It’s easy to be hypercritical. However, the threat of descending into narrow-mindedness lingers around all who take up arms within the safety of a crowd. This phenomenon was most recently witnessed within the group of vocal protestors currently lamenting the alcohol and licensing changes in Sydney’s CBD. The laws have obvious flaws: the inevitable economic losses to businesses and employees, the loss of atmosphere, and the condescension that young people continue to receive from greying, conservative politicians. However, when the blinkers are removed, it could be argued that the majority of Gen Y simply doesn’t care.
Club music doesn’t appeal to everyone. Despite the astronomical rise in popularity of electronica and dance, the prospect of a night out involving copious quantities of alcohol, stamina, money, and, occasionally, illicit drugs, can damage the appeal of clubbing until 3am. With the added risk of sexual assault, serious injury or even death as a result of a single punch, it’s easy to see why people like Michael Lira of Sydney band Darth Vegas are predicting that “gypsy swing will be the next big thing.”
As the CBD faces an inexorable decline in patronage, the hordes of young people who enjoy Sydney’s nightlife will not discover an appreciation for logical bedtimes, responsible drinking habits or diligent studying. Instead, they may head towards a night with cheaper venues, local bands and emerging businesses outside the CBD. Gypsy swing may not be the next music craze, but tough lockout laws could actually lead to diversification in the music market.
Lira’s band, Darth Vegas, operate as an eight-member rock/vaudeville/circus/metal/zombie apocalypse group. They create some of the most audibly complex and layered pieces of arena worthy soundscapes, and think the Australian music scene could do with a revival.
“There’s not enough support for Australian bands. There’s too much of a focus on international bands, especially with the direction most festivals are going in now,” Lira said.
The demand for authentic live performances by local musicians in Australia is certainly evident, but the supply fails to match the market. Right now, dance music saturates every festival and Friday night. It is ironic that a mini-revolution to the music scene could be caused by the intervention of a stodgy politician angling for re-election and little care for music fans’ interests. This potential decline in dance music should be welcomed, because the endless stream of ‘doof doof’ hits continues to demean artists with years of training and evocative lyrics.
Lira is capable of playing the guitar, bass, double bass, percussion, keyboard, trumpet, violin glockenspiel and probably a cowbell and kazoo to boot. In contrast, DJs just manipulate beats with computer software to match the vibe of the crowd. This vibe can generally be observed as a sweaty tangle of testosterone, primal desire and blatant idiocy that typically results in some form of regret. The fact that blind inebriation is often required to enjoy a night out is perhaps indicative of a damaging musical trend.
On Triple J’s ‘Hack’ program with Tom Tilley, the discussion regarding Barry’s rapid-fire response to alcohol-fuelled violence, as well as the need for reflection on our drinking culture, turned to the success of Newcastle and the methods of adaptation that young people have adopted to accommodate for strict licensing regulations. By going out earlier, drinking less, seeing some good entertainment, supporting local bands and businesses, as well as a 30% drop in assault, it seems that everyone wins in the equation.
Perhaps Sydney’s identity as a hot spot for the bass-heavy club scene, however, is unprepared for change. The ‘live fast, die young, drink lots’ mentality is firmly embedded in youth culture and the club scene, with its brash music, suits this disparaging life motto. It’s hard to take the ‘YOLO’ out of youth, but maybe the battle between Barry and booze can lead to some positive developments and a local music revolution. If we stopped harking about negative impacts, the little voice representing Sydney’s alternative live music scene might be heard.