I really feel for the youth and future youth of Melbourne today. For this week marks I feel, the point where Melbourne essentially turned the corner into being the next Sydney. For a cultural epicenter hell bent on being the epitaph of all things live music, we should be ringing the alarm bells, just as long as these bells don’t disturb the neighbors or compromise some form of the liquor licensing act. With the closing of Miss Libertines in the city as we see not just another EDM venue dead, but another consistent outlet for quality music, be it dance, rock or Sudanese hip hop gone.
The writing was on the wall the moment the pokies boom crashed through Melbourne’s pub scene in the late 1990′s. Suddenly the licenses of traditional music venues and suburban pubs were bought through strong arming and deep pursed conglomerates hell bent on ensuring that rows upon rows of poker machines spread through the floor space of alcohol spilt floors. Suddenly the abundant crash of a high hat, tear of a C chord or wail of a post punk singer was replaced by the lounge instrumental of Kylie’s “Better the devil you know”. The reeking of high grade formica fake plants, with the standard resolute carpeting and the chirping of electronic machines replaced the crowd, the sweat and now more so then ever, the tears. Music not just in Melbourne but round Australia is being left with nowhere to run.
It isn’t so much this historical threat that is such an issue now. It is the demand of the general public to move into the inner city and embrace the “Most liveable” city, by literally jamming into the CBD, Richmond, Collingwood. The next time you are in the CBD have a good look at the number of gantry cranes littering the skyline, consider all of these are primarily residential developments. Live music and electronic music is a beautiful loud, sweaty, seething, almost apocalyptic heathen playground. “Joe the lawyer” who lives on the 20th floor does not want to hear Simon Murphy and J-Slyde bang out a 2 hour prog set at 3am….. unfortunately. In the venues I have dealt with when running Substance, we have always had problem surrounding noise complaints. Now the powers that be, local Councils, VCAT, Liquor Licensing and to a lesser extent the police (remember, the boys in blue enforce policy, not create it) offer no protection towards venue operators once people move in and around the venue. Noise complaints for licensed venues are registered and held by Liquor Licensing, much to dismay of some venues it becomes clear that when a license is up for renewal, and it’s a venue with numerous complaints for noise, you’re going to have a hard time renewing it.
The other factor is what expenses a phone call for a noise complaint actually costs, especially if it is put through the police or through a council complaint line. After a complaint for noise a minimum of two police officers are sent to investigate (while somebody is beaten to a fucking pulp on King St), after investigating they file their incident report. That has cost the government an hours wage, choked a public resource and created a threat for the public because it has diverted the attention of the police. Now the council gets involved, because both Liquor licensing and the council have permits and licenses hooked into the venue. The Council issues a $2000 fine for consistent noise complaints, venue owner hires lawyer to contest…. You see where i am going with this hopefully??? All because some fuckwit has moved into a flat next door to a live music venue……. This was made by one phone call. No wonder the live music scene in Melbourne “Ain’t what it used to be”.
This is where Adelaide has it right, and fuck me it’s not often that happens (the mantra of “But when it does it’s priceless” comes to mind). In Adelaide if you move in or around an existing music premises, by law you have no reasonable right to complain regarding “Acceptable” noise. As it is seen: “You moved there, the venue was there before you, why do you think you’re paying $200 a week for a five bedroom apartment above a nightclub? “Dear Melbourne…. Investigate this….It will work…”
If it isn’t the Punters club (where Bimbo Deluxe now stands, used to be one of the best live music venues in Australia) QBH, Viper and now Miss Libertines. We’re losing our cultural flare. In years gone by it was just the promoters that vanished into the night, now the very venues that once carried them are joining them.