WHEN the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March most Newcastle musicians saw months of gigs and their incomes evaporate overnight.
But some like musician-videographer Joshua Barnett and audio engineer Allon Silove identified it as a chance to innovate. They quickly launched a free live-stream platform, From A Distance (FAD) Sessions, from Silove's Studio B in Elermore Vale.
The project has grown so rapidly that FAD Sessions last week clocked 15,000 views and it's relocated to The Gal, a performance space above the Gallipoli Legion Club in Hamilton.
Local acts like Justin Ngariki & The Dastardly Bastards, Amy Vee, Jones The Cat and Paris Grace have appeared on FAD Sessions.
This Sunday will be another first for the burgeoning production company, or as Barnett describes it, "a litmus test" for their future plans.
Homegrown @ The Gal is a 50-capacity ticketed event that will be live-streamed for eight hours across Facebook and Instagram and run in partnership with Support 4 Newy.
The line-up includes 10 rising Newcastle acts including Milky Thred, Slapjack, Chop, Lili Crane, Cooks and Bakers, Turtle Custard, and the headliners Jones The Cat.
"We figured no one's been out in a long time and we have the biggest space in Newcastle in terms of social distancing for a live music event, so we thought we might as well use that to our benefit," Barnett said.
"People are missing live music and it's only been three months into the pandemic. Proper live original music isn't coming back for a long time."
FAD Sessions will host their next ticketed event at The Gal on July 25 when Hunter country-rock act The Viper Creek Band perform a story-telling acoustic set.
Beyond the full easing of COVID-19 restrictions Barnett and Silove plan to turn The Gal into "a brand new live digital hybrid venue," unlike anything seen in Newcastle.
"It'll be an event venue, rather than a music venue," Barnett said. "You can still come and watch live music.
"There will be live bands on, but we're gonna have a really different approach to it. A real heavy emphasis on the digital angle. Big screens everywhere and live-streaming of course.
"Often bands will have their own digital resources, which they'll bring to us, and we will incorporate that into the performance itself."
BREE IS COASTING
ONLY three years ago Bree Rusev had never picked up a guitar. In fact, she was primarily a dancer at the Hunter School Of Performing Arts.
However, on Friday the Novocastrian 17-year-old will release her debut single Coastline.
"I was there for dancing, but while I was there I wanted to pick up guitar," Rusev said. "Music's my main thing now. I stopped dancing in year nine."
For the past 18 months the year 11 student at Newcastle Grammar has been honing her performance craft in Hunter cafes.
"The first time I performed live was at an open mic night for the academy where I learn guitar," she said. "I played just one song [an Ed Sheeran cover] and it was so exciting.
"I was very nervous, but after that, I kept wanting to do it more and more."
Performing eventually led to songwriting as she was inspired by her love of roots and surf-folk music like Ziggy Alberts, James Bay, Ben Howard and Jack Botts.
Coastline, written by Rusev when she was 15, was one of the first originals she produced. The environment is a regular theme running through her songwriting.
"I love the outdoors," she said. "I love the ocean and being outside. It's calming."
VACATIONS UNPACK SECOND SINGLE
NEWCASTLE indie band Vacations are sure to surprise their international fan base when they release the second single, Panache, off their forthcoming sophomore album Forever In Bloom.
Panache will be released on July 10, followed by the album on September 18.
The first half of the near six-minute epic features a funky new-wave bass line and Vacations' typical '80s indie sound, before it twists and morphs into a Tame Impala-style slab of brooding synth-pop.
ANOTHER Newcastle artist with new music is the soulful Georgie Jones.
The track Baby will be released on July 7 and Jones promises "this provocative pop song is about love, lust and little lies."
Jones wrote and arranged the song, which was then produced by Angus Leslie, the frontman of Melbourne funk and new swing act Sex On Toast.
IF you had tickets for Human Nature's August 4 show at the Civic Theatre, we hope you're patient. The boy band have announced they've rescheduled the show for September 16, 2021.
SPIES IN TOWN
THE Wickham Park Hotel has taken another step towards getting back to normality by announcing Sydney pub rock legends Spy vs Spy's return to the venue. Spy vs Spy will perform at the Wicko on July 18.