THEY’RE the ointment in the Fly.
While Fremantle’s much-loved musicians club has limped through a year of uncertainty, a handful of diehards has held it together, scratching together just enough gigs to keep it afloat.
Manager-cum-everything Justine Crowther says the lack of a liquor licence has been tough, as some acts simply wouldn’t book Victoria Hall where the Fly is now based.
“It’s been a sink or swim year,” she told the Herald.
But just over a week ago the team received word the licence has finally come through, along with a lease signed with Freo council.
Ms Crowther is confident the final pieces of the jigsaw are now in place to make the club thrive again.
Working closely alongside her has been Hall of Fame muso Steve Tallis, whose Gaslight Club has been giving local performers an increasingly rare opportunity for paid work.
Each week he puts together three bands in the intimate performing space below the main stage and they split the door take.
“Work’s very tough for musicians at the moment, and my idea was to create a new venue where no-one pays for free,” Tallis told the Herald, adding musos are getting paid roughly the same for gigs now as they were in the 1970s.
“I had this concept a long time ago and approached every venue in Freo and they all thought I was mad.
“Then I met Justine and John Reid and it was a perfect fit for the Fly.”
Gaslight is nominally a blues night, but Tallis says his definition of the genre is so broad no band’s been turned away yet — except those who couldn’t bear to part with their massive Marshall stacks for one night.
On any Wednesday, the audience could be treated to a mix of flamenco, folk, jazz, rembetiko (Greek), fado (Portuguese) or punk.
Tallis says the talent is world-class, although it doesn’t hurt that his 50-year career in the local scene means he’s able to lure a big name or two in for a solo gig.
He says it’s a great source of frustration for him that WA musicians are chronically under-valued by their own community.
“I get far more exposure in Europe, I get far more airplay in Europe, than I do here,” Tallis says, noting that despite his longevity, this is his first interview with the Herald.
“I was living in Paris for six years, and coming back I noticed the industry here has really deteriorated and it is really a worry for me.”
Ms Crowther says with the licence now secure, they’re relaunching Stagefright on Thursdays to give emerging artists their chance in the spotlight.
Also coming up are The Justin Walshe Folk Machine on May 28, “The Dorkestra” Fremantle Heritage Festival show on May 29 and Melbourne indi/roots favourites Tinpan Orange on June 4.
by STEVE GRANT