Heartstrings Acoustic Showcase

“The live interviews helped me feel a stronger connection to the artists and their music.”


Heartstrings Melbourne proudly hosted its first showcase event on Sunday 15th June, and what a magical afternoon it was! We wanted to bring to life several of the musicians on our blog and showcase the amazing local music talent we Melbournians have at our fingertips. Nick Evangelou, Sabrina Salvatore, Sarlin, & Mario Demiraj definitely impressed and connected with our intimate audience at the Wesley Anne.

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With standing room only, the Heartstrings crew piled into the Wesley Anne along with other local music appreciators to claim whatever limited floorspace they could find. For those unable to attend, we were even able to stream the event live online, providing some of Melbourne’s best local talent with a rare opportunity to reach an appreciative international audience.

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Instead of listening to a parade of performers and a constant stream of music, we followed each performance with a live interview about their music and inspirations. Whilst each were fantastically talented musicians, we believe that it’s only once you get to know a bit about the person behind the guitar/piano that you truly understand what their songs are about and where they’re coming from. It’s only then that you gain true context for them as a musician.

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Acoustic Café owners, Ian & Glenda continued to show their unwavering support for local talent by lending their years of expertise at the sound desk. Their support for local live music has been unconditional and we can’t thank them enough for their assistance and sharing our passion.

Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was the climactic collaborative closing jam, featuring all performers plus yours truly! For several weeks we had been preparing our unique rendition of ‘The Weight’ by The Band. Sharing verses, solos, harmonising choruses, and inspiring a bit of a sing-a-long from the crowd, it was truly a very special ending to the show, creating a wonderful sense of community.

Regardless of whether or not you made it on the day, we eagerly hope to see you at our next event which we are already excitedly planning for you!

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Mr Boogie Man’s Open Mic – The Backstory

About a month ago I was seeing a friend’s band (Mass Rejection) play a show at the Mr Boogie Man Bar on Hoddle street. It was a Saturday evening and I had never been to this joint before. I instantly fell in love with the bar’s décor and its set up, as well as the lovely and down-to-Earth owner, David.

I was speaking with a fellow Heartstrings Melbourne-ite at the bar about how well this venue would suit an Open Mic Night – already having a killer sound system installed along with a funky and inviting stage. Draped with Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and other rock memorabilia, this venue was perfect. Especially with the unfortunate closure of the Acoustic Café, the area needed a platform for local talents.

We managed to speak to the owner about this prospect and, while he was very keen, he wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it as he had never held an Open Mic Night before.

Being a seasoned Open Mic performer both in Melbourne and overseas, I’ve been meeting with the venue owner over the past couple weeks to help him establish his very own and very first Open Mic Night.

We are all excited to announce that the first one will be held on this Wednesday 7th May. Musicians can book anytime from now ’til the night itself by calling David on 0406 797 644.

Hosted by yours truly, both David and myself hope to see you all there!

Christopher Sprake

_DSC3869Open Mic Night @ The Acoustic Cafe
 

“The more time you spend trying to be someone else is just time wasted.”

Chris has had a fruitful career in music with a highlight being a solo tour in Canada earlier in the millennium. It only takes the first few seconds of his set to realise why. His extremely smooth but powerful voice conveys the soul of a sincere and authentic musician.

He runs a recording studio on Hoddle street called Last Match Recordings and he plays atmospheric indie rock in a band (as well as pursuing a folk side-project).

He draws inspiration from his day-to-day interactions with people and in particular from the community work he is involved in – helping people overcome struggles in their own lives who come from underprivileged backgrounds.

Passionate about supporting the community, Chris’s studio is based in a Government housing complex where his facilities are open for use by the residents free of charge.

Being a producer and seeing so many musicians come into his studio for over 7 years, he stresses the fact the you have to find your own authentic story and sound:

“The more time you spend trying to be someone else is just time wasted. People respond to something that’s genuine.”

Check out www.christophersprake.com for more details on his fantastic career and be sure to drop into his studio whenever you need some recording work done!

Tony Creedon

  untitled-0118Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“Whether they come or not, I’d still play.”

Tony is by far one of the most unique performers you’ll ever see. You could spend an entire evening at a pub with about 12 acts of live music and not remember anyone but Tony. His impressive and rugged appearance is surpassed only by his incredible voice; the most powerful I’ve heard. He is gentle by nature (though his appearance may suggest otherwise) but when he’s performing, his stage presence and songs completely dominate the room and beyond; especially when he gets to one of his infamous songs called “Shit in your eye”. There is nothing superficial about this man. He just puts himself completely out there and is always up for a friendly chin-wag afterwards.

“I got nowhere else to play and I get to meet people to put on my radio show.”

Tony is not only at Open Mics to perform, he’s also on the hunt for local talent to feature on his radio show, “Come on Come in” on 3CR (Thursdays at 3pm). He’s always on the lookout for new performers so if he reckons you’re good enough, he’ll come up to you and organise for you to play on-air! Having seen so many performers on the local scene and playing host to many more on his radio show, I asked him what makes a good musician. True to his own approach, there can’t be any superficiality about the performance,

“[The songs] have got to be heartfelt.”

Tony appreciates the importance of supporting and fostering grassroots live music. He’d love to see more people musicians and non-musicians coming down to support the local scene but regardless of whether or not there’s a crowd, he’ll still be strumming away up on stage.

“Whether they come or not, I’d still play.”

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Ann Poore

_MG_6418Open Mic Night @ The Acoustic Cafe
 

 I’ve been playing music all my life – I couldn’t live without it.”

A harp player… and now you’ve seen it all – only the wings and the halo are missing!

Playing contemporary folk music based around themes of war, Ann Poore is a psych nurse dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder patients (mainly war veterans but her patients also include staff from the emergency services).

Music is an escape for her. Working in the treatment of mental health sure can get under your skin at times.

“Music is a great healer and solace. It can change or express your mood. I’ve been playing music all my life – I couldn’t live without it.”

Not only does she enjoy playing music, she plays Open Mics specifically to get over her performance anxiety.

“It all started with me asking myself ‘Why am I so scared of doing something I enjoy?'”

She finds herself drawing much inspiration for her music from her work, whilst simultaneously using music as an outlet.

I can have my work and my music and I can use them both to enhance the other.”

Her work and therefore music revolves mainly around war themes and interestingly, she has put World War 1 poetry to music – think Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney, etc.

She also has a concept album in the pipeline due for release this year – “Bullets Like Rain” – Songs of war for harp and voice. She unveiled some of those tracks on the night I spoke to her and they really tug at the ‘heartstrings’… if you’ll pardon the pun! The release of the album is scheduled to coincide with the Centenary of Remembrance Day (1914-2014); make sure you pick it up and keep up-to-date with her musical escapades on her facebook page.

“The most famous, richest, most played pop stars and divas on the radio didn’t start out earning millions of dollars; they started in venues like this. They’ve paid their dues and they’re reaping the rewards of the hard work they did when they were younger.”

Michael Waugh

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“You can’t practice connecting with an audience sitting in your bedroom; you’ve got to actually get out there and do it.”

Whilst Michael is more of an ‘established artist’, having played multiple festivals around Australia (eg: Selby Festival, Cygnet Folk Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, etc.), he maintains the heart and soul of a grassroots musician. A truly down-to-Earth and sincere singer/songwriter, Michael’s music is folk and country inspired; the storytelling songs.

Spending most of his 20s chasing a rock n roll dream, emulating pop songs with little success, Michael is now happily married and a full-time media studies and drama teacher.

“I don’t aspire to be a rockstar. I’m not trying to get somewhere or be something, I’m already there. Even if I’m playing in a place with two people in the room and one of them is listening and connects with the story, I’m already there.”

It wasn’t until he found his voice and began writing songs true to himself that he really began to connect with audiences. Check out his moving performance at the Port Fairy Folk Festival:

 

“You could see people wiping tears from their eyes. It was so powerful that I felt all of that coming back to us on stage. We all had that experience together.”

Is it any wonder why he has won multiple songwriter awards? I wanted to know about his creative process!

Michael writes a lot of his songs in-transit, but only writes down the ones that have stuck with him:

“If they’ve connected with me they’re likely to connect with somebody else […] I’ll write down the songs that make me tear up. The more specific the description of your experience, the more broadly it will apply to people.”

He certainly has not forgotten his Open Mic roots. They were a platform for him to hone his musical skills as well as practicing the craft of communicating with an audience.

“You can’t practice connecting with an audience sitting in your bedroom; you’ve got to actually get out there and do it.”

Open Mics are also about meeting people and developing a community; in fact Michael met both Kate Crowley (featured in the above clip), and his manager, Aaron Thomas, on the Open Mic scene.

“All it takes is someone to say, ‘I really enjoyed that, thank you’, and that means the world to that person who just walked off stage. Other people also see that and it creates a supportive culture.”

Check out his Heyfield Girl EP on iTunes – I remember “Heyfield Girl” from when I would see him play on the local scene back in 2012. A very touching song both then and now!

Grab a copy of his second EP by sending him an email at info@michaelwaugh.com.au.

Keep posted on his performances on his Facebook Page: facebook.com/michaelwaughfm

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Obituary: The Acoustic Cafe’s Final Hours

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The Acoustic Cafe saw its final Open Mic Night on Thursday 27th March and closes officially as of today. So it is with great sadness that I find myself writing the obituary for this fantastic live music venue and watering hole.

I made my way through the venue for the last time, a cold beer in my hand, squeezing past people occupying whatever space they could find – I had never seen the place so busy before. There was a strong sense of community – there are few venues that can generate this kind of atmosphere. Nodding acknowledgements to some fantastic performers I’d seen and met there in the past, the place was filled with good cheer and merry, though with a distinct tinge of sadness in the air.

Normally performers would have to book a week in advance to play at their Open Mic, however Thursday night’s finale was a free-for-all, ‘sign up and play’ arrangement. With a record 41 acts signed up to play on the Acoustic Cafe’s final Open Mic, the venue surely went out with a bang supporting Melbourne’s local live music one last time.

While it was easy to feel nostalgic and melancholy, the night was also a celebration and tribute to the fantastic music talent our city has to offer.

– The Future –

No one knows quite yet what’s on the cards for the owners Ian & Glenda going forward – staying in Melbourne and hosting other Open Mics in the short term seems likely. Beyond that, Ian & Glenda plan on moving out of the city and potentially hosting live music festivals down near Wilson’s Promontory.

Whatever their ambitions, we all wish them well and thank them for their unconditional love for local live music.

 “Hopefully in over the four years I’ve given enough people enough starts.”
– Ian Beer, Owner, The Acoustic Cafe

Marcel Altena

Marcel Altena
Open Mic Night @ The Acoustic Cafe
 

“I picked up the guitar because of a female I really liked…”

A candid and friendly musician, Marcel’s style has a distinct blues tinge to it, seasoned to perfection with some jazz elements (yes this is now a cookery blog). An interesting combination and complemented by a voice that brought the crowd in closer at this already intimate venue.

Playing guitar for 3 years and singing for just around 2 years, all self-taught, Marcel admits that:

“I picked up the guitar because of a female I really liked who was also playing the guitar and I wanted to learn with them. They fell off the radar, but I just kept going with it.”

Whatever the reason for taking it up, we were all glad that he continued with it!

He’s been busking for about a year now but he plays Open Mics to gauge how he sounds and get feedback from the audience.

“[I play music for] Self-expression; at the moment it’s just to play, but if people thought I was good enough, then may as well [take it further].”

Working a couple jobs in hospitality, Marcel is a bar man, barista and wait staff, spending his time outside of work playing music. Busking for about a year – hunt for him in the inner city suburb shopping centres and supermarkets.

As a local musician:

“Don’t be afraid of judgement. Do what feels right. That’s more complicated than it sounds; knowing what actually feels right.”

For (potential) live music fans:

“Don’t come just for the Open Mic. Come for a good time; the social atmosphere and meet like-minded people.”

Interview Bloopers:

Marcel, being of Dutch descent, has a very long name (shortened on this blog to Marcel Altena) which he jokingly says may inhibit his ability to attain fame:

“Famous musicians their names have an even number of syllables; you have like E-ric Clap-ton, Ji-mi Hen-drix.”

The Acoustic Cafe

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“Hopefully in over the four years I’ve given enough people enough starts.”

Run by a musician for musicians, everyone’s encouraged at the Acoustic Cafe: A Cappella, xylophones, harps, poets, but the majority are singer/songwriters on acoustic guitar.

Ian Beer, a down-to-Earth singer/songwriter himself, owns this fantastic venue on Johnston St Collingwood, decorated with beautiful acoustic guitars on the wall.
Prior to The Acoustic Cafe’s launch in 2010, the place was known as the Ilk Bar and lacked the emphasis on live music that the venue has today. Ian had played a gig there and, impressed by the acoustics of the space, offered to buy the venue!

“Everyone talks about the Acoustic Cafe’s sound. I take a lot of care when I’m doing the mixing and I put the sound system in myself, but I have to say it’s mainly the room.”

Ian has been hosting Open Mic Nights at his venue for over 4 years:

“I like to nurture talent. I know what it was like when I did Open Mics; you’d play two songs and then ‘alright, off you go’. I thought, when I do it I’m gonna give them half an hour and make it more of a showcase Open Mic; one that they can learn and grow from.”

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Some notable examples of musicians going on to successful careers in music after The Acoustic Cafe:

  • Gena Rose Bruce –  2012 Telstra Road to Discovery winner  –  acknowledged the Acoustic Café’s contribution to her own learning and growth as a musician
  • Michael Waugh – multi -award winning songwriter

Ian recalls a notably unusual experience he’s had hosting a live music night:

There was a drunk performer from Frankston who slurred his words and ignored hints to finish his set – to the point where Ian was compelled to cut the PA system on him. The performer retaliated some time after by throwing a cup of water all over the venue owner. Rock n roll, right!?

According to Ian:

“Open Mics provide valuable learning opportunities for musicians; they should stay a little longer and watch other performers! Musicians and their supporters need to understand that it’s a two way street. Venues won’t keep going if they get 12 acts in; 10 of those 12 don’t buy drinks and half of them walk out right after their sets. Where else in Melbourne can you get 12 fresh faces performing for you?”

Unfortunately, as of March 31st, the Acoustic Cafe has closed its doors for good – Read the Obituary blog post.

Readers of Heartstrings Melbourne are also invited to Ian Beer’s own live performance – Sunday 30th March, 1-4pm, Tylden Harvester (43 Trentham Road, Tylden). See you there!

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Cailan Smith

Cailan
Open Mic Night @ The Acoustic Cafe
 

“I’ve played around with instruments since I was young.”

Playing a vibrantly red semi-acoustic electric guitar, Cailan’s unique sound with vocals on reverb stood out from the sea of straight acoustic guitars.

Still getting the hang of performing solo (this being his second open mic night), Cailan finds it very different being up in front of an audience without the presence of his band.

“Singing and doing the whole thing by yourself is so different.” 

Originally from the regional of Victoria, Cailan is new to the chaotic and loud Melbourne scene. Working in software development for five years, he found that he had no interests in the business and left to pursue opportunities elsewhere. He passes his time playing music throughout the day, while exploring and travelling to forests and ranges just to add some adventure.

Fuzzy 70’s Rock, country and Wild Craft are styles of music that influence him as a musician.

“Be yourself. If it feels right, play it. Don’t put something across that isn’t yourself.”

Final thoughts on the dwindling live music scene:

“Music’s everything, what are they going to do once it’s gone? More buskers on the street? It’s a massive tourism thing – people come to Melbourne for the music.”

You can check out Cailan busking the busy streets of Melbourne in Essendon/Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale. With two live solo performances under his belt now, be sure to catch him doing what he loves at Brunswick’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ Bar as well as the Acoustic Cafe on Thursdays.

For Cailan’s latest head to http://www.facebook.com/wildcraftband and to http://wildcraft.bandcamp.com/