Global Observer

Catch live music on a Melbourne tram

Posting in Cities

MELBOURNE -- In Melbourne, a tram fare could get you more than a ride home. It could also be your front row ticket to see a live band.

MELBOURNE -- On some Melbourne trams, commuters are being treated to a live show while they make their way around town. Presented by the not-for-profit organization Tram Sessions, the performances are live, spontaneous and free to tram ticket holders.

Tram Sessions is the brainchild of Swedish expatriates Nicklas Wallberg and Carl Malmsten. The duo, both big fans of music and Melbourne trams, started the project because they really wanted to work on something that would bring their two passions together.

“I’m a big advocate for sustainable transport and to be able to help both music and public transport is a real blessing,” Wallberg says. “It’s also great to see all the commuters being happy and smiling during a session.”

In Melbourne, the tram network makes up a large portion of the city’s public transport system. As a project which encourages people to use public transport, trams were the logical, if not unconventional, choice.

To date, there have been 27 tram sessions (film recordings of the tram sessions are available via the website) . Bands and artists like Lisa Mitchell, Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls), Jordie Lane, Passenger and Lanie Lane have all performed on a Melbourne tram.

From country and bluegrass to rock and disco, just about every musical genre has been covered. Sometimes the style of music can even be paired with a particular tram route.

"Rock suits the 86 [tram] or 112 and the City Circle [tram route] is great for some bluegrass. We also let the bands choose if they have a [tram route] preference," Wallberg says.

The project is supported by Yarra Trams, Melbourne's tram operators, who help schedule the surprise performances. With the exception of tram tricket sales, no profits are made during the performances.

The reaction from commuters has been positive; there have been stories of people skipping their stops just to hear more songs. Wallberg believes that the popularity of Tram Sessions is largely due to the live and unusual setting of the performances.

“Music is now often played in a very controlled matter, in venues, on a stage, away from the audience,” he says. “On a tram you’re close and it takes you back to the reason why people love music to begin with.”

The sessions are just as popular with the musicians as they are with the public. Currently there are over 80 bands wanting to join the 'tram' tour.

“We always try to have sessions close to bands’ gigs so it can be used as a promotional tool,” explains Wallberg. “So far we’ve seen many bands grow their social media presence as a direct effect of Tram Sessions."

The idea for Tram Sessions was inspired by projects such as the Concerts A Emporter (Take Away Shows), the London-based Black Cab Sessions, and the cross-continental Shoot The Player.

Tram Sessions will be busy in its third year. As well as being a media partner for the Sustainable Living Festival, Wallberg and Malmsten have secured a deal with television station Channel 31 to broadcast the tram sessions to a national audience.

Photo: Busra.

Lieu Thi Pham

Correspondent (Melbourne)

Lieu Thi Pham is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She has contributed to The Age, Associated Newspapers, Melbourne University Magazine, the Big Issue, Dazed and Confused, Indesign Group, Time Out, SOMA and Niche Media. She holds degrees from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure