Slings and Arrows: All Noise and Little Action in the City of Music

Ash Whitefly examines the gap between rhetoric and action on Adelaide’s live music scene, and asks whether Adelaide City Council can reconcile its spin with city users and residents.

LOW RISK MUSIC

How musical is Adelaide? Talks continue about easing regulations controlling live music in the city. In August, city council proposed amendments to “exclude ‘low risk’ entertainment from being considered ‘development'”. Ash presumes low risk is crooner material like Julio Iglesias or the Carpenters, as opposed to AC/DC or something heavy metal. One can only presume a government planning officer currently needs to attend every gig, lurking in a darkened corner behind Ray-Bans and nursing a flat beer, constantly testing the risk level. Essential job-and-person specs might demand, “Ability to hum along in tune; perfect pitch highly regarded”.

MUSIC TO HIS EARS

Behind that suited establishment facade, Adelaide Lord Mayor Martin Haese is a funky, musical guy, a ukulele and guitar strummer at home and music fan. (Witness all those media photos recently.)

martin-haese-guitar-slings-arrows-city-music-adelaide-review-2Martin Haese plays guitar live in Elder Park (photo: Facebook)

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when his deputy, Megan Hender, returned from a June Beijing ‘creative cities’ junket bursting with ideas to ‘build the City of Music’ brand. One was to “use unusual spaces for music performances, e.g., the Lord Mayor’s office”.

SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES

No doubt the administrators are working on the refit. Ash can already imagine the subcommittees and working parties. Phase 3 power for the Marshall amp stacks and the booze fridges, stage lights and roving spotlight, smoke machine, disco mirror balls, new shelves for the shot glasses, etc. And who would get first dibs to slip into those deep office settees, leaving others standing? Admin could nab a couple of those city street ‘no standing’ signs so that the view to the stage isn’t blocked.

BUILDING THE BRAND

Councillor Hender actually came home with more than one idea – she had a list containing “simple ideas that can be adopted in Adelaide to build the music brand”. Curiously, several had already been proposed and reviewed in a previous music plan part funded by the council. Why go all the way to China when the concepts were lingering among the paperwork at home?

Among them was an idea to publicise looming gigs and venues in a public place – a ‘what’s on this week’ billboard (the Mall’s an obvious place). Another idea was to create music-related art for exhibiting in public places. But a few fresh ideas iced the junket cake, including putting song lyrics on our trams; creating a central ticket box office, also in the Mall; celebrating some of Adelaide’s famous musicians; establishing in Adelaide some national awards for music; and considering a musician-in-residence program. Who could that be? Join the dots… the Lord Mayor himself. He’s already given each councillor a free ukulele to encourage more up-tempo motions.

TEXAS TIP

Despite the crescendo of music-based topics lately, there’s been no reference to a May 3 bid, supported by the mayor, to throw $150,000 at a “Brand SA Adelaide brand mark (logo)” exercise for tourism, investment attraction, international relations and major events. Not another logo!

Why not simply split the $150,000 10 ways for music scholarships? It would support a year’s creativity for 10 high-potential Adelaide-and-regions musical emerging talents – and their output could be used to help brand Adelaide’s character. Remember, Austin Texas is a sister city, and look at what its musical creativity has done for branding the character of that town.

austin-texas-slings-arrows-city-music-adelaide-review
Adelaide’s sister city Austin, Texas proclaims itself as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’

MIDNIGHT MUSIC MAYHEM

Not everyone is on the same wavelength and as the city grows, sleep-disturbing noise also can be an unwelcome symptom. This includes doof-doof from late-night pubs and clubs, and summer post-midnight in the park lands and on the street.

City council plans to increase grant money from $600 to $1000 (about 20 percent of the cost) to help residents properly insulate their apartments, or at least adopt smarter soundproofing.

The service sounds great, until you read the fine print. Only about one in three families annoyed by city noise actually qualifies for the money. First, you have to own the property (many only rent). Second, you have to live in your property (most investors don’t, and won’t fund their tenants’ pleas). Third, you can only seek advice for external noise problems. So if a tenant in a floor above you likes to practise drums or holds rave parties, the council experts won’t hear your plea.

It’s only when the drum beat or party chatter floats from across the road that they’ll pay attention. But it’s still a long shot. Figures for council site-advice visits peaked three years ago (55). Figures to June this year totalled seven, and only three punters got lucky. Of the likely thousands in the city who suffer noise, the only other option is to fork out themselves.

Live above a street with an all-night club? Council papers reveal it can cost “about $40,000 to acoustically treat every window and door in a three-bedroom modern apartment”. They don’t mention that in the glossy brochures.

Ashley Whitefly is Executive Director of the Adelaide Whitefly Institute of Diplomatic Studies

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