High & Dry: Brisbane’s Booming Live Music Scene Comes To A Screeching Halt

Crowds of live music fans at a Grinspoon show at Fortitude Music Hall 08/11/2019 – shot by Luke Sangiorgio for Good Call Live

Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer

*Please note – all YouTube clips added to this article were selected by our writer and have been added as they relate to the feel of the article.

As I sit here with tears streaming down my face, I try to stifle them somewhat so my children don’t see them. Some of you may think I am being dramatic. But when live music is something that is deeply rooted into your very soul, the current happenings are like a huge hard slap in the face with a giant wet fish. That fish is COVID-19 or Coronavirus . 

Whilst first and foremost, it is of course understood and acknowledged that everyone’s health and well being is of the utmost importance. It is understood why we must take the actions we have been taking and why we must restrict outings and social gatherings. We clearly have no choice here. 

But, what happens to those who work in industries that can no longer function or trade or stay open? In this instance I look at the one I work in and the one that is a huge chunk of my very being; the music industry. 

Over the last few weeks we have seen an enormous amount of live music events being postponed or cancelled. Today I have seen several of my most beloved live music venues being closed until further notice. This hurts. Like a knife to my music loving heart. The hours upon hours, the sleepless nights, the money, the time, the effort, the love that goes into these live music events is immeasurable. For those who don’t put on events or who don’t put much thought into how they come about, well, they probably don’t really understand the depth of postponing or cancelling an event. The feeling is best compared to a glass shattering into a million tiny pieces on a live music venue’s sticky beer drenched floor. And even then, that doesn’t explain it in depth enough. 

So what happens to the bands, the musicians, the venue owners, the staff at live music venues, the sound tech, the lighting tech, the promoters, the live music photographers, the reviewers, the security guards and the punters who go out to see live music as a way and means of coping with this mad world we live in? I fall into several of the above mentioned categories and first and foremost, as a severe sufferer of anxiety and sometimes very poor mental health, live music is my medicine. It keeps me going. It keeps me happy. It keeps me alive. So what do we do now? 

The answer is not one that comes easily. In fact, is there even an answer at all? I mean, what CAN we do? We sit tight and wait for it to blow over so we can go out again. So that we can open our venues, book our gigs, reschedule our festivals, get back out and photograph events, get back out and stand on those sticky live music venue floors and stare up at the bands we adore on stage as our hearts glow with the love of live music. Until then. We wait. That’s all we can do. We wait. 

Sure, we can do what we can from home. Listen to music. Support our favourite bands as best we can by paying for their music, buying their merch, etc. But how can we even do that if we have no income? This just goes around in increasingly depressing circles. 

At a loss as to what to do and how to cope with my feelings around this, I chose to write this article. I realize it is not going to change anything or possibly even help at all. But other than music, writing is my therapy. And I only hope that perhaps in reading this, it somehow helps in some small way. Even if to just have a moment of agreeance and to let it all out and cry too. It’s ok to cry. 

I posted on Facebook about writing this article and asked people in the industry to reach out and give me a quote to add into my article. A chance for others to put in print how they feel about this; how it affects them directly. Thank you to all those who offered their thoughts.

“I’m hurting for the artists that have worked so hard for months or longer to have shows and tours cancelled for reasons so out of their control, and for those who have planned for so long and put in so much work behind the scenes to have releases or exciting news come out at this time and for it to be lost in the chaos. There’s such a strong feeling of helplessness and hopelessness – and with so much uncertainty it’s hard to work out where to go from here. We’re in the process of starting to plan new releases or book new tours months in advance, but other events are being postponed or cancelled for even further in advance – so we’re left feeling all so unsure of what we can do; it’s such an unfortunate stalemate.”Alyssa Bebbington of Yeah Sweet PR

“We’ve actually taken a big step back in the last 12 months perfecting our latest release. We made the hard decision early last year to step back from the stage and focus all our dedication on what we now call our new sound and best music to date. After coming out of the studio ready with our fresh new arsenal, we were scheduled to play at Ballistic Brewery March 21st with the likes of Like Thieves and Lagerstein as well as showcasing all of our new songs in their entirety. 

With all new music and multiple music videos ready at the helm, this global crisis has come at the worst possible time for us…..not to mention every other artist out there striving for that dream. It’s not going to stop us returning to the scene with a bang but with the lack of shows happening it’s going to be extremely tough to market our new material. But we will move forward thanks to the support of the local scene eg (Good Call live) social media, strong marketing and of course the fans. 

And if isolation is the answer than we will play that to our advantage, keep your eyes peeled in the near future for our first ever live streamed intimate concert. 

To sum it up all I can say is support each other, leave the competition in the past,we need to come together as a community and have each other’s back’s. Now is the time to show the world that music is the most effective medicine over all, because without music what’s the point of it all. 

Buy some merch, donate on Bandcamp, share your favourite local or global artists on social media. Let’s keep these wheels in motion. Much love Dill💚”  – Dylan Brann – Keys/Guitars/Vocals- The Silencio 

“Musicians, Fans, and general music lovers for years we have had the pleasure of these venues providing us with a safe and fun environment to enjoy music of all genres but now it is time to support them just like they have supported us over the years. Support Live Music Venues or you may lose them FOREVER” – Alex Millsey Miller – Guitar – Virtues 

Alex has set up a gofundme to support our live music venues during this tough time, to donate click below: 

Support Australian Music Venues During Coronavirus

“Closing venues and cancelling gigs and tours is having a detrimental and potentially long-lasting effect on the scene and the industry we all love so much. Now is the time for us to rally together and get through this shitstorm.” Natalie Blacklock – Writer & Instagram Queen for Good Call Live

“So as far as Brisbane Unites goes. Absolutely gutted. After being part of the Brisbane heavy music scene for 25 plus years, it felt really good to use music to help. In saying that we will run the show 1 way or another. 

As far as PistonFist goes. We will kick on. I’m glad we did get to play a couple of fundraisers. To help a little bit. It does feel like our momentum will be slowed, but we will fight on.”Geoffro O’Leary – Guitar & Vocals – PistonFist / Owner – Brisbane Bodyart 

“This time last week I was at a site lighting meeting with CMC planning our layout and I was preparing for a week away to be on the festival. 

Today I’m unemployed with no guarantees that I’ll be able to go back to work in the next 6 months.

Suicide is the biggest killer in our industry, people are at there lowest right now. We all need to support each other more than ever before. Otherwise we might not have an industry to come back to.

The industry lives on a fragile balance and profit margins are thin, especially with local festivals. This is what we’re in danger of losing….. local festival owners can’t sustain such a lull. Especially if the world is going into recession. Even when they give us back our right to work again, there’s not going to be alot of money around to start again from scratch.” – Clydesdale Scott Horseington – Creative Productions 

“With the massive impact COVID-19 has had on the entertainment industry, personal isolation has made us all have to change the way we work, all bookings and show promotions, events and tours in the works have all been put to a dramatic stop. The not knowing when we can go back to work or if there will be much of an industry left.

But what it has done is made as all look at how we can keep going work and unite even when we can’t be in a room together, I think that the more we can keep the community support between band members, bands promoters and everyone in the industry, the better chance we have to work together and rebuild. Because that’s what COVID- 19 has done, hit a reset button on our industry.

As a band we are working on all new ways to write, create, record and get ready to come back. But it’s the support that we all give each other that makes it matter.” – Damien Kechagius – Bass – Torizon / Manager – 44 Calibre Promotions / Event Coordinator – It’s Alive! 

“I really haven’t spoken to too many people yet but from what little I’ve seen its the obvious sudden shock of everything getting canned and people a bit lost. You know though everyone will pull together and make it work. Just have to think a bit outside the box.” – Luke Sangiorgio – Live Music Photographer – Good Call Live @la.sangiorgio.live

“Simple Plan wrote a song called This Song Saved My Life.  Every time I hear it I think of how many times music kept me sane,made me smile when I didn’t want to,laugh when I wanted to cry, cry when it reminded me of a lost friend and smile again at memories a song brought up that were buried  under so much useless crap. People need to remember how powerful music is and what it means to them. And make a promise to support the amazing souls that dedicate their lives to this magical art. When life starts to return to normal remember how music kept you sane through this chaos and get out there and support our local musicians. Music is Life.” – Tracey Moyle – Music Maven Events – Writer and Online Editor – Good Call Live  

The long and ever growing list of shows, events and festivals being postponed or cancelled includes Download, Bluesfest, Under The Southern Stars, Mojo Burning, Brisbane Unites – Bushfire Fundraiser, Unleash The Elephant, Big Pineapple Festival, The Darkness, Pixies. The list goes on. 

And the list of live music venues temporarily closing grows by the day also; Crowbar, Netherworld, The Foundry, Greaser. Again, the list goes on. 

This isn’t just a small thing. And although we know it is only temporary, this hurts more than this article could even possibly begin to explain. 

Please check on your mates in the music industry. A lot of us are not OK. Mental health is an ongoing issue in the world. And at times like this, it is even more prevalent. This virus is affecting so many, in so many ways. Reach out and help where you can. And if you need help, reach out for that too. Because in the famous words of Mr Ben Lee; ‘We’re All In This Together.’

There is help if you need it, please reach out:

Support Act
Beyond Blue 
Black Dog Institute 
Sane Australia 

There is of course always a positive to everything. As much as this hurts, it is not all doom and gloom. Hopefully the time in isolation will give bands and musicians time to write more music and even a topic to write songs about. And perhaps force people who work to hard to take a break (though I understand no income makes it extremely difficult for some). There is a light at the end of every tunnel. This article is not intended to be something to depress you further. Rather to reflect on the current happenings and to remind you, we truly are all in this together and we will come out the other side, stronger and ready for more of what we all do best; music, live music.

In love and music, The Colourful Writer xx

One comment

  1. […] In March 2020, I was completely lost and heartbroken by the loss of live music in Brisbane. I didn’t know how to cope. So I did something that always makes me feel better. I sat down with my laptop and started to write. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write. But it just flowed out of me like a tap turned on full blast. I wrote an article called ‘High & Dry: Brisbane’s Booming Live Music Scene Comes To A Screeching Halt’. You can read it HERE.  […]

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