Local Record Store Threatened By “Heavy-Handed” Council Notices
More live music woes following last week’s report that NSW Labor are planning to launch a new campaign to urge local councils to drop their “fun police” act and start supporting live music venues, particularly over the issue of noise complaints; it seems it wouldn’t hurt if politicians in Victoria started a similar movement.
Pure Pop Records, a local record store in the once-high culture hub of port-side suburb St. Kilda, is under threat again from Port Phillip Council after noise complaints from local neighbours. The local music shop also regularly hosts intimate gigs in its courtyard, having hosted free shows for both up-and-coming acts and legendary local musicians for years.
Owned and run by Dave Stevens (son of legendary AC/DC frontman, Bon Scott), Pure Pop has already faced its share of struggles with the local council, but now Stevens tells The Age that they’ve served him with a compliance order over a small wooden platform that’s been placed at the rear of the record store come café.
“For the council to say demolish it now or face action in the Magistrates Court is very heavy-handed,” says Stevens. “We’ve always tried to work with council but it’s become so difficult. We’ve been stonewalled and given so much grief.”
Port Phillip mayor Rachel Powning has stated that the “timber-framed structure” had been built without permits, “the current notice issued by the building department bears no relevance to the playing of live music. Building and fire safety are important council legal and moral responsibilities,” says Powning.
Stevens has already made several concessions to his operations to placate the council and complaining neighbours. Including no longer allowing bands to use full drumkits, finishing gigs by 8pm and organised a charity gig last May to help raise money to install soundproofing. The funds raised for the $100,000 roof are being submitted to the council, and Stevens implores that they’ve been playing ball.
“We’re going ahead business as usual but we have to be extra vigilant in making sure artists don’t exceed noise limits,” Stevens told The Age at the time. “In the end, we’ll have a fully enclosed and fully soundproofed band room and bring the rock back to the Pop. I’m trying to look on the bright side rather than how I’m going to pay for it.”
Stevens has also faced a rejection from Port Phillip council over an application to alter the venue’s 49-capacity license, and the Pure Pop proprietor has now appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal over the matter, after facing down several
But just who are these faceless people that these noise complaints are coming from? The Age points to local 60-year-old neighbour, Maurice Venning, who has contacted the council “about 100 times over the past four years and kept a detailed log of his grievances.
”It starts at 2pm in the afternoon, they have live music until 8pm and then recorded music goes on until 11pm at night,” Venning told The Age, ”…if we call the police it will take 50 minutes. There is a long history here and I’ve documented everything that has happened.”
Venning’s draconian documentation has even gone to the extreme of employing the services of ‘engineers’ to measure the volumes coming from Pure Pop Records’ functions; which are – according to the disgruntled neighbour, “anywhere from five to 20 decibels above the standard level.”
The news comes just after the state’s music body Music Victoria brought up discussions about the dire state of live music in Melbourne at last Thursday’s first Live Music Roundtable meeting, an official gathering between Government officials, Victoria Police, The Victorian Commission For Gambling And Liquor Regulations and representatives for the music industry.
The major issue to be discussed was to be Victoria’s “nanny state” policies over its “ridiculous” all-ages regulations which restrict venues to over-18s and under-18s licensing, but not a combination of the two. The results of that discussion, and their effects on the issues venues like Pure Pop are facing, are yet to surface.
In the meantime Pure Pop has found support among Port Phillip council’s ranks, in Councillor Serge Thomann. “Knowing that there are currently talks between Pure Pop, its architect and its lawyers and our council officers, with pending action at VCAT” says Thomann, “…I don’t understand the latest string of actions suddenly taken by our compliance officers.” Thomann is investigating the matter with Port Phillip council’s chief executive.
On 23rd February 2010, the SLAM rally saw 20,000 people march through Melbourne to the tune of AC/DC’s definitive ‘Long Way to the Top’, in protest against the Victorian Government’s misguided policy link between live music and violence. Out on the streets of our city, we showed our support and love for a truly great live music community. The SLAM rally was the largest cultural protest in Australia’s history. Now all of Australia has the opportunity to participate in a national event that celebrates our local musicians in our small venues.
Thursday 23rd February 2012, is National SLAM Day and a huge number of gigs are being held around the country to support local artists and venues. You can see a ful gig guide here of the day here. To celebrate our friends at SLAM have got together some of Australia's best musicians and asked them through a series of speech bubble photos what live music in small venues means to them.
Check out their answers on the following pages, and on Thursday help support the industry by getting out and experiencing the spontaneous excitement and intimacy you only get at a small venue. Watch this slideshow »