It’s sad news for live music acts and punters alike as renowned Warrnambool venue The Loft is set to close its doors for the last time in June.
Over the past two decades, iconic Australian musicians such as Kate Miller-Heidke, Tim Rogers, Sarah Blasko and Dallas Crane, have graced its stage. The venue, which opened 20 years ago as The Liquid Lounge, has also helped foster the talents of up-and-coming south-west musicians in their early days, such as Jackson McLaren, Didirri, Nancie Schipper and Tom Richardson.
Current operator and passionate live music promoter Lyn Mast says poor attendance and a shift in the local live music scene have played a big part in the venue’s imminent closure.
“There is a definite shift in the regional live music scene,” she says. “I think that folks are happy to go to an event once a month or sit at home and watch or download content and not have to go out.”
Lyn, who has owned the venue with her husband Jed for the past 3 years, says poor attendance meant that there were more outgoing costs than incoming revenue. “We put all we had into trying to keep the venue open for the community but we no longer have the resources to keep propping it up and without people coming through the doors we were going into debt to keep it open.”
The lengthy closure of Liebig Street for streetscape works, the axing of the local newspaper’s music page and limited radio support for live acts, were also contributing factors in the venues closure according to Lyn. She believes radio greatly influences what music is popular among the younger generation.
“We have noticed a definite pattern in the number of people attending a gig at our venue or elsewhere if the music is promoted on Triple J…but they don’t promote everything.”
Lyn says metal bands and rock bands in particular deserve more support from Australian audiences and radio. “If things keep going the way they are, we will lose all our good musicians as they move overseas where they are more appreciated.”
Lyn, who is also a singer songwriter, says with more than 300 acts having played at The Loft each year, it is difficult to pick her favourite live performance. Instead she says her fondest memories stem from seeing local talent getting their first big break on stage.
“One of my favourite moments was when all the young local and regional musicians got together and put on an extravaganza at Christmas,” she says, “They all jammed together at the end and it was the best Christmas present ever. I was holding back the tears.”
Refusing to go out quietly, The Loft has a grand exit planned with its annual festival Arockalypse, which will include three stages of live music playing all day. Acts already announced include Nancie Schipper, Nathan Seekts, The Refuge, Hidden Intent, The Alamo and Rage Against the Sewing Machine . Headline acts are yet to be announced.
The Loft will also continue to host a variety of weekly gigs until its closure including King Parrot, Raised by Eagles, Madder Lake, Spectrum and Stars, The Tommyhawks, Daniel Champagne and some local bands reforming (The 80 Aces) to play one last gig at the place where it all began for them. Arockalypse will take place on Sunday, June 9 so get on down and send these guys off with a bang!
The Loft is located at 6/58 Liebig Street, Warrnambool.
Written by Sally Poehland