaway Bar.
These are all venues I played from the age of 17. So where are they now? Well, I choose not to subject myself to the sad retelling of these stories. I’m sure a couple of them are cool wine bars, restaurants, office blocks, and I hear one of them is going to be the site of a reunion for scene pop band Metro Station or something along those lines.
I should start by saying – I love live music. If a week goes by that I don’t see a band play live, I feel incomplete, like I haven’t had my morning coffee. Recently, if a week goes by that I haven’t seen a band, I’m overcome with a feeling of guilt. How can I continue to play in a band and not support the scene myself? Especially when now is a time when venues need us most. In the last month, we lost HiWay (formerly Hideaway) and the Oxford Tavern. Whatever the circumstances, something dawned on me.
We just lost two more small to medium-capacity rooms. Rooms that teenage me counted on to go out on a whim and give my terrible rock n roll band and our 15-minute set a chance. I remember playing band competitions where you won if you brought the most people. Luckily the other people in my band had friends. Eventually, we were given a chance to play real shows and that all started at The Excelsior Hotel. The Excelsior Hotel was the site of Radio Birdman’s first public gig in 1974. That place.
We went from supporting local bands to eventually selling out our first headliner in that venue. We built our whole (be it small) following around the Excelsior – it was our stomping ground. The place we cut our teeth.
In recent times I watched younger bands do this at Frankie’s Pizza. It’s such a cool thing to watch a band grow from the first show opening slot, where they may play three covers and an original song that sounds really similar to one of the covers… Then a year later, that same band could be headlining Frankie’s and absolutely owning the stage.
Australia is home to some of the greatest bands in the world, and I think this is because we get the reps in. We have a healthy live circuit, and we play, we watch, and we learn. However, this only happens if we continue to have grassroots venues receiving support from punters, artists, and government bodies.
With the loss of so many venues, it would be easy to say, “live music is dead” or “the scene used to be…”, but we need to stop doing this. If you say something enough, people believe it to be true. It’s not. Countless venues need your support and need you to be championing them. The newly reopened Lady Hampshire is back as a dedicated live music venue.
Crowbar tirelessly put on some of the best shows in this country, The Duke, where you can walk in most nights and discover your new favourite band, Moshpit, The Lansdowne, House Of Music and Booze, Vic On The Park, Mary’s Underground, The Vanguard, Oxford Art Factory, Waywards, The Alley, Lazybones, The Great Club, Jolene’s, Shady Pines, The Chippo and probably more places opening as I write this.
So next time you and your mates are discussing the latest DZ, King Gizz or Amyl And The Sniffers record whilst eating some overpriced Tex Mex - maybe consider grabbing the bill and heading down to the local gig hole and giving the next emerging artist a chance to ‘wow’ you. After all, everyone has to start somewhere.
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FANGZ will be dropping their new single, Fine Without You, on Friday, 28 April.