There’s much talk recently about making Sydney a 24-hour city, revitalising the night-time culture and asserting our role as one of the world’s leading cosmopolitan cities. The Olympics back in 2000 proved that this could be done, albeit driven by a unique one-off event and compacted into a period of only a few weeks.
Nevertheless, Sydney 2000 did provide us with a number of interesting lessons, one of them being that not everything needs to happen on the weekend. During that period, apart from the Games themselves, the city was abuzz with all kinds of entertainment, seven days a week. The influx of thousands of visitors obviously had a major effect but most Sydneysiders seemed to welcome the fact that the CBD in particular did not shut up shop at 6pm as it did during the normal working week.
Looking back even further there was a period during the 80s and 90s when live music thrived during the middle of the week. Many city and inner city pubs hosted long time residencies which often became legendary, packed out week after week. Jackie Orszaczky’s Tuesday night gig at the Rose Of Australia in Erskineville featured not only the cream of Sydney’s jazz and funk musicians, but was an inspiration for many young musicians who were often invited to sit in with the band.
In Kings Cross venues such as The Manzil Room, Round Midnight, The Kardomah Café and the Paradise Jazz Club all featured residencies and late night music during the week. Their weekends were no doubt their busiest period but there was still plenty of action Monday to Thursday. Pub wise, the Hopetoun Hotel, the Annandale, the Petersham and The Bridge, to name just a few, all featured strong mid-week gigs.
Poker machines, gentrification and the corporate buy up of many city and suburban pubs saw many of these gigs disappear and in the past decade, many other factors have seen the entertainment focus very much on the weekend. The binge culture, which eventually led to the current lockout laws, was very much a product of punters taking it easy during the week, bottling up their inhibitions and then unleashing, big time, on the weekend.
Obviously, most people work Monday to Friday and the weekend is the normal time to relax and let loose. Yet there is no good reason why night life, especially live music should be dead during the week, especially in a city the size of Sydney. The culture needs to change a bit although maybe it’s wishful thinking to imagine we can return to the halcyon days of some two to three decades ago.
It is however encouraging to see some venues are prepared to promote live music during the week. Clubs such as Venue 505 and Foundry 616 have a full mid-week program whilst bars such as Low 302 in Crown Street Surry Hills present groups such as Robert Susz’s Continental Blues Party on a Wednesday night playing from 9.30pm until late.
Residencies are a great way for bands to build up a following and whilst they sometimes take a few weeks to generate a regular crowd, once established they can often run for years. They need a sympathetic venue, one that is prepared to work with the band in building up the night, not sacking them after a week or two when they fail to attract the required crowd.
So why wait for the weekend before you go out and catch some live music, even if you have to work the next day. The atmosphere is often a lot more relaxed, the binge drinkers are usually absent and you are injecting life back into a city that is currently pretty much on life support.