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NSW’s War on Live Music

NSW’s tough music licensing scheme looks to amp up the war on live music

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NSW festival laws

The New South Wales’ (NSW) government in Australia has implemented a new licensing scheme where ‘higher risk’ festivals will need to acquire a new music festival license. According to the NSW Festival License Guideline, this license applies a ‘more rigorous regulatory framework to music festivals in NSW to improve their safety’. This has been put into place because of some drug-related deaths that occurred at festivals around NSW. This new licensing has now cost multiple festivals to be canceled as they could not pay the very high fees required, fees that were not in the budget, fees that were not properly explained, only weeks before the dates of the festival. These ‘high risk’ festivals were not given clear explanation as to why they were put into this category. “There was no consultation, no reason given. It was just simply you’re on a list of high-risk festivals in NSW,” explained Danny Rogers, the co-founder of Laneway Festival.

It seems that this new license was a rushed attempt to prevent drug-related issues and deaths. It is extra thousands of dollars for some extra police and additional ‘support’ from the Government (I say this very sarcastically). All it takes to be considered high risk is one drug-related illness. One single person can potentially shut down an entire festival. So what happens if you acquire this new license and this extra help, but someone still overdoses? What’s the next step?  

These issues have come about from drug-fueled illnesses, and yet, pill testing is just out of the question. It has proven to be highly successful and a ‘tremendous success’ at the ACT edition of the Groovin The Moo festival. According to The Guardian, the pill testing that was conducted potentially saved the lives of seven people, as after discovering there were lethal substances in their pills, they were discarded. This is unlike the NSW Groovin the Moo where 14 people were taken to hospital with possible drug issues. Pill testing seems to be an appropriate approach to these ‘high risk’ festivals that has seen drug deaths, it would be silly to assume that more police equals no drugs. Like it or not, drugs will enter a festival one way or another. Pill testing organizer Gino Vumbaca told The Guardian; “I spoke to a lot of young people as they walked out and the most common thread was they know a hell of a lot more now than they did when they walked in.” Perhaps it is not the patrolling of patrons we need, but the safe space of pill monitoring. It is naive to think a rigorous framework will eradicate all drugs at these events.

Along with harsh festival laws, NSW has also been hit with unforgiving noise complaint issues. Sydney is overcrowded, there are apartment buildings next to pubs, next to venues that support live music, and one noise complaint can see venues shutting down. Harold Park Hotel in Sydney had to stop hosting live music on Sunday afternoon (yes … in the afternoon) after a resident close to the venue complained about the noise. It is becoming increasingly impossible to have a successful live music scene for the medium sized venues because of planning, liquor licensing and noise provisions. Will this result in a decrease in music acts that make a name for themselves in Sydney? Where are they supposed to play? If there is nowhere to book a smaller gig, how do they get big? No one can start from the bottom if there is no bottom to play. It has a larger effect than just the venue owners. The smaller, intimate gigs are my favorite; they’re the gigs that you can afford on a random Friday night. It is an exciting time to see an intimate performance from an act that you know will soon be headlining their dream venues.

The closing of NSW festivals and venues will also have an impact on the rest of the nation. It is an expensive trip for international acts to make it to Australia, and international acts won’t come if the touring circuit becomes any smaller. The nation will miss out on headlining acts, and some of the biggest names in the world because it will no longer be worth it for them. Arts and culture hold an importance to the economy and this will affect the income our music industry provides.

Music is a community value, it brings people together, it is in our everyday lives, it is a necessity. Rogers expressed it perfectly: “We require consultation as an industry so you can … explain to us how people are coming up with decisions that impact our livelihoods.” Miscommunication seems to be a detrimental issue in this situation, along with the mistrust of festival leaders.

I would love for the NSW government to discuss, plan, and work together with the festival and live music community rather than shutting down their livelihood. Perhaps festival licenses need to be reviewed, and a new license and regulations can be formed for all festivals in NSW, rather than shaming and selecting some that seem riskier than others. It would be nice to see the government and festival directors find a happy medium, with revised regulations but without the cost of canceling. Pill testing seems to be a valuable addition, however, the government would need to get behind the idea. Music is a lifestyle and a livelihood for so many, whether you are the founder of a festival, the owner of a venue, or the individual that is just excited to see some live music on the weekend, the hasty decisions of the government has and will affect everyone involved.

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Make Dodgeball Great Again

Dodgeball is not an ‘unethical tool of oppression’ and to label it so is both ludicrous and dangerous. Have we lost our minds?

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I remember it as if it was yesterday. The recently completed gym floor was crisp, clean, and squeaked with almost every step of the overpriced sneakers that graced it. Battle lines had been drawn and there I was, locked and loaded in the far right corner of the gym. I had scanned the battlefield ahead, and saw that the opposition numbers were dwindling- falling like the cannon fodder they were. My fellow combatants were more than capable, some in fact, excelled like this game was art, like it was real battle.

Then I saw my target, arms to her side, nervously looking across from her side of diminishing numbers. Her eyes screamed ‘fear’ (or maybe indifference, but in my mind, it was fear) and I knew that there was only one thing to do. I gripped the foam of the ball with a vengeful firmness, loaded my arm with the fury of a Nolan Ryan fastball and let loose. My memory says the sound of the noisy gym was broken, and that all the fellow combatants and fallen brethren fell silent, stopped and followed this one moment as the ball left my hand to its intended destination. It was a glorious moment. Glorious because unlike most times, the ball flew through the air with unmatched grace. Unlike most times I threw the ball, there was no deviation, no broken flight plan. And unlike most times, where I’d luckily hit my target on the leg, or on the arm, it zeroed in with laser-like precision and exploded itself right in Annie’s* face. Bullseye. Like a bird exploding from a Randy Johnson fastball.

Did I revel in the glory of that standstill moment? Was the brazen destruction of a fellow combatant as cinematically award-winning as a Spielberg movie? The truth is, that wasn’t the case. Amongst the fleeting chaos of the game, no one saw. No one stopped and watched my moment, and that in reality, it was a split second that remains animated only in mind. I recoiled in shock, partly because it was not my intention to hit someone in the face, no matter how unintentionally glorious it was. But partly because my gut instinct was to slink away into the back of the pack to hide unseen- like a cowardly saboteur responsible for the wreckage, eager to hide from the blame. I didn’t even look back at what I had done.

I don’t remember who won this particular game (safe to say it wasn’t Annie), but it was all part and parcel to the wonderful school-time game of dodgeball.

One that has come under scrutiny, and under the threat, by the researchers discussed in this National Post article, who have labeled it an “unethical tool of oppression”. With such hyperbole, you’d think they were talking about a population who lived under a military dictatorship, or a segment of that population threatened during mass rioting. Not surprisingly, I lived through both of the latter, and no, dodgeball is nothing like either. They are talking about dodgeball- a mostly harmless game (unless you are Annie) played by children during recess and PE class.

The article goes on to say how dodgeball, along with other forms of games played during PE class are sports of “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation” and that dodgeball in particular, is “not just unhelpful to the development of kind and gentle children who will become decent citizens of a liberal democracy. It is actively harmful to this process.” Sounds like it was written by someone picked last in gym class.

We can argue endlessly about the participation-trophy culture that has permeated the discourse of children’s sports (they couldn’t even settle on a winner at the Spelling Bee). But the truth is, I fear greatly for the future of democracy if we equate the game of dodgeball to actual, real oppression. Sure, Annie probably doesn’t like dodgeball all that much, but I too was hit plenty on the dodgeball court. Like I was on the basketball court. But it’s all part of growing some thick skin in this very real world where people don’t throw soft, red balls at you. The truth is, most kids would probably benefit from getting hit in the face with a dodgeball a few times, it’ll be good for them in the long run. This I’m certain of.

I had a lot of fun playing dodgeball as a kid. It’s an absolute shame that there are “scholars” and “researchers” who equate it to very real life issues this world faces. Teaching kids that life isn’t fair from a young age is a good thing. Participation-trophy culture is not. I don’t need a Ph.D. to know so.

Dodgeball teaches you a great deal in a simple game. And if dodgeball supposedly teaches children lessons of democracy, then I sure as hell would want the future leaders of whatever world we venture towards to be able to dodge a wrench when someone throws one at their heads.

*Annie is not her real name. C’mon, how much of an asshole do you think I am?

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