Local Legends: THE HARP HOTEL

In terms of consistent pulling power, the Harp is probably the top venue in town.

The Corrimal St venue has arguably been the performance space that has ‘benefited’ most from the closure of other mid-sized venues in town, picking up acts that would have previously been hosted by the Oxford or Night Eats Day at Cooneys; the Harp has hosted the likes of Boy & Bear, The Jezabels, Ash Grunwald, Bodyjar, Parades, The Mission In Motion, Die! Die! Die!, and Howl in recent months, and the list of upcoming shows includes Oh Sleeper, The Chariot, Strange Talk, Pez and Maya Jupiter.

Largely dealing with tours from upcoming Australian talent – i.e. whatever you’re hearing on Triple J this week – its relationship with the team at Various Industries mean that the Harp is also usually a good place to check out local talent; Various seem to strive to put a local band or two on every gig that they can, helping local bands gain experience alongside more established acts.

A fairly classic representation of the ‘pub venue’ prevalent – but sadly in decline – in Sydney and Melbourne, it doesn’t try to be something it isn’t; a bar along one wall, a stage along the opposite wall, chairs and tables and a dancefloor between (and Buck Hunter and a pinball machine over in one corner). It’s a simple venue, but that is what makes it an effective venue. It’s a good venue for bands to play, it’s a good venue to see bands play. The sound system is great, you can see from wherever you are, you can sit down or stand up or dance, and – for some reason – it is never crowded.

Its proximity to the centre of town, to public transport and to essential amenities (i.e. McDonalds and Oporto) just helps to make the Harp one of the best venues in the area. A good lineup of bands, great facilities and an effective set-up; the Harp is a venue that you should become a little more acquainted with.

CONTACT:
The Harp Hotel, Wollongong
124 Corrimal Street, Wollongong
See Various Industries website for info on upcoming gigs.

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WEEKLY PREVIEW: 25 March – 1 May

GIG OF THE WEEK:
FRIDAY: Pom Pom, Vanguard Party + special guest @ Dicey Rileys
8pm, FREE, 18+

Despite an amazing lineup of talent – local, national and even international – making this week a very exciting one for Wollongong music fans, a relatively small gig in a pub on Crown Street is the one that Radar is encouraging you support.

Dicey Rileys, possibly known to you as “that Irish pub near the train station,” will host the first of its ‘Live and Local’ gigs this Friday; a weekly, FREE band night focusing on local talent. The venture will be launched by ex-Wollongong (now Melbourne-based) electro artist Pom Pom, alongside Vanguard Party and Tommy M & The Mastersounds.

Although the prospect of seeing two leading local acts playing for free should be more than enough to get you through the door, this gig is also important in the scope of the wider music scene and community. With similar ventures like Night Eats Day, Soundbreak Thursdays and Midnight Kamikaze closing down in recent months – and, of course, the closure of the Oxford Tavern – there is little live music activity in the Wollongong CBD. Without looking to discount the great work done by the awesome Otis Bar, or the great gigs put on at the Harp lately, there is really nowhere for louder acts to regularly play in the centre of town; one has to trek out to Fairy Meadow to The Patch to see loud rock acts.
The establishment of this venue at Dicey Rileys is a chance for music to be regularly available in the middle of town, so don’t let it go to waste by not supporting it; so get out to the opening night, and show the organisers and owners of Diceys that live music CAN be a viable and profitable idea for local venues!

As well, make sure to check out Radar’s interview with pom pom from earlier this week.

ALSO THIS WEEK:

TUESDAY: Oh Sleeper, The Chariot, Mary Jane Kelly, Totally Unicorn @ Harp Hotel
8pm, $28 presale (Tickets through OzTix), 18+

WEDNESDAY: Strange Talk, Pom Pom, Tainted Fist @ Harp Hotel
8pm, $10 presale (Tickets through Bigtix), 18+

THURSDAY: Steel City All Stars, The Kujo Kings, Rocksteady Dub Militia @ The Patch
8pm, $7, 18+

THURSDAY: King Tide, Tainted Fist @ Wollongong Unibar (Superheroes & Villains Party)
8pm, FREE for UOW students, (general admission $10), 18+

THURSDAY: Heart Set To Fail, Stay Down @ Wollongong Youth Centre
6pm, free, all ages

FRIDAY: Yellow Fever, Love Connection, Jack Reilly, Bec Sandridge @ Otis Bar
8pm, $10, 18+

FRIDAY: Mind At Large (EP Launch), The Watt Riot, Ye Luddites @ The Patch
8pm, $10, 18+

SATURDAY: Frenzal Rhomb, The Optionals, Totally Unicorn @ Wollongong Unibar
8pm, $22.50 presale, 18+

SATURDAY: Monstrocity @ City Diggers
Feat: Floating Me, Sleep Parade, As Silence Breaks, Elite Element, Earth Mechanics, Recoil, Arc Icarus, Kaleidoscope, Distract, The Wu’s and Won’ts
3pm-12am, $15, 18+

SATURDAY: Traces of Nut, Lost In Verona, Dr Johnson, Seek The Silence @ Nowra Youth Centre
6pm, FREE, all ages

We’re always happy to help out! If you would like to include an event in Radar’s weekly gig guide, please contact radar.illawarra@gmail.com

INTERVIEW: pom pom

 Wollongong electro act pom pom was a staple of Wollongong’s live music culture before moving to Melbourne to further her career; as you can imagine, opportunities for dark, industrial electronica  artists in Wollongong weren’t exactly huge. After releasing the awesome ‘In The Gaps Between‘ EP last year, pom pom returns home for her first Wollongong shows of the year. Radar caught up with pom pom ahead of her ‘homecoming’ shows this week:

For the uninitiated, how would you describe your music?
Well it’s electronic to begin with. Crunchy, distorted guitars and synthetic keyboard sounds. It’s a mash up between industrial dance beats, 80s synthesizer lines, 90s guitars and catchy female vocals; dirty and dark electro pop.

Your EP ‘In The Gaps Between’ was released in 2010, and was well-received both domestically and abroad. Take us through the process of completing the EP.
Well I’d been producing and working on the EP continuously for a fair few months. I then took the tracks to my co-producer Sean Carey (formerly of Thirsty Merc) who helped produce, mix and tweak them. I recorded all the guitars and vocals at Sean’s studio. It took a long time because I wanted the production to have subtleties that the listener might pick up after listening to it a few times. Also, I wanted the final product to be of the highest possible standard. I’m ecstatic with the results.

For me, your sound is an amalgam of different influences; I can hear a more modern rock influence in vocals, lyrics and some instrumentation, built upon a foundation of sometimes sparse, sometimes heavier, electronica. Who are some artists that you look up to, or are influenced by?
There aren’t too many, to be honest. Mainly, Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, with significant influences by The Knife, IAMX, Radiohead and some of Björk’s production techniques.

With such a large, diverse range of sounds, is it difficult to meld them all into a cohesive sounding song?
Not really. I go with my gut feeling. Although I write electronic music, I’m not a techie type person at all. I trust my ear, and go with what I think sounds interesting and unique.

You’re producing a very complex, multi-layered sound; how do you reproduce it in a live setting?
I used to play live in solo, duo and trio formats. The set up would change depending on what musicians were available to play at the time of the gig and what would suit the venue. Now I’m focusing on playing duo gigs with my good friend and band mate Steph D [backing vocals and synthesizer]. I trigger some sequences live using my laptop and have live versions of the backing tracks of all my songs. My EP has many layers of guitar although live it’s just me on guitar so I guess it’s more stripped-back and rock’n’roll.

You are originally from Wollongong, but now based in Melbourne. When and why did you make the move?
I grew up in Wollongong then moved to Sydney when I finished school. I lived up there for a few years on and off before moving to Melbourne a few months ago. I know Sydney and the Sydney music scene pretty well, and I guess I got tired of the lack of venues for darker electro acts to play. I’ve been to Melbourne lots of times and have always felt at home in Melbourne more than anywhere else in Australia. I plan to live in Melbourne this year and work hard on my music with the potential to move overseas next year depending on what opportunities arise.

In the time you’ve been away, a few live music nights at various clubs including Cooneys, The Brewery and Hostage X nightclub have come and gone; and on your return to Wollongong, you’ll be playing the first night of a new music venture at Dicey Riley’s. Are these types of nights prevalent in places like Melbourne or Sydney, and are they successful?
I guess I’d have to say in terms of new music nights and nights for more established acts in, Melbourne is much stronger than Sydney and Wollongong. People are more likely to go out mid-week and check out a band; not because they’re friends with someone in the band or because Triple J tells them that the band are cool, but because they’re more motivated by curiosity to discover new music and bands for themselves. The scene is much more inclusive and less competitive than Sydney which is something that motivated me towards moving down here. In terms of new music nights not lasting, I think that happens in both Sydney and Melbourne. Unfortunately, it seems to be happening more often in Wollongong, especially over the last year or so.

From your experience of living and gigging in Melbourne and Sydney, what infrastructure or methods do they have in place to encourage and support live music? That is, what ideas could be brought to Wollongong, to help live music?
Neither place has any real infrastructure in place. In terms of ideas, I have seen and been involved in some absolutely magical music events and gigs in Wollongong. There are some amazing people in Wollongong who have incredible ideas but lack support by the community at large. The culture of Wollongong is very similar to the Sydney scene but on a smaller scale. I’ve been involved with some really passionate and create events in Wollongong like warehouse raves and dark circus inspired band/theatre nights. These events are about people with vision and determination who get a night started. But they require the strength, support and patience to enable the word to get out before the night starts expanding with the sheer momentum of an exciting idea. Unfortunately, all these things take a huge wad of financial support, which is so rare to find on a local scale without major sponsorship or backing. To make things worse, the major sponsorship or backing is almost impossible to achieve without an already successful night. It’s a bit of a Catch-22 to say the least.

You’ll also be playing with Strange Talk while in Wollongong, with the two shows almost being a ‘homecoming’ for you. Anything special planned for these shows?
Hopefully one or both of the shows will involve my VJ Artist projecting images and footage, specially filmed for my live set, behind us while we play. I usually only get her involved when I want to raise the bar. And the fact that she lives in a different state now makes it difficult to get her involved these days too. Other than that, we may bust out some decorations on our keyboard stands… not that that’s too exciting… I tend to wear some pretty weird stage outfits and this run of shows will be no exception, as I’ll be wearing lights on my body for one of the two local shows. I’m pretty excited for that.

As mentioned, ‘In The Gaps Between’ was released in last year. Any new material on the horizon, or releases planned?
I’m still sitting on the last EP and waiting until I come across the right distribution deal for it. I’ve had a few offers so far but nothing I’ve been one hundred percent happy with. So, this year will involve getting the EP distributed and possibly signed. I’ve started work on what you’d say is an album also. Since I record while I write songs, I’ve been working on it for a little while already. It may be ready by the end of the year but with me you never know. We’ll see…

What’s next for pom pom as a band? More touring, recording, etc.?
We’ll come back to NSW probably around the beginning of July visiting a few more places next time, like Canberra and Newcastle I hope. Maybe it’ll be an east coast tour of shows up to Brisbane in the spring. For now, I’ll just continue to plug along and keep writing and playing gigs. It’s hard work but I love it, so I’ll just keep on keeping on.

pom pom has two gigs in Wollongong this week: Wednesday night at the Harp, supporting Strange Talk; and then Friday night, headlining Dicey Riley’s new ‘Live and Local’ band night, with Vanguard Party and Tommy M & The Mastersounds.

pom pom also plays Sydney’s Melt Bar (Kings Cross) on Thursday, supporting Snout Cassette.

‘In The Gaps Between’ is available on pom pom’s Bandcamp.

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