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Howzat! Archive - April 3rd 2013

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Live music in Melbourne is a billion dollar industry, according to the Live Music Census 2012. The report - compiled by Music Victoria, the City of Melbourne and NMIT - landed just as Howzat! was pondering the live scene. After the March madness, have you got any money left to see a local band? We've just enjoyed the biggest touring month ever. Last week in Melbourne, for example, you could have seen Springsteen, The Stooges, Wilco and Paul Simon. But are so many international shows a good thing for the local scene? Do they take up venues, dollars, the airwaves and editorial space?

The census, which was conducted by more than 100 student volunteers, shows that punters are spending nearly twice as much on concert tickets at large venues ($192 million a year) than they are at small venues ($99 million). As well as ticket sales, the census estimates that gig-going generates an additional $747 million of spending on drinks, food, merchandise and transport. Most of this spend is at small venues ($541 million).

The Caravan Club recently celebrated the "Carnival of Suburbia". But the inner city dominates the live scene. Just 28 per cent of Melbourne's live venues are located in the suburbs, and they attract only 13 per cent of the total number of annual gig-goers.

How many gigs do you go to? According to the census, the average punter attends five shows a month. We go more often to gigs than we attend sport - only movies have more repeat visitors. On a typical Saturday night, nearly 100,000 people are at a gig in Melbourne; 900 musicians and 740 DJs are playing, while 237 production staff and 2730 venue staff are working. The punters spend $745,000 getting in, and a further $3.7 million on drinks, food, merchandise and transport.

Many music fans have just visited Austin, Texas for the annual SXSW festival. Austin claims to be "the live music capital of the world". But figures show that Melbourne has more venues. Austin has one "core" live music venue per 9425 residents, while Melbourne has one venue for every 8915 residents. APRA figures show that Melbourne has 370 active venues (Sydney has 215); the census claims there are more than 460 Melbourne venues. The report concludes: "The key findings not only confirm that Melbourne is Australia's centre of popular music live performance, but that it can clearly take its place as one of the world's great music cities."

What do you do when you're suffering Springsteen withdrawals? Too much Bruce is never enough, so Howzat! is eager to check out Laughing Outlaw's 22-track tribute, I Hear You're From Australia, My Name's Bruce Too. The title is what Bruce said to label boss Stuart Coupe when Stuart met him in Paris in 1981 (and a reference to a Monty Python sketch). The album includes Anne McCue doing Born To Run, Bryan Estepa (Brilliant Disguise), Emma Swift (Secret Garden) and Michael Carpenter and Perry Keyes (Where The Bands Are), and also comes with Stuart's 1981 Roadrunner Magazine article, which he says is "all about seeing and interviewing Bruce for the first time and what it means to be a rock 'n' roll fan."

"You left me dreaming of another place." So sings Philippa Nihill in Spaces, the opening track on the Underground Lovers' new album, Weekend (out Friday on Rubber Records). After a decade of inaction, the Undies reunited for 2010's Homebake. It was the first time the original lineup - Vince Giarrusso, Glenn Bennie, Maurice Argiro, Richard Andrew and Philippa - had played together since the '90s.

Weekend is the band's first album in 14 years, with Vince referring to "all these pitstops" in Riding (a glorious tribute to the Go-Betweens). Most comebacks are ill-advised. But as Vince sings here, "It was meant to be." Weekend finds a band so confident and assured, delivering an album that is thrilling and vibrant. Instead of comparing it to past works, it has you thinking only of the here and now. If this were the debut album from a new band, record companies would be salivating and critics would be gushing. Underground Lovers still create glorious soundscapes, but Weekend is also tight and focused. They can swing from delicate and dreamy to direct and dominant; a whisper one minute, a wall of sound the next. This is also going to be a great record live. Underground Lovers (or undergroundLOVERS, as they like to write it) launch Weekend at the Corner on Saturday, 20 April.

It's been a reasonable first quarter. After three months of 2013, four Aussie albums have topped the charts (Flume, Nick Cave, Hillsong and Birds of Tokyo), the best start to a year since 2004. During the same period last year, just one Aussie album (Hilltop Hoods) hit number one. Overall, 27 local albums have reached the Top 40 this year (compared to 18 for the first three months of 2012). Six of these albums have hit the Top 10 (seven in 2012). No Aussie singles have gone to number one in 2013 - the same result as the first quarter last year. Thirteen homegrown hits have reached the Top 40 (10 last year), but just one has cracked the Top 10 (Birds of Tokyo's Lanterns). By this stage last year, six Aussie singles had hit the Top 10.

Dream of Flying NEDA
You're The Cops, I'm The Crime DAVEY LANE

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