Melbourne event organisers have the most skilful knack of curating fantastic, varied lineups showcasing incredible musical talent, and then finding unique and quirky venues to host these events in. Hush: An Evening of Quiet Music did more than just tick both of these boxes, offering a wonderful night of local music in a building that is familiar to Melbournians, but has an air of mystery.

A part of Melbourne Music Week’s Self Made series, this gig had an extra special requirement – everyone must remain silent during the performances. That means no heckling, no chatting through songs to friends, and certainly no singing along.  But how does a gig like this turn out? And is it the audience who might have trouble with this rule, or the performers themselves?

Grand Salvo stands inside the Parliament Library, his gentle nature and wild appearance powerful in this quiet, sombre setting. He softly plucks his guitar, held high up on his chest, and tells the audience wistful tales in his beautiful, gripping way. His songs take the listener on a journey to faraway places and deep into his heart. The books that surround the audience add to the magical feel in the room. All eyes are glued on him, and not a single murmur is heard. This performance works perfectly with the silence, and the cosy intimacy of the library cements the rule.

Grand Salvo proved to be the perfect act for the quiet surrounds of the library

Dan Kelly, on the other hand, could take on the role of part-time comedian as well as musician, and has the audience in quiet fits and giggles through most of his show. To him, it seems difficult to work within the limitations of the dead quiet rule. He invites the audience to sing along to his songs, and even teaches backup vocals so they’re active participants in the performance. The crowd seems to breathe a collective sigh of relief as the rigidity of Parliament House is relaxed, and Dan Kelly amuses them with his clever lyrics and visualisations of politicians hang-gliding over the Grand Canyon.  

Finally, Teeth and Tongue follow Dan up with a great, stripped back set – the “Nirvana Unplugged” set, jokes frontwoman Jess Cornelius. While they sound brilliant as an acoustic band, they are also somewhat uncomfortable with the quiet sitting down, and Cornelius refers to her discomfort on several occasions. This is a band who are used to loud, gritty rock performances, in loud, gritty venues and festivals. It’s great to hear Cornelius’ husky voice without any of the usual background noise, however, and she is still pitch perfect.

It’s a brilliant concept to be able to listen to musicians minus the usual interruptions or annoying chatter, and Parliament House is the ideal venue for this concept – especially the dimly lit, cosy library.  What this gig taught us though is that, while some crowds can certainly be intrusive at times, perhaps the usual noise we hear at a gig is welcomed and comforting – for both punters and musicians alike.