Back in 2007 Kevin Rudd was prime minister, I wore boot cut jeans, and Paul McDermott’s variety program The Sideshow was playing on the ABC. Every Saturday night at 7:30 you could tune in and be entertained by… something.
Seriously, something, anything, as in whatever acts they managed to book that night. That’s the thing about variety shows, it’s kinda cool to not know what you’re getting and even cooler that you’re introduced to acts that you wouldn’t ordinarily think to tune in for. Like, one week you’d be watching Tripod singing their classic hit ‘Kempt’ and then the next thing you know the “greatest exponents of downtempo hip hop, ska tinged pop and pounding disco: Bluejuice” – whoever they were – were busting some phatish beats on the main stage. Now, I can already hear some of you yelling at your screens about my ‘philistineian knowledge’ of the music scene in Australia, but cut me some slack… I work in music theatre.
But now, a-thir-teen-years-a-lat-er, we have been gifted with the creation of a new type of variety show, a virtual music venue to bring forth all the artists of our land and push them together into one juicy giant peach. One asks the question; what do you get when you have a global pandemic, a hardworking group of creatives and a government with an allergy to arts funding? And the answer is The Reservoir Room.
The Reservoir Room – a three-show-a-week streamed music venue – is filmed live at the Paddington Town Hall. Hosted by Catherine Alcorn and Rodger Corser, the production is slick but enjoyably off the cuff, with all the fun that comes from live theatre/TV. From producers to the crew, to performers, to hosts, the level of talent on display is impressive, to say the least, and astounding when you consider the budget. The quality of production would not be out of place on terrestrial television, and producer David Smith hints that that is somewhere they’re aiming. Now, it’s a big job to straddle the gap from streaming to TV, but not necessarily that far fetched, as they are in good hands with director Ted Robinson who, coincidentally, directed The Sideshow and Good News Week.
Friday night is their showcase night and the line up of acts is eclectic but strangely well-matched (on the night I attended actor/singer Ben Mingay, musician Matt Copley, music theatre performer Prinnie Stevens and comedian/singer Mark Trevorrow grace the stage). Musical numbers are interspersed with interviews with the performers, witty repartee with the hosts and drag performer Verushka Darling, and a pre-recorded interview with rock photographer Tony Mott. The interview with Mott was a particularly pleasant surprise; as a photographer, I was enthralled by the images he has taken, but like a son sitting on his father’s knee, listening to him regale us with stories of rock musicians past and present was just…well… really nice. It’s not just music theatre and cabaret performers involved either; indie, rock and pop musicians are also on the bill, and I must admit to a certain amount of 90’s nostalgia when I discover that Sister2Sister (or The Muscat Girls as they’re now known) will be performing at a later show.
The Reservoir Room started as a way of creating a space for artists who could not perform live gigs because of the lockdown, but what it did was bring together a large group of people from all the corners of the music and broadcast scenes to put on a show that they could be proud of. This isn’t a Zoom concert with nothing but a laptop and a pair of stock iPhone headphones and a low-quality microphone. This show has over a million dollars of equipment dripping behind the lens. So, if you’re looking for a live performance fix, and like music; then grab a drink, tune in, and be entertained…. I was.
Go to www.reservoirroom.com for more information.