In the Studio with Robbie Phillips

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Heartstrings Melbourne is all about discovering and showcasing the plethora of local live music available to us, focussing on the individual. But after having met and featured so many talented musicians, we wanted to do more than that. We wanted to actively help develop these grassroots talents to realise their musical aspirations – whatever they may be!

To this end, we’ve teamed up with Last Match Recordings to provide free demo/EP studio time (usually valued at over $200!) to one talented and deserving musician per month from the blog.

_CI23933That’s where Robbie Phillips comes in! We met Robbie at the Balaclava Hotel Open Mic Night one Thursday evening. He had mentioned his aspiration to take the next step into recording a demo. This, coupled with his impressive musicianship and the high standard of his originals, meant Robbie was clearly an ideal candidate for the first recording session.

“My music can be quite expressive and I was a little nervous about how it would translate on a recording. I have an idea of what my music sounds like in my head, but hearing it back through a pair of high tech monitors and suddenly it’s naked and exposed. After the session, I’m now starting to see how I can take my sound further. I’m full of ideas that I can’t wait to explore.
Chris was a pleasure to work with. He knows exactly how to get the best out of a sound. He’s a magician behind that mixing desk of his.
I’m very grateful to both Heartstrings Melbourne and Last Match Recordings for the opportunity!”

Jump on his facebook page to keep updated on his music and be sure to keep an eye out for Robbie, a truly humble and extremely talented musician!

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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!

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

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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