A Love Letter to FOMO Festival: Thank you for putting Brisbane back on the map
When news earlier today broke that FOMO FESTIVAL had gone into liquidation, there was a collective pang in the hearts of the Australian music industry and punters everywhere. And while it’s never a good thing to see another live music event fall over in this country, this one hurt me a bit deeper. While it remains to be seen what will happen here as this news is very fresh, I can’t help but feel a special piece of the Australian summer festival market has been lost.
Festivals in Australia are fickle, and the landscape has rapidly changed within just a few years. From the glory days of the juggernauts like Big Day Out, Soundwave, Future Music Festival, Stereosonic and so many more, to a recent renaissance of a more boutique approach, the festival market in this country is one that has been in flux for a while. Of course, there are mainstays like Splendour In The Grass and Falls Festival, as well as Bluesfest, Field Day, Laneway, Groovin The Moo and a handful of smaller events, but there is no denying the consistent shifts in the landscape in the last decade.
The New Year’s Eve period in particular always brings with it countless events, and whether you’re up for camping or looking to catch a few sideshows while some amazing international artists are here, it can really seem like you are spoiled for choice for a few weeks — if you live in Sydney and Melbourne.
This isn’t the case for Brisbane. Now, before Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, and the whole of regional Australia come for me, hear me out. A city that is also repeatedly looked over, Brisbane was for a long time left without a New Year’s Eve festival. With many international and local acts on tour for other festivals, Brisbanites had to either go to the Gold Coast (until those festivals stopped), Byron Bay or further south if they wanted a New Year’s Eve festival.
Festivals like Field Day, Falls, Lost Paradise, Beyond The Valley and more would share many acts between themselves, as well as facilitate sideshows. But for most, if not all, these would only happen in Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane would be skipped altogether. As a music fan, it’s often frustrating, sometimes disappointing and can be downright heartbreaking, and it felt as if Brisbane had been taken off the national map indefinitely. In 2016 however, that started to change with a one-stage one-dayer that was ready to fill the gaping hole in our live music calendar.
FOMO Festival exploded onto the market, bringing with it a lineup that was impressive by any means. BOYS NOIZE, JAMIE XX, RL GRIME, FLIGHT FACILITIES, MR CARMACK, SKEPTA, ANNA LUNOE, TKAY MAIDZA and more were all Brisbane-bound for one day only. We’d probably expect either none, or maybe just a couple of these acts at the very most to make their way to the River City, but all of them at the same event and for only $79 (for its first year)? It was truly a gamechanger.
Across four more years, FOMO went onto bring the likes of LIZZO, BROCKHAMPTON, SZA, NICKI MINAJ, KAYTRANADA, GOLDLINK, ZHU, POST MALONE, TOURIST, HANNAH WANTS and more to Brisbane, as well as to Sydney’s Parramatta, Adelaide and later, Melbourne as well. Not to mention the local acts that got to play incredible shows like some of our absolute favourites including NINA LAS VEGAS, NINAJIRACHI, MARIBELLE, CARMOUFLAGE ROSE, BENSON, UV BOI, DENA AMY and so many more.
This delivered not just for the kids of Brisbane, but the kids of Queensland who were able to travel to the capital city for their first festivals again — just like the generation before them did for Big Day Out and others. For music fans like myself at the time, it was so much more than just another day in the extensive live music calendars that Sydney and Melbourne have. Even with their decisions to expand into Adelaide and Sydney’s Parramatta (as well as Melbourne in 2019), it was clear organisers knew they were offering something greater to areas often looked over.
In the lead up to their first event, Steve Pappas (one of the three FOMO directors) said in an interview with Tone Deaf that the reason for the festival launching in Brisbane was because “Brisbane as a city is growing everyday and as far as options go for summer festivals here, they have decreased significantly.” He also described it as the perfect testing ground for the festival to expand, and he was right. They had nailed it with their debut line up, and by doing so, they had put Brisbane back on the map.
The first FOMO was incredible. Picture an iconic venue in that of the Riverstage, stunning Queensland summer weather, a palpable electric atmosphere and set after set of some of hip hop and electronic music’s most exciting acts. It was a day during which if you were there, you felt like you were apart of something bigger than just another festival. It was not just a vote of confidence in Brisbane being able to deliver a day worth having, but a vote of confidence in the punters who attended as well. We were reminded that we matter, that our city matters, and that we were worth having an event of this scale in our backyards again. I was lucky enough to go to three of the five FOMOs in Brisbane, and each time still holds a special place in my heart. Did they get it right every time? Maybe, maybe not. But a five year run is nothing short of impressive, and when you look at what the organisers did for their locations in that time, it goes beyond your regular events. The legacy of FOMO in cities that didn’t even get a shot for a long time will be felt for years to come and for that, all I have to say is thank you.