Mark Gerber, Lansdowne Hotel
A more inclusive Lansdowne
We’re taking a more inclusive approach to Lansdowne and a more varied approach to venue use: more electronic music and live bands. I see them both as live musical entertainment. I think it’s essential that the music industry and the community are one; attempts have been made to divide us over the years, especially during lockout laws.
I’ve always done that with Oxford Art Factory: I never identified it as a particular type of entertainment venue. I’ve always been very broad with what I allow to perform on the site, from book launches and electronic music to live bands, cabaret and performance art. These have been essential cultural mediums that people have connected to, and have inspired and disrupted people’s thinking.
Make good use of your 24 hours
You have to think outside the box. You may need to fund some artists because they all have to start somewhere, and some start small. I remember seeing Tame Impala at the Oxford Art Factory early in their career when some of the members were still underage. You could have counted the people in the audience on two hands. But you look at them and think: these people are talented far beyond the confines of this place. You bite the bullet on this and bolster it by tuning into a late-night economy involving DJs. So you create a late-night, dance-focused destination where people can come after hours. Because, usually, live music is an early event: it tends to start at seven or eight, and the main band usually ends before midnight.
There are 24 hours in a day – you can bring together promoters and various musical worlds and make them coexist. I already had this model running in the sadly defunct Spectrum venue, which was upstairs from the Q Bar in the Exchange Hotel. We had bands at the start, followed by PASH DJs, who were more rock’n’roll and sympathetic in their style to what was happening before them. They would finish at 3am and then other notable DJs and I would come in and play house music until morning to a packed house. The specter was grandiose. On any weekend evening, there has been all this turnover of people with different backgrounds and intentions, all coming to use this space. Seeing these worlds together under one roof was fantastic.
In short, it’s not all about profitability; it’s about curation and programming – more importantly, it’s about being passionate about and believing in what you do. Having a listening ear is essential. It’s about having a personal connection with people and being able to give them a helping hand when they need it. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t – but if done right, you have a fail-safe. If live music doesn’t always pay the bills as much as it should, find something else to lean on. All styles of music should be able to evolve and thrive.
Lockdown laws set Sydney back decades
The six years of the lockout laws were a very frustrating time. It was incredibly destructive to the culture of the city. These were also extremely difficult years for The Oxford Art Factory and the Sydney scene. Live music and performance venues as well as the nighttime economy play a crucial role in building culture, which fuels the daytime economy. As soon as it happened, I said, “You look, it will affect everything on every level.” And of course he did.
“I’m still optimistic that there will be a rejuvenation of Sydney’s nightlife economy”
After six years, I think the government realized that something had to happen. The culture of the city was disappearing before their eyes. Culture takes decades to build and evolve. Before the lockdown laws, it felt like Oxford Street, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills were turning into bustling, bohemian neighborhoods. They reminded me of places like Berlin, New York and London: lively, active and super creative. After a few short years of lockdown laws, everything has shrunk to look like a ghost town. I don’t see Sydney where she should be. It will take a long time to rebuild.
Long live the metro
I am still optimistic: I believe there will be regeneration and rejuvenation of Sydney and its nightlife economy. I hope it will be exciting and expand and expand on what has come before. Whatever rules and regulations exist, people will find ways to get around them and do something on their own. I strongly support the underground: rave scenes and punk movements where there are no strings attached to the art and music they create.
Interestingly, since the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, I’ve had approaches from people who were hosting raves and are so successful now that they need a space like the Oxford Art Factory. Safety and security come into play when you start dealing with larger numbers. It is a myth that these events are dangerous. I see them more as a love of music, intimacy, and experiencing something unique in a crowd of like-minded people. I think the underground scene is essential to the development and growth of cultures within a city.
The government must help
I believe that the government should support musical and artistic cultures all the time, not only during the difficult times, but also during the good times. The arts need government support because it’s not about money. It’s about creativity, discussion, intellectual thought, and what the landscape will look like for future generations. It is about giving an essential aspect of our world the right to exist and to continue to invest in it. From a purely philosophical standpoint, I strongly believe that governments need to pump money into music and art as incubators of new creativity, whether artists, actors , writers or musicians. Vibrant musical and artistic cultures create a healthy and productive society.
I’m delighted that Anthony Albanese is in the leadership role. Can you believe we have a part-time DJ as Prime Minister now? How cool is that? And we have an arts minister, Tony Burke, who goes to see shows. Recently, Albo and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern exchanged vinyl albums as gifts from the nation. I mean, come on, who knew we’d be here? It’s fantastic!
Politics is and should be involved in the arts, but only in the sense that it should provide much-needed funding. I don’t think you need to tell people how to “do it”. They were born to create. During the lockout laws, we lived under a very authoritarian conservative approach to behavior. Treating adults like children only instills fear in people. Let people behave like adults and, in turn, start treating others like adults. Then you might have a desired and quite different outcome for everyone.
The Lansdowne Hotel is relaunching on Saturday June 25 with a free concert featuring Donny Benét, RVG, Caitlin Harnett and more – more info here