Staying positive about        the live music scene

January 23rd, 2021Staying positive about the live music scene

IF you’re a musician you definitely know how abysmal last year was for getting out and showcasing your music. And if you think it was bad in the capital cities, spare a thought for the people operating in regional areas like here.

Furthermore, if you’re a young musician trying to get some traction, then the Central Highlands could well be a doubly frustrating place to try and cultivate your craft.
Setbacks such as venues closing down, limited opportunities for rehearsal spaces and difficulty making connection with other musicians just add to the general malaise. But as far as the local scene goes, there may be reason for optimism regarding 2021. The opportunities are out there on the horizon, just like COVID vaccines. It’s just a matter of when they are going to kick in and get things moving again. Gotta keep positive, right?
Abby Ashmore, 19, is a singer-songwriter and guitarist based in Ballarat. She is involved with three bands, including Grove, and has recently taken on a role as a youth support worker at Hepburn Shire Council.

“For regional areas in general, it has always been quite tricky being a young person and having creative projects because there is little access to things like rehearsal rooms and recording. But there is a strong music community here that is willing to support each other.
“There are lots of budding musicians and there are going to be some good things happening. There just needs to be a little bit of work done so we will be able to have access to the same resources that a lot of metro areas do.”
Pyramid Noise, below, have been together for about two years now and are well known around the area. After the setbacks of the last several months singer and guitarist Ciarán Harraghy, 17, is eager to perform again.
“Before COVID we were going pretty well. We had quite a lot of opportunities and were getting really comfortable with playing. We were playing mostly at The Palais and also small school gigs. We don’t have any solid plans yet but we are definitely looking to get out there and play as soon as things get good and we can rehearse again.”
Marlon Toner-McLachlan, 19, aka Marlon T, is comfortable with keyboards, bass, guitar, trombone and vocals. He understands well the limitations of making music in the area.

“In a shire such as this I think it is really hard in a lot of ways for young people to connect with each other because everyone is so spread out. I have quite a few mates in Castlemaine and over there the scene is quite a bit bigger. You’ve got venues that are willing to take on younger bands. Whereas here, at the moment we’ve only got The Palais.”
At this point in time The Palais-Hepburn is one of the last private venues standing but they have held alcohol-free shows to support musicians just starting out, as manager Richard Fanale explains.
“We are doing all we can to continue new and old live music and the all-ages events we’ve had in previous years went really well. FReeZA have said they are going to get back to me again to program three or more events in the coming months subject to health restrictions.”
The FReeZA program is a youth development program providing opportunities for young Victorians to enjoy artistic events that are drug-, alcohol- and smoke-free in supervised venues.
Hepburn Shire Council has two FReeZA committees which cover the Creswick and Clunes area and the Trentham and Daylesford districts. All the musicians featured here have spoken highly of the program.
Council spokesperson Adam Perrett said the council was currently in the process of developing its next Youth Engagement Strategy, which coincided with the council plan.
“We’re currently consulting young people and we are sure that creating spaces for art and performance will be an important element of that consultation. Hepburn Shire Council’s FReeZA program called Octave will be back in term one.
“We held online events during lockdown last year and the young people are looking forward to performing to an audience again. In November, Octave also ran an online training session with The Push Inc to help young musicians manage their band.
“With the unpredictability of live performance with COVID-19, we’re also hoping to work closer with musicians regarding studio recordings to produce work they can promote and sell online.”

Above, Grove with from left, Abby Ashmore and Matthew McEgan with Fletcher Wragg and Joshua Knight not pictured.

Below, Pyramid Noise, with from left, Ciarán Harraghy, Lachy Taylor and Liam Mrsic (partly obscured on drums)

Words: Tony Sawrey | Images: Supplied

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