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Revival for Sydney live music scene

By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

The Bald Faced Stag and Lansdowne Hotel, two icons of the Sydney live music scene, are both under new ownership – and music will continue to be a large focus at each venue.

New ownership has been announced for the Bald Faced Stag Hotel on the arterial Parramatta Road, with Kristy Clark and Scott Mackenzie taking the reins at the inner west pub. The pub has always had a robust live music program, and that will continue under their guidance.

As part of their focus on live music, Clark and Mackenzie will sell the 18 EGMs and their attached licences, ridding the hotel of a gaming offering. Instead, they will focus on live entertainment and food, renovating the live music area, including a partnership in the space with Young Henry’s.

A few kilometres north, the iconic Lansdowne Hotel, which has sat vacant on the cusp of the CBD since 2015, has been sold to Jake Smyth (pictured, centre, at Mary’s) and Kenny Graham, the publicans behind the Unicorn Hotel in Paddington and Mary’s burger joint in Newtown.

The duo are currently having the venue renovated, with the ground floor to house the public bar and kitchen, while the first floor will be a dedicated live music space, with a capacity for roughly 250 people.

“It’s a standalone space, so it won’t just be that we’ve got a band on in the front bar and you need to buy a ticket to in, which is kind of awkward when you just want to go to Lansdowne the pub, and then you say ‘Now I can’t go on a Friday night cos there’s a show on and you’ve got to buy tickets. What the fuck? I just want to go for a beer and have some food,’” states Smyth.

“So what’s really great about this is we’ve got the venue upstairs separated from the actual pub, so the pub can go full steam ahead, but upstairs can be throwing its own party.”

In the last six months, the Sydney live music scene has begun to have a resurrection, with the likes of The Chippo investing heavily in their basement music space, and pubs within the CBD and Kings Cross lockout areas applying for half-hour trading extensions based on their live music offerings. Smyth believes that hoteliers are responding to an evolution of the music scene brought on in part by lockout legislation.

He referred to bands like Sticky Fingers, The Preatures, The Delta Riggs, and labels like IOU, who started finding alternate venues to play in after the lockout laws, and were proactive in making sure the legislation did not halt their careers and the Sydney live music scene.

“We’ve seen what these guys have done and we felt like we were missing out on our end. We want to inform Sydney culture in the same way that they have. That’s where I see our responsibilities lying and what our role is. Hopefully the young bands coming through now will have the rooms at the Lansdowne – that intermediate room that can offer live music to the punters, but also offer bands a place to form a community and get to know each other. And play to a decent sized room! Where they don’t feel like they’re an afterthought in a space in the front bar.”

And with a trading licence until 3am most nights, Smyth believes the Lansdowne can capitalise on the late-night movement outside of the lockout zones.

“We’ll be able to mop up the scraps from the Sydney lockouts and those on their way home like the Lansdowne of old! I’m sure that will be a part of the trade. It’ll be the music, and a place that people can come to at any stage of their night. We’re stoked to have the late-night licence, it’s the cherry on top really.”

 

Image: Mary’s Facebook page.

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