The (Side) Show must go on

UNDER THE BIG TOP: Sideshow (left), backstage at the Lismore Show with Australian rock legends Kim Salmon and Ron Peno.
UNDER THE BIG TOP: Sideshow (left), backstage at the Lismore Show with Australian rock legends Kim Salmon and Ron Peno.

"PROMOTING events in Lismore for me could be considered a guilty pleasure," he admits. "I am loved, hated, supported, ignored, congratulated, abused and thanked on a daily level and it's fine by me, as long as I get to keep putting gigs on. I do consider it work but the lack of financial recompense pushes it into the 'hobby' category."

Sideshow, who also moonlights as a chef and musician, has been playing music and booking bands for 20 years in Brisbane, Sydney and the Sunshine Coast.

"I moved to Lismore in 2003 and my partner and I are raising three children here, so I feel very connected to the town. My first Lismore experience was back in the early '90s playing with a Byron Bay punk outfit. I fell in love with the town straightaway. There was a music scene, tons of arts, Sludge records (an independent label), and so many gigs. When we moved here some ten years later the scene had withered as far as venues but the bands were as prolific as ever."

He soon discovered the Winsome Hotel and its rock-crazy manager, Maz Schofield. Together they turned the Winsome into one of the best venues in the country. Gigs there were much sought after by touring bands as it became renowned for luxuriant hospitality and guaranteed good times. Together they started the Mazstock festival, a boutique rock'n'roll event which has become iconic.

"We put on eight bands, entry was free, all the bands were paid in drinks and the whole thing ended up one of the most memorable gigs of my life. When the hotel closed its doors a few months later, I decided to run with the Mazstock theme. It's now five years later and I'm in the middle of programming Mazstock 5. During that time I made contact with a lot of people and although I muse about giving up promoting nearly every week, I find it quite impossible as the bands just keep finding me."

His other notable triumphs have been successful music stages for the Lismore Show, Dolphin Awards, Lismore Young Songwriters Awards, Dylanfest at Coraki and organising the Flood Collective of local bands.

"There is so much going on in this town that it blows my mind. Like any place it comes with its fair share of egos and associated rifts. This is normal and natural in my experience, especially in a scene that has artistic integrity and authenticity and I believe we have an abundance of it in Lismore.

During his tenure with Sideshow Productions, he estimates he's put on over 500 gigs. He's brought many of his musical heroes to town including Ed Kuepper, Dave Graney, Kim Salmon, Ron Peno, Rob Younger, Celibate Rifles and Holly Throsby. He's also played in many local bands, leading his own outfit, Birdbrain till other commitments crowded it out.

"It's not all joy, sometimes I can work myself into the ground for little reward but sometimes when the stars are right and I see a room full of happy revelling punters, it makes it all worthwhile."  

Mazstock 5 will be on June 1 at a yet to be announced venue. Acts booked so far include Nunchukka Superfly, Leadfinger, the Spazzys and the Loose Pills.

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