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Hamilton Station Hotel Doubles Down on Its Commitment to Live Music


The Hamilton Station Hotel recently unveiled its new dedicated live music space

The Hamilton Station Hotel recently unveiled a new dedicated live music space built with the aim of ensuring the hotel continues to be an integral part of regional NSW's live music scene.


The room was officially opened on Friday, 17 March with a show featuring Australian punk royalty Frenzal Rhomb.


With the ability to hold an audience of more than 350 people or be sectioned off into a more intimate space for up to 150, the build has been a long-time coming for the Hamilton Station team.


“We’ve had live music at the Hamilton Station for decades now, in the front bar and the back room,” the hotel’s entertainment booking agent Spencer Scott said.


“Our back room was really popular and a great space for up to 190 people, but we always wondered what we could do if the space allowed for a larger audience.”


The seeds of possibility were first sown in 2018 when hotel owner Wendy Simpson purchased a warehouse on property adjoining the hotel.


What followed, were years of applications to obtain relevant approvals to join the hotel and warehouse and extend the hotel’s liquor licence - an endeavour which was also hindered by impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.


However, despite the challenges, there were also small wins along the way including a successful $25,000 grant application made through the Federal Government’s Live Music Australia program and the unexpected support of Transport for NSW.


“The grant assisted us in purchasing part of a new PA and lighting system which means we now have the ability to run two shows at the same time,” Scott said.


“Discussions with Transport NSW came about due to the hotel and warehouse adjoining the rail corridor’s pedestrian and vehicular crossing, meaning consolidation of the warehouse and hotel required Sydney Trains’ approval.


“Murphy’s law meant the boundaries of the hotel, warehouse, and rail corridor didn’t match up.


“It took time, and we had a few boxes to tick, but Sydney Trains were both efficient and accommodating.”

At all points, the Hamilton Station Hotel team was committed to carrying out the renovation right, including over-engineering the acoustic suppression treatments in the back band room.


“We have added anything and everything in an attempt to prevent noise escaping from the back band room,” Scott said.


“We are passionate about what we do here given the time, energy and costs involved with getting us to where we are today. The hotel owner has really doubled down on her support of live music.”


Hamiton Station Hotel Booking Agent Spencer Scott


“We are passionate about what we do here given the time, energy and costs involved with getting us to where we are today. The hotel owner has really doubled down on her support of live music.”

Each year, except during the pandemic, the Hamilton Station Hotel hosts more than 200 live gigs. The new space will now allow additional local acts to perform and, ideally, also attract bigger national and international touring acts as well.


“While one factor is the ability to have more local acts on stage, which is really important to us, we’re also hoping the space will be well received by the regional touring network we have in NSW,” Scott said.


“Obviously Sydney is a destination but there’s so many regional areas that are doing great things within the live music scene like Wollongong, Coffs Harbour, and particularly here in Newcastle.


“Together, I think we can use this network of venues to increase the opportunity for regional touring.”


While the new dedicated live music space will be a drawcard for local, national, and international acts, venues in Newcastle, and other areas throughout NSW, are still struggling when it comes to live music.


According to Scott, the problem isn’t a shortage of artistic talent or dedication to showcasing live music.

It’s bureaucracy, finding a balance between live music and residential neighbours, and the residual impacts of the COVID pandemic.


“COVID is out of people’s minds, but it still adds a certain flair of unpredictability,” he said.


“We have the occasional show cancel because someone is sick and that’s what you have to do to keep people safe.


“Then there’s the noise complaints which almost every music venue is battling and the red tape that comes with navigating the process with different levels of government.


“But maybe the biggest issue of all is the skyrocketing cost of public liability insurance, which in some cases has increased tenfold in the past 12 months.”



Image by Mark Stevens Photography

“Everyone sees the potential of what we have here, and we could be a real powerhouse in the Australian live music industry with this hotbed of local talent. We just need to work on nurturing that talent and making sure all levels of government and decision-makers understand what’s needed and how best to support this important industry.”

But despite the current challenges, Scott believes the city is well-positioned to see live music once again begin to flourish due to the talent and dedication of people within the industry.


The Newcastle live music scene, when you think in terms of pure talent, is in such a healthy spot right now,” he said.


“Some of the musicians coming through are incredible and the venues we do have are working so hard to bring live music to the people.


“We have local media and dedicated journalists who focus on live music.


“Everyone sees the potential of what we have here, and we could be a real powerhouse in the Australian live music industry with this hotbed of local talent.


“We just need to work on nurturing that talent and making sure all levels of government and decision-makers understand what’s needed and how best to support this important industry.”

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