Music Festivals the Australian Way


Scritch, scritch, scritch, went the sand as people walked through it.

Sunbathers, surfers, boogeyboarders, wedding parties, everyone was on the beach basking in the scorching sun as the sounds of a music festival gearing up wafted along.

Right on the edge of Australia’s Gold Coast, in a town called Broadbeach, a music festival was winding down its last day and people were lounging, straggling, eating and enjoying themselves under the wavering haze of heat, blinding sea and clear sky.

Broadbeach, a skip away from Surfer’s Paradise was, for the sixth year in a row, hosting a six-day free music festival beachside, a music festival that draws 100,000 people over the duration of the events.

At the same time that the Yukon starts its festival season with a myriad of local, national and international performers and artisans territory wide, Australia is entering into its winter, albeit a winter that still manages to put the hottest Yukon day to shame. The only concession to winter is a cardigan after the sun sets and the wind starts to blow.

The Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival had all sorts of outdoor venues along a pedestrian street lined on either side by all sorts of patio restaurants and had enclosed the biggest venue, next to the beach, with fencing. Unlike the orange five-foot plastic mesh snow fencing at Yukon festivals, it had eight-foot high metal wire fencing and the enclosure was huge.

Even though it was free, everyone still had to enter past security, who checked to ensure people weren’t bringing in illicit booze when it could be purchased inside.

But there was no beer garden. It was an all-ages event and the alcohol was sold freely. Upon sipping a friend’s drink, I discovered why this wasn’t such a big deal: the beer was sold in 0.5% increments, starting at 0.5% alcoholic content.

Walking along, there were vendors selling treats, the most popular of all being a plate with two pancakes, ice cream and, as a special Canadian-style extra, maple syrup.

There was a mini fairground with rides for kids, stilt walkers and, oddest of all in an open-air environment, a fenced off area right in the middle of the venue where people were standing and smoking.

Where Yukon festivals, such as the Dawson Music Festival, are famous for bringing up relative unknowns who later make it big, this festival’s headlining act was the famous American group formed in 1965, Canned Heat. By far the least dynamic of the day, it drew the biggest crowd, packing the entire area with sunburnt and tan-leathered bodies.

However, the festival was free, it had a majority of Australian musicians, one exceptional act of which was Bondi Cigars, and many more … too many to see and hear.

By 5:30 p.m. it was dark, with a sultry tropical feel, humid air tickling over skin and through the whispery leaves of palm trees and my imagination turned towards the midnight sun beating down on the striped tents in Dawson City at DCMF when they fill up to overflowing with festival-goers ready to dance their hearts out.

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