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Academy's Closure and Concerns for the Canberra Music Scene

The recent and regrettable closure of Canberra’s Academy nightclub didn’t just shut the doors on late night civic-goers – it also closed the doors on Canberra musicians.
The beloved venue was home to many local acts whom it helped get a ‘leg-up’ into the local (and even Australian) music scene. While locally orientated, it wasn’t ‘Canberra exclusive’, nor entirely obsessed with only electronic dance music – Academy had the ability to draw in huge national and international performers, who ranged in genre from DJ’s to hip-hop artists, to even metal bands. Such performances gave local musicians an opportunity to support and interact with the biggest and best performers, and allowed them to perform to sold out Canberra crowds.

Illy performing to a massive Canberra crowd in Academy. Photo source: Leo Kaczmarek

Now with its closure, there are concerns that Academy has left a void in the Canberra music scene which is challenging to fill. One individual who shares these concerns is Leo Kaczmarek, a local photographer who has frequented Academy (and many other Canberra venues) for the last three years, visually documenting many of the musicians who are now without a stage to perform. As a local photographer who has been heavily involved in the Canberra music scene for the last few years, he is worried for the future of Canberra musicians and performers.
NowUC caught up with Leo Kaczmarek to discuss his concerns regarding the future of Canberra’s music scene.

  1. How important was Academy to the Canberra music scene?

Academy was Canberra’s biggest nightclub. It hosted some of the best international and national EDM (Electronic Dance Music) DJ’s, and it was a platform for so many young musicians to learn and grow in a big club environment, not just a pub or a bar. It paved the way for so many notable artists like Peking Duk and BLANKE, who now tour the world and have thousands of [online] streams.

  1. What are some of the biggest names Academy has hosted?

Academy has hosted some amazing acts. DJ’s and producers like Porter Robinson, Calvin Harris, Slumberjack, Will Sparks and What So Not have all played at Academy, as well as hip-hop artists like Seth Sentry, Allday, and Illy. There have also been other shows as well, which involved indie/alternative bands like Client Liaison, and Canberra [rock/hardcore] band Hands Like Houses have also played.

Canberra band Hands Like Houses performing in Academy. Photo source: Leo Kaczmarek

  1. Who are some of the local performers who will potentially face issues with finding suitable venues to perform at?

This [closure] is going to affect every DJ that had a role in making this club what it was, they now have no platform to showcase their talent. First one [local performer] that comes to mind I guess is BNDR, who frequently performed at Academy. The potential is now lost for more of these DJ’s and musicians who could have benefited from supporting roles in larger events that were held at academy.

  1. Now with Academy’s closure, where will these performers go?

Now that it has closed, there are really only three main locations… Cube, Mr Wolf, and Mooseheads. These are also three, I guess limited clubs [compared to Academy], which each have a different view on what music should be played. So now, the DJ scene will be even more competitive, and it will be harder for these artists to branch out and play at other clubs. Academy was the leader in the ACT for music and playing at these other venues is a downgrade from that. Many performers might give it up, or source gigs out of state.

  1. What other venues are able to suitably host the range of performers Academy could?

It is hard to think of any other nightclubs which will draw in artists to Canberra. Nowhere has the capacity, lighting display or sound system that Academy had. The remaining clubs are going to find it difficult to draw national (let alone international) artists to Canberra, to just play to a few people, while the demand interstate is huge.

No other clubs in Canberra have the capacity or the sound and lighting systems Academy had. Photo source: Leo Kaczmarek

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