Licensee Brendan Byrne at the Australian Hotel, which will host its last live band tomorrow night.
Licensee Brendan Byrne at the Australian Hotel, which will host its last live band tomorrow night.

Hotel set to unplug live music acts

By JANE GARDNER

KARAOKE and gaming machine melodies will replace the sound of live music at the Australian Hotel when its last weekly band takes the stage tomorrow night.

The aptly named Ballina band Fossil Rock will entertain the front bar, which has been renowned over the past fifteen years as a live music venue.

Some believe this is a sign the Northern Rivers live music industry is going the way of the dinosaurs.

Australian Hotel licensee Brendan Byrne said the disco was more popular than the bands and the decision was a financial one.

"I'd love to continue it, but bands just aren't pulling the crowds like they did three years ago," said Mr Byrne, who has been the licensee for the past three-and-a-half years.

John McPherson, vice-president of the North Coast Entertainment Industry Association, said they were so concerened about the situation that a plan was being developed to save the live music scene.

"During the late 1980s Lismore, Ballina and Casino had a thriving live music culture, but now it's under pressure and starting to feel the pain," Mr McPherson said.

He said a music industry development project would be prepared to provide a blueprint for the industry as it adapts to the new environment.

"The more venues that close their doors to live music, the more our local musicians will be disheartened and either move from the region or be lost from the industry."

Horace Bevan, a local musician and entertainment promoter, is at a loss to pinpoint exactly what went wrong.

"This reflects on the condition of the live entertainment industry, which has been gradually getting worse for the last decade," Mr Bevan said.

"In the '70s and '80s, hotels and clubs were structured for live music and things like poker machines have had a huge impact."

Blame for the region's wearisome band scene often gets dumped on the popularity of electronic music, but DJs reject the idea.

POB(c), who played at last weekend's Splendour in the Grass festival, said the area needed enough space to cater for both.

"Lismore, as I remember it, was alive and well in 2000 and the city would do well to get a big music space," he said.



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