The Gate Presents – bringing live music to the ‘Burbs
In a city where music venues are being closed down left, right and centre, Sydney’s live music scene is walking on a knife-edge. That rings especially true for suburban areas, often thought of as cultural wastelands. A change in this perspective is coming though, in the form of the Gate Presents.
A not-for-profit initiative, the Gate began life as a regular event held in a Ryde backyard. It’s grown, and has spawned a number of musical initiatives throughout the North Shore and Western Suburbs, including rooftop, lounge-room and coffee-shop shows. With the countdown on to their next gig, we asked a few questions of the man behind the Gate Presents, Joe Hardy.
The suburbs are not usually renowned for live music, what’s the basis behind your approach?
The basis is a vague sense that there’s something not quite right about the focal point for Sydney’s music community being almost entirely based in the CBD – or nearby.
Knowing that there’s a ton of musicians in all corners of the suburban sprawl makes me wonder what things would be like if the community manifested itself across the whole geographic spread, rather than everyone travelling to appear in this one environment. There are SO MANY artists I’ve realised are from the burbs and everyone just assumes that they’re from Marrickville, Newtown or Surry Hills.
I think if there was more geographic diversity and more community-mindedness within those different regions, we’d probably see more musical diversity as well.
The Gate started when my young family and I moved out to the suburbs and I was suddenly confronted by culture shock. I actually actively suffered withdrawals from the lack of cultural activity.
As I began to wonder why nothing happened out in Ryde, my wife Carly suggested the initial concept – which was to put occasional shows on in our backyard. One thing led to another, I had some blogging friends help me out with the initial bookings and then suddenly The Gate became a “thing”. Its identity grew quicker than I expected.
There’s always a very comfortable, relaxed vibe at the Gate gigs. How important is this for you?
Oh hugely. Hospitality has been really important to many of The Gate’s team members and we’re often throwing ideas around on how to make it something just a little bit more relationally warm and inviting. I think that’s still something we’ve got a lot of experimenting to do with as we go, but we do want to throw a bit of a different spin on the live music environment.
It’s been fun having families and older people show up to gigs and really get into it, shifting the demographic and all that.
Tell us about some of the difficulties you face?
Energy is one. That’s changing as we move to incorporating more members into the day-to-day operation of The Gate and it’s getting easier to balance the load between people.
Attendance can be a challenge – especially with the really suburban shows. People can be non-committal towards gigs until the last minute and can be easily pulled away to other things, and bad numbers definitely takes it out of you when you’ve put so many hours in and the show isn’t super well attended. But that’s all about knowing your audience and trying to straddle the balance of adventurous bookings and safe bets. Too far one way or the other and you either alienate or bore your audience, respectively.
Who have been some of the best performers you’ve had?
Hmmm… highlights for me, so many. I remember the first gig we did being such a thrill – and Border Thieves really blew my mind that night. Seekae was really cool, I’m very grateful to them playing that gig with us, and The Laurels were incredible.
Some of my really significant moments have been the under-the-radar experimental shows – like when Pimmon played, or the whole lineup that Peter Hollo curated (Raven/Ollie Bown/Part Timer/Gail Priest). The Galapagoose show we had in a living room was a really special moment. Single Twin on a rooftop was unforgettable. And theMiddle Eastside project night. And Wintercoats is definitely a highlight every time he plays. I’ll stop now.
Tickets for the next Gate Presents gig, which will see a stellar line-up of Collarbones, Fishing and Swimwear take the stage at Pablo’s, can be snapped up here.