“We’ll continue to make everybody’s world a bit brighter. Besides, it’s a way of keeping us sane and it keeps the routine going. It’s been heart-warming to see people on Facebook getting on board, singing around the TV or wherever and messaging in their requests.” Andy Pobjoy tells us about the Piano Bar live streams which can be found on their @pianobargeelong facebook page. “We plan to go live at 7.30pm, 6 nights a week. We couldn’t help ourselves, Shandelle and I even did a surprise performance on Monday as well.
“We plan to mix it up. Jack Gatto (Elivs) was live with us on Wednesday night. You can check our FB page to see who’ll be on. It’s been great seeing people commenting. Watch this space, we’ll all come out the other side stronger and better.
“This situation is forcing everyone to stop; spend more time with family, get fit, practice an instrument, learn a new skill. Aaron and I are workaholics but like everyone else, this is forcing us to stop.
“The shutdown of our three Piano Bars has been personally challenging. Piano Bar Group was in full growth mode, opening in Ballarat four weeks ago. Now, we have found ourselves in the position of having to close our doors completely. Even after only a few weeks, the new venue in Ballarat was going so well, we were going to hold our first drag show there in April; now everything is on ice. We have a stunning new venue that we can’t open.
“Then there’s been the heartbreak of having to stand our amazing causal team members down. They are like family. We had team members watching from home on Sunday night in tears. It’s amazing how normal, simple things we take for granted every day can be taken away like that, so suddenly. It’s so sad for everyone: not just for us, but for everyone who’s in the same situation. Particularly for performance artists who can’t have a public audience anymore.
“But creatives are getting creative. We need to continue to work to keep our heads in the right space. Shandelle and I were talking about how performing is everything to us, it keeps us sane. We started together in our small venue almost 5 years ago.
“It’s a matter of finding a way through it and coming out the other side. It is frightening for everyone, but people are finding community in other ways. We’ve built the business on personal connections and we’ve been forced to strip it back to what we do. The interactive nature of taking requests, performing songs that mean something for others, is what we do. So, naturally our first instinct is to do that live on Facebook. Piano Bar is built around a sense of community and connectedness that we don’t want to lose during the lockdown.
“We’re going to focus on mind over matter and not get bogged down by our problems. Piano Bar is going to keep the positivity going. It’s amazing how quickly our online audience has grown and how we can spread that sense of joy. The music has always brought people together, and we’ll continue to make everybody’s world a bit brighter in our own small way.
“The situation reminds me a bit of my first cruise ship gig in 2014 as a Piano Bar Entertainer. It was for 14 long weeks. There are lots of places you aren’t allowed to go when you are crew staff, so you end up spending loads of time in your room. My cabin was so tiny: only the width of two single beds, with no windows. It was right next to the anchor at the bow of the ship. The anchor going up or down was deafening, and it was the end of the ship that moved the most during rough seas. The monotony is such that you entirely lose track of what day it is. So, I had to focus on my 8.45pm show each night and that is what got me through. I felt isolated most of the time, and I missed my family and my kids so much. But boy did we have fun singing around the piano every night!
“Just like back then, our 7.30pm Facebook “Piano Bar Live” sessions every night are going to stop me turning in to a complete and utter nutter. One of our drag performers, Miss Polly Filla put it well, adapting that old saying: ‘The only things left after the end of the world will be Cher, cockroaches and the Piano Bar Live Stream!’”
Story: Jacqui Bennett. Photo: Supplied