Interview :: The Smallest Gig

April 27th 2012

It is a strange time for Sydney live music. It seems as though every month brings another sad tale of struggling venues, For-Sale signs and cancelled gigs. The Gaelic has just axed its live music program, we have lost Tone and the Hopetoun, the Annandale is hanging on for grim death… hell, even the freakin’ Entertainment Centre is going to be demolished.

Yet with each swing of the wrecking ball, something fresh pokes its head out of the debris. Gigs are popping up in all kinds of unexpected places – backyards and carparks, cafes and people’s private homes. While our established venues are being strangled by red tape, local creatives have swooped in – SUPERHERO CAPES ALL A-FLUTTER – and salvaged live music from all the crap that sadly surrounds it. The ticket quotas, the age restrictions, the pretentious security guards and preposterously overpriced drinks… they’ve thrown it all away, keeping just the music and the people.

Holly Rankin-Smith, co-founder of The Smallest Gig, is one such superhero. She has been organising small-scale shows in backyards around Sydney for the last twelve months, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. With their first birthday just around the corner, Holly spoke to us about the perks of being the smallest.


Flog: When did you come up with the concept for The Smallest Gig? What motivated  you?

Holly: We first started talking about the idea at the beginning of last year. The inspiration came from knowing great musicians who struggled to find a space where they could play their tunes and really be heard. It was also exciting thinking about the way our society consumes music and how we might be able to challenge that.


Where did the first gig take place, and who was involved?

The first gig was in my (Holly’s) tiny Paddington terrace courtyard. It was packed full with about 60 people and we were very excited to have Matt Corby, Lissa and Emma Davis launch our first gig!


What has been your favourite TSG memory so far?

Every gig leaves us with new beautiful memories to look back on; one gig it bucketed down and turned into a rainy hoe-down which was fun! Another gig we had some audience members cook huge plates of food to share with everyone. The vibe is always great because of the community of people that come to be part of it.


Have there been any major challenges or mishaps along the way?

Nothing too major… it can be challenging running something based on people volunteering their time and skills, but at the end of the day- that’s what makes it so special. It’s not just a gig, it’s a community of creative people coming together and starting a movement. We did have a noise complaint once. The police showed up and we had to unplug, but the musicians and crowd handled it brilliantly and I think the cops were a bit embarrassed when they saw what a chilled out, warm, loving gig they were trying to shut down!


What kind of crowd do the gigs attract?

The gigs attract a big range of people of all ages and from varying backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common- a love for music and a desire to connect with it on a more intimate level.


Which venues do you feel are doing the best job of supporting live music and art in Sydney at the moment?

We have a huge love and respect for FBi Social of course! We love the way the venue collaborates with new and interesting live music ventures. We also love more alternative venue initiatives such as Hibernian House, The Gate, The Newsagency and Sofar Sounds. But really it’s the people that make the venue, the physical building itself becomes kind of irrelevant.


Sydney Entertainment Centre – the virtual opposite to TSG – is getting knocked down next year, and rebuilt to be even bigger. What are your thoughts?

Large capacity venues will always have their place and purpose- especially in a country as geographically isolated as Australia, for it to be financially worthwhile for musicians to tour Australia we need to be able to offer big shows. But I think the place where music moves people and touches them in a real and powerful way is found in the small and intimate shows. The gigs where the barrier between artist and audience is broken, no one is on a pedestal and you feel like you are a part of the music. That’s when music really has the power to change people.


The next gig marks the first birthday of The Smallest Gig. Do you have any big plans for your second year?

We have lots of plans for The Smallest Gig to do big things! As we continue to grow, so many new ideas and opportunities come up! But our biggest plan is to keep the movement growing. There’s so many ways to be involved- performing, hosting, decorating, writing, film, photography, web design. For anyone interested, drop us a line at and keep connected:


The demand for these gigs is hardly proportionate to their size; spots for their birthday shindig were all snapped up in a matter of hours. It’s certainly worth keeping tabs on these guys if you want to get in on the love: gigs are held every second month. If you’re itching for something now though, here is a little clip taken at the most recent Smallest Gig, featuring local group Castlecomer. (Did someone say barbershop?!)



Read more from Nick La Rosa