Sunday, February 26: Jura Books, Petersham – Lenin Lennon, Wells, Union Pacific, Zounds, Palisades
Jura Books is a long running anarchist bookstore and library almost directly opposite the Bald Faced Stag and just a couple of doors down from the Clarence Hotel. Both hotels have live music, although I’m not sure what styles are entertained at the Clarence as I’ve never come across any bands I know in Sydney that may have played there. A block away from these pubs there’s also the Petersham Hotel which used to be a bastion of the Sydney music scene about 15 years ago, I don’t think they have any live music these days though. It’s certainly an easy area to find a drink if you want one though.
Jura Books is pretty much a converted house and offers no competition to the hotels. The downstairs is a small shopfront whist the upstairs is a small library. Emphasis is on small here. The space is made available to host shows, talks and potentially other suggestions can be brought to the table too. Obviously the space has a huge political slant but there is no overt influence cast over a show beyond the fact that it being an intimate setup and a shop where “fuck-wittery” will not be tolerated.
Today’s show was an amalgam of two lots of traveling bands looking for a space to play in Sydney. Main organiser Mitzi, who rarely organises shows at all, knew that it would be easy to pull something together quickly utilising the small community of friends in and around Jura, and after a few phone calls, a Facebook event was created and it was on. Having her own PA for use, all that was needed was to organise some drum and amp sharing. Easy!
Ben is currently the event co-ordinator for Jura and as a musician himself he’s come to prefer the more intimate shows that spaces like this can provide. He also feels there is more direct participation from bands wanting to use the venue (i.e. bands may organise everything themselves from equipment and line ups to promotion and food options). Once the show is happening the intimacy provided by the cramped space is often accentuated by the fact that you can be sure that everyone in the room is a friend of a friend or perhaps once more removed at most. This makes for a comfortable setting and also provides the opportunity to easily make new friends.
All of the artists playing today confirmed the preference for intimacy and the comfort it provided even for interstate bands who may know no one at the stage of their set and make firm friendships by the end of the night. Teo from Palisades sometimes hosts shows in his house back in Melbourne and understands and appreciates the effort that goes into such events, including the shitty end of the deal cleaning up the following day, but also the highlights of the freedom and self regulation that goes on. There’s no requirement for hired security and money is not a prime factor in these type of events. Today’s show had a sliding scale donation entry of 5 to 10 dollars and those too poor to pay at all are often welcomed too. It’s easy enough to soak up the atmosphere from downstairs or outside anyway and today two acoustic acts jumped on the bill and played between the main bands up in the library.
Sunday afternoon shows can be a lazy affair and despite some of the high energy music on offer they were brief bursts of energy amongst friends that brought smiles to our faces and pleasure to our ears.
The Union Pacific
Whilst it’s obvious through the writing of this piece, and well established by those that know me, I am immersed in this scene and these spaces. It’s a special occasion for me to venture to a regular bar venue and as a consumer at those events I can enjoy myself immensely. But I still leave them without caring about the venue in any shape or form. If it closed down the following week I would unlikely be affected.
Sydney, and everywhere else, has other options. Currently these places are mostly inhabited by the punk and alternative music scenes but they are all open to anyone; anyone with a shred of organisational skills could put something together and likely be welcomed as they diversify the range of events and broaden their audiences. When people cry about the death of a music scene in a city I believe they haven’t yet fully explored all the options available to them and despite the naysayers the Sydney scene is very much alive and well.