During the past 10 years, Live at the Polo in Turner has undergone some pretty big changes to become the iconic live music venue it is today.
From fires and stages that had to be assembled prior to each performance, to trialling room arrangements, organisers have dealt with it all.
But Live at the Polo manager David Howe wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Live music is the kind of thing people notice more when it’s not there,” he says. “It brings a kind of intangible good to the community and to our cultural life.
“Canberra has a thriving music scene and we want to share it with people.”
Along the way, some bits have been harder to deal with than others. A fire in the kitchen saw Live at the Polo relocate to The RUC at Turner Bowls Club for a while, and then there was last year’s COVID-19 induced shutdown.
“So [the 10 Years of Live at the Polo event] will be a big celebration of what we have come through,” says David.
Historically, the Live at the Polo had problems with acoustics and sound.
“During the past four or five years, I’ve worked fairly hard to address some of those shortcomings so now it has a nice vibe and sound to it,” says David.
He says a lot of creating good live music has to do with ensuring musicians and the crowd are comfortable.
“We suspend the artifice of making sound so it becomes an experience both musicians and the audience can share,” says David. “Then people relax and there is a friendlier vibe. It becomes a sort of feedback loop and a shared experience.
“Although despite our best efforts with signage, patrons do continue to get themselves locked out,” he laughs.
Nick Delatovic, who is set to perform on the day with The Empty Lake Singers, credits the success of Live at The Polo to David and his hard work from the beginning.
“The artists who come along now have no idea how little he was working with at the start,” says Nick. “He’s put in a lot of work to make the venue work both sonically and acoustically.”
Nick also remembers the teething issues in the early days when there was no permanent stage suitable for live music.
“Back then, Dave would come in and set up a stage and then pack it down at the end of the night, which was a huge undertaking,” he says.
“It’s testament to how much he loves the live music scene and how much he wanted to make it work.”
As a performer, Nick says the exciting thing about Live at The Polo is the connection between the audience and the performers.
“Getting to hang out in the weirdly designed rabbit warren that is The Polo has been amazing,” he says.
The Polish White Eagle Club –home to Live at the Polo – has become an icon for culture clash with some patrons coming along to watch live music and others there to eat pierogi and watch footy.
“Canberra audiences are pretty open and are generally genre-agnostic which is necessary as the scene is not big enough for them not to be,” says Nick.
“For 10 years, we’ve been putting on shows from performance art and variety shows to dance shows as well as the straight-up band shows, which is testament to the Canberra audience which enjoys it all.”
Highlights during the years include the Corinbank Cancellation and Commiseration fundraiser which completely filled the venue.
Canberra icons Fun Machine almost took up permanent residence for a while, and Mikelangelo kept crowds enthralled and entertained.
The 10 Years of Live at The Polo anniversary show on Saturday, 29 May, is going to be similarly wide ranging and diverse with artists from many genres set to perform.
“There isn’t a dud amongst them,” laughs Nick.
Book tickets for the 10 Years of Live at the Polo anniversary show here.