All aboard for tram jam

If you’re lucky a single transport ticket in Melbourne might just get you front row seats to some of the best local live acts.

Non-profit organisation Tram Sessions was born in 2010 and aims to bring some music back into the hum drum daily commute – literally.

The grassroots organisation arranges spontaneous gigs twice a month on the Yarra Trams network as a way of showcasing up and coming local and international acts, as well as promoting public transport.

The music is even selected according to the style of Melbourne’s diverse neighbourhoods – a grungy/rock sound for the northern routes; a more mellow style for the south and folk or country for the inner-city routes.

The brainchild of Swedish expats and music enthusiasts Nick Wallberg and Carl Malmsten, Tram Sessions was born over a breakfast table discussion.

Less glitzy than its northern city rival Sydney, Melbourne is well known as a cultural hub and is home to a thriving independent music scene.

However, Nick says many up and coming acts struggled to get heard due to the closure of live music venues across the city.

He said Tram Sessions was a way to bring the music back to people who otherwise might not have access to it.

“For me music is all about emotions – I can’t get enough of it,” says Nick.

“I get so happy and energised from music. And I think if that particular song or that music touched you then that is something worth celebrating and sharing.”

Getting the project off the ground, however, didn’t come easy.

When conventional methods failed the pair ambushed Yarra Tram staff while they were out on the network collecting feedback from commuters.

They secured a meeting, but when the project again stalled, Nick called the communications team three times a week for six months until they finally agreed to support a pilot program.

So why trams?

As Nick explains: “Unlike trains, trams are really close to the people – they’re out in the open. You just have to take one step and you’re on it.

“You can see where you’re going and what’s going on around you. In that sense it’s more of a community.”

Initially Nick approached bands while out attending live acts himself.

But word is out and the organisation now regularly fields requests from music publicists and has a waiting list of 100 bands wanting to be a part of the project.

As well as continuing to provide a platform for up and coming local music, established, well-known acts have also got on board, including Ben Kweller, angelic Aussie singer-song writer Lisa Mitchell and Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls fame.

Each gig is recorded and uploaded on the Tram Sessions website.

“If you do a music video it’s very produced,” says Nick.

“The best thing is that every time we do a gig you have all these small moments and you can’t produce those. It’s very organic; we never know what’s going to happen.”

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About the author


Kate has written 63 articles for MeetingLife

Kate is an Australian journalist and is now based in Rome. She collects red shoes and postcards. Her favourite experiences to date include hangliding on her 30th birthday and travelling overland from China to Russia.