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Interview with Rod Vervest, Artistic Director of Subi Lounge Series

Rod Vervest

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Subi Lounge Series set to reinvent urban live music

Rod Vervest had a vision to bring the world’s music to Subiaco, and from September 24 to October 3, that vision will become a reality with the Subiaco Lounge Series.

Launching a brand new, multi-venue style music festival over 10 days is hard enough in normal circumstances, but add to the mix the fact that the Subiaco Lounge Series is kicking off in the current COVID-19 landscape and you’d be forgiven for thinking that founder Rod Vervest must be the world’s greatest optimist.

COVID-19 has presented tremendous challenges for everyone,” says Rod, a long-time musician and artistic director of the Fairbridge Festival. 

Our industry in particular (which intrinsically relies on people being able to gather), has been dealt a significant blow. The legacy of all of it will be deep and enduring. But I believe from it all there grows an opportunity to reimagine, reinvent and possibly resurrect ways of doing things.

Thanks to Rod’s experience as the program manager for the Perth Festival, he knows that in many cases, small and diverse is beautiful.

“It’s a bit strange to say it but the arts almost relish the “barrier” because it challenges us to work creatively around it, under it, over it or through it; whatever it takes,” says Rod. 

It’s because art making and the experiencing of it, is fundamental to our being. For these reasons, it hasn’t been overly challenging to curate and organise the series because the energy for it from musicians and businesses is profoundly positive. Both are creative, bold, not frightened of risk and driven to provide something unique and compelling."

As such, when asked what attracted him to curate the new series, he drew on all those years of experience and threw himself into the role. With a blank canvas to create a new series of performances with a cool lounge vibe, concert-goers hungry for seeing live performances won’t be disappointed says Rod.

More like a mini music festival, expect to encounter over 20 acts, with over 80 musicians performing an eclectic array of musical styles, from gypsy jazz to improvisation. 

“I’m hoping the event will allow Subiaco to claim the title of Perth's 'music capital',” says Rod.

The festival style to the line-up has allowed for an unusual diversity and breadth of musicians keen to perform in Subi.

You will find improvised jazz alongside live art making, a gypsy swing ensemble will lift the roof of an art deco bar, a fusion of world music ignites a street scape, a sublime string quartet weaves Nordic folk tunes amidst library books and a gentle folk-noir club surfaces in a tiny bar,” says Rod.

For those in WA who have been denied the chance to see live performances for so many months, it’s a golden opportunity to safely enjoy some of the most innovative musical performances in the state.

“When I’m asked what are the highlights, after my experience with the Fairbridge Festival I truthfully now say the festival itself is the headliner and the highlight,” says Rod.

However, I am looking forward to seeing young musicians who are seeking the fusion of musical elements, bringing their creative powers of musicianship to the forefront. I think you will experience that with Soukouss Internationale and Liquid, Goof Troop, Brassika and the boundless improvisation in groups like Sassafras.”

With such a dearth of opportunities for concert goers to experience the unique pleasure of live music at the moment, Rod is hopeful that the Subiaco Lounge Series can grab an opportunity to become known as a musical hub.

‘I think there is some prized territory for Subiaco to claim from this moment,” says Rod. 

Subi could emerge as a leader in the reimagining and resurrection of live music and this new lounge series could be the genesis of a fully-fledged festival, being a catalyst for all types of arts events.”

And why not? According to Rod, Subiaco has the energy in many of its businesses, a compelling diversity of spaces, an iconic theatre and galleries to create a collection of venues which really sets it apart from other areas of Perth.

For those who still need persuading. Rod forever looks on the bright side, Rod will tell you, “Optimism is a wonderful tune to dance to. It has a rhythm all of its own”.

This fascinating kaleidoscope of open-air performances and more intimate-style gigs will be hosted by Subiaco’s many restaurants and bars. Join in this unique celebration of music from all corners of the globe from September 24 to October 3.

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See Subi Arts

  • 50-78 Rokeby Rd, Subiaco, WA 6008