It’s often said that the first sign of change happening is in the music.
For those who lived through the 60’s, the signal for change came through the artists of the time. Dylan famously sang ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ well before the tumultuous social revolution of the period came to fruition.
Locally, though, the music industry has been undergoing a bit of a lean time . . . until now!
A drought breaks when it rains. And, in terms of live music, this city is experiencing a downpour!
The first part of this century saw Newcastle’s industrial past leave a city of empty spaces and a furious round of lock-out laws and other licensing restrictions to quell anti-social behaviour. The city then went through a bad patch when the throngs who used to venture into Newcastle to enjoy a range of cultural offerings dwindled. It seemed like the cycle of negativity was going to reign.
But not any more!
Newcastle is now experiencing a growth spurt of mega proportions: light rail, the Uni building, the new Court House, cranes across the skyline signifying new constructions, thousands of new apartments, new events and more. And bit by bit, the live music industry that was once world famous for its vibrancy is starting to help propel this rejuvenation.
Despite a local record label spokesman recently saying in a newspaper that “not many venues support live music”, you only have to look at what is happening in King street alone to realise that live music is leading the charge for Newcastle to once again become a city of vibrancy and diverse cultural pursuits.
At one end, there’s The Edwards presenting a whole raft of fantastic live music performances from solo shows by Phil Jameison and Tim Rogers to regular shows by local cover performers. A bit further down and the gorgeous reincarnation of the Star Hotel now offers prime acts every weekend – that’s Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday evenings. The recent Bruce Mathiske Sunday residency alone drew big crowds eager to hear the virtuoso.
Further east still and the Foghorn Brewhouse offer up an eclectic mix of cover and original artists and patrons of the relatively new Central Bar are enjoying some stellar performances by the likes of Alex Lloyd, Thirsty Merc and more.
Swing into Darby street and the perennial Hotel Delany keeps its tradition of presenting local cover artists every week while 5 Sawyers offers a mix of both cover and intimate touring shows while their Thursday night Live Sawyers shows give local singer/songwriters a chance to showcase their work. Mavericks on Darby also presents great cover artists every weekend.
Further east in the city and you have The Grand Hotel which hosts the amazing NIMA nights that add a bit of spice to the local musical landscape, often to sell-out crowds. Then there’s the Crown & Anchor, The Lucky, The Williams Bar and Bar Petite all of whom showcase local performers.
Head down towards the harbour and you’ll find the wonderful 48 Watt St., an old church that is presenting some great live shows then, further down, there’s Customs House and the Queen’s Wharf Hotel to satisfy a whole gamut of cravings.
Further along the foreshore to the west and you’ll find The Landing, Dockyard and the popular Honeysuckle Hotel, all of which include live music as part of their product mix.
Around the corner and the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club offers music with a view every weekend.
Then there’s the Newy original music staples: The Wicko, The Lass, The Croatian Sports Club and of course The Cambridge, which brings to town some of the nation’s best touring artists, have always been highlights of the live music scene and kudos to them all for continuing to bring us some of the best local and touring acts in the country.
Apart from The Cambridge in Hunter Street, there’s also the Terrace Bar and Coal & Cedar
It’s happening in the inner city suburbs too!
Hamilton’s renovated Greenroof has added live music to the mix and The Premier at Broadmeadow has decided to up the ante with a brand new live music program. The Kent, The Nags Head in Adamstown and The Lambton Park Hotel all continue to present live music while the Mark Hotel continues to be a popular choice, especially with its Sunday shows. There’s also The Small Ballroom and its regular touring shows. And don’t forget the Hamilton Station Hotel, which throws its support behind some of the best up and coming acts in the city.
Merewether boasts a host of options with the timeless faves the Mary Ellen and The Beaches offering up weekend shows and the brand new Cat’s Pyjamas at The Prince Of Wales now presenting a great eclectic mix of left-of-centre live acts. The Burwood Inn still has soloists every weekend and, a bit closer to the city, The Junction Hotel also offers up some of the city’s premier soloists.
One venue though that has really become a beacon for lovers of fresh and original live acts is The Stag & Hunter Hotel at Mayfield. From the best blues artists to some real rock gems, this venue has really put itself on the map as a live music destination. And, if you’re in Mayfield, don’t forget to check out the new upstairs band room at the Mayfield Hotel.
That might not be everyone but it’s great to see Newcastle’s venues and patrons once again embrace the vitality and power of live music. There’s lots of choice and some amazing musicians so, whatever you do this weekend and for all those weekends to come, make sure you check out the Newcastle Live gig guide regularly and get out there and support local live music. The city is changing and, once again, music is leading the way!