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Aussie artists
Welcome to Living in the Land of Oz

Howzat! Archive - July 11th 2012

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Howzat! was sitting at the MCG last Saturday, watching Richmond and Melbourne. "What are you doing after the game?" a friend asked. "I'm going across the road to see the Storm and then I'm heading to the Essendon game," I replied. "How good is Melbourne?" my friend smiled. I thought the same thing when I was seeing three world-class acts at the Empress last Thursday - Emma Heeney, Surrogate Turnip and Tim Reid. Your footy team might not always win - and last Saturday was a shocker - but there's always music. After the St Kilda shellacking, I bumped into three fellow Bombers supporters at the tram stop - they were off to Cherry, to see another great band, The ReChords. We bounced back pretty quickly.

The highlight of Saturday night's game was the live performance by Fremantle band San Cisco. The AFL's music initiative has been criticised by some - The Age's Greg Baum asked if they pulled out footballs and had a kick during a break at a Corner gig - but it's great to see a monolith such as the AFL embrace another part of our culture. Sport and music. Sometimes, the two things combine, like at the Community Cup, or an AFL game. In the end, it's all about the fan. One sportswriter recently pondered whether any AFL players could cross over to NRL. "They wouldn't want to," one online commenter replied, "because they couldn't handle playing in front of empty grandstands." Whether it's sport or music, Melbourne people are passionate. We're very lucky to live in Melbourne.

Howzat! thought about Melbourne last week while reading Clinton Walker's essay History Is Made At Night, Live Music In Australia ($14.95, Currency House). Clinton, who calls himself an art school drop-out and recovering rock critic, wrote the piece in light of the Tote closure, rally and re-opening. He ponders the optimum room for rock 'n' roll, quoting Keith Richards, who said "a perfect rock 'n' roll theatre would be a really large garage, made of brick, with a bar at the end". Clinton believes the best rooms hold between 300 and 3000 people. Melbourne is lucky to have all shapes and sizes, from the gentle giant, the Empress (which is celebrating its 25th birthday this month), to the mid-range Corner, Espy, Northcote and Hi-Fi, to the larger Palace, Forum and Palais (and, of course, Festival Hall and Rod Laver). Clinton quotes Peter Garrett, who said in 1984: "Every Australian band comes from a different pub, and it's there they define what they are about." As Paul Kelly told the MAX series Great Music Cities Of The World, "Sitting in the [Espy] front room, looking out over the bay, having a beer, what could be finer?"

During the Tote drama, Stephen Cummings wrote, "The Tote was a pub. The Tote is reopening. Pubs open and shut every week." That's true. Howzat! still misses The Old Greek Theatre and the Punters Club. But the modern versions are the Thornbury Theatre and the Regal Ballroom, and the Northcote Social Club. Clinton adds that "at the same time as the Tote shitstorm was going down in 2010, there was a good news story also going on in Melbourne", highlighting the emergence of Oakleigh's Caravan Club. That good news continues with the Caravan concept expanding to Elsternwick, with The Flying Saucer Club opening next month.

More should be written about venues. Dolores San Miguel's The Ballroom, covering the Crystal Ballroom era, was a start. And Persecution Blues: The Battle For The Tote (out now on DVD) is a great documentary. "The Tote debacle wasn't entirely futile," Clinton writes. "It was necessary to nip in the bud the erroneous link between live music and violence." He adds that "in all my four decades of gig-going I've seen very little violence, and the worst of it was backstage." The biggest challenge now, according to Clinton, comes from "development and gentrification". "There are plenty of suggestions as to potential policy," he writes. "Tax breaks for venues that produce cultural outcomes? Why not? Why doesn't APRA step up to lobby on this level?"

Clinton Walker's piece is part of the Platform Papers quarterly essays on the arts, which are available online. He concludes that "popular culture, it seems, is penalised for its very popularity sometimes I think popular music is penalised because it's just too much fun". Is it time for the music industry to get more serious? Responding to the AMID Power 50, the University of Tasmania's Charles Touber, a musician and promoter, posted a comment online: "The really interesting feature about who is 'so-called' powerful within contemporary music is why this industry has so little effective clout, and voice, when it comes to influence and lobbying strength at federal and state government level other industries of a similar size massively outperform contemporary music in getting the policy outcomes which will make a difference."

Aussie acts are on top of the singles and album charts.

Shout It Out REECE MASTIN (number one, debut)
Boom Boom JUSTICE CREW (24, debut)
Can You Feel It TIMOMATIC (25, debut)
You Won't Let Me KARISE EDEN (27)
Child 360 (30)
Sitting On Top Of The World DELTA GOODREM (32)
Into The Flame EP MATT CORBY (33)
Do It Like That RICKI-LEE (35)

My Journey KARISE EDEN (number one)
Cornerstone HILLSONG LIVE (two, debut)
The Story So Far KEITH URBAN (three)
The Ol' Razzle Dazzle MISSY HIGGINS (11)
The Temper Trap THE TEMPER TRAP (21)
Falling & Flying 360 (23)
Spirit Bird XAVIER RUDD (31)
Drinking From The Sun HILLTOP HOODS (34)

When The Moment Comes MIA DYSON
What You Wanna Do EVEN

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