In a city where live music has taken a real beating over the past decade or so, one suburb is defying the trend with a string of venues far outnumbering what other precincts have to offer. Whereas areas such as the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross once boasted numerous live music venues, it’s Marrickville that now has all the bragging rights.
The Factory, the Camelot Lounge, Lazybones, Gasoline Pony, the Red Rattler, the Bowlo and the Golf Club have established Marrickville as Sydney’s ‘music central’, and perhaps provide a formula that could well be duplicated elsewhere.
Larger venues such as The Factory and the Camelot Lounge have been able to take advantage of Marrickville’s relatively cheaper real estate and a semi-industrial setting, mostly free of the noise complaints that plague live music in nearby suburbs. The smaller venues also enjoy cheaper rentals and a sympathetic local council that is not overly obsessed with enforcing petty compliance. Many of the venues are owned and operated by genuine music lovers as opposed to corporate pub chains or colourful Kings Cross identities. That goes a long way to cultivating a creative and enduring music scene, as opposed to an entertainment policy totally governed by bar sales.
There’s also a great sense of community within the suburb’s diverse population, one that is amply represented by the Marrickville Bowlo and the lesser-known Marrickville Golf Club. The latter is somewhat of a well-kept secret, many people don’t even realise Marrickville has a golf course, but it’s home to a unique Sunday afternoon residency.
On Sunday, November 3, The Swinging Blades will clock up an incredible 10 years of Sunday arvo gigs at the Golf Club, no mean achievement in a city where a one-year residency is often regarded as a milestone. So how did it all begin? Not surprisingly with a game of golf as the band’s drummer, Evan Mannell explained.
“We were playing a bit of golf down there and the manager of the club spoke to us asking why we didn’t have jobs and how we had time to play golf in the middle of the week. When he found out we were musicians he said that he was keen to trial some music on a Sunday, to try and bring a bit of life to the clubhouse after the Sunday competition wrapped up. We were using vintage golf sticks and buggies and were kind of into that old-school golf aesthetic. Older style forged golf clubs are called “blades” due to their shape and we wanted to take our repertoire from the classic songbook of swinging standards, so the Swinging Blades was born.”
Over the last 10 years the band, which includes some of Sydney’s best-known jazz musicians, has built a solid following amongst both golfers and locals. They have also attracted a remarkable list of special guests including Emma Pask, Darren Percival, Dale Barlow, Brad Child, John Pochee and Dan Barnett. Vocalist Jane Irving was part of the original combo but relocated to NYC after a few years so they now feature singers such as Lily Dior, Tina Harrod, Elana Stone, Virna Sanzone and Pat Powell, to name just a few.
The longevity of the Blades’ Sunday gig recalls another epic music residency when Jackie Orszaczky held court at the Erskineville Hotel every Tuesday night, attracting numerous guest artists and providing inspiration for up and coming musicians. Evan points out how important it is for bands to play together regularly, not only for the benefit of the musicians themselves but to encourage a whole social experience around them.
“We really sound like a band, a certain stylistic thing that clicks when the original members get together. You only get that from playing together for a long time. We get the chance to build relationships and foster a really good thing in and around the club.”
The Swinging Blades celebrate 10 years at the Marrickville Golf Club (Wharf St Marrickville) on Sunday, Nov 3 from 3.30 pm. It’s free entry, child friendly and with swing dancing.