Tag Archives: australia

The problem with Australian music festivals

“There was fuck all out there.”

It may be in A.J. Maddah’s typically blunt prose, but it’s probably the best summary of Australian festival lineups in 2014.

Describing the reasons behind the demise of Big Day Out, Maddah said there was a distinct shortage of headliners for festivals this year, going on to say: “We can’t continue to go ahead with a substandard line-up and damage what’s already a fragile brand, a fragile event”.

If only other festivals followed his refusal to deliver a substandard lineup.

The Australian music festival scene has grown stale, repetitive, and wholly unoriginal in terms of the bands performing, both international and local. The quality and profile of headlining acts has drastically reduced, and most festivals now seem to be selecting bands from a very limited pool of acts that tend to tour the country at least once a year.

The festival scene has been proliferated with new upstarts, with many holding their first festival this year, and this has only added to the problem: the already small selection of bands now have to be spread even thinner.

It could be due to the extremely high costs of bringing bands all the way to Australia, meaning that most tour as part of a festival instead of alone, the most popular of which come at least once a year.

Another problem for the general festivals has been the growth of genre-specific events such as Soundwave Festivals, meaning there are even less bands on offer.

These issues are compounded by the mutually dependent relationship between the festivals and music websites, with writers being unable to criticise lineups for fear of losing accreditation to the festivals. Lineups constantly escape criticism and scrutiny for this reason, and seem to be untouchable for most of Australia’s music journalism.

The recently-announced Falls Festival lineup consists of 16 bands that have already toured Australia in the last 12 months; that’s over half of the whole lineup. Jamie xx was here for Laneway in February and will be returning for New Year’s, while Parquet Courts have even a quicker turnaround, having just played Splendour In The Grass in July. Headliners Alt-J will have toured Australia three times in the past year after their whirlwind mini-tour in October before gracing the stage at Falls.

International acts such as Chvrches, Action Bronson, and Grouplove have also played at least two festivals in Australia this year.

Many festivals are also recruiting bands that have already played there before, with Bluesfest seeming to be the worst offender of this. Although you could argue with the amount of bands that seem to play Bluesfest, it’s unavoidable to have some overlap. The recently announced Bluesfest 2015 lineup includes five acts that played the very same festival last year.

2013 was undoubtedly a dark year for the Australian music festival scene, with the cancellation of Harvest Festival, Pyramid Rock, Peats Ridge Festival, Playground Weekend, Future Music and Supafest. There were simply too many festivals targeting the exact same demographic, offering tickets at exorbitant prices with lineups that didn’t reflect this price.

It’s little wonder that Australian festivals seem to be constantly in turmoil, with dwindling ticket sales and general interest, with little effort put in to produce creative and appealing lineups.

Festival lineups now seem almost like anagrams of all the other festivals that year, perhaps with the added drawcard headliner: Outkast at Splendour, Big Day Out had Pearl Jam, but not all can afford to get these huge acts.

There’s only one shining light in this, with Meredith Music Festival managing to remain interesting by bringing a diverse range of bands to our shores, some that have never visited before.

This year Aunty Meredith proclaimed that “it is a totally fresh cast, all brand new to The Sup’ – bar one special case”. And that special case is Augie March, who haven’t played a festival in eight years.

The lineup features many that are touring Australia for the first time, and only two that have been here in the last 12 months: the War on Drugs (Falls 2013) and Cloud Nothings (Laneway 2013).

This is a very impressive effort when compared to other festivals this year, with Big Day Out boasting six acts that had visited in the last year, Laneway featuring eight, Groovin’ the Moo with five, and Splendour with nine.

When looking at local bands, the problem is only exacerbated. There seems to be a group of only about 20 Aussie bands that festivals are willing to recruit, and there are some acts that play virtually every festival in the calendar year.

Chet Faker has played six major festivals in the last year, just pipped by Flume who played seven, while Vance Joy is playing quite possibly every festival in the country (at least seven).

Even large Aussie acts like The Jezabels and The Presets have played three festivals just this year, while relocated Sydneysiders Jagwar Mar appeared at Laneway and will be back for Falls later this year.

Nearly every festival in the year constantly attempts to cater to the Triple J demographic, and perhaps this is why they’re so dour and uncreative. It’s little coincidence that the two festivals that don’t do this, Meredith and Soundwave, consistently sell out in minutes, while many others are struggling or folding.

One of the great joys of music festivals is combining the experience of seeing your favourite bands, while also discovering your new favourite band, but if festivals continue to bring the same tired bunch of acts, this will become impossible.

Advertisements

The Fake Debate

What we witnessed last night was not a debate.

It would have been more apt to name it ‘two politicians giving separate press conferences while standing close to each other’, but that doesn’t really have the same ring to it.

A worthwhile debate requires interaction and arguments between the two leaders, but we didn’t get any of that. What we got was a dull, bleak charade full of rhetoric with no real substance.

On the few occasions when Rudd or Abbot interrupted the other, or attempted to counter their points, they were quickly shot down, and then continued to rehash the same tired rhetoric that’s been prevalent across the first week of what will be a very long campaign.

The Australian people deserve better than this to accurately make up their mind and participate in the democratic system, and if there are any more of these ‘debates’ in a similar vein, it will be a wasted and tiresome display.

Both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott barely veered from their own very set scripts, and often strayed far away from the question, choosing instead to address their opponents perceived failings.

Nothing was achieved in this ‘debate’ that couldn’t have equally been produced from two separate press conferences, or just a simple press release. We didn’t see either leader assert themselves over the other, or venture off script to rebut the others point.

But the fact that the debate failed at its very basic level to provide a thought-provoking discussion between our two prospective prime ministers is not either politicians fault, or the moderator. It’s the basic rules that accompany it that prevented any real debate to take place. With very restricted time limits on each leader, little to no chance for rebuttal, and strict rules against interrupting or directly addressing the opponent, there was never going to be any productive discussion.

It’s almost impossible to imagine that this ‘debate’ would have even slightly swayed any undecided voters, and isn’t that the exact point of these events taking place? We didn’t discover any real strengths or weaknesses from either leader, and the status-quo was religiously upheld by both.

The only moment that could possibly inspire swing voters was Rudd’s announcement of a conscious vote on same-sex marriage within 100 days of his possible re-election, but even this was announced before the ‘debate’, and could have easily just been put out in a press release.

The next ‘debate’ must give our leaders a chance to actually have a real, interactive discussion between each other, to give the voters a real insight to how the handle the pressure of a live, open debate, and how they can actually communicate their policies without the aid of ingrained slogans and obviously prepared answers to predictable questions.

The forthcoming debates must be reconsidered in this light, or they might as well be replaced by simultaneous media releases from each leader, and we deserve much more than that.