Ox­ford Art Fac­tory

This Syd­ney in­sti­tu­tion re­fuses to let the mu­sic die

Time Out (Sydney) - - BAR AWARDS -

IS THE OX­FORD Art Fac­tory Aus­tralia’s an­swer to New York’s CBGB? It’s not that ou­tra­geous a sug­ges­tion when you con­sider the cal­i­bre of acts that have graced the 500-per­son band room over its ten years of op­er­a­tion. Did you know that Lady Gaga played her first Aus­tralian show there in 2008? Or that Dave Grohl still wears his Ox­ford Art Fac­tory shirt that he got play­ing a gig here in his cov­ers band, Chevy Metal? They even had a Bret Eas­ton Ellis book launch – Ellis came on stage after the Mod­els per­formed and he spoke for two and a half hours to a stand­ing crowd and as OAF boss Mark Ger­ber re­calls, “You could have heard a pin drop.”

Count­less great bands have started their mu­si­cal jour­ney on the small stage in the nar­row gallery bar next to the ban­d­room, too. “We saw the rise of the Jezebels, Chet Faker, the Rubens, and King Giz­zard and the Lizard Wizard in that small room,” says Ger­ber. And al­though Tame Im­pala played for about 25 peo­ple at one early show, you could “al­most smell it in the air, when some­one’s got great­ness writ­ten all over them”.

Over the last decade, live mu­sic venues such as the An­nan­dale and the Hopetoun have with­ered and died, but Ger­ber be­lieves that it’s his venue’s unique place in the ecosys­tem of live mu­sic that has en­sured its sur­vival in an en­vi­ron­ment in­creas­ingly hos­tile to late-night en­ter­tain­ment. “Peo­ple seem to for­get that in or­der for some­one to play Laneway Fes­ti­val, they need to do the hard yards and play the whole cir­cuit to get from the small spa­ces like the gallery bar to the Lans­downe, and then back here on the main stage, and then the Metro – there’s a lad­der you need to climb.

“All artists start some­where, and gov­ern­ments need to recog­nise that it’s equally im­por­tant to sup­port the new artists com­ing up as it is the sup­port the es­tab­lished art forms. You need to sup­port ev­ery spoke on the wheel, oth­er­wise you won’t be lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic that came out of this time in 100 years. We need to do ev­ery­thing to try and cre­ate a new Bea­tles all the time, or a new Ja­nis Jo­plin or Court­ney Bar­nett.”

Of course, it hasn’t all been smooth sail­ing and sell-out shows. Ger­ber likens be­ing in­side the lock­out zone to a kind of “East Ber­lin”. But he sees re­silience in Syd­ney. “The thing you can’t sup­press is the feel­ing in peo­ple that they want to go out. I don’t see live mu­sic go­ing away, and I would imag­ine that in ten years’ time the Ox­ford Art Fac­tory is ex­actly as it is now. What­ever you do has to be for the long haul, so what I’ve done here is cre­ate some­thing that can be around for another ten, 20 years.” 38- 46 Ox­ford St, Dar­linghurst 2010. 02 9332 3711. ox­for­dart­fac­tory.com. Daily 8pm-3am.

“You can’t sup­press the feel­ing in peo­ple that they want to go out”

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