While I’m no music guru, I have been to a decent handful of music festivals of all shapes and sizes over the years.
If I was giving advice to any festival first-timers though, it would be this – go out and get your big time festival hit; that’s an experience everyone should have. But don’t focus so much on the ‘big gigs’ that you overlook the small, regional gems. Because those are the experiences that will outlive any other.
I’ve been to Big Day Out, Falls Festival, Future, Groovin’ the Moo and Parklife. I’ve partied amongst 15,000 of my closest friends (geographically speaking), been so far away from the stage I couldn’t count how many people were actually in the band and paid $15 for a ‘festival double black’, which means they’re actually only regular strength and you’re getting ripped off. They were great times, they were questionable times (after one too many said ‘double blacks’) and there were also times that blatantly sucked.
Like when you lose your friends, but there’s no phone reception to find them (thanks Flemington Racecourse) so you’re forced to adopt some news ones or remain a loner. Or when the crowd is so rough and rowdy that you know you’re going to be stepped on, spilt on and sweated on, which some people dig and that’s fine, but it’s just not for me. And when the weather turns nasty and you have to either brave the elements and freeze to death or forfeit your $160 ticket and bail.
I’ve spoken about my friends thinking there’s nothing worth visiting the country for before, and how wrong they are. The best music festivals I have ever attended were held in the middle of woop woop; in parks 15km from the nearest town (I’m looking at you Summer of Soul), on the top of a hill amongst the cows and hay bales (oh how I love you NYE On The Hill), or the side of a mountain in a small town I proudly call home – and this brings me to my most recent weekend adventure.
Sweet Valley Sounds. This festival is in it’s fourth year, but this was the first time I’d actually been able to get home and make an appearance. Let me paint the picture for you; one that sums up basically all of these small town, big soul festivals.
Camping chairs, bean bags, one legged stools and picnic rugs – if you can sit on it, you can take it in to snag the best view of the stage and set up camp for the afternoon; a place to leave your stuff when you get up to have a dance or explore the market and food stalls nearby rather than haul it around with you. Not so keen on buying food? No problem. Bring in your own eskie of goodies – cheese platters, chips and dip, fruit and nuts or a whole roast chicken. And did I mention they’re all BYO? That’s right kids! Forget spending your life savings on a cold one, because you can take your own six pack in! And if you run out? Not to worry – there’s a stall selling delicious (and affordable) craft beers, wine and cider within stumbling distance.
And the main attraction. The music. The incredible artists you never knew you loved until they played the 4.30pm time slot. The musicians jumping off the stage to dance with the crowd. The people in the crowd jumping onto the stage to boogie beside the lead singer (because security guards aren’t an issue or required). And if there’s a particular artist you especially dug (or perhaps wanted to marry)? Go and high five them, buy their CD and snap a selfie (or propose – that’s cool) at the merch tent afterwards.
All of this for the price of a $50 ticket? Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me (pardon the pun!).
I won’t ramble on too much trying to describe how much of a good time I really did have. I got to hang out with some of my favourite people, dance like I didn’t care people were watching (because here’s the truth – they probably weren’t) and when I was a little beat, crash out in a glorified camping chair and feast on Jarlsberg and ginger beer, all whilst listening to some primo tunes.
And I got to meet the Pierce Brothers and if you haven’t heard their music, what are you doing? Don’t just sit there, go and bless your ears with their incredible sounds right now! (They were perhaps the boys I wanted to propose to, but I didn’t quite muster up the courage. One day Jack and Pat. One day.)
Enough from me (in words anyway) – please enjoy my photos and I’ll see you there next year.