LIVE MUSIC PUBS FEATURE
Indie rock band Joyce Manor playing at Hamilton Station Hotel. Image by David Beckett.
One look at the dizzying array of bill posters plastered across the beer garden wall is all it takes to know you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Not for the faint of heart or musically uneducated, the Hamilton Station is a hotel dedicated to live music, and not the kind of pop rock you hear on commercial radio.
You will not hear Taylor Swift or Five Seconds of Summer cover songs here.
You will not hear pub rock anthems or lyrics penned by petulant rockers crooning about the lure of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
What you will hear is the voice of a new era. The lyrical prowess of an informed youth determined to sing about something more than loose living.
Triple J favourites the Gooch Palms have graced the stage, along with the Raave Tapes - a local act with a big name and even bigger ambition, to write songs that teach their audience not to act like dickheads at gigs.
According to in-house booking manger and musician Spencer Scott, the goal of the Station Hotel is to host five original live gigs every week with a focus on supporting local talent, as well as touring bands.
“We have a number of music genres that play here, but at its core we are a venue that focuses on rock music. We have straight rock bands and indie rock bands, then we have lots of punk and metal and then occasionally singer/songwriters, but they usually come from a rock or punk rock background. Then every blue moon there’s a hip-hop night called Mad House.”
Hotel entertainment manager and musician Spencer Scott
"The Newcastle music scene has been growing in a really positive way and the shows we’re putting together and the shows that come to us are definitely a step up from where they were five or six years ago...”
In a bid to showcase Newcastle’s emerging musical talent to the largest and most diverse audience possible, the Hamilton Station has free shows on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday with larger touring acts on Friday and Saturday nights.
According to Spencer, while lockouts and restrictions have impacted Newcastle’s late-night economy, it seems Hamilton Station’s core audience has learned to love the city’s live music industry within the only framework they know. And they’re coming in numbers.
“I’d say the core of our audience is in their twenties, but there are also people who come to see the bands who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s which is really cool,” Spencer said.
“When the bigger bands play we can easily fill the back room with about 180 people most weekends.
“It’s interesting because when you’re from Newcastle you hear about how it was in the 70s and 80s which sounds like a very different beast than what we have now.
"It’s interesting because when you’re from Newcastle you hear about how it was in the 70s and 80s which sounds like a very different beast than what we have now..."
“But from my experience, and being in my twenties, I think there has actually been growth. The Newcastle music scene has been growing in a really positive way and the shows we’re putting together and the shows that come to us are definitely a step up from where they were five or six years ago.”
That said, Spencer believes Newcastle must remain protective of its live music industry and actions should be taken to foster the growth of live music and ensure the longevity of live music venues.
He backs up the claim by ensuring the Hamilton Station plays its role, nurturing new bands and making the path to success as straight forward and simple as possible.
“When I was 18 and just starting out in bands I had no idea how to get a gig, do a show, or any of the basic building blocks for how to improve and become a band. Venues that can provide that kind of opportunity are super important because it is about getting your name out there. If there’s only venues that have bands that can guarantee 50 or 100 people, then you’ll never get to 50 or 100 people because there’s no opportunity to build that first level.
“Every time a band is doing its first show here that makes me really happy. Some of the bands that played their first show here go on to do really cool things, like a band that is now in the side bar of the Cambridge and then hopefully it will be on the main stage. I love fostering that journey.”
Spencer Scott on stage with Wil Houlcroft and Andrew Richmond. Image by Shane Quill.
Acts like Dave, Raave Tapes and Gooch Palms all cut their teeth at the Hamilton Station before going on to the next stage of their careers and it is Spencer’s hope that the hotel can continue to provide that all important stepping stone.
“I love seeing our old posters where these kinds of bands are written in the smallest text possible and now they are the headline act on current posters,” he said.
“That’s what we aim for here.”
STAY TUNED FOR OUR NEXT INSTALLMENT, SHOWCASING SOME OF NEWCASTLE'S DEDICATED LIVE MUSIC VENUES...
Nikki Taylor is Australian Hotels Association - Newcastle Hotels Representative