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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



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.


The Sad Demise of Bolton Wanderers Football Club

It is hard to believe the dismal state Bolton Wanderers find themselves in



If you watched the English Premier League during the early 2000s, you would have been familiar with the plight of Bolton Wanderers. The long running club is now in absolute dire straits, bereft of resources, searching desperately for new owners as it staves away its seemingly inevitable end. It is truly a sad turn of events for a club that has been around for almost 150 years, once known as the plucky, never-die team of English football’s top flight.

The Greater Manchester club, gleefully nicknamed ‘The Trotters’, were always a group of ragtag underachievers who constantly overachieved. The club, under the tutelage of Big Sam Allardyce, spent several Premier League seasons languishing at the bottom end of the table staving off relegation before progressing to mid-table safety. It wasn’t that they were good, because, for the most part, they weren’t, but it was because they always found a gutsy way of surviving by sheer determination, miraculous last game results, and for finding the last remaining ounce of juice left in washed-up players looking for one last round of glory.

It’s the latter point perhaps, that endeared Bolton to fans who didn’t spend their weekends at the Reebok Stadium. Bolton was the home to many talents that found new life under Allardyce. Players that managed to thrill a mostly dull part of the footballing world with European flair and Nigerian spice. I have fond memories of the indomitable Jay-Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff reminding fans of their class. Then there were the bruising, hard-hitting playing styles of Ivan Campo and Fernando Hierro- adding much-needed steel to that Bolton lineup. They complimented the steadfast if not boring quality that came with the ever-present Jussi Jääskeläinen and Kevin Davies. Atop them all sat Big Sam- who long before he became a joke in English football, was the no-frills, old-school English manager who took Bolton up from the old Division One to the Premier League. And during his run, he became known for being able to get Bolton out of trouble at the last minute, no matter how ugly the season had been. They made an FA Cup Semi Final and the Round of 16 of the UEFA Cup, somehow beating Atletico Madrid along the way.

As of July 21st, the club had a total of 7 first-team players. Barely enough to field a full first team.

Those days are sadly long gone as the club find itself languishing in the third tier of English football, once again ending the previous season relegated. Mired in financial disarray, the club has been in control of administrators since May, with its long-awaited takeover by new owners (whoever they may end up being) dragging on and on. The sad state of affairs has been punctuated by the club unable to pay its players and staff, canceled pre-season friendlies, and quite possibly the saddest team sheet in all the time I’ve been a fan of English football. As of this time, their official team page has but 7 players listed (no defenders), not even enough to field a full first team. If by the time you read this they’re able to pull their socks up and field a full team, it’ll be a miracle.

Their financial downward spiral hit breaking point in 2015 when the club found itself £172.9 million in debt. It only seemed to get worse from there. Unpaid taxes, transfer embargoes, manager changes, poor results, and most depressingly, non-playing staff having to use food bank donations to feed themselves (including donations from rival club Preston North End).

It really is hard to believe the dismal state Bolton find themselves in. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a true Wanderers fan to face the reality of their club in 2019. It’s not that the club has ever been successful (their last significant trophy was the 1958 FA Cup), but from the outside, their grit, their pluck, and their ability to seemingly escape the direst of circumstances made them endearing. They were the underdog team of has-beens, never-rans, forgotten souls, and Big Sam.

Now it seems their darkest days are closing in. Football fans surely would love for new owners to come in, reset the club, and start that long, arduous journey back into stability. But their new season hopes don’t even start on any positive note, with their financial failings they’ve already been docked 12 points before the start of the new season. Even with new owners, it will take a significant time to turn things around. The best they can hope for is to pull a Rangers and find themselves back on the up after 5 or so years… but the English Premier League is a far different beast to that of the Scottish Premier League, just ask Leeds United.

The long road back is never going to be easy. And for Bolton Wanderers, once a club that found its soul with players looking for one last spot of luck, may have run out of its own.

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Divided We Fail: How Individualism is Holding the U.S. Back

The bootstrap mentality is about as American as apple pie. But it’s destroying our already frayed social net and education system. Can we resist our individualistic roots to mobilize and enact progressive policies?



To understand the swampy depths of American individualism is also to acknowledge that we have a serious inability to comprehend looming disaster. In fact, we’re uniquely terrible at it. 

Loosely defined, American individualism is the idea that prosperity and growth is overwhelmingly the result of an individual’s hard work, cleverness, grit, and all that. (It’s both hilarious and fitting that one of our most reviled and economically disastrous presidents, Herbert Hoover, was the main architect behind the notion of American individualism.) 

On one hand, this belief in individualism seems empowering. It tells us we are the captains of our own ships. It tells us we don’t have to be defined by our childhood traumas or underfunded school systems. It tells us that through scrappiness and ingenuity and discipline, we can rise above our circumstances and succeed, no matter what. 

The inverse, of course, is that our failures are also ours alone to bear—with little regard for the systems and circumstances that cause some people to spend lifetimes catching up to where others were simply born. 

American individualism explains so much of what we get wrong as a country, even in 2019. We downplay the systemic racism and violence of our police force through tunnel vision that tells us there are only a “few bad apples” rather than a flawed, oppressive police state. We’re unable to treat things like healthcare or housing as basic human rights, positing instead that those without access to food or shelter probably just haven’t “earned” it. And higher education—often treated as the great equalizer by meritocrats—is so expensive, it’s crippling our economy as a whole. Yet too many students are blaming themselves, and too many people are blaming students.

One is the Lousiest Number

These days, it’s hard to pick what to worry about more in the U.S. The list of societal threats certainly is long—climate change, the impending retirement crisis, the ongoing student debt crisis. These problems have been worsening for decades, and they’re all the result of failures at a systematic level. 

The climate crisis was ramped up by decades of poorly regulated industries that pumped carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The retirement crisis that will likely come full force when Generation X starts leaving the workforce was set into motion by a shrinking pension system and the increasingly uncertain future of Social Security. And higher education became outrageously expensive over years of unchecked soaring tuition and fee increases.

But not everyone recognizes these mass-scale problems for what they are. Instead, too many people are blaming individual choices for giant societal failures. And these arguments are distracting us from collective solutions. Realistically, no one should be arguing that student loan forgiveness is a “half-baked” idea steeped in self-interest. Or that climate change can be reasonably combatted through laudable (yet mostly insignificant) individual actions like going vegetarian.

The numbers prove just how puny our individual actions really are against these larger-than-us problems. For example, even the most generous, self-massaged estimates put a single company like ExxonMobil’s annual carbon emissions in the range of well over 100 million CO2 equivalent metric tons. The average American, through even the most radical lifestyle changes and discipline, would likely only lower their annual emissions from about 20 metric tons to 8 metric tons. It would take millions and millions of people selling their cars and going vegan to equate to just one ExxonMobil. (Spoiler alert: There are way too many companies just like it.) 

As Aaron Huertas of the Union of Concerned Scientists eloquently states: “We can’t ignore individual choice and responsibility; at the same time, we also have to recognize that our individual choices are constrained by corporate practices and government laws and regulations.”

A Way Out and Up

All is not lost, though. There is hope.

While the 2020 presidential pool for the Democrats may be a bit flooded, the makeup of the pool has revealed a trend: the ideas of sweeping economic relief and safety net programs are becoming more mainstream. If the Democratic party can just avoid spending its time strategizing against democratic socialism, we could enact policies that tackle these problems at the level they’re actually at.

Party insiders and centrists aside, it looks like voters are—even if just subtly and slowly—pressuring politicians to stop blaming individual choice for societal woes. The idea of multiple presidential candidates touting competing student loan relief programs would have seemed outrageous even a few election cycles ago—and now Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Julián Castro are all on board.

The point is, we’re getting there. And if we can fight against our very American instincts, we can realize—en masse—that our efforts to save our planet might be better spent organizing than remembering to recycle our empty salsa jars. We can take solace in knowing a liberal arts degree isn’t a personal failing that deserves financial punishment. We can accept that, as individuals, we may not be as powerful on our own as we thought, but we also may not be as much to blame for our struggles.

And then, we can mobilize. 

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