“We’re moving very slowly at this stage but we really wanted to get music back into the place as soon as we could, even if we can only have small audiences,” says Gov co-owner Melissa Tonkin.
The Gov reopened its music venue last Sunday for an audience of just 10 people – selected by ballot – who watched The Screaming Jets’ Dave Gleeson and fellow Adelaide musician Crafty perform a set that was also livestreamed.
The pair will bring their Streaming Not Screaming show back to The Gov for the next two Sunday afternoons, with increased capacity of 75 people.
Also in the live music line-up this month are eight-piece Rolling Stones tribute act Satisfaction – The Stones Show, which will be joined by Rundle Mall buskers The Brazil Nuts Orchestra for two shows on June 26, and Adelaide rock band The Red Skull, who will play an acoustic set and a “Best of Guns N’ Roses and Classic Rock Unplugged” show on June 27.
The usual capacity of the Governor Hindmarsh’s music venue is 800, so Tonkin says it will have no difficulty keeping to the one person per four square metres social-distancing requirement.
“All of our shows are seated shows at the moment – tickets are being sold as tables of four or tables of two, so every person will have an allocated table.
“I guess it’s going to be a bit more cabaret for a while; that’s just the new world we’ve entered into.”
Nonetheless, she says both the venue and audiences are excited that live music is back.
Two months ago, things were looking dire for the Gov as it and other venues struggled to stay afloat during the COVID-19 shutdown, with founder Brian Tonkin (Melissa’s father) telling InDaily at the time it wouldn’t survive without a government subsidy.
Soon after, the State Government announced $1 million in support for SA’s live music industry, including $300,000 specifically earmarked for the Gov. Melissa Tonkin says that without this money, and JobKeeper, it would not be viable to present the small gigs.
People are really hanging out to come and see a show
Since the coronavirus shutdown began, more than 100 shows scheduled at the Gov have either been cancelled or postponed. It’s uncertain when interstate acts will start returning, and touring international artists have rescheduled for next year.
One positive, Tonkin says, it that South Australian talent is taking centre-stage.
“Moving forward, it will be absolutely fantastic as restrictions lift and we can have more people in the room – we’ve got a lot of shows lined up for July, all playing to small audiences.”
The Gov has also set up a stage in the restaurant, where it will present performances from Thursday through Sunday.
Fellow Hindmarsh venue Holden Street Theatres was the first SA theatre to welcome back live audiences as restrictions eased, and its shows have all sold out within hours – including a bossa nova performance in the venue’s Box Bar that only went on sale yesterday.
However, it appears few other South Australian venues will be bringing back live music in the near future, even after the 75-person-per-room limit comes into effect on June 19. For large venues, it’s still not viable, while smaller spaces remain hampered by the one-person-per-four-square-metres rule.
Popular West End pub and live music hotspot The Grace Emily reopened this week, but publican Symon Jarowyj has told CityMag it won’t be presenting gigs until the permitted capacity increases further.
Thebarton Theatre remains closed, with the next shows in its advertised line-up not taking place until September, while the Adelaide Entertainment Centre has no shows advertised until October.
Meanwhile, at the Gov, it was serendipitous that the first group of 10 people welcomed back – the winners of the ballot for tickets to Sunday’s show by Dave Gleeson and Crafty – had also attended its final pre-shutdown show, by Scottish musician and former Ultravox frontman Midge Ure.
“They are big Gov lovers… we went down and welcomed them,” Tonkin says.
“I think people are really hanging out to come and see a show – they are starved for live music. Streaming is great but it’s not the same as seeing a band live.”