When Anglesea musician Tristan Ross was anxiously wondering what he was going to do at the start of the pandemic, he resolved to share his shows for free.
His offer of a livestream performance to his healthy Facebook following immediately struck a sweet chord with lives in lockdown, and something more than an audience was born.
Watch the videos on Tristan's Facebook page
It became a community which thrived on his regular shows, not just for the songs but for connections that came with them.
“It sort of grew and everyone was looking forward to it every week, and it wasn’t about the music anymore,” Tristan says.
“I realised pretty quickly it was more about community. There would be constant banter in the chat. I’d check after a show and there would be 3000 comments or more in a night.”
From Anglesea and across the Surf Coast to the Czech Republic, France and Canada people were together in isolation.
Over months as regulars at Tristan’s virtual gigs they shared their lives, laughs and losses.
Tristan is a full-time solo singer and musician, given to donating his time and talents to causes and institutions.
His big-hearted performance during the pandemic has led to him being named as Surf Coast Shire Council’s latest Local Legend, recognising his positive impact in supporting people and helping them to thrive.
“He gives his time freely whenever asked at events such as the primary school fete, and he also provides sound equipment for local ceremonies, and sings if required,” his nominator Grant Williamson said.
“Since lockdowns began in March 2020 he has live streamed music twice each week free for anyone to watch.
“Through these streams Tristan has connected many people from the Surf Coast and across Victoria, Australia and overseas, lifting people’s spirits and helping isolated people feel connected.”
Despite being at ease in the spotlight on stage, Tristan says he is unsure about being in the spotlight as a Local Legend.
“Reluctantly nominated!” he says.
Tristan – husband of Steph and Dad to twins Blake and Coby, 10, Jai, 8, and Bodhi, 3 – is Werribee born and bred and shifted to Anglesea with his growing family eight years ago.
After leaving school he worked for a decade as a carpenter, then as a scaffolder at refineries in Altona and Geelong.
“I’ve played music my whole life but haven’t done acoustic covers, which is what I do now,” he says.
“I got into that when Steph had the twins because we just needed a bit of extra money.
“Now it’s my full-time job.”
He performs tracks from the 1950s to contemporary at weddings and private functions and at gigs at a select few venues including Anglesea’s Morgan’s Bar and Grill.
Live shows and income evaporated with pandemic restrictions, but the generosity he paid forward in presenting his gigs free online came back to him in tips from his appreciative audience.
“I just said I’m going to do it for love, and everyone’s going ‘oh we want to tip you’,” he says.
“They showed me how to set it up online.
“I was lucky I always had a good 150 to 200 people watching. Probably 15 to 20 people would put in.
“Financially it kept us going, and there were a few other things happened along the way other than money – generosity and people sending gifts, a few incredible things really.
“We were very lucky, I’ll say that.”
Tristan knows of people who met virtually during his shows and have later caught up in person.
He aims to keep the show rolling into the future, though on a less frequent basis, to help people maintain connections.
“It’s more for everyone to catch up and get together, so they don’t forget each other and can get in there and say hello,” he says.
“I know there’s a lot of people still stuck at home, or there would be messages like I’m a single mum, I never get to go out and this is my virtual night out.
“I realised it is quite important to a lot of people.”