WORDS: ADAM HOPKIN
In an attempt to curb antisocial and violent behaviour within the area, the boffins drawing up legislation in Australia’s New South Wales saw fit to address the issue with a broad and incredibly short-sighted masterstroke, crippling local venue and artists in the process, forcing a curfew of 1.30am on all venues in the affected region and hundreds closing their doors for good since the measures were implemented.
A committee into the music and arts economy of New South Wales condemned the devastating lockout laws, saying that the effects would result in nothing short of a ‘crisis’ impacting the music community from the grassroots scene to the national touring circuit.
“We have noticed a difference when we go over there over the last two or three years,” comments Greg Rietwyk, guitarist of Melbourne’s hottest punk export, Press Club. “It’s suffering as an industry, but it’s not suffering as an art form. There are plenty of bands out there that are never going to go away but the government needs to get behind it… by offering their weight behind venues. It seems that their interests are in the corporate agenda and not in the arts I think they fail to realise that they both support each other.”
“There are better ways to promote safe space venues and minimise violence,” clarifies the group’s vocalist Natalie Foster, “that’s not done by crushing the venue.” It’s this relentless creative ethic that fuels the creative industries the world over, and whilst most are condemned to scrutiny by life’s more conventional patrons, few are so openly quashed by monumental legislative forces.
“if anything you are going to be finding that counter-culture gets stronger…”
“It seems like a very knee jerk reaction. It doesn’t stop the scene”, sighs Greg before giving an insight into how by its very nature a counter-culture will thrive under this unique pressure. “There are still people putting on DIY shows, home-shows and there are still venues out there that are just outside of the lockout zone.”
“Aint nothing going to keep us down,” laughs Natalie, “I think that if anything you are going to be finding that counter-culture gets stronger in terms of what they are saying.” Whilst this may have been the breaking point for many an artist consumed by a famously brutal industry where delivering complete sincerity and innovation may gather lacking applause from an audience that may not even be there to see you. But as Press Club explains, the scene has been taken back to its pure, DIY roots, hurried by the spirit of rebellion and unrestricted expression. “It’s an unfortunate thing to happen because a lot of bands are going to get somewhat held back”, continues Greg. “But it is always going to have this opposing swing where artists will then try even harder to break out of that circle.”
For any artists being able to perform the material, they have painstakingly crafted on an international scale is the pinnacle of achievement, but the hierarchy is always respected with the home town basement shows always paving the way to success. But with venue closures being a common sight across the local level scenes, this could bring a new wave of artist that completely disregards their neighbouring creatives.
“Touring internationally has always been the end goal but I guess for us we have been touring Australia for a few years now and maybe we have just caught the end of the golden era…”
“I really hope that it doesn’t come to that”, Natalie continues, “Touring internationally has always been the end goal but I guess for us we have been touring Australia for a few years now and maybe we have just caught the end of the golden era.”
But with these sanctions seeing some signs of repeal as of September 2019, it seems the integrity in expressing human nature and emotions have succeeded with some level of normalcy now being able to return to the Australian touring circuit after years of damage, with Natalie arguing that now is the time to support the grassroots more than ever. “It’s harder in some places, particularly new south wales at the moment, but we are really lucky to have a solid following over there and it is still growing… I would always like to think that we would continue to go back there and play home country shows… We are definitely not taking it for granted.”