Opened in 2010 by two local self-confessed ‘music nerds’, Calvin Hillis and Peter Malbourne, as an answer to the ‘black hole’ of live music in the area, Tago Mago has been at the forefront of the rejuvenation of the upper end of High St in Thornbury and has developed into an important local live music and arts hub, garnering the support of many Australian musical legends.
“Tago Mago has been an excellent backdrop and environment for artists, musicians, performers and audiences alike for almost four years. Their agenda is to simply have an arts and music venue where artists and musicians would not just perform, but also want to hang out at in their spare time. This has become the case for me. Melbourne cannot afford to lose yet another music venue, let alone one as sympathetic to creative process and eclectic tastes as Tago Mago are. This is a venue well worth supporting.” – Spencer P Jones
In 2013, Tago Mago received a noise complaint from a new resident who lived over 50 metres from the venue. Although acoustic reports indicated Tago Mago, which is on a main arterial road and in a major commercial district in the area, was not significantly contributing to environmental noise in the area, owners Calvin and Peter made significant investments to ensure the environment around the venue was not affected by the venue. These measures seemed to alleviate the complaints for 18 months.
Several weeks ago, one further complaint was received, and strangely a notice to quit on the 8 year lease on the building that they have invested well over $400,000 in in the last 3 years, highlighting the noise complaints as the reason.
For a small, local music venue in an area dearth of live music and arts venues, the financial burden of continual acoustical testing and improvements, solicitor fees and structural improvements weighs heavy on a break-even business that was started purely to provide the local area with a much needed social and artistic hub.
Local level venues of this size are becoming a rarity in modern Melbourne. Swallowed up by concrete apartment blocks and commercial interests that seems to be the priority for state and local governments. The owners of Tago Mago are at a financial dead end if they wish to continue supporting live and local arts and music. Council support has been non-existent.
The venue requires $23,000 in acoustical improvements to keep the venue operating compliantly.
Band booker Harley McLeod states, “We’re in a position where the only support we get for continuing to operate as a venue supporting local music and arts is from patrons, local artists and bodies such as Music Victoria and SLAM. Sadly, when faced with situations such as these, in today’s climate of laws designed with property development placed well and truly above the wellbeing of the community that is not simply enough. We were extremely hesitant to ask for the financial support of the wider community to continue to operate, but it has become a choice between a crowd-funding campaign and shutting up shop, and we refuse to let the local Thornbury area regress back into an artistic black hole. The residents of the area need to have a local venue putting these things on.”
Music Victoria CEO, Patrick Donovan, said “Victoria owes so much to our small venues – described by Paul Kelly as musician’s universities – and its operators, who run on passion and small margins. They are the heart and soul of our music scene and for too long the odds have been stacked in favour of the residents and developers. After three years of advocacy work through the live music roundtable, we are hoping the government will redress the imbalance soon. In the meantime, we urge music fans to get behind Tago Mago’s funding campaign to help secure the future of one of the north’s great venues.”
On Saturday 2nd August, Tago Mago will be having a fundraising show to help pay for these soundproofing improvements, with a bill that includes over ten of Melbourne’s finest musical acts donating their time to keep this venue open and supporting live music and arts. T-shirts will also be available for sale on the day.
Tago Mago Fundraiser
Saturday 2nd August 2014
Spencer P Jones & Escape Committee
Sons of Lee Marvin
Fiona Lee Maynard and her Holy Men
The Annie Crooners
Tex Napalm and Gary Gray
Plus more to be announced
Tickets $20 on the door
Doors open 12.00pm
Photo: Brian Hooper by Liz Reed