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Founder and co-owner of Geelong’s Piano Bar Andy Pobjoy laughs as he explains how he creatively juggles playing the piano, singing, hosting their Facebook live streams, meanwhile changing the camera angles with his right foot.
“It started off with just me, as at the start of lockdown you weren’t allowed to have other people in the venue, so I worked out a way of switching cameras with a foot trigger, but its necessity! We had to do it! What started as two Go Pros has now turned into an eight-camera shoot with full lighting production. It’s pretty cool.”
The much loved Piano Bar on Malop street Geelong is a hot-spot for live entertainment, as founder Andy shares how performing on cruise ships inspired the unique idea.
“I used to work on cruise ships, and I was doing the same sort of thing we do at Piano Bar, getting a whole bunch of people from different walks of life, and sitting around the piano asking for their favourite songs. It just brings people together; it all starts with the music; it all starts with a song.”
“But I was away from my family, and it was time to start thinking about doing something closer to home. So against everyone’s advice, saying this would never work in Geelong, we ended up with a little venue on little Malop Street about five years ago, and we have never looked back!”
However, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing the Piano Bar to close, Andy is determined to support the venue’s performers, staff and community through the power of song and social media streaming.
“We missed everybody. We had to come up with ideas of how to keep the business running and that’s why we started doing live streams. So it was about community, it was about connection, and certainly still feeling like we still had some sense of control when we really had very little.”
This innovative idea of doing free live performances with musicians, vocalists, special guests and taking song requests from viewers comments turned into an online hit, with thousands of views, media attention and over 100 live streams.
“Our record was up to 110 thousands viewers on one particular Saturday night, that was the night we were on Channel Nine News,” Andy says.
Resonating with people during the COVID-19 crisis, the Piano Bar expanded its newfound digital fame globally.
“We had people overseas and a lot of people suffering from chronic conditions who are immune-compromised. This was a lifeline for people that were on their own as well. And we had some people who were at every single live stream and shared that entire journey,” Andy says.
Co-owner and performer Joss Russell says not only did the live streams provide entertainment for viewers, but the online donations from audiences also offered support for their performers who have lost income.
“People really get involved in the live stream, and on the other side of it as well, the donations have gone towards the performers who couldn’t get Job Keeper, so it’s gone a long way in supporting those of us who have had their gigs run completely dry throughout the COVID-19 crisis.”
While virtual audiences have been a success, Joss says it will be great to have real crowds again.
“We have had so much fun with the live streams, but I think nothing will truly replace the atmosphere of having a real crowd in front of you. When you look around the room, and you see smiles on everyone’s faces, and you see everyone up on the chairs dancing, smiling and cheering, it’s just a good feeling to know that people are as happy as you are.”
As of September 16 under Step 3 of the COVID-19 Roadmap for regional Victoria, the Piano Bar is opening its doors in Geelong and their other regional Victoria venues.
With limited space for 20 patrons in it’s Geelong venue, the team has evolved once more with creative and safe ways to entertain from the outdoors.
Every weekend the Piano Bar will be at the Geelong Race Course, the West End/Little Malop Street precinct with laneway jazz sessions and also regular and special guest shows.
“It’s going to be great, and it’s awesome that we have adapted to the restrictions so that we can still provide something good while keeping everyone safe at the same time,” says Joss.
Andy hopes the Piano Bar’s newly found online community will convert from screen to table in support of keeping the entertainment industry alive.
“Rain hail or shine we are going to be outdoors! We hope people will jump on board with it and get excited like we get excited every time we get to do something new.”
To support the Piano Bar and purchase tickets to upcoming events, go to www.pianobar.com.au.
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