Last week, Education Minister Peter Garrett joined NSW live music venue Playbar in the fight against Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, who has been threatening the security of the Surry Hills bar located just beneath her offices, after lodging multiple noise complaints to Sydney City Council against the newly established venue
Take a stand last Friday night, the Midnight Oil frontman turned Federal Minister joined Sydney Councillor and fellow Labor member Linda Scott at Playbar as part of a Labor Loves Live Music event at the venue to highlight the importance of live music culture in Sydney’s inner-city. But the event saw the tables turning, with the jazz bar downstairs being made subject to noise from the upstairs Greens offices who were hosting a party the same night.
Tensions between Labor and Greens representatives flared, when Senator Lee Rhiannon’s office decided – in a striking coincidence – to host a party to send-off a long-term staffer, with “stamping” and “loud music” overhead interrupting a speech that Minister Garret was giving, in the venue downstairs, about the importance of protecting live music culture, as TheMusic reports.
Addressing the crowd, which included Sounds Australia’s National Live Music Advisor, Dr. Ianto Ware, and live music activist John Wardle, Minister Garret’s speech was reportedly punctuated by distinct rhythmic stomping coming from the Greens offices above.
Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne, who has been pushing hard for the support of live music venues in his efforts to rescue the Annandale Hotel from developers while developing plans for a live music hub, was also present at the Playbar event, making a noise complaint of his own over Twitter:
— Darcy Byrne (@MayorDarcy) May 31, 2013
TheMusic also quotes the venue’s owner as saying: “I’m not sure about the marching boots above us here. Don’t let me at the end of a long week, four days in the parliament and now Friday, start getting into the historical analogies of those marching feet – I won’t do that.”
Meanwhile, Crikey quotes a source present at Playbar as saying that ‘“Senator Lee Rhiannon hosted a noisy knees-up on Friday night in her Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices to farewell a Greens party [member].” “The Senator’s staff and guests spent considerable time stomping on their floors, drowning out the live jazz music below, and interrupting a speech by Peter Garrett MP.”
“The Senator’s staff and guests spent considerable time stomping on their floors, drowning out the live jazz music below, and interrupting a speech by Peter Garrett MP about the importance of vibrant live music venues and small bars in the inner city,” continues the source.
Labor’s Linda Scott confirmed to Crikey that there was “some noisy stomping when [Garrett] spoke, but primarily people were there to show their support for the live music that was being played at Playbar.” While the Federal Minister himself said that the event helped demonstrate the importance of live music. “There are precious few places where Sydney-siders can gather to enjoy local talent,” he told Crikey. “The lifeblood of the local music scene depends on people having places to play and this little venue deserves to stay open on Friday and Saturday nights.”
It was found in March that Senator Rhiannon had lodged multiple complaints against Playbar; as a result, co-owner Daniel Robertson lamented last month that imposed sound restrictions were severely affecting business. “We have to shorten staff hours, cancel musicians, and stand to loose (sic) the business,” he said, while the Greens Senator claimed in defence: “My position has not changed. I have been working hard to resolve this issue. All we are after is some insulation. We are keen for small bars to flourish.”
When approached by Crikey about the ‘stomping’ that interrupted Playbar’s protest, a spokeswoman for Senator Rhiannon said: “The events on Friday night highlight the absence of insulation between Senator Rhiannon’s office and the Playbar which was removed before the venue started operating and which the landlord is responsible for reinstalling.”
Also noting that the “farewell was organised well prior to Senator Rhiannon becoming aware of a Labor event at the Play Bar [sic].” The spokeswoman says the noise that interrupted Garret’s speech was not intentional, and her descriptions also makes the Greens gathering sound like quite the colourful affair.
“No one had any idea at what time Peter Garrett was speaking at the Labor event,” she adds. “Acoustic music was being played at the farewell with a pink guitar, a green kazoo, a uke and a mandolin and occasionally someone stomped their foot in time with the music.”
Senator Rhiannon has expressed her willingness to work with Labor to end the dispute, claiming she did not know about the Playbar function,
Sydney street press, The Drum, who were tweeting from the event, were also accused of taking sides by Greens members (who just so happened to be checking their social media while enjoying their party), with Marrickville councillor Melissa Brooks writing, “We’re actually having a farewell for a staff member of 10 years. Would be great if you could stop running Darcy’s talking points,” in reference to the Leichhardt Mayor. “Acoustic music was being played at the farewell with a pink guitar, a green kazoo, a uke and a mandolin and occasionally someone stomped their foot in time with the music.” – Greens statement
It’s not the first time Mayor Byrne has been embroiled in an accusation. Since the dispute began after Playbar’s February opening, Senator Rhiannon’s Facebook has been flooded by angry live music supporters questioning the Greens Senator’s issues with live music.
In response to another concerned commenter, Senator Rhiannon writes: “This is not a political issue but Leichhardt Labor Councillor Darcy Byrne is trying to turn it into a Labor attack campaign that misrepresents the Greens’ and my position on live music and small bars.”
Senator Rihannon said she was willing to work with Labor to end the dispute, but claimed she had not known about the function below until earlier that day. The Greens Senator – whose portfolios include animal welfare, forestry, higher education, international aid and development and women’s rights – maintains that her complaints addressed towards the venue are not a personal vendetta, but cited she often needed to work at night and at weekends, her work disrupted by the noise coming from the open bar.
Despite maintaining their volumes at levels approved by local council, Playbar’s Daniel Robertson was told the venue’s sound levels were in breach of offensive noise laws with council inspectors sent to the property regularly. In response, says Robertson, “the music was turned down to a level that the senator, not the inspectors, deemed acceptable, leaving people’s voices being too loud… A solution offered was to ask our patrons to talk quietly to each other in the bar.”