Can’t Stop the Music

Australia’s Music Festivals

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Australia’s premier blues and roots music festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest. With over 200 performances on seven stages, Bluesfest never fails to put on an amazing show. The closely connected Boomerang Festival may have taken a hit with recent budget cuts but organisers are nowhere near giving up, vowing to make the show even better in years to come. Travelling regional festival Groovin’ The Moo, presented by Cattleyard Promotions, triple j and Channel [V], has finished another amazing tour from Oakbank to Maitland, Canberra, Bendigo, Townsville and Bunbury. And The Big Pineapple Music Festival is giving tourists another reason to head on up to the fruity landmark on the Sunshine Coast.

The festival scene was once dominated by touring giants like the Big Day Out – one of the biggest events on the music calendar. After years of touring, however, The Big Day Out has been taken off the road for a major revamp – but it looks like there are more than enough fun, dynamic offerings in the industry to take the sting out.

In 1992, co-founders Ken West and Vivian Lees established the Big Day Out in Sydney. Throughout the 90s, the Big Day Out was at the cutting edge of the music industry, featuring some of the best local and international talent around. The festival was renowned for propelling unknown bands to stardom. One of the headliners at the inaugural Big Day Out was the world famous band Nirvana. At the time, Nirvana was just another band trying hard to make it in the industry – and the rest, as they say, is history. Similarly, in 1995, a band that started out in a garage in Newcastle ended up signing a record deal from their Big Day Out performance. That band was none other than Silverchair, who rightly earned their place as legends in Australia’s music scene. The Big Day Out was once the largest music festival in the country and fans are still reeling following the announcement that next year’s event will be cancelled.

The new owners of the Big Day Out, C3 Presents, pulled the plug on the 2015 event, with Fairfax Media reporting that as much as $12 million was lost this year due to poor crowd numbers. C3 Presents is based in Austin, Texas and owns Chicago’s famous Lollapalooza festival. The company now owns 100 per cent of the Big Day Out after co-promoter AJ Maddah sold his 50 per cent stake in the festival. “C3 Presents is proud to own the Big Day Out, one of the most iconic and established festival brands in the world,” said one of the promoters in a media release. “While we intend to bring back the festival in future years, we can confirm that there will not be a Big Day Out in 2015.” While the Big Day Out has taken a temporary hiatus for redevelopment, regional and genre-based music festivals offering punters a more boutique experience are thriving.

Byron Bay Bluesfest is a mammoth-sized festival held at the Tyagarah Tea Tree farm in-between Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads. Since its inception, Bluesfest has always maintained a strong charitable focus, helping to support local and international communities. Through its Gibson Guitar Raffle, Bluesfest has raised over $374,000.00 to date for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, with this year’s raffle raising a record $55,000! In past years, Bluesfest has funded Thai orphanage Yaowawit in Kampong and a locally based charity, African LEAF. This charity aims to love, educate, acknowledge and feed abandoned, abused, orphaned and vulnerable children in Kenya. This year, Bluesfest provided support to six different charities including Australian Seabird Rescue and Westpac Helicopter Rescue as well as the local radio station run by volunteers, Bay FM 99.9 and Byron Youth Service.

Bluesfest has developed a close connection with the Boomerang Festival, starting when Director Peter Noble generously financed the 2013 event. The Boomerang Festival is a world class event showcasing the incredibly rich diversity of indigenous art, music, dance, film and storytelling. The three-day event highlights cultural practices predominantly from Australia’s Aboriginal peoples as well as various other First Nation cultures from around the world. The programme features a diverse range of activities for attendees to enjoy, from weaving circles to traditional Maori healing ceremonies. In a review of the 2013 Boomerang Festival Mr Noble said, “I saw thousands of cameras flashing during the opening ceremony and I know that in years to come I am going to see many more. Boomerang will come back and this is going to be one of Australia’s greatest festivals.” The kind gesture that he made has not been forgotten by the Director of the Boomerang Festival Rhoda Roberts; “What Peter did was an extraordinary moment of true reconciliation at work; he entered into deep dialogue with our world’s First Peoples.”

Last year, the Boomerang Festival was held at the Tyagarah Tea farm on Bundjalung land and drew in over 5000 attendees. The Boomerang Festival provides many opportunities for First Nation peoples and respecting cultural protocol is the main priority for organisers. When an Elder from Elcho Island passed away, The Chooky Dancers were unable to attend the inaugural event because they had to attend to Sorry Business. The Mitwaj dancers featuring Djakapurra Munyarryun, Rosalee Pearson and Timothy Bishop together with another dance group stepped in to fill the gap in the programme. Although the Boomerang Festival is now a biennial event due to budget cuts to the arts sector, organisers remain optimistic about enriching the programme and are open to sponsorship opportunities.

The City of Bunbury in Perth has been a proud supporter of Groovin’ The Moo by providing seed funding and in-kind support. Groovin’ The Moo started in 2003 when two mates, Rod and Steve, were hanging out at a party in Newcastle. They were so wrapped up in their idea for a touring music festival aimed squarely at music lovers living outside of capital cities that they did not notice when someone stole their beers! The first Groovin’ The Moo festival was held on the 24th of April 2005 at the Gloucester Showgrounds. Over 1400 revellers gathered and went crazy for the Screaming Jets, Killing Heidi, Evermore, and The Spazzys, plus an eclectic mix of upcoming bands. The show hit the road and later stopped in Narrandera, pulling in a crowd of 1,800 people. Groovin’ The Moo has only become bigger and better since then. In the lead up to this year’s event held on May 10th, the Bunbury Visitor Centre confirmed that accommodation was nearly sold out and many punters were choosing to camp at the Carey Park Football Club grounds.

Another grassroots festival taking off is the Big Pineapple Music Festival in Nambour on the Sunshine Coast, home to one of Australia’s kitschiest tourist attractions. The Big Pineapple has been drawing in scores of curious tourists from around the world since 1970 when Lyn and Bill Taylor decided that building an enormous pineapple on their plantation was a good idea. Today, the Big Pineapple site is developing into a business hub, hosting an all-weather market with over 135 vendors selling everything from food and art to fashion. The Big Pineapple Festival presented by triple j has been the latest addition to the grounds and is a rocking success; headliners Birds of Tokyo, British India and Grinspoon played to a sold out crowd of 12,000 people last year. While this year’s Big Pineapple Festival pulled in a more modest crowd of 8,000 people, an awesome line-up featuring headliners Bliss N Eso, Art vs Science, The Living End, Dead Letter Circus and Spiderbait did not disappoint. Besides a diverse selection of artists and bands, the festival boasts a camping ground for 2,500 people along with food stalls, bars, skateboarding and wakeboarding demonstrations, and a vintage car display.

Music festivals like Bluesfest, the Boomerang Festival, Groovin’ The Moo and the Big Pineapple Festival do so much more for the communities in which they operate than just creating entertainment; these festivals create valuable opportunities for growth and self-expression. Bluesfest invests heavily in supporting as many worthy causes as possible, helping to find a cure for cystic fibrosis and to strengthen communities. The Boomerang Festival is built on a strong foundation of respect and integrity, helping to preserve the cultural traditions and values that have sustained the world’s indigenous cultures for generations. The organisers behind the madness of Groovin’ The Moo, Australia’s only touring regional music festival, are always in search of new pastures for the show, which focuses on spreading good music and good times. The Big Pineapple Festival may have a fixed address but what better place to host a wild music festival than behind a giant pineapple? The show has given a whole new lease of life to the golden icon.

Australia’s regional and genre-based music festivals are really starting to make their presence felt, but the Big Day Out is still worth reinventing for today’s audiences; it belongs on the calendar and not only in memories. It will be interesting to see what C3 Presents will do to revitalise the once rock solid festival.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:32 AM AEDT