Back in the 1970s anybody with a few dollars to spare and a bit of initiative could stage their own music gig. For a minimal amount you would hire a council hall, come to a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with the caretaker, put in your own speakeasy style bar, book two or three bands and rock’n’roll until the wee small hours. There was seldom a noise complaint, almost never a visit from the police and as long as you cleaned out the cans and vomit at the end of the night, ‘mum’ was the word.
These days you would never consider such an enterprise although the occasional ‘underground’ gig still slips under the bureaucratic radar. What we hear today is a constant cry that live music venues in Sydney are disappearing at an alarming rate, as pokies and an ongoing gentrification take over the traditional pubs and clubs where rock reigned supreme in the 70s and 80s. It’s great to see that councils such as Leichhardt and Sydney City are taking this issue seriously and looking at ways in which the live music scene can be reinvigorated.
However a lot of the focus seems to be directed at preserving the conventional pub rock venues. Maybe it’s time to look beyond the local old-style boozer and explore a brave new world of live music options. Already we are starting to see a movement in this direction with ventures such as the Record Crate in Glebe which combines a record shop with a restaurant and bar and a regular roster of rootsy rock and blues combos.
Flashback a few decades to the Maple Leaf in New Orleans and piano legend James Booker is the centre of attention at this popular uptown bar. As punters fill the tables in front of the stage and enjoy two or three drinks, their washing is going through the cycles in the bar’s busy back room laundromat. There’s a similar scenario at Sudsy Malone’s Rock ‘n Roll Laundry & Bar in Cincinnati where music lovers are arriving for the night, complete with a bulging bag of dirty laundry.
It’s certainly a concept that could be tested here and would be ideally suited to Leichhardt Council’s proposed ‘New Orleans’ strip on Parramatta Road in Annandale. Naturally a lot of the normal red tape needs to be removed but the idea of the multi-purpose music venue is definitely one that needs to be explored. That thirty minute wait at the local medical centre would be all the more palatable if you were entertained by a soothing string quartet or an arty neo-folk trio. Punk rock pizza has a nice ring to it as a Ramones covers band belts out sixty second songs at your local neighbourhood takeaway. Anywhere in fact – with enough room to accommodate a band and a captive audience at hand would be fair game and the only limit would be the imagination.
Live music, pubs and alcohol have always enjoyed a somewhat unholy alliance regardless of their immediate compatibility and maybe it’s time to look well beyond the square when it comes to fostering the local music scene. Who knows, in a few years time, we might see a long string of punters stretching way down Parramatta Road in the ‘New Orleans’ precinct, washing bags in hand, as they queue for a six band bill at the funky laundromat/bar/record shop/pizza takeway/medical centre that now occupies the site of the old Annandale Hotel.