Tuesday, August 10, 2010

RRR. Make Contact

The Triple R performance space feels like no other band room in Melbourne. It’s a serious space, no beer swilling chit-chat and rank odours, for people serious about music to experience the best of what Melbourne has to offer. Upon entry to the room, there is weight attached to the realisation that the show will be broadcast to a listenership of thousands. Beginnings to sets are marked by nervous introductions followed by deafening silence. The musician is respected here like nowhere else in town.
Since the building opening last March subscribers have borne witness to several seasons of free live-to-air events blanketing a cross-section of superb local artists. Showcased thus-far have been not the chart-toppers and fickle monthly flavours you’ll find at the larger venues and on commercial stations, but the guts—the veritable beating heart—of the local music community. From Wagons’ sweat-drenched swagger to the smooth country craftswomanship of Suzannah Espie; garage girls Super Wild Horses to the unhinged kookfest that is Ooga Boogas; the psychotropic hypnosis of Sand Pebbles to the indescribable wig-outs of Kim Salmon &The Surrealists; the renegade lyrical flow and beat-tasia of Curse Ov Dialect to the jag and grind of TTT; the intricate weaving of Fabulous Diamonds to the electro breeze of The Emergency; the jungle rhythms of Rat Vs Possum to the sound blockades of Black Cab; the floor fillin’ styles of Dexter and Gorilla Step to the reflections of Liz Stringer and Paradise Motel. Without mentioning the international heavies (Band of Horses, Justin Townes Earle etc...), the comedy (Daniel Kitson) and community events (speed dating, Liquid Architecture), the diversity and inclusiveness is obvious—and this list barely scratches the surface of what’s occurred.
Talking to live-to-air participants it’s clear these shows not only play a vital role in reaching a wider audience, but also they open the ears of listeners up to sounds and styles they may not have otherwise experienced. ‘These let you connect with people you otherwise might not reach,’ Curse Ov Dialect’s Peso Bionic tells me. ‘We play hip-hop, so we might only get played on certain shows, whereas with the live-to-air’s hopefully a lot more people are listening in.’
‘We played prime time on The Skull Cave,’ says Chris Hollow of Sand Pebbles. ‘It was incredible. Ben [Michael X] and I grew up listening to Stephen Walker, it was one show we knew we were going to hear long, wigged-out tracks and the first place we heard our own 13-minute track Black Sun Ensemble. Any success we’ve had, Triple R has been linked [with] in some way.’
There is something poetic about subscribers being active participants, directly responsible for the perpetuation and support of the music community. Through subscribing we actually fund the creation of fantastic programming and the facilitation of these events, which in turn bring us so much pleasure. The artists clearly win here also, with much needed promotion minus the usual money grubbery and two-faced profiteering of the music industry. ‘Triple R is the business without the business,’ Black Cab’s James Lee tells me. ‘Listeners subscribe for a variety of reasons. I subscribe because I'm introduced to new music I wouldn't find anywhere else. Hearing that music played live and connecting with the musicians who play it is a unique experience. Playing live-to-air is the ultimate way to connect with an audience. It bridges the connection between artist and audience.’
‘It's an immediate way to showcase your music to a bunch of listeners who perhaps haven't trekked out to see you live yet,’ says Super Wild Horses’ Hayley McKee. ‘To be able to perform through their radio and into their cars or kitchens is a very unique opportunity.’
‘Not only does Triple R play a heap of local and independent releases,’ says fellow Super Wild Horse Amy Franz, ‘they support local gigs and really help keep the community in the know about what's going on around town. I've heard a lot of great Melbourne bands for the first time on Triple R and thought, “yeah shit I'll go check them out this weekend”.’
Amongst the live-to-air contributors, the identification with Triple R as a selfless and fervent supporter of their art is tremendous. ‘I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the DJs who’ve wanted to speak to us,’ says Kieran O’Shea of Rat Vs Possum, ‘who’ve been kind enough to give us ten minutes on air to talk about what we’re doing. The more Triple R can get listeners to support them, and artists to subscribe also, it just contributes to this overall thing we have here and makes it stronger and stronger and stronger.’
James Lee shares this sentiment. ‘Triple R gives local bands a voice. Radio is about community and music is the most ancient form of communication there is. Without someone listening, it's the old falling tree in the forest conundrum; is there anyone listening? Well Triple R listens and so does its discerning audience.’
‘It's great to know that there's love between the bands and the radio stations that support their music,’ continues Amy Franz. ‘It cements that Melbourne does in fact have a solid music community who collaborate together really well. Live Broadcasts are important to show the strength and versatility of bands, radio stations, punters, everyone. They get bands out of the pub and onto the airwaves.’
There is a historical relevance to all of this with the live broadcasts surviving as a record of what’s taken place. As a partaker in live-to-air broadcasts over two decades, Kim Salmon describes this ‘footprint’ as vastly important. ‘My first one at Triple R was in 1993,’ he explains, ‘I’ve heard those tracks played on the radio since. Any station will be inclined to play something they’ve had a hand in recording, but it’s really nice that they’ve got such a great place to record and perform in, the sound is pristine. As a venue it really stacks up because it was designed to serve these functions.’
‘My drummer Adam and I were the first ones to sign the wall backstage at the new Triple R performance space,’ says Liz Stringer. ‘Or possibly second after Kim Salmon and Ron Peno because we all performed that first night there. The closest to having street cred we’ve ever been.’
‘There's something really special about Triple R documenting live shows,’ continues Hayley McKee. ‘I kinda picture this amazing glittery musical vault where all the recordings will be preserved for future music lovers. Triple R has some seriously good karma coming their way... and hopefully lots of donations too.’

Triple R’s Radiothon runs from this Friday 13th August to Sunday 22nd. This year’s theme Make Contact epitomises the role of Triple R as Melbourne’s music community hub—the fusion point for musicians and music lovers. Subscribe at rrr.org.au or
9388 1027. Subscriptions can be paid up until Wednesday 22nd September for inclusion in prize draws. Reach out and make contact with the station that gives so much to our community.

Samson McDougall