Want to be serenaded, surrounded by some of the oldest and rarest books in Australia in a gold rush era building?
From ice rink to antique store, wine bar to abandoned shopping complex, at the end of this month all kinds of spaces across Ballarat are being transformed into performance venues for the Be_Hear/Now festival.
Now into its third year, previous iterations of Be_Hear/Now, which celebrates music, art and place, have seen musicians playing in stormwater drains and bowling alleys, although Covid restrictions and lockdowns meant these gigs were live-streamed.
This year, however, Ballarat’s best are back out in front of live audiences. “This is only the second time since 2019 that it has been able to include live audiences in different spaces around town, which is hugely exciting, going back to its roots!” explains Be_Hear/Now’s Live Music Co-ordinator Sam Boon.
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The festival, which takes place from June 30 – July 2, is part of Creative Ballarat’s live music program. There are five headline acts – Sami, Cassells, Iridescence, Pyrex and Confetti Western – who have all been selected as “ones to watch” and then there are the “fringe acts”, a diverse selection of local acts, which means there’s a program chock-full of 20 gigs over three days.
“We were thinking of how the space and artist would work and sometimes trying something that might not be as ‘safe’, like putting a band in a deli and fine wine store or an antique shop or an abandoned shopping complex. The act had to fit the space,” explains Boon.
“The aim is that maybe some people who don’t usually interact with live music may see how great it is whilst they browse for their bottle of Dom Pérignon or 19th-century French mahogany bookcase, maybe they will follow that band and come to their future gigs!
“The other outcome is they may never shop at the stores again and send lots of emails to the council but either way at least we have provoked something right?!” he quips.
What Boon is really hoping to provoke is getting people out of the house and back to seeing live music. “We are really trying to showcase to audiences, visitors and locals alike, the diversity of the local scene here”. To that end, the festival covers a gamut of genres – indie rock and pop, jazz, classical, RnB, world music and spoken word poetry – with the one uniting factor being “all of the acts we have booked are strictly local, either living, working or studying in Ballarat”.
“The whole essence of Be_Hear/Now is to grow and nurture our local emerging talent, something I am very passionate about,” says Boon, an established jazz musician himself, who will also be performing.
Taking the idea of nurturing local talent a step further, this year will also feature the inaugural Be_Hear/Now Live Music Conference. Subsidised by Creative Ballarat through the City of Ballarat’s creative city strategy, tickets to the day-long conference are a ridiculously-affordable $10 and, better yet, it’s not just restricted to locals – anyone from around the state is invited.
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“It’s a full day of professional development aimed at all musicians and music educators, students wanting to start a career in music, songwriters/composers wanting to learn how to get the most out of their royalties and help with touring and booking festivals,” explains Boon.
Leading industry professionals, from labels, management, bookers, APRA, AMCOS, Music Victoria and other areas of the industry, will deliver masterclasses, workshops and panel discussions, as part of answering the day’s overarching question “where to next for live music?”
With networking playing such an important part in career development, Boon says the conference is also about creating opportunities and new relationships by bringing artists and industry professionals together. “There is also a great gig and industry night at Volta after the conference for more chances to network and hang with like-minded people in our industry,” he says of the showcase that will feature Freya-Josephine Hollick, Lashes, Nkechi Anele (DJ) and DJ Macaroni.
He points out that a Vline ticket is only $9 return from anywhere in the state and the conference, like everything else across the weekend, is located within a five-minute walk of the Ballarat Railway station.
“Expect the unexpected – these gigs aren’t like seeing your normal gig down the pub,” he says. “There’s something for everyone, so check out the website and get amongst it!
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This article was made in partnership with City of Ballarat.