Five things we learnt at Fairgrounds Festival 2018
“A carnival of music & discovery a little South of Sydney” is not only an apt description of the weekend past, but denotes the humble tone that Berry’s Fairgrounds Festival emits. Beating the drum of the town’s centre, a flock of talent inhabits Berry Showgrounds, enhancing the grassy green visage with music of a varietal nature.
A complete family affair, there was something for every teenager, dad, 20-something year old and barefooted baby; a giant slide, two stages boasting live music, an outdoor dining experience, three-legged races and talks between musicians and their political fanboys.
Showcasing sets from homegrown heavyweights Courtney Barnett, Pond, Winston Surfshirt and Pist Idiots; international heroes Billy Bragg, Kevin Morby and The Breeders; and local acts like Body Type and Totty gaining class momentum with every performance, Fairgrounds clearly somehow manages to curate a hub of different ages, demands and demographics with every years lineup.
A beautifully sunny instalment for 2018, here’s some sacred knowledge we gained from the last few days.
Photo credit: Bruce Baker
We need more inclusive all ages events.
Audiences just over the age of 18 tend to enjoy the company of limitation that their young adulthood admits. For some reason, moans and sighs may expel when an event is marked “all ages”. A rather strange element to cause upset, Fairgrounds went beyond by actually catering more than just a paper wristband of a fluorescent colour, strapped to the minor’s wrist.
Offering an entire dedicated area known as “Little Fairgrounds”, the alcohol-free zone fostered a lineup of its own, and held craft workshops, a giant slippery slide, and even saw The Smith Street Band‘s Wil Wagner read aloud his famous children’s-book-author-parents’ stories; ‘Little Cat and the Big Red Bus‘ (Jane Godwin) and ‘Why I Love Summer‘ (Michael Wagner).
Artists utterly understanding their market allowed further enhancement for the kiddies’ fun experience, with talent like Vance Joy curling the lips of many tweens, what with the strum of his ukulele, colourful grin and profound audience interaction, where at one point he patiently allowed a young man from the crowd to perform ‘Georgia’ on his guitar.
Contextually going above and beyond in theming and activity, kidless punters left feeling wholesome rather than irritated, as there was something for people of literally all ages. Inclusivity of minors that stretch beyond basic admission creates less strain on everyone.
Photo Credit: Bruce Baker
It’s refreshing to see a festival care so deeply for our environment; both ethically and creatively.
It’s always impressive and most definitely noticed when any event goes out of their way to be environmentally conscious. Fairgrounds pulled this off with a unique flair. Where some amphitheatres hoist large screens to frame their stage, Friday and Saturday in Berry felt three large suns – our usual blazing solar, accompanied by two wooden copies crafted from wooden planks. A focal region, the upcycling of materials continued in other corners of the festival; including the wall of gorgeous old doors at the lush Paperback Camp Restaurant, the coloured plastic tumbler cups poking through the festival’s fenced perimeter and the propped up wooden palettes painted with set times.
Credit furthermore to the many water refill stations, lack of plastic cutlery at food stalls, each bar selling a practical refillable water bottle on a lanyard, and the copious recycling and compost bins on site.
The Teskey Brothers could not have been a better fit.
The aptitude of blues and hip-shaking grooves propelling the artistry of Melbourne quartet The Teskey Brothers weaves into the soundtrack of a blazing Australian Summer day. The roots of their Motown-esque sonic stitching creates depth in their voice, yet is also cast by a lightness that harmoniously follows the pace of Australian suburban culture; the sort that suggests an invite round to Uncle Dan’s backyard barbeque in a few Saturday arvos time this December.
Pinned beneath a bright blue sky shone by striking rays, the boys melded with the golden hour as their energy mirrored the perfect Australian day. Opening with ‘Crying Shame’, they performed a basket of jams from their debut album Half Mile Harvest, including a brief rundown of the happy accident that is ‘Shiny Moon’ – “It’s just a song about drinking;” a home brew that musically started out as a joke around tune but turned out to be good enough for inclusion on the LP, as well as an awesome rendition of Black Sabbath‘s 1970 classic ‘War Pigs’ in which they completely recreated to reflect their own style – just as a cover should be!
Duets gracefully lose their cheese at Fairgrounds.
I don’t know if it’s the warranted good vibrations that creeps through the salty air of a small coastal town, the strong happy family presence or the engaging entertainment at hand, but Fairgrounds somehow manages to exclude cringe-worthy sop and sap, whilst hosting moments that could very well fall into that bracket.
I’m talking duets. Clammy “I’ve got a special guest to bring out to you” cheesy duets. Yet, they just fit! Nicely.
Whether it was Billy Bragg bringing out Courtney Barnett for ‘The Warmest Room’, Barnett buddying up with The Breeders sisters Kim and Kelley Deal for ‘Nameless, Faceless’, extending the invite to Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee for ‘Homes’ just hours after the couple sang ‘Beautiful Strangers’ together to seal Morby‘s set, each shared stage felt necessary somehow; in no way skin-crawling. Perhaps we’re all just softies now?
Photo credit: Brad Liber
Thoughtfully plotting a festival with little ego in a small town creates efficiency, accessibility and practicality.
Unrealistic expectations are doomed to crash and burn, but if you can flirt with a humble idea requiring little demand, you may actually just get a whole lot. Introducing Fairgrounds to beautiful Berry in the way that it has the past four years has meant an exciting weekend of tourism, entertainment and, most importantly, community for the quaint New South Wales town. Harvesting the idea of a music festival in a region so pretty and small is to be thought out empathetically, and honestly Handsome Tours have pulled it off with profound grace.
Rather than bowling in, the crew have enabled the weekend to be as inviting as possible to locals and visitors alike; what with the family friendly vibe and carefully curated lineup. Utilising the environment as something to celebrate rather than advantageously walk over its vulnerability, you’ll find residents parked in deck chairs out on the front lawn of their homes, sharing drinks and laughs against a backdrop of cicadas and the fun taking place at the Showgrounds, as well as the Great Southern Hotel running through kegs and local eateries filling tables from morning through lunch. Whether you were at the festival or not, everyone seemed to be outside somewhere, celebrating the community with a full heart.
In turn, the scale of the town makes it rather easy for those stopping by, offering River Campers a complimentary shuttle bus just two minutes to and from their tent, the fact that the festival is parked directly across the road from the train station, the town’s main shopping village just a stone’s throw away, and the sensation of taking a break from the city – the mountainous hinterland did not go unnoticed.
These natural qualities make the overall atmosphere simple in its lack of materialism, leaving punters feeling a sense of appreciation for the earth and those around us.
Words by Hannah Galvin.