Melbourne is the capital of the most progressive state in Australia, we have a diverse mix of cultures and languages, our food and drink scene is unparalleled and (aussie rules) footy is a religion. But for me, it’s our awesome music scene that really defines the cut our collective jib.
You can see it in our listening habits. While ad revenue continues to decline for commercial radio, community radio stations are thriving. People are not only tuning in to Triple R, PBS, SYN, 3CR, and the deadly 3KND, they put their money where their mouth is by subscribing and donating in droves.
I’m what you might call a hobby muso. I play passable drums in Tarcutta, an instrumental three-piece that always needs more rehearsal. We have been playing together – a lawyer, a gardener and a journalist – for more than 15 years and trodden the sticky stages of many great past and present small venues in Melbourne. Places like Bar Open, The Old Bar, The Empress, The Tote.
Sometimes (ok, quite often) bandmembers at Tarcutta gigs outnumber audience members. You may or may not be into our music but that a band like us can still get a gig in the first place shows just how strong, diverse and alive the music scene is here. Or rather, was.
The COVID-19 crisis has been challenging for Melburnians on many fronts. We lost our dining scene, we lost the footy and we lost our live music. The last time Tarcutta played was at the Leadbeater Hotel in Richmond – it was Friday the 6th of March, 2020. We didn’t know then what was coming. A couple of days before the show I’d been working as a travel journalist in Canberra, where my embarrassed elbow-bumps were met with gentle scorn. How that’s changed.
As we cautiously approach the easing of restrictions I worry for all those small Melbourne venues. While there has been some promising support from the State Government these places are part of an ecosystem. An ecosystem that, if disrupted for too long, may never recover. I hope that’s not the case. In the meantime, I’m posting this live recording of my band’s last gig. The style won’t suit everybody and the musicianship is definitely questionable but the tunes are original and Melbourne-made. On the upside, Tarcutta may benefit from a COVID normal where audience restrictions come into place: come and see us play, our gigs are guaranteed low numbers.