By Donna Carman
LOCAL musicians and music lovers are still mourning the closure last month of a ‘worldclass’ live music venue in downtown Denmark.
Freehand Wines cellar door operated at Palm Court for only 18 months, enticing the public with biodynamic wines, plush furnishings and regular live music.
During that time co-owners Matt Eastman and Danni Paviour-Smith made continual improvements to the sound quality, performance space and adjacent lounge area.
For five years local musician Terry Mackintosh and sound legend John Dodd used to run a monthly ‘Transmission’ music night at the CWA hall.
The process took days – packing the car, setting up the gear at the hall, then bumping out and taking it all home and unpacking it.
When Freehand opened its permanent stage set-up was considered a luxury, and it rapidly became a popular gathering-place for the arts community.
Freehand was the venue of choice for this year’s Denmark Arts Festival of Voice performers The Ballpoint Penguins, and for the inaugural appearance by the youngest-ever solo performer at the festival, Sarah Cussons.
Local musician and music appreciator Andi Adams called Freehand a world-class offering to musicians and patrons.
“The quality of sound reproduction and acoustics were matched nowhere else in Denmark, and Matt made it extraordinarily easy for musicians, by providing an inhouse PA and mixing,” Andi said.
Festival of Voice MC Peter Keelan, a community arts professional and musician, said that the intimate venue had been great for creating community cohesion and bringing people together.
“It’s not often that someone can mix sound for long periods and maintain a positive focus – while at the same time providing excellent wine, food and service,” he said of Matt.
“The vibe in the local arts community surged during the time Freehand operated.
“The need for an intimate music and spoken-word performance venue in Denmark goes hand-in-hand with emotional wellbeing.”
Business mentor and Denmark Chamber of Commerce CEO Liz Jack said that Freehand showed courage to revitalise the main street and provide a light in the dark for those seeking entertainment after hours.
Matt said that Freehand was a chapter that ended, but he and Danni were hoping to create a new venue in the near future.
The pair was committed to a local location, to serve Denmark’s deep connection to the arts and environment.