The NSW Government’s Great Southern Nights initiative will see 1000 COVID-19-safe live musical performances held across the state during November, including at the Candelo General Store & Cafe, Thredbo Alpine Hotel, Narooma Golf Club and Navigate Arts in Tanja.
Government funding subsidises ticket prices so venues of any size can host live music and adhere to COVID-19 regulations while ensuring artists are properly compensated.
On October 19, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that up to 30 people can now attend outdoor events after the state recorded zero local cases of COVID-19 in a 24-hour period, a ruling that will further support the return of live music throughout the summer.
After a seven-month hiatus, it appears audiences are as keen to return as musicians are.
Candelo band The New Graces, comprising singer-songwriters Kate Burke, Robyn Martin and Melanie Horsnell, have announced three upcoming shows in November through Great Southern Nights. One of these shows, at Navigate Arts on Saturday, 14 November, sold out within 48 hours.
“Before COVID-19, it was unheard of to have a show sell out three weeks in advance like this,” says Navigate Arts owner Louise Morris, who has designed the venue’s first gigs post-COVID-19 as cabaret-style with catered events over dinner.
“We wanted to support local food and wine producers who have also been affected by COVID-19, while also making the first gigs back extra special for the artists and the audience,” Louise says.
Also sold out is a performance at Candelo General Store & Cafe from Melanie Horsnell, Josh Cunningham from The Waifs and David Ross MacDonald on Friday, 27 November.
Melanie says she has been feeling sad about not being able to perform face-to-face throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and now she’s “busting to play and busting to watch other people play as well”.
“I am so excited I would buy a ticket to my own show,” she jokes, adding she is not actually the reason some of her shows sold out so fast.
“I’m very excited to look at people and sing. There’s the money side of what I do, the writing of songs, the audience connection and even the curating of a show – all those things mean so much to me.”
While some Great Southern Nights venues will host many events, others are a one-off, such as a hip-hop show Melanie is helping to organise at Sugar Sounds vinyl specialist store in Bega.
“We’ll keep all the windows open so people on the street can hear because there will only be about 10 people in the audience,” she says.
Melanie says she called about 30 venues when she first heard about the funding, encouraging them all to apply and make the Snowy Monaro and Far South Coast a musical road trip for the whole month of November.
In the Snowy-Monaro region, the Thredbo Alpine Hotel will host nine Great Southern Nights shows, all free of charge, with the first one kicking off on Saturday, 7 November.
Getting the festivities started will be Spindrift Saga, an alt-funk-rock band from the NSW South Coast that has supported the likes of The Living End and British India.
“After a challenging year for the entertainment industry, we are delighted to be participating in this great initiative and supporting local artists as live music comes alive again,” says Thredbo marketing manager Caroline Brauer.
The schedule will also feature Thredbo favourites H-Cee Family and much-loved resident entertainer Mark Travers, who has been entertaining crowds in the village since 1991 and never fails to disappoint with his energetic acoustic sessions and popular covers.
No matter how big or small, all Great Southern Nights events support local artists and venues so check out the official website and follow #greatsouthernnights on Instagram for the announcement of more shows.