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Tough times for musicians at the Curtin

Rhonda Dredge

The EP tour had been cancelled, tickets for a dozen shows refunded plus they were about to lose their outdoor seating.

An air of gloom had descended on the John Curtin Hotel in Lygon St during the last weekend of June.

Better times could be on the horizon but the live music industry has a weak pulse.

The Curtin stages two gigs a weekend and it’s regularly booked out but the numbers just don’t stack up against COVID regulations.

“We’ve had to postpone all our gigs,” bar manager Aaron Fisher said, because they’ve sold too many tickets for the pub’s new capacity.

“We were going back to normal,” Aaron said. “We sold 130 tickets then our capacity went down to 75 sitting for the entire venue. We couldn’t do anything. We would have had to close the front bar.”

While smaller music venues have been able to open with a seating formula, the Curtin is waiting until they can have 150 standing patrons.

“We’re waiting until then,” Aaron said. “We hope it will be next week.” But like many in the industry, he’s not holding his breath.

The only way to make it work with the current regulations would be for bands to play two shows, he said, but it’s not easy creating a rock vibe with seated shows so they decided to refund tickets instead.

Leroy Macqueen was due to launch his new EP on June 26 at the Curtin. Instead he ended up cancelling the entire tour.

“They couldn’t get together because of the regulations,” Aaron said, and they’re not alone.

Some bands have members stuck in New South Wales while others have found it difficult to rehearse.

Locals are the losers, missing out on the pleasure of Macqueen’s vintage twang and country ballads at one of the few live music venues remaining in Carlton.

“It’s been really tough,” Aaron admitted. “It’s a very community-oriented music scene.”

Other suburbs such as Richmond are better endowed. The Jazz Party was due to play at the Curtin and they shifted the gig to the Corner Hotel instead.

The pub has been serving fried chicken and burgers at an outdoor area set up as part of the safe dining push by the City of Melbourne but even it is due to close.

When Inner City News visited, staff were busily carrying out tables for the last weekend of outdoor trading.

“It will be gone after next week,” Aaron said. “We’re trying to get it extended.”

He wasn’t that hopeful. Other ideas such as putting on shows from the back of a truck have also fallen on deaf ears •

Caption: Aaron Fisher trying to make a go of it at the Curtin.

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