When the Australian Government announced the Coronavirus lockdown of all public places, it nailed shut the door all freelancers had been watching close for the past few weeks. No public spaces meant all music gigs, art exhibitions, video and film productions, and many more creative industries were either put on hold or cancelled indefinitely.

Josh, the eternal optimist, refused to just sit around and wait it out; with a young family to provide for and busy music career he turned to technology and made lemonade from 2020’s Covid-19 lemons.

“I was out of work with no gigs, rolled with the punches by trying to seek the positive in the negative.”

Josh Morphett talks with a slightly husky voice from the back of his 4×4 in the carpark of Jive nightclub on Adelaide’s infamous Hindley Street, an hour before his first live SpaceJams gig.

It has been a long week in the lead-up to Josh’s first live event and an even longer six months since the concept of SpaceJams was created on his couch. A simple idea of getting local Adelaide musicians to jam on Instagram Live for their audience to have something to listen to and get back some of the live music buzz during the early stages of Covid-19’s lockdown.

We’d been filming together for most of the year, which has to be said wasn’t that often; usually our ‘shoot’ consisted of Josh at his house jamming live on Facebook and me at my house screen recording his gig on my phone. To say this hasn’t been a straight forward shoot would be an understatement. To be here in mid-August, filming in person, at what I thought was the culmination of the SpaceJams concept was a privilege, and stood testament to South Australia and Australia’s response to 2020’s wild ride.

When the Australian Government announced the immediate closure of all public spaces in late February, it nailed shut the door creative freelancers had been watching close for the past few weeks. First, China went into lockdown, then parts of Europe, then the UK, and shortly after Scott Morrison made the call to control any chance of community Covid-19 transmission early and hard. A decision that overnight signalled the end of Josh’s income. With two young children and a stay at home partner to provide for, his blossoming music career had proved profitable with at times seven gigs a week. That announcement hit hard, and led to many sleepless nights.

“One of my agents who books most of my gigs sends a message every Monday with the confirmation details for the following weekend. (After the announcement) I didn’t get anything on that Monday, so I thought, ok, we’re done here”.

Through necessity Josh pulled his guitar and PA equipment into his driveway and started jamming for the tight nit Maslin Beach community, who showed appreciation by clapping after every song, happy for the distraction from binging Netflix or trying to keep the kids from climbing the walls.

It’s a scene that reminded me of Italy’s apartment blocks, with musicians and singers belting it out for all in lockdown.

To send the live music vibes further, he live streamed the gig to his personal Facebook page, and saw an audience grow outside his immediate friends.

Josh can be described as a thinker, he doesn’t say much without thought, and after his first few Facebook Live gigs an idea was forming in the background.

Later that night with the kids in bed he was mulling over the idea with his partner, Emma, who blurted out ‘SpaceJams’, which summed up everything Josh had been thinking about for the past week. A platform for musicians to come together and hold gigs, from their bedroom or lounge room – without having to lug gear to a venue – they can get as intimate or loud as they wanted in the allotted 20 minutes in their own style. He put the request out to twenty of his musician friends and ‘they were all keen, they all got back to me really quickly, I’ll do a live stream at whatever time you tell me to for sure.”

The first SpaceJams livestream was “very DIY and supposed to be just the one, then Volume Two and Three (restrictions lifted to) 10 people so bands could get together and throw little parties which was pretty cool.”

As lockdown passed into April and May, the SpaceJams gigs continued, and more artists signed up for their 20 minute set.

“If anyone was going to do this, it was going to be Josh.” says long time friend Logan Watt aka. Kuji Koo after his 10pm ‘keytar dj set’ which he performed from a mates shed, as good friends danced slightly out of frame. Wearing a beanie and dancing in harsh blue light his stoke to be playing music again was apparent, and a highlight of SpaceJams Volume 2. “Even at school, Josh was the first to try something new or get everyone involved in whatever he was into, he’s just got a drive to do more.”

As July drew nearer and restrictions were reported to be easing Josh looked to the next stage for SpaceJams and sought out a venue for a real life, live gig with a crowd, and Jive Bar was perfect. He formed a good relationship with the owners from being a performer in the past and said it was a smooth transition into event organising. Juggling the bands proved to be almost as fun as playing, with questions such as does he fit each band’s styles around the headlining artist or mix and mash different genres throughout the night all coming down to his call; it was an open book he had full creative control over.

When the 15th of August was booked in and band lineup decided, Melbourne’s second wave hit and Victoria went back into lockdown, and the other states looked internally into what steps they could take to minimise the risk of another flare up. Jive’s capacity was halved from 300 guests to 150, then finally to 110, and guests had to be seated with no dancing while maintaining social distancing protocols. It was a punch that once again Josh had to roll with and find the positive in the negative; people had already said that the vibe was still there so he was happy. The night went off without a hitch, and even though guests were all seated, headliners Wing Defence’s energy brought the roof down.

It’s Josh’s glass half full approach to 2020’s chaos that has seen him transition from performing musician to now performing musician plus festival organiser, which led to my last question “sounds like you roll with the punches, mate” and his reply with a half smile “well, can’t do anything else, if I don’t, then it fails” and laughs. “It was only ever supposed to be a one off event (but) was too good to not continue it.”

We wrap the interview and he walks into Jive Bar to set up a merchandise table, yet another endeavour and business model to put under his multi talented cap.