COUNTRY IN THE CONVICT CAPITAL: SYDNEY

75-sydney_1

By Gareth Hipwell.

Support the support,” was the masthead and catch-cry of a recent live music campaign spearheaded by local winemaker – and long-time arts supporter – Cake Wines. The sole purpose of the initiative was to encourage concertgoers to arrive at gigs in time to enjoy the opening acts, thereby fostering support for upcoming and lesser-known artists. Along with so many of Sydney’s regular live music lovers, the writer must confess to routinely arriving at gigs just in time to catch the headline act. Whether the tendency arises by design, simple disorganisation, or (as is, of course, most likely), a fastidious commitment to getting the most out of every working day, the outcome is inevitably the same: I regularly miss some or all of the opening sets.

Since the tendency of Sydney venues is to nominate a starting time for a show only to delay proceedings by upwards of an hour on the night, arriving late to gigs is often advisable – allowing the concertgoer to avoid spending half the night standing around watching artists’ setups and frittering away more money than he or she had planned to spend on more drinks than he or she had intended to buy (I hear it, too: the last long nail being driven into rock’n’roll’s coffin-lid – and your columnist wielding the hammer). That said, as even a cursory glance at the online music press will reveal, punters arriving early enough will frequently find the opening slot occupied by an unexpectedly memorable artist, or future live favourite.

Although lineups worthy of lists such as Rolling Stone’s ‘The 10 Best Opening Acts in Rock History’ are admittedly rare (The Jimi Hendrix Experience opening for The Monkees will only come about so often) it’s common enough for a headliner to select their opener on the basis that they themselves are fans of the second-billed act, or because opener and headliner share a strong mutual regard – perhaps even extending to collaboration. In any event, the thrill of discovering a vibrant new artist can be one of the most satisfying aspects of a live show. At the very least, catching the support routinely allows the concertgoer to put a face to a name perhaps previously known only from emboldened typeface in the pages of the local street-press. I was glad, for instance, to catch Tift Merritt opening for Jason Isbell at Marrickville’s Factory Theatre earlier this year.

The writer was also fortunate enough to catch a couple of Out on the Weekend festival sideshows at the excellent Newtown Social Club in recent weeks, in which generous headline sets from the incomparable Nikki Lane and peerless Texan Robert Ellis were set-off by captivating support from, in Lane’s case, Perth artist Ruby Boots, wonderful Portland outfit The Delines, and a guest-spot from local favourite Emma Swift; and in Ellis’ case from local country-folk singer James Thomson and Nashville’s Jonny Fritz.

All of which is simply to say that, the next time you plan to attend a gig, consider cutting short your pre-show ritual and arriving at the venue in time for the opening act. Worst-case, you’ll hate the support, but secure the best vantage point in the venue in readiness for the headliner.

The coming months promise both scorching weather and an exciting variety of live shows in Sydney and surrounds. Newtown’s The Vanguard has Aleyce Simmonds on 30 November with Kaylee Bell supporting; Marlon Williams and his new band The Yarra Benders on 10 December with support from Andy Golledge and New Zealand’s Aldous Harding; bluesman Matt Anderson on 8 January 2015; and Kinky Friedman on 16, 17, and 18 January.

New semi-regular fixture “Country and Inner Western” is a monthly, mid-week get-together hosted by The Morrisons at Good God Small Club in Haymarket. The event has so far featured appearances from Lucky Luke, All Our Exes Live In Texas, Shane Nicholson, Jenny Queen, and many others besides.   

Beyond the CBD, the Enmore Theatre sees Kasey Chambers make up her postponed November show on 15 February with support from Kim Churchill, before the Factory Theatre in Marrickville hosts Charlie Musselwhite Band on 28 February 2015.

Closer to the coast, CASH The Concert is at Cronulla’s Brass Monkey on 27 December, featuring performances from Stuart French, Daniel Thompson, and Tamara Stewart. Also at The Brass Monkey is blues wildman Matt Anderson (Canada) on 7 January, and Steve Smyth on 11 January 2015 – before which Smyth plays Coogee Diggers on 6 December. Also at Coogee Diggers are Mark Lucas and the Dead Setters on 20 December. Amber Lawrence brings her Superheroes tour to Lizotte’s Central Coast on 7 February 2015. Kim Richey is also at Lizotte’s Central Coast, with Sarah Humphreys, on 7 March.

Inland, Mick Daley’s Corporate Raiders – led by stalwart Re-Mains frontman Mick Daley – are at Petersham Bowling Club on 5 December, as are The Gin Club on 21 December.

Sydney country music edifice Rooty Hill RSL has the international Willie and Roy: The Legends show on 17 January, and hosts Tori Darke launching her new album on 27 February 2015.

For fans looking to get a head-start on their bookings for the new year, The Eagles are set to bring their “History of The Eagles” show to QANTAS Credit Union Arena on 2 March, Allphones Arena on 4 and 6 March, and Hope Estate at Pokolbin on 7 March 2015. American behemoths Lady Antebellum are at QANTAS Arena on 15 March. Hope Estate is also set to host its inaugural Campfire Festival (to fill the void left by the departure of CMC Rocks the Hunter for warmer climes) from 13-15 March, featuring Lee Kernaghan, Kasey Chambers, and many more. Don’t forget the 20th annual Blue Mountains Music Festival, which takes over Katoomba from 13-15 March 2015, featuring performances from Convict Capital favourites Wagons and All Our Exes Live in Texas, America’s Whitetop Mountaineers, and Canadians Gordie Mackeeman & his Rhythm Boys.

As ever, please feel to get in touch at gareth@countryupdate.com if you have an upcoming gig, festival, or album launch you’d like me to plug.