Meadow: is the hyper-local micro-festival the way forward for Australian music? | Festivals


APerth entered its second day of lockdown over the weekend and the Victorians kept a nervous eye on the news, about 100 miles southwest of Melbourne several hundred music fans woke up to the sound melodious funk from the band Birdsnake. Punters were slowly drawn from groups of tents to the small stage in the Bambra Bowl’s natural amphitheater and the spacious saxophone followed the slow development of a queue for a van selling the only available coffee for miles. . Nearby, a small group of warmly dressed barflies struggled gently with the news that espresso martinis wouldn’t be available for at least an hour.

It was day two of Meadow, a music festival that looks a lot like the opposite of lockdown. It is one of the few music festivals to have taken place in Australia in the past 12 months. As dates scheduled for the industry titan Bluesfest coincided with a local case of Covid-19, resulting in a last-minute cancellation, and Falls, Meredith and Golden Plains wait for milder weather, smaller festivals like that Yours and Owls, Boogie and Meadow pulled off what appears to be a series of little miracles.

Signs in Meadow read, “No moshing. No crowd surfing. No stage dive. Yes dance. Between sets, messages flashed across the stage asking people to be careful of social distancing, to wear masks at all times, and to use them if distancing was not possible.

Hundreds of people adopted the unofficial festival uniform of a woolen cap, sunglasses and a broad smile. Photography: Kirsty Renee Photo

Perhaps acknowledging how lucky the festival was to take place, no one felt constrained by these rules. Throughout the day, Meadow offered glimpses of festival life before Covid: beautiful people mercilessly eating vegan burgers; the crowd laughing with the exuberant Welcome to Country by Melinda Kennedy; fans stomping on mud in the pouring rain; and circles of friends taking off wet raincoats to dance in the afternoon sun. Whether they’re lying on lounge chairs wrapped in a puffer jacket or hopping onto the exuberant garage rock of Melbourne band Bones and Jones, hundreds and hundreds have adopted the unofficial uniform of a beanie. wool, sunglasses and a broad smile.

State government guidelines regarding events can change quickly in response to public health recommendations. Since its capacity was capped at 1,000, Meadow is considered level three in Victoria, a designation that requires organizers to meet Covid security requirements but does not require an event plan that would restrict movement and activities within the festival.

“We have capped [attendee numbers] to stay below level three, ”festival organizer Cameron Wade told Guardian Australia. “I don’t know about the distant future, but as long as Covid is in place we want to stay in the category where we can host our event to the best of our ability as per guidelines. The administrative burden of becoming a level two event just isn’t worth selling extra tickets – we just don’t have a big enough team.

HTRK performs at Meadow
HTRK perform at Meadow. Photography: Kirsty Renee Photo

The weekend before Yours and Owls – a bigger event than Meadow and governed by tighter regulations in New South Wales – ran into trouble. Police halted the performances to disperse members of the public who enthusiastically ignored the social distancing measures. These interruptions have led to a decrease in playing times and a reduction in certain sets.

“A number of series have been briefly interrupted by event planners to ensure adherence to their Covid security plan,” Wollongong District Police District Commander, Acting Superintendent Gordon Dunlop, told WaveFM. “But the police were not obliged to shut down part of the event, which is a positive result considering the number of festival-goers in attendance.”

The rules for level three events in Victoria were relaxed earlier in April, allowing Meadow to drop rules that would have seen festival-goers receive colored bracelets that would have been used to restrict them to certain areas at certain times.

A crowd near a tree at the Meadow Festival
Friends got together, shared wood-fired pizzas, and opened cans of beer from a local brewery. Photography: Kirsty Renee Photo

“We’ve seen tiered zones and ticket booth at other events, and bigger promoters selling ‘front row’ tickets, or pricing tickets based on where you’re zoned,” said Wade. “It’s good if you can’t do anything else, but if there is an option to come to a smaller event and not do it at all, then I think there are benefits to do it. This allows for a much better experience.

Wade stressed that the success of the festival was also a success for the surrounding community. “All of our food suppliers here are from Surf Coast County businesses, all alcohol comes from producers in the area and most of our suppliers are local. Our security subcontractors are regional and our production guys are from Geelong, ”he said. “Even though this is a small festival, a lot of the money it makes stays in this area. No money comes back to Melbourne.

Somewhere behind the darkening clouds over the festival stage, the sun was setting. Earlier today, new-wave rock band Romero, who was only playing their 13th gig, turned the crowd into fans. It was like a moment that every big music festival should have. Friends gathered, shared a wood-fired pizza, opened cans of beer from a local brewery, and waited for psychedelic rock icons King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. If this is the new normal for Australian music festivals, it could be a lot worse.

This article was modified on Wednesday February 28 to clarify the description of Welcome to Country by Melinda Kennedy


Chris B. Hall