Adelaide musicians call for a safe return of the public to revitalize the city’s live music scene

Husband and wife Zkye Compson-Harris and Damien Steele-Scott used to play in several bands – now they only have each other.

“It’s lucky we can do this with just the two of us, because I think I might have had two band gigs this year, and that’s lucky,” Mr. Steele-Scott said.

Ms. Compson-Harris has had to sideline her rock, blues and country bands because venues can only afford solo artists or duos playing in front of their COVID-restricted crowds.

“There’s no band anymore…basically, when there’s no dancing and no stand-up, it’s very difficult,” she said.

After nearly two years of the pandemic, full-time musicians consider themselves lucky to continue to earn a living, even though they’ve gone from seven gigs a week to two or three.

Ria Loof is the Music Coordinator at the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Thebarton. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Concert halls, such as the popular Wheatsheaf Hotel in Thebarton, say they cannot afford to host bands with the current restrictions.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t had a show since just before Boxing Day – we had to shut everything down,” Wheatsheaf music coordinator Ria Loof told the ABC.

Without music, owners of venues like this don’t believe they’ll be able to keep trading any longer.

“Our whole philosophy is about live music, brewing our beers and sharing,” Mr. Loof said.

The government has just raised capacity restrictions to 50%, but has yet to say when dancing and standing drinking will be allowed.

“We want to lift these restrictions, however, but do so in a safe and sustainable way,” Prime Minister Steven Marshall said on Saturday.

The restrictions – in place since Boxing Day – mean musicians are among the few industries unable to work even if there is no lockdown.

Adam Page – one of Adelaide’s best-known musicians and recording studio owner – said this meant the local music scene was gone.

The loss of live music doesn’t just affect those who play it.

A man playing the saxophone
One of Adelaide’s best-known musicians, Adam Page, says the local music scene has disappeared.(ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Artists and venues alike fear the loss of culture and connection associated with live performances.

“It’s not just the artists,” Mr. Page said.

With the number of COVID-19 cases declining, live music may return, but it will need an audience that feels safe to come out and listen.

Ms Compson-Harris and Mr Steele-Scott want the government and local councils to provide better access to public spaces, such as parks, for outdoor concerts, to encourage the public to return safely.

“The outside is the new inside,” Ms. Compson-Harris said.

“That’s where the venues have to adapt… using all these amazing parks we have, even having the street performance we did with Adelaide City Council in the winter.

“It was amazing. It helps a lot of musos get by.”

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