Tag Archives: Sarah Holmes

THE PEOPLE WHO MADE BENNETTS LANE WORK

Some time this year, after what is sure to be one hell of a party, Melbourne will lose the venue which has been at the heart of improvised music in the city for many years. Who knows what will spring up in the way of alternatives to the iconic Bennetts Lane, but as jazz in this city moves on, Ausjazz has asked the people who worked there to reflect on their involvement with this most welcoming of live music venues.

Emma Burrows

Candi Raeburn, Emma Burrows, Jeremy Jankie after a few Bells … er, drinks.

EMMA BURROWS

1. Over what period have you been associated with BL and in what role(s)?

I worked behind the bar and on the door from 2005 for six years.

2. How did you come to work there? Was there a job interview?

After pouring me a pinot, Megg asked me out of the blue if I would like to work at Bennetts. I asked her years later why she hired me after exchanging only a few words. She said she liked my body language with my date at the time. Hard to believe that was the very first time I walked into the club. I love that an Al Browne gig will be the first & last gig I see at Bennetts.

3. What was it like to work there?

Bennetts was my playground & muse. So many eccentric people, challenging conversations and interactions plus exceptional music. Bennetts was never a hospitality job. As staff we came first (perhaps a close second to the music) and Megg & Jeremy always had our backs. The staff became my family and I lost many hours working and hanging out at the club. When late night shifts began taking a toll on my full-time work I had to have a difficult conversation with Megg. Resigning from bar work took me over a year, but since then I’ve been welcomed back with hugs every time I drop by. Once a member of the Bennetts family, always a member.

4. Could you enjoy the music or were you often too busy?

On busy nights, we would dart and weave behind the bar along with the music. After a number of shifts working with the same crew we were able to deftly dance from bar to register to bar to sink without colliding. Quiet nights were precious and I would polish glasses to a mirror shine while transfixed by the stage.

5. Which was the most significant BL gig for you and who played?

Picture yourself in the Jazz lab with every light off except for a blue light behind the bar. You and 80 people are dancing on tables in front of a 5ft tall man, who appears as a giant. Prince.

6. What was your best experience at BL in dealing with punters and/or musicians?

It’s been such a privilege to have had the opportunity to not only listen to so many talented musicians, but get to know them too.

7. What was your worst experience at BL in dealing with punters and/or musicians?

In my first year of working at Bennetts I was asked for a Coke by a woman elegantly dressed in a red, high-collared jacket with a gravelly voice. I poured a glass and naively asked her for $3.50. Rene Geyer swished her hair in my face and demanded that Megg to sort me out. Jazz faux pas.

8. Was the most obstreperous person you had to deal with at BL a musician, a punter, a photographer or a media person?

Martin Martini.

9. Were audiences on the weekend or during festivals very different? If so, how?

I rarely had to shhh the audiences during the week. They were dedicated, jazz nerds who knew Bennetts etiquette. Weekends attracted a diverse crowd. We could sometimes predict the crowd’s favourite drink by who was scheduled to play. The bourbon nights were not my favourite.

10. How long was your longest continuous work shift at BL, and what was the occasion?

Jazz fest nights + the hang. I remember riding home and hearing the morning birds waking.

11. Were your best times at BL during the gigs or after the punters left for the night?

The gigs that continued long after the doors had closed for the night were by far my favourite. An intimate and often alcohol-fuelled performance just for the staff.

12. What instrument(s) do you play?

The only instrument I play with is a microscope.

13. If you have performed at BL, what was it like to be on stage rather than on the door or behind the bar?

I have only ever held the mic for an uncomfortable 30 seconds while introducing the band.

14. What work or interests do you have outside BL, whether musical or not?

I’m a neuroscientist. I wrote the final pages of my PhD in Megg’s studio above the club and the Bennetts Lane crew feature in my acknowledgements.

15. What plans do you have after the closure of BL?

I’ve been working as a scientist since 2011 & will continue on with my research.

16. What will you miss most about working there?

I will miss Bennetts like a bulldozed first family home.

17. Will there ever be another BL in Melbourne?

There may be another venue with similar name, but there will never be another Bennetts Lane. The commitment of the staff & musicians to make Bennetts the experience it is has been unique to this combination of people, dim lights and outdated, red vinyl chairs.

18. What do you think made this jazz club so successful?

A great deal of loyalty, sacrifice and vision.

Bell Awards

Therefore, send not to know for whom the Bells toll …

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THE PEOPLE WHO MADE BENNETTS LANE WORK

Some time this year, after what is sure to be one hell of a party, Melbourne will lose the venue which has been at the heart of improvised music in the city for many years. Who knows what will spring up in the way of alternatives to the iconic Bennetts Lane, but as jazz in this city moves on, Ausjazz has asked the people who worked there to reflect on their involvement with this most welcoming of live music venues.

Sarah

Sarah’s favourite picture from behind the BL, taken by Bernadette Hermens

SARAH HOLMES

1. Over what period have you been associated with BL and in what role(s)?
I’ve been working at Bennetts since January 2008 (that’s a long time ago!). I started off as a door person, then a bar person, now a sometimes manager (when the real managers are having a night off).

2. How did you come to work there? Was there a job interview?

I used to go to a lot of gigs at Bennetts while I was studying at VCA, got to know Megg that way and somehow landed a door shift. I’m still there seven and a half years later.

3. What was it like to work there?

There aren’t really enough words, but here are a few. Amazing. Inspiring. Raucous sometimes, quietly respectful others. Sleep deprived. Educational. Relaxing. Stressful.

4. Could you enjoy the music or were you often too busy?

My favourite nights are in the small room, when there are enough people to create a vibe, but not too many that I’m run off my feet behind the bar —then I can properly listen to the music.

5. Which was the most significant BL gig for you and who played?

In terms of big gigs, I can’t go past the Brad Mehldau Trio, but usually my favourite gigs happen on a weeknight — local performers playing new, original music. There are too many to name!

6. What was your best experience at BL in dealing with punters and/or musicians?

It’s been amazing getting to know the musicians and being part of such a special scene — the Melbourne jazz community is pretty tight. And it’s always pretty hard to believe I that get to listen to such amazing music while I’m at work!

7. What was your worst experience at BL in dealing with punters and/or musicians?

It’s always so awkward asking people to keep their voices down during the quieter performances — awkward for them and also for us! Nobody wants to be that person who has to ask another adult to be quiet, but sometimes, if it’s distracting the rest of the audience from the music, it has to be done.

8. Was the most obstreperous person you had to deal with at BL a musician, a punter, a photographer or a media person?

Most of the above! Can I add Guests of the Band to the list? Most of the musicians are lovely; most of the audience members are there for the music, but there’s always a few exceptions…

9. Were audiences on the weekend or during festivals very different? If so, how?

Weekday and weekend audiences are completely different entities, and are often determined by the band or music on the night. Rowdier music equals a more raucous audience; quieter music usually equals a listening audience. I tend to find that most weeknight crowds are there for the music, while some weekend crowds are there for the ‘jazz club’ experience.

10. How long was your longest continuous work shift at BL, and what was the occasion?

I think my longest continuous work shift was last year on the final day of the Jazz Festival — there was a book launch at 1pm in the afternoon, two sold out shows in the big room that night and the jazz jam finishing up at 3am in the small room. And then of course, the hang afterwards. It was a looooooong day. Luckily we have a buddy who is an amazing myotherapist, so he came by and gave us all a massage between shows. It helped.

11. Were your best times at BL during the gigs or after the punters left for the night?

The most inspirational times were during the gigs, and the magic that happens on the Bennetts Lane stage, but equally enjoyable were the times after the gigs where we get to hang and have a drink with the staff and the musicians.

12. What instrument(s) do you play, what music studies have you completed and in what bands have you played? – I play the electric bass (and a tiny bit of double). I completed my Bachelor of Music Performance at VCA in 2009. I play with a bunch of bands — rock bands, folk bands, and jazz bands … at the moment The Royal Parks are keeping me busy, and hopefully my own jazz band, The Outfit, will find another favourite venue to play, now that Bennetts will be closed.

13. When you performed at BL, what was it like to be on stage rather than on the door or behind the bar?

I always thought I’d be so nervous playing on the Bennetts Lane stage, but surprisingly it felt quite comfortable. I guess since Bennetts is like a second home to the staff, it’s not as scary as it might be to someone not so familiar with the space. The small room was The Outfit’s favourite stage to perform on in Melbourne, and we’ll miss it.

Sarah and Arlene

Crafty musicians? Sarah and Arlene Fletcher in a nice promo shot

14. What work or interests do you have outside BL, whether musical or not?

I spend my days working in a cookbook store. I love to cook (and will probably have more time for that now that my nights will be free!). I play bass in various bands around town. I like to knit and sew and be generally crafty.

15. What plans do you have after the closure of BL?

There are a few plans in the mix, but mostly I am very much looking forward to a few quiet nights at home.

16. What will you miss most about working there?

I’ll miss the staff the most — they’re such an amazing bunch of people, and some of my best friends. It’s been such a treat to get to work with my buddies.

17. Will there ever be another BL in Melbourne?

Perhaps there’ll be another club with a similar name, but it won’t be the same. It’ll be its own thing, which I’m so sure will be a great and unique thing, but it won’t be Bennetts as we know it.

18. What do you think made this jazz club so successful?

The musicians. The audience. The staff.

NOT ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

Russell Holmes Trio

Karl Florrison on bass and Mike Perkins on drums in the Russell Holmes Trio.

GIG: Russell Holmes Trio, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Melbourne, October 16, 2012, presented by Melbourne Jazz Cooperative

It’s not news that, when it comes to improvised music, good things happen in Perth. Lots of names come to mind, including the WA Academy of Performing Arts, Johannes Luebbers and Jamie Oehlers.

A week ago, exciting young pianist Tal Cohen was at Bennetts Lane with fellow Perth musicians Oehlers on tenor sax, Chris Tarr on drums and Pete Jeavons on bass, playing material from his album Yellow Sticker. I regret not having made it to this outing.

Russell Holmes plays Bennetts Lane.

Russell Holmes plays Bennetts Lane.

This week Melbourne has a chance in three gigs to hear from Russell Holmes on piano and keyboards, as well the talented young trio members Mike Perkins on drums and Karl Florrison on double bass.

The first outing, at the Lane, delighted an appreciative audience and confirmed again that what is happening out west is worth hearing.

Tonight, at Bar 303, the trio will open at 8pm before Stephen Magnusson and the Julien Wilson Quartet.

On Thursday he will play at Paris Cat along with his daughter Sarah Holmes, who plays bass and her compositions with The Outfit.

The Outfit is a Melbourne group playing songs about coffee, knitting and tumbleweeds. Band members are Daniel Brates on  drums, Diego Villalta on guitar, Rob Simone on saxophone and Louise Goh on vocals.

The Holmes family musical connection stretches way back. Russell’s father was a prominent Perth jazz guitarist and vocalist. Russell started playing as a toddler and has been playing piano for more than four decades.

Since 1989 Russell has lectured at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, specialising in theory and rhythm studies, harmony, arranging and individual tutoring in contemporary and jazz piano.

Karl Florrison

Karl Florrison

In two sets on Tuesday at the Lane, the Russell Holmes Trio served up some originals from its current released EP-length CD Restless, as well as a Troy Roberts arrangement of Bye Bye Blackbird and some Thelonious Monk.

Russell Holmes Trio

Mike Perkins on drums

There were some excellent solos, but what stood out on the night was that this trio is cohesive, well practised and brimful of energy. Lots of drive comes from Holmes on piano working extremely well with Perkins, who is constantly attentive and responsive. Florrison showed strength, warmth and space in his work.

I had previously heard only the Fire and Rain album featuring arrangements of James Taylor songs, on which Holmes has a different line-up. The music delivered by his latest trio was compelling, often powered by tension and with deeply embedded swing. This trio has plans to tour nationally and in Europe. It is a band confirming that it is definitely not all quiet on the western front.

ROGER MITCHELL

Karl Florrison

Karl Florrison