On Backyard Music, Community Solidarity, and A Record Store Opening

The music industry right now has arrived at an interesting chiasma, at times both exciting and frustrating. Record stores all over the world are shutting their doors, unable to compete with online downloads of music; while independent artists are finding broader audiences for their work by taking advantage of the invention of websites like Facebook and Soundcloud. Musicians have always had to struggle with finding the right audience, finding validation for their work, and being satisfied by it all… and it is at this intersection of digital and analogue that we have the next generation of musicians and music lovers, ready to accept the challenges that come with living for what you love at a time when what you love is more seemingly disposable than ever.

This month, a brand new independent record store opened up in Collingwood, Melbourne. Run by Erin Hamblin- in the shop-front she and a bunch of other like-minded bright young things live above- Broken Glass Records stocks CDs, vinyls, t-shirts, patches and all other things merchandise related for upcoming Australian bands and musicians. Posters adorn the walls, there are plans in the works for local photographers and artists to display their creations on any space left over, and to top it all off, it is about four doors down from Melbourne’s most iconic music venue, The Tote.

I remember first hearing of her idea to make this store happen 7 weeks before it opened. 7 WEEKS. The drive of this woman is incredible- she worked non-stop to fix up the space, source the furniture and flooring, furiously emailing everyone she knows in the local (and national) music scene from her dealings with gig booking, event organisation and her self-confessed “hard-on for Australian music” to get the store full of enough things to warrant opening it as quickly as humanly possible.

The local reaction has been incredible. “Super keen and super supportive” is how Hamblin describes it, but that barely touches the surface of how pleased anyone involved with music in this area feels, least of all myself. Seeing a local business that helps to sustain a specific culture crumble under the pressure of rules, regulations, fees, and noise complaints is all but heartbreaking, so when someone with passion, invigoration and the kind of idealism integral to making interesting things happen says “FUCK THIS SHIT” and creates a space to help foster an already thriving creative community, it’s impossible to ignore it.

The opening of Broken Glass Records was celebrated with a backyard gig, which I had the pleasure of attending (to see some photos from the day, have a look at my blog, and the satisfaction of knowing I was watching something really, really cool happening, something I was lucky enough to stumble onto all those (3) years ago when I packed my bags and moved over here. I am a sucker for community spirit and an avid supporter of local cultures, and when it comes to Collingwood and Fitzroy, I know I’m onto something that hits me deep within my core.

I’ve spoken to a few people who feel exactly the same way, and a few of them have decided to start a backyard music festival in Collingwood, happening sometime in the next month or two while sun is more common than rain. This city has it’s share of parties and gigs in houses, but it’s got nothing on the kind of house party culture that I know from living in Perth my whole life. There aren’t enough music venues in Perth to showcase the level of talent there, so everyone gets resourceful and does it all at home. There are a billion music venues here in Melbourne, which means anyone get find a venue to play in, but that also means that audiences have too many things to choose from, have to contend with expensive beer prices in the bars, putting up with assholes who come to venues looking for “culture” then make fun of all the funny looking people that actually make that culture…

… so this backyard festival was concieved, with a huge number of bands playing gigs in different houses in the area, and a hand drawn treasure map with dotted lines and crosses to show you the way. “All Good In the ‘Wood” is the name, and unpretentious community spirit is the game.

Since moving back to Fitzroy about 5 months ago, I’ve been reminded of exactly why it is I moved to this city in the first place: to help bridge the gap between Perth and Melbourne. Dudes and ladies on both sides of the Nullarbor do their own things just as passionately, just as authentically as each other, but the price of moving between the two cities is too much of a leap to make it happen more often. I’ve spoken to many Melbourne musicians who are blown away by Perth whenever they go there, and Perth musicians who feel the same about Melbourne. If we could get a tighter knit community happening between us all, both sides would benefit so completely that the concept of being competitive or intimidated would be absolutely solidified in all minds as being just as retarded as homosexual couples not having the legal right to get married in this country.

Right now we have the opportunity to connect quickly over the internet; share ideas, images and sounds with each other immediately. A culture cultivated through online interaction, and solidified through state-to-state travel… I realise it’s kind of like this already- we’ve all got old mates in different cities, connections with whomever in whatever industry, places to crash sometimes etc, but from my point of view, we could be doing it to a much greater capacity. Where is the organisation to help up and coming bands tour the country (outside of government grants, which are pretty difficult to get if you don’t live in Western Australia)? Doesn’t it make sense to create an easier way for the creative people of every city in this huge country to come together and feed off each other in one big ol’ explosion of sound and colour and movement? Help save Australia from the clutches of mediocrity? So we can all stop talking about how our best and brightest leave Perth to go somewhere else, leave Australia to go somewhere else, and actually work together to make the awesome things happen as we drive and fly all over the country, playing music with each other and taking photographs of each other and painting walls with like 10 other people and making clothes and all of the things. We all want to do our things with and to as many people as possible, right? And see and listen to as much as possible, right?

We could be supporting and funding by each other with some kind of nation-wide community pool of funds just for tours, right? Do you know what I mean?

I got a little off track… the point was that this record store has opened, and Ms. Hamblin is keen to get her hands on music from the rest of Australia, and I am keen to connect the music scene that I love in Perth more solidly with the music scene that I love in Melbourne. So to all you musicians out there reading my excited little rant, if you’re interested in stocking your merchandise in Broken Glass Records, email Erin at brokenglassrecordshop@gmail.com , and have a look at the facebook page. Pass it on to everybody. Send links and description of your music. Get involved with the other bands posting their stuff. We have some amazing talent in this country, some amazing cultural things happening that half of those involved are barely even aware of how important and excellent it is, and what better to help connect it all than a fresh new record store in the heart of Melbourne’s most creatively vibrant area that deserves all the support in the world.

I’ll end now with the song that Erin told me was the first thing that made her love music, and I’ll think you’ll all agree that the sentiment is pretty spot on.