The celebrations of New Zealand Music Month may be drawing to a close but it's still far from over. Tomorrow, the last day of May, has been dubbed Love Your Local Venue Day.
The idea is to encourage people to get out and support the bars, clubs and venues that provide an outlet for our musicians to perform, develop and grow, and which also foster the sense of community for both punters and performers.
"Local venues are like home for a lot of musicians, a safe place to meet other like-minded artists, and for scenes to develop," says Rodney Fisher, the special projects and events manager for the NZ Music Commission, and the man behind the initiative. "They're places you can work out what your sound is, and road test and gauge the reaction to your tunes in front of real-life critics and peers. That is invaluable from a musician's point of view. Finding your confidence is also something that gets overlooked and is important part of developing your live show."
Fisher says the idea came about last year when Auckland lost two important live venues, the hugely popular Golden Dawn Tavern of Power on Ponsonby Rd and the historic Kings Arms Tavern in nearby Newton. The closures prompted panic among regular gig-goers concerned for the future of live music in the city. This prompted Fisher to begin working on ways to reignite people's passion for attending small gigs.
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"People love music, but they're distracted by life and all the entertainment that's available these days via technology," he says. "They kind of forget that they really love live music too, the thrill of seeing an artist you admire playing songs right in front of you. There's nothing quite like live. But people need places to play and see music, so we need audiences to show some love to their local venues.
"It's tough for venues in New Zealand, and a slight shift in the way we think of these spaces could hopefully provide part of a more sustainable model to keep our venues thriving. I believe there is more discussion to be had – but we wanted to make a start somewhere."
With plenty of shows around the country, participating in Love Your Local Venue Day is as easy as showing up tomorrow night. Even better, Fisher says, is to take along a couple of friends who wouldn't usually go to a live show and introduce them to the fun of gig-going.
"We're hoping people rediscover the joy of live music and keep checking out new bands every month. There's a wealth of emerging talent and audiences are a part of the journey to support these artists on the way up. I believe that venues are cultural assets that history gets made in, and where tomorrow's stars get spotted," he says.
Then he adds some extra incentive for those still on the fence.
"And you get great bragging rights! In the future you'll be able to share stories like, 'I saw them when they played that little tiny place, and look at them now!'"