The Music Network story: ‘Brisbane’s Live Tempo Escalates’, March 2010

A story for The Music Network about a new initiative for emerging Brisbane bands.

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'Brisbane's Live Tempo Escalates' story for The Music Network by Andrew McMillenBrisbane’s Live Tempo Escalates

A rebranded Brisbane venue seeks to provide emerging live artists with opportunities to build their fanbase from the grassroots up.

Situated at the corner of Brunswick and McLachlan streets in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley is The Tempo Hotel, the newly-rebranded venue better known to locals as Dooley’s or, in recent years, Bar 388. Last month it was purchased by hotel operator – and avowed live music fan – Steve Hammond, who also owns another high profile property in the Queensland capital: Chalk in Woolloongabba, and previously, The Regatta in Toowong.

In 2008, Chalk became the new home of acoustic showcase fRETfEST, which was established in 1997 by Alan Buchan. Based on the strength of that relationship and Buchan’s unwavering passion for providing young musicians with the chance to strut their stuff onstage, Hammond offered the fRETfEST founder the chance to curate ‘Escalate’, a weekly platform for emerging bands and artists to play in a public venue before both Brisbane’s live music fans, and industry tastemakers with an interest in scoping out local talent.

Held on Tuesday afternoons from 3pm onwards, Buchan’s role as ‘Escalate’ musical curator and general artist go-between is to inform young Brisbane musos about the opportunity: a big stage, a hefty PA, professional sound and lighting, and cheap food and drinks. Though the bands who play ‘Escalate’ won’t be paid at this stage, Buchan points out that the venue is a block from the heart of The Valley, where public opportunities for performing artists are often stifled by accessibility and venue policies.

The new event is a platform upon which to build an audience, in addition to the bar’s existing live entertainment on other nights of the week. At the event’s pre-launch last Tuesday, Buchan told The Music Network: “If we discover enough bands through this avenue, then we’ll look to expand this onto other nights.” In line with the curator’s goals of connecting young Brisbane performers regardless of their style of playing, ‘Escalate’ is not genre-specific: in his words, everyone from “metal to Irish folk” is invited to play.

“With ‘Escalate’, we simply want to provide the opportunity for good bands to play,” Buchan suggests. “If you’re bringing your mates, if you’re easy to work with, and you’ve got a great sound – we’ll include you. Ultimately, what we’re aiming to do is provide more opportunities the most reliable bands with the best sound and attitude.”

Tempo owner Steve Hammond had music on his mind when purchasing the venue. “I thought, ‘where can young bands these days get a start these days?” he says. “[They] can’t get a spot on a Friday or Saturday because that’s the Valley venues’ best times, when the public want to come in. I went to Alan Buchan and asked how we could get this off the ground, and here we are. This is the pre-launch event; we haven’t hit [‘Escalate’] with much advertising just yet, but we’ll get it right. It’s all ‘suck and see’ at the moment.”

Beginning at 3pm Tuesday and allocating up to 90 minutes per act, ‘Escalate’ is aimed at showcasing ‘entry level bands’; as defined by Buchan, “those who haven’t got a record deal yet”. The event is inclusive for bands of all ages; both covers and original are favoured, though the curator states a preference for original acts.

While the whole initiative is still very much “in start-up mode”, as Buchan puts it, Hammond hints at a longview for the new initiative which should be attractive to local acts: “Every month we’d like to pick a couple of the best bands from ‘Escalate’ and stick them into a paid weekend support slot.”

The Tempo Hotel, Fortitude Valley, BrisbaneBeyond fRETfEST, Buchan is a stage manager at the annual Woodford Folk Festival, which now allocates a few hours per year to the curator’s hottest fRETfEST picks. He understands that the music industry is built upon relationships and communication. “My role with ‘Escalate’ is to connect young bands with Steve and his facility here, to open the doors for them to come in and play.”

As the first performer at ‘Escalate’ prepares to take the stage, Buchan concludes: “It’s exciting to be part of a grassroots movement that supports original live music. I’m looking forward to escalating Brisbane’s best new bands, and giving them the opportunity to take their music and their experience to the next level.”

Web: ‘Escalate’ on

This story was published in The Music Network issue 779 on 22 March 2010.

Comments? Below.
  1. Darragh says:

    Argh, this just sounds more of the same for the much maligned former-Dooleys. I wager an influx of Powderfinger cover bands within six months.

  2. Good work, keep us posting, you are very good writer.

  3. Tony says:

    It’s actually quite a refreshing change for this bar from what I’ve seen & heard.
    I hear Tue 27 July is going to be a pretty epic night for bands.


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