Music At The Railway Is BACK


Last night the Brunswick Blues Shooters played at the Railway Hotel at 800 Nicholson St North Fitzroy (near the old railway line that isn't there anymore).

It has been around 21 months since there has been live music at night at the Railway - it was brought to a horrible stop in Sep 2009 when license conditions saying the pub had to employ security guards when music played were enforced.

This was a peaceful pub with a peaceful crowd who enjoyed listening to blues and roots while having a meal and a chat, and maybe having a dance. Music ran on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The Brunswick Blues Shooters had a residency on Thursday nights, so have lost around 80 gigs due to the licensing madness.

And now the Railway's licence has been fixed! The supposed 24 hr turnaround licence-fixing process only took several months, but it has happened.

A really nice thing about music at the Railway is that you can stand right next to the musicians if you want to, and watch them playing close-up. The steel guitar, for example, or the double bass - both part of the Brunswick Blues Shooters line-up.

So maybe drop in at the Railway on a Thursday night and have a drink and a meal and listen to some music. The food is traditional family Italian cooking, and it's great.

Cheers - Robin

Liberal Nationals Coalition

The Panics play at the Tote, at the SLAM anniversary gig, Feb 23.

It's only taken me about 5 months, but I've finally updated this site about the Coalition winning power last November. Perhaps I was depressed.

But I shouldn't be, because their policy is good for music. They haven't acted on any of it yet, but circumstances have been rather exceptional, with the floods here in Victoria.

I've started up a new page about the Coalition and their policy, find it here: Coalition.

I've also launched a new links page for 2011, and the couple of articles on it at the moment are worth reading - one is about the past year since the SLAM rally, and the other is about the Tote finally having its liquor licence updated - most people probably don't realise that the Tote has had the same licence conditions that drove the former owner out of business, since it re-opened, until now.

So all in all, there have been a lot of changes in attitudes of officials, and doors opened for negotiations, which are very valuable. And live music has been put firmly on the political agenda. But only 3 hotels have actually had their licence conditions changed since the SLAM rally - the George in Hamilton, the Lomond in East Brunswick, and now the Tote.

Lots of venues and potential venues are not hosting music because they would have to hire security guards. Acts starting out can't get gigs as easily on quiet nights. Let's hope the Baillieu government sticks to its promises and changes this situation.

~ Robin

Funniest. Speech. Ever.

I’m not sure whether it's comedy or tragedy, but either way you MUST read about the speech made by the ALP's Matt Viney, in Parliament.

We got the lowdown on how he knows there are problems at live music venues, because FORTY YEARS AGO he went to a Spectrum concert and saw—nudge, nudge—people passing around a BIG CIGARETTE! For more about the speech, plus the speech itself, look here: Matt Viney's petition speech.

Then there's the Best Speech Ever, given by Greens MLC Sue Pennicuik after she presented the Live Music Petition to Parliament. Look here: Petition speech by Sue Pennicuik. Sue's onto it.

In fact I've created a whole new section on the Greens on this website, find it here: The Greens.

The FairGo4Live Music petition was handed to Parliament recently, hence the above speeches. I’ve done a page about it: Live music petition

Roll-back continues (slowly)
Last Friday we had the very good news The Lomond Hotel in East Brunswick had its "high risk" conditions more-or-less rolled back. They still have to provide security guards if there is "entertainment" after 12.30am, but that's not a problem because their music is over by then.

But what is "entertainment" supposed to mean, and are other venues going to have "music" changed to "entertainment" on their licence conditions?

What about stand-up comics, or maybe mime artists… will these be requiring security guards in the near future?

Maybe as well as S.L.A.M. we'll be seeing some new groups joining the campaign, like…

S.L.A.C. Save Live Australian Comedy
S.L.A.T.N. Save Live Australian Trivia Nights
S.L.A.P.R. Save Live Australian Poetry Readings
S.L.A.M.A. Save Live Australian Mime Artists

I'll stop right here, and hopefully this is just a little rant and common sense will prevail.

Kate's article
In a busy week for the campaign, there was also Kate Shaw's article published in The Age, 15/4. It's well worth a read—find it here: Music venues still threatened as Tote lesson not learnt

Cheers ~ Robin

Roll-Back Begins

The George Hotel, Hamilton

The roll-back that shouldn't even be happening has begun. One premises has had the liquor licence condition requiring security guards any time music plays lifted… the George Hotel in Hamilton. Word came through to the music crew late Monday.

It shouldn't be happening because the onus to remove a "guilty until proven innocent" licence condition, that says if you have music in your joint you must hire expensive security guards, should not be on the owner.

There should be no link between music and "high risk" conditions in the first place, and the Government and Liquor Licensing are showing no sign of removing this link.

Moreover, it has been 6 weeks now since the Government recommended to Liquor Licensing that there be more discretion in the crowd control requirements, as a result of the Live Music Accord, and it has taken this long for one place to be successful?

Not only that, only 6 businesses have applied, of which only 4 are eligible for the exemption, out of 700 venues with the high risk conditions on them—mainly because the process, while free, is difficult, daunting and not guaranteed of success.

Also, this roll-back is only for the security guards requirement, not surveillance cameras, as this is all the Live Music Accord covers—The George in Hamilton still has to provide expensive cameras on "all entrances and exits, bars and entertainment/dance floor areas" if they have music. Look up their licence here.

I'm not saying this is necessarily a problem for them—for all I know they may have these in place already. It's just that as things are, this condition stays on all the affected venues, who may only want to have a folk singer play to a mature group, and CCTV is an expensive set-up that may well discourage a venue from putting on music.

John Brumby and The Tote
That John Brumby and Richard Wynne (the Tote's local MP) should imply to the press they contributed to the Tote reopening, by attending the announcement and dishing out platitudes about how they support live music, is galling in the extreme, when you consider their inaction. See this article in mess+noise: Tote Reopening: A Brumby Photo Op?

This is how Quincy McLean, SLAM organiser, described them on Monday, before news about The George came in:

"They've broken the legs of all these venues and have promised to give out pairs of crutches that no one has yet received."

Well, one venue now has crutches.

I'm looking forward to SLAM's 'how to vote' cards, coming to a polling booth near you, in November's election.


Relevant links
By George! A licensing win, but only six bother to apply
Here's jeers to Brumby's latest liquor moves

The Tote LIVES

So it wasn't all in vain (the Tote protest above).

This afternoon at around 2pm it was announced the Tote will re-open in 6 weeks.

The new owners, Andrew Portokallis and Jon Perring, will still be subject to the same draconian licence conditions as the former owner, Bruce Milne, but intend to apply to have these removed when they take over—a luxury only possible after the efforts of numerous music negotiators and of all the people who attended the Tote rally and the SLAM rally.

It should be noted that a few venues have already applied to have these conditions removed, but Liquor Licensing is bogging their applications down in unrelated red tape, and none of them have been successful yet.

Also, that the "guilty until proven innocent" licence conditions are still on licenses at all, with the onus on the licensee to act to remove them, says a lot about the inaction of John Brumby and his Government.

But it's good news! And bands will be back. More soon.

Cheerily yours - Robin

Easter News

photo © Carbie Warbie

Yesterday a group of musicians spanning many generations handed Greens arts spokeswoman Sue Pennicuik a petition signed by 22,000 people, which asks the Government to remove the link between live music and high-risk liquor licence conditions.

Ms Pennicuik (the other Sue) will present it to the Parliament next week.

Here's the press release from S.L.A.M and Fair Go 4 Live Music:

Over 20,000 Victorians demand that ‘high-risk’ conditions be de-linked from live music.
12.30pm Parliament House, Melbourne

Since the closure of The Tote Hotel in mid-January, the Fair Go 4 Live Music petition has been collecting signatures from music lovers all around Victoria, calling on the State Government to overturn the link between live music and ‘high risk’ conditions on liquor licenses for live music venues.

Melbourne’s musicians and music lovers marched through the city streets for the SLAM Rally on February 23rd and it’s time to return to the steps of Parliament with the delivery of the petition to the Legislative Council on Wednesday April 7th 2010 by various decades of well-known Victorian musicians.

The Victorian musicians who will be presenting the Fair Go 4 Live Music petition to Parliament are:

1930s – Harold Frith
1940s – Mike Rudd
1940s – Ross Wilson
1960s – Jon Von Goes
1960s – Clare Bowditch
1970s – Kram
1970s – Angie Hart
1980s – Dan Sultan
1980s – Evelyn Morris

Despite the signing of the Live Music Accord with the State Government, the link between live music and ‘high risk’ still exists. More disturbingly, no venues have had their high risk conditions removed since the signing of the Accord. The music industry and the public want to see real action on this issue. We want action, not just Accords. The threat to Victoria’s vibrant live music culture remains in place.

The 22,000 signatures attest to the public support of live music. SLAM, FG4LM and Music Victoria will redouble their efforts to bring this issue to the attention of the public.

SLAM petition makes it to Parliament - story on triple j
Musos take fight to Parliament - The Age

Remove Sue MacLellan campaign
At the end of March I put up a new page on this website… Remove Sue campaign.

There has now been word the Government are restructuring arrangements for liquor licensing, but it's still possible MacLellan may remain in her role for another year, and every week that goes by with her in charge, more damage is done to music venues and the music industry. Please consider campaigning in some way to make sure she is removed from her position as soon as possible.

New Facebook page
I've now set up a Facebook page… Music Doesn't Make You Violent, to help publicise this website and the issues. Please fan yourself!

Articles and letters
I've also added an Articles and letters section to the website, primarily for writing not published elsewhere online. There's one article so far, by the Reverend Canon John Fowler, about how our pubs are essential training grounds for musicians: Pubs Give ‘Live’ Line to Local Bands.

Please drop me a line if you would like me to publish an article or letter for you.

More articles
Two other great articles have appeared. One is Labor's HOT Seats can save Live Music's Universities, by Martin Cooper. It includes a moving description of a music session at the Lomond Hotel, where both kids and adults learned from experienced musos.

The other is in the March AudioTechnolgy magazine (no 73), page 32: Live music shall overcome… someday. It concludes by saying to sound engineers: "Remember, it's very difficult to master the art of a live mix if there are no venues to practise in".

That's it for now

Cheers - Robin

Last St Pat's Fest At Dan O'Connell

Dan oconnell hotel

Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day, and like the past 100 years, there will be celebrations at Carlton's Dan O'Connell Hotel, which is known for its Celtic and folk music. Thousands of people come each year to party in the park next to the pub, and the event has the support of police, residents and the Melbourne City Council.

However this year's may be the last, because Liquor Licensing Director Sue MacLellan will only give the event a 10pm liquor licence rather than the usual 1am licence, which makes it financially unviable. Worse, without income from this annual event the hotel business will not be as healthy as it was, apparently… see the Dan’s pages for more on this.

The Hotel’s manager Toby Kingsley says "Crowd behaviour has been exemplary in the past" and that "the director of liquor licensing has insisted on maintaining a draconian approach to live music venues while many violent inner-city nightclubs continue to trade unabated".

Read about this in Last St Patrick's at Dan O'Connell (The Age 4/3) and on the Dan's website: The last ever St Pat’s Day?

You may wish to join Facebook group Save St Patrick's Day at the Dan O'Connell.

And come along to St Pat's at the Dan! But be early… it finishes at 10 o'clock.

~ Robin

Police Raid And Stories

I found the following story on blues guitarist Martin Cooper's website recently… Death by Centimetres - All-out Attack on Live Music.

It's about a raid by gun-carrying, plainclothes police on a peaceful Brunswick bar at 10.30pm, to stop a band playing.

I've set up a new Stories page on this website, with links to this story and others, where the music has been stopped. They make sad reading, as far as I am concerned… the ability to go out to a small, personal venue and play or listen to music is so important to so many people.

One thing about the Brunswick raid above that I find incredible is that it happened only five days before the SLAM rally. This was only four days before the Live Music Accord was signed and well after the Government began having discussions with music representatives. Guess I have been naive in thinking there might have been some common sense afloat.

John Brumby
I have updated my page about John Brumby, and also my page about a letter he gave MPs to sign and send out about the Tote. They are here: John Brumby page and Brumby letter page.

This website
You may be interested to know that the State Library of Victoria is now archiving this website on a regular basis, along with some other relevant sites, for their collection on this music issue, in their permanent collection of online publications. It's nice to know it's all being recorded for posterity.

Till the next time,

~ Robin

Nightclub Violence And A Big Lunch

I want to mention this article, which is about some nightclub violence last weekend - 'Coward act': teen left with permanent scarring after nightclub glassing

I see the 19 year-old victim is from Mornington, which is a very long way from the club in inner-Melbourne South Melbourne.

I'd like to make the point that the kids in the outer suburbs and beyond don't have many places to go these days, because the suburban and outer-suburban venues have mostly been taken over by gaming.

Also, the current liquor licensing is going to make it progressively harder to find a safe place for a night out, because the small, safe venues who have consistently put culture ahead of mega-dollars, and so have a narrow profit margin, will not be able to survive the draconian conditions, fees and fines (word is that venues are being fined harshly for something like a security guard not filling his time sheet in properly).

See this article in yesterday's Age: Cultural events hard hit by bureaucratic regulations

And meanwhile, the big clubs march on.

The Big Lunch
I call on the Government to address two things at tomorrow's Big Lunch (amongst all the other things):

1. Music venues in inner, middle and outer suburbs, and the country, be actively supported so kids don't all head straight into the city and into dangerous clubs and surrounding streets.

2. Remove the draconian liquor license fee increase a venue cops if they have a single infringement, such as a noise fine, the year before. I have updated my Fees page with information on this. We all know a noise fine can come from a single ridiculous complaint, with no opportunity to challenge it… while I'm at it, fix this too.

I don't know what will be on the menu at The Big Lunch, but I suspect if I was attending I would not feel like eating.


The Tote Closes

The Tote Collingwood
So today the publican at The Tote announces The Tote is closing. He says the liquor license conditions make it impossible to keep going.

Apparently the State Government believes that the MUSIC at The Tote could cause the type of violence found at CBD nightclubs, because the draconian conditions on The Tote’s license only come into effect if there is live music. What a joke.

Here’s the press release from Bruce Milne, publican:

It’s last drinks at the Tote. This weekend.
I know it’s sudden. I didn’t plan it to be like that.
I can’t afford to keep fighting Liquor Licensing. The “high risk” conditions they have placed on the Tote’s license make it impossible to trade profitably. I can’t afford the new “high risk” fees they have imposed. I can’t afford to keep fighting them at VCAT. I can’t renegotiate a lease in this environment.
So, come into the Tote this weekend to say farewell to the sad staff and to feel the sticky carpet for the last time.
I don’t believe the Tote is a “high risk” venue, in the same category as the nightclubs that make the news for all the wrong reasons. Despite being on a rough little corner of Collingwood, the Tote has had very, very few incidents. As a local police officer once said, “The Tote’s the quietest pub in the area.” (!).
It’s not dumb luck that the Tote has escaped serious violence. I believe the business has been run responsibly. People don’t come to the Tote to fight. They come because they have a passion for music and love to be in an historic venue that reeks of that same passion.
The Tote is (sorry, was) an important cornerstone of Melbourne’s rich and diverse music community. It’s too late to save the Tote but not too late to try and save other inner city venues that are feeling the same pressures.
I know the sudden closure affects a lot of people. Most importantly, the hard-working staff that are being forced onto the dole queue. And the bands and artists that have had their gigs pulled from under them.
Anyway, I don’t want to get maudlin (or viciously angry). The era of the Tote is over. If you love the place, come and have a beer with us this weekend.

Bruce Milne

So The Tote is seen as a “high risk” venue. Funny, I felt totally safe at the Tote… I think because it had music. Would I go into one of those yucko pubs on a corner somewhere, those ones with no music? Naah - I wouldn’t feel safe.

~ Robin