And the band plays on: How Adelaide’s amateur artists coped with COVID-19

The rekindling of Adelaide’s nightlife means it’s back to the stage for our amateur musicians. (Image source: Ticketbo)

By Dani Bozoski | @danibozoski

For the avid music fan or keen city-goer, Adelaide’s live music scene was once a buzzing, weekend necessity.

Adelaide is loved for its amateur musicians that never fail to brighten up a stroll through Rundle Mall and fill the bars, restaurants, and cafes of our city.

However, while A-listers continued to connect with audiences thanks to the internet, COVID-19 social restrictions dried our city streets bare of buskers and tuned us out of small gigs.

For the solo artist and lead singer for ‘Mark Curtis and the Flannelettes’, Mark Curtis, reviving Adelaide’s music scene was just one of the hurdles faced by him and many other independent artists.

Mark Curtis and the Flannelettes. (Image source: MusicSA)

“My computer set up was not really fit for streaming,” he said.

“I personally don’t prefer to consume music via that medium, so it was hard to motivate myself to be proactive about staying ‘on the grid’.”

When it comes to keeping up the same work ethic as before restrictions were in place, Mark encouraged other artists not to feel bad about a lack of motivation and said he had “completely dropped the ball”.

“I know that no matter what, Adelaide is a supportive and open place, and its disconnect from Australia’s bigger industry hubs like Melbourne and Sydney helps it to cultivate and maintain its own unique culture.”

However, the future looks bright for Mark, as maximum capacity for gatherings have risen in SA and in response to a viral petition, the State Government granted well-known amateur artist hub, The Gov, $300,000 last month.

Aspiring artists looking for exposure should also be happy to know that the City of Adelaide welcomes grant applications online, with creative projects being funded up to $8,000.

When asked about the grants, Adelaide city Councillor Jesse Khera, said the “culture and creativity produced by Adelaide musicians plays an important role in the wellbeing of our community” and that the council is working to “ensure that creatives, including musicians, can continue to engage Adelaide audiences in innovative ways”.

More about how Adelaide is helping its live music scene finally get back on its feet can be found here.

Also aiming to re-engage their audience is metalcore band ‘Catalyst’, who have found working in the dramatic circumstances a challenge.

Siv Fontanarosa from Catalyst. (Image source: CatalystADL)

“We are still recording an EP record, which had been made difficult by COVID-19 restrictions,” Catalyst drummer, Siv Fontanarosa, said.

“The big social benefit to being able to play shows in Adelaide is that it is like a big family and is usually very welcoming of new artists. The Adelaide audiences for live music is what can gain you decent exposure.”

When discussing how the band coped with the strain of separation, Siv said, “It was a lot of talking over the phone, eventually coming together to practice while keeping social distancing in place and using spare time to practice.”

Using spare time productively was also important to Mark, as the singer/songwriter managed to complete an online university course and encourages others to do the same if they can.

“I was able to put more time and focus on creating compositions and recordings than would have been possible otherwise. It is often hard to balance such time-consuming work with gigs, rehearsals, and teaching but the restrictions made such schedule balancing a non-issue,” he said.

“If anything, I actually enjoyed taking a break from the constant strive for relevancy, and instead I focused on creating for its own sake which has been great.”

Adelaide’s strong creative vein has not escaped music lovers either as local Adelaide resident, Willow Fry, said that she eagerly awaited the reopening of Adelaide’s venues.

Willow, 19, is a graphic designer by day but by night can be found regularly supporting small artists across Adelaide.

“We shouldn’t forget about the little guy in the transition back to normality, so I have loved seeing so many smaller artists raring to go.”

“So much great talent comes out of our city – we gave the world Sia and Cold Chisel through our small town-like support.

“Why shouldn’t the up-and-comers be given the same opportunity?”

The curtain has risen again for Catalyst and Mark, who are aiming to keep practicing and encourage people to participate in the live music scene as much, and as safely, as they can.

To support the return of Adelaide’s amateur artists, both Mark Curtis and Catalyst can be found on Facebook and Instagram, where updates on upcoming performances and releases can be found.

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