As we approach the summer ‘festival’ season with the big budget Sydney Festival and a stack of other rock and dance music celebrations, maybe it’s time to sit down and reinvent the wheel. Already doubts are being cast on the future of many of the long-running Australian music fests with the cancellation of this year’s Homebake and the trimming down of the once indefatigable Big Day Out.
The costs associated with these mega events have certainly escalated and the unbridled demand for tickets is certainly not what it was. Maybe punters are just sick and tired of the whole outdoor festival concept – the braving of the elements, the acres of dust or mud, the overpriced food and booze, the endless queuing for portaloos, harassment by sniffer dogs and unless you are in the moshpit, a view of the stage that requires a pair of high-powered binoculars. That’s even before we get to the talent roster which often includes a bevy of overhyped, big name, overseas acts, enticed to Australia with the sole purpose of boosting their looming pension fund.
Okay, that’s all a bit cycnical but maybe it’s time to really sit down and rethink the whole festival concept, reducing the ever-increasing ticket prices, breathing new life into the attractions on offer and restoring the true festive spirit. Forget about the massive outdoor festival sites – we would love to see Sydney celebrate with a string of house, street and even rooftop parties, spread across every suburb, uniting the entire city and burbs in one almighty fiesta.
A small council household levy would finance the entire event and yes the big name overseas acts would still be present, driven at random from location to location and performing on the back of a flat-top truck. With hundreds of big and smaller acts, scooting all over Sydney, playing backyards and street parties, almost everybody would get a taste of the action which would also be telecast via a series of hovering drones.
Noise abatement regulations would be dropped for the day and neighbours encouraged to share a menu of homemade fried things on sticks and other culinary delights. Every bedroom DJ would be encouraged to pump out the volume and every garage would host its own raucous band. There would be no need for heavy-handed security, portaloos or overzealous police searches for illicit substances. Sniffer dogs would be out and about but placed in a mobile petting zoo as a treat for the neighbourhood kiddies.
There would be none of the fist-pumping, Nuremberg Rally-style hysteria of the big rock festivals and none of the claustrophobia associated with cramming twenty- thousand sweaty music fans into a dusty showground arena. Imagine the excitement as The Foo Fighters or the Sun Ra Arkestra are driven into your backyard on the back of tabletop, albeit for only a tune or two. The rest of Sydney would be watching, courtesy of the army of airborne drones and all hoping that their neighbourhood fling would be the next random port of call. Let the festival begin!