Rant in B-Minor
This past week I’ve been spending my time in the trendy inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. Last weekend I flew down with some bands I play in for a show at a bar in musical hotspot Fitzroy, and tonight I’ll be seeing the second of two shows at The Forum as part of the Melbourne Festival – last night was Low, tonight is The Drones. In between I’ve been enjoying the city’s many cafes, restaurants, record stores and scenery (not to mention the cold weather, God how I love the cold weather). Tomorrow morning I’ll be flying back to Brisbane to get ready to return to work on Sunday.
Melbourne is a city that tends to make young Brisbanites go green with envy. Most culturally aware people from Brisbane can expect to have about 20 per cent of their friends leave town for the southern city during their early 20s – it was my own 20 per cent who loaned me their spare beds and couches this past week. Common wisdom has it as an inarguable fact that Melbourne has a far greater array of things for a young creative person to entertain themselves with than Brisbane.
Or does it…?
Superficially, yes, it does. There are about three times* as many venues in Melbourne as there are in Brisbane, partly due to a fortuitous set of licensing laws and partly to do with a culture that supports a multitude of small venues. However, if you compare our little city to the rest of Australia we’re doing fairly well. We’re probably about on a par with Sydney, even though that city’s population is greater than even Melbourne’s. But for argument’s sake, let’s say that Brisbane suffers from a lack of venues (even though the recent opening of places like Woodland, The Alley and The Nest more than makes up for the upcoming closure of the Lofly Hangar). Does this mean we suffer a lack of gigs? As someone who puts together a weekly gig guide** for this very website I say ‘absolutely not’.
There’s rarely a week where I can’t find a whole bunch of gigs that I want to attend. Clashes between competing gigs is the norm, not the exception. There always seems to be some interesting art exhibition at Nine Lives or Bleeding Heart or some other gallery. There are young people getting out there putting on events of all shapes and sizes week in and week out. People like the crew from Lofly & The Hangar, people like Lawrence English (Room40), people like The Fans Group, Andrew Tuttle (Peer Pressure), Dan Lewis (Making Hey/Bon Voyage), Ian Rogers (God Hates Brisbane), the Browning St Studios crew, Will from Burst City, Tom Hall (Sonic Boom etc), Nick Smethurst (In Finland), Bedroom Suck. There are more that I’ve forgotten, many more, and that’s just sticking to the indie rock & ‘experimental’ community that I’m most familiar with. Move outside that and things open up exponentially.
And yet I constantly hear people complaining that there’s nothing to do in Brisbane. I hear people complain that there are no shows to go to, no good bands, that Brisbane is a cultural wasteland. These people then often admit that they’ve never made it out to The Hangar, don’t know many Brisbane bands outside of the few that get played on JJJ, have never even heard of Burst City. I’m going to put this bluntly. If you are one of these people, then here’s my message for you: You Are Lazy. Yes, you.
You are lazy in at least one of two ways.
Firstly, you are lazy if you complain about there being nothing to do in this town but have never actually put in the effort to search out the interesting venues/bands/events. This is the most inexcusable form of laziness, and the most common. However, maybe you have actually put in that effort and not been able to find anything that satisfies your interests. Oh no, all hope is lost! Or alternatively, you could get off your arse and do something about it. What, you think that awesomeness is just going to fall into your lap? You think that all of these fantastic, interesting venues and events just happen? No, someone out there thinks of something cool that doesn’t exist and then puts in some time and effort (and yes, maybe an amount of money) and makes it happen. Yes, it’s often difficult and usually thankless, and definitely disheartening when a bunch of people tell you later on that they didn’t come because ‘it was on a work night’ or ‘it was raining’ or ‘it was too hot’ or ‘West End is too far away, you should have done it in The Valley’. But so what? It’s also fucking awesome. If you ignore all of that bullshit you get a night like God Hates Brisbane back in June of this year, where you could see eight fantastic local bands in one night, on two stages upstairs at The Step Inn. It was, without any hyperbole, one of the best nights of music I (and a few dozen other people) have ever seen.
Ok, maybe I’m being *slightly* harsh with that second part. Not everyone has the resources required to put on a show, let alone open a venue or art gallery. Still, a lot of people DO. And those that don’t shouldn’t be allowed to use it as an excuse anyway. Do you think that all of those people I listed before knew exactly what they were doing when they first started out? Of course not! They were stumbling in the dark, figuring out exactly how you book a venue, a bunch of bands, get some promo out, get someone to do sound, run a merch stand, and at the end of it all try to not lose a fortune in the process. But they did it anyway, and now we thank them for all of the effort that they’ve gone to (or at least those of us who went looking for something interesting to support do). There are so many people doing so many amazing things in Brisbane that I find it personally offensive to hear someone complain of there being nothing interesting to do here. Brisbane doesn’t suffer a lack of activities, it suffers a lack of support for those activities.
This isn’t just for the arty, outsider crowd too. I’m not just talking about experimental noise shows (actually, I don’t need to because the people involved in that community tend to be pretty great at self-organising, since they’re not likely to get booked at The Zoo or The Troubadour any time soon – no criticism of those venues, either). I’m talking everything. I’m talking slick pop bands through to weird little folk things. Just get out there and do it. Ask people who’ve done it for advice if you want. They will give it to you. They’re the people who want to see interesting stuff happen, after all.
Basically, this whole post could be summed up with ‘stop being lame retards, start being awesome!’. There you go Brisbane residents, there’s a challenge for you. Be awesome. I freaking dare you.
* OK, so I just pulled that figure out of the air. You get the idea.
** Sorry for not doing one up this past fortnight, but being out of town made it a bit more difficult than usual.