Reviving vinyl at The Bank

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN THE LOCAL, A QUARTERLY FEATURE OF NEIGHBOURHOOD NEWSPAPER.

  By Benito Di Fonzo. Photography by Nick Gascoigne

A man cradling a Steve Miller Band LP strolls past as Bauhaus’s cover of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust flows from The Bank Hotel beer garden via DJ Erica Olson. She’s tucked away in a corner and motions me over. I stroll past turntables, where a bald man and his dreadlocked mate pass headphones back and forth as they study the gatefold of an old sci-fi-movie soundtrack. Resisting the German pressing of The Beatles ‘Sie Liebt Dich’ (She Loves You), I reach Olson by the Ladies.

“How does it sound out there?” she asks, explaining that she has to DJ away from the garden as a work-around to noise restrictions. I tell her it sounds great.

Olson and Pete Pasqual produce a show on 2SER and, alongside fellow vinyl collector Tim Morris, created Newtown Record Fair. After a similar event ended with the closing of Newtown Social Club, they simply approached The Bank’s manager, Dave Mills.

“I was talking to 2SER about advertising,” says Mills, “and doing a whole community approach to what we wanted to do with the music upstairs at Waywards and the Record Fair fitted into that. I give them the space, they bring the records, no rent, very community. It just grew from day one.”

After six months of successful events (on the first Saturday of each month) a live gig component was added at Waywards, with local brewers Young Henry’s as sponsors along with 2SER.

“The idea,” says Olson, “is we showcase young bands, get them to play, record it at broadcast standard, do live sessions where we can play their music on 2SER, and then press a vinyl series of 45s or LP so we have something to give away.”

The headliner for this first ‘Newtown Record Fair Live’ are Sydney’s psychedelic garage act Los Tones. The vinyl element comes as a surprise to guitarist, Rowen Welsh.

“Growing up when I did I just assumed it was a CD, but of course,” he laughs, “CDs are dust!”

I ask Olson if vinyl attracts a particular type of punter.

“Music is about a memory or a feeling that is created by a person when they play that record, so it’s connecting them to some other experience, or it’s introducing them to a new experience. That’s more a psychographic than a demographic split. So here you see middle-aged men because that is traditionally the audience that buys vinyl, but we have a lot of young people that buy vinyl because it’s distant from the MP3 experience. They want something tangible. We promote the fair to women as well. Usually there’s a 50/50 split.”

Charlie from Talkin’ Trash Records, who describes herself as, “the token young female who sells here,” has a deep affection for vinyl eccentrics. “There’s always weirdos when it comes to records,” she says. “I love them! I used to run a record shop. I had one customer who always had headphones on but he’d only listen to white noise. I could hear it. He was my favourite. He never bought anything but he would come and dig every week.”

Newtown Record Fair regular Anthony Connolly considers himself an audiophile.

“I’ve been noticing more and more when listening to vinyl that the dynamic range you get, especially with the drums, brings out the full width that you just don’t get when you listen to CDs. CDs sound like you’re listening to radio, it really flattens it out. Vinyl just makes music that much richer, apart from seeing live bands of course! People are also wanting to go back to owning the full artwork, which you can’t do with CDs.”

Connolly skipped MP3s altogether. “I never did the MP3. I’m not even sure what the MP3 was!” he laughs.

He remembers the first record he bought, Sydney band The Seamonster’s Winter’s Sun at Waterfront Records. Later, as I’m wondering if I really need that Beatles jigsaw puzzle or the soundtrack to long-forgotten Ozploitation film, Oz: A Rock n’ Roll Road Movie, Connolly returns, excited that he’s found a copy of that first Seamonster’s LP at the fair.

Upstairs we catch Los Tones’ support, local punks Nick Nuisance & The Delinquents, who ask the audience, “Did anyone get any good records? We missed it all, we don’t have any money!” before breaking into song.

As the band plays, people on the sunny balcony peruse one another’s purchases, while over a 1983 Nina Hagen LP and a beer in hand, Connolly concludes, “It’s been a pretty good arvo.”