Music

Future is now: Rise Of The Micro-Festival - blog post image

Future is now: Rise Of The Micro-Festival

The region of our current music industry and economy is set to soon look brighter thanks to the exciting new development of the ‘micro-festival’, says Corin Shearston.

Partially a strategic initiative from Live Music Office and funded by create NSW State Government, Katoomba Live and Local was enabled by the enthusiastic support and successful bid for funds from our local Blue Mountains council. Katoomba’s upcoming event seems set to celebrate and redefine the possibilities of our present scene. As HAZE chatted with Event Organiser/Curator Meg Benson on a hot Summer's day in Katoomba, the extent of plans were revealed to keen curiosity. The main aspect of the festival that became apparent was the great levels of inclusion and encouragement for assisting musical talent. Meg tells HAZE, “my interest is broadening people’s listening; their sense of adventure to discovering things they might not have known.” As a result, a vast, vibrant and varied range of acts will be occupying ten unique venues around Katoomba’s town centre on the 7th of April, from 2 to 8pm. These partnerships of musicians with non-conventional venues, such as galleries, restaurants and cafés will greatly stimulate local economy. Providing a sizeable funds boost for our hospitality/entertainment industries and other sectors, this also serves to solidify the connections of these cultures. A special mention goes to The Carrington for paying their own sound costs as a donation to the festival. Meg explains, “There was some research that was published in 2014 that showed the live music economy boosts the rest of the economy three times over. Our Live & Local model wants businesses to engage in music and find from their own experience that it's actually good for business.” As Meg says however, “The overall aim is to pay local musicians at industry rates for a 45 minute set”. Enough budget was allocated to pay a total of 80 individual musicians $150 each, and in true Mountains style, entertainment acts are definitely a mixed bag. Acoustic or electric, the multiculturalism of performers chosen ranges around the world with ages of talent being 9 to 75; emphasis also on hosting a prominent selection of Indigenous musicians and supporting equality for gender. The size of acts vary from solo shows to six-piece family bands. In certain cases, age ranges widely in the ensembles chosen, such line-ups featuring contemporary bluegrass artist James Daley of The Morrisons in a duo with his jazz/classical-based father Gary Daley, and accomplished young drummer Oliver Morley-Sattler appearing alongside esteemed jazz figures such as Dr. Jason Thornton in trio JT3. “It's really nice for people to see those collaborations and think it’s inspiring to have groups that cross the generations”, Meg states. On the other side of the spectrum, “There’s a lot of youngsters; quite a few girls performing solo who are under 16. Grunge band Penny Dreadful deserve a mention as their drummer’s only 14 with the rest 18 and under. And they sound awesome.” Tying all these artists together is the fact that at least 50 per cent of each act must be local.

The Kids Are Alright

In providing a service for younger festival-goers, Meg reveals that “between 2pm and 5pm, the Baroque Room is open to under-18’s, even without an adult”, (with no service of alcohol and a few extra youth workers in attendance). “So there’s two [youngish] bands playing in the Baroque in the under-18’s slot, plus Cooking With Caustic, so under-18’s can have a lot of fun enjoying that.” Along with Cooking With Caustic, a notable presence on our community hip-hop scene, other notable Live & Local artists are hip-hop rockers The Proxy, electronic youth trio Sumatra, MC Izzy and longtime Dragon guitarist Bruce Reid. Certain ensembles appearing on the day feature the likes of Willem Roorda, Julian Joel Clement Trio, Indigenous musicians Graeme and Eric King, Jacinta Tobin and Charlen Williams, and members of Bonniedoon. Solo sets are to be expected from grungy rocker Jimmi Carr and folk/world guitarist Jo Williams. As Meg tells HAZE “[We want] diverse music. We also need to consider and care for other musicians, such as classical performers. We have to include everyone.” While fulfilling this broad objective, much burgeoning musical talent has been nurtured along the way. For instance, from January 16th to 17th an industry-directed ‘Boot Camp’ inspired by Meg and organised with MYST (Mountains Youth Services Team), taught aspiring artists the skills of putting together press kits with band photos and video clips, with a focus on getting an ABN too; crucial skills for success in the music business. It’s very promising to see this valuable information being generously passed down from years of experience to now help musicians like 9-year old Allegra, who will be performing at the festival. Additionally, a free upcoming Stage Management and MC mentoring workshop will be a chance for people to learn event production skills if they wish to volunteer at the festival, with 12 positions available for MC’s, venue management and learning how to obtain feedback from audiences. “We’ll do our training on a Sunday prior to the festival”, says Meg.

210 Musician Applications

Already, the opportunity this event holds has been keenly received, with a total of 85 music applications being submitted, representing 210 musicians and 90 other artists from large choral and musical ensembles. Therefore one of the hardest organisational jobs to manage was deciding on performers for the day. For the musicians who didn’t land a slot, “There wasn’t actually anything wrong with them, they were awesome and it would have been good to have them too”, Meg tells us. “I really want the readers of HAZE to know that those who didn’t get accepted, we actually loved a lot of the applications and would have loved to have said ‘Yes’ to a lot more [but] we only had so much [for our] budget.” Though to be fair, Blue Mountains City Council received more applications than any other district in NSW. An absence of sufficient information proving certain bands as unknown quantities was a decider too, and a push for ‘genre equality’ excluded some loud rock bands through striving to favour the trade practices of specific venues. Still, there are chances to look forward to. Junction 142, Big Beet and the Baroque Room will provide a stage for some of the louder acts on the day. There are even plans to upload prior applicant information with their consent to ”Blue Mountains Live”, a free local music directory and gig guide targeted for musicians, audiences, venue managers, promoters and entertainers which is designer Brad Diedrich’s initiative. Sensing the beneficial implications of the Live&Local plan, other district councils are getting ready to co-operatively host their own micro-festivals state-wide, including in Fairfield, Parramatta and Mudgee. As Meg reveals to HAZE, “What we’re going to do is give Fairfield Council the list of people we couldn’t give gigs to, so they can try and get some of these people into their initiative.” Relationships have also been established with local promoter Chris Cannell of Music In The Mountains, in order to get more venues booked for artists at local micro-festivals in the future. Finally, after recently learning that the Winter Magic Festival has been cancelled for this year, the emergence of the Live&Local Micro-Festival will hopefully establish the event as an on going highlight, but this remains to be seen. For the sake of our local creative community, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

To find out more, visit the Facebook or website www.katoombaliveandlocal.com.au

Pic: Boot Camp – upskilling young bands (pic: Jackson Samuel / Lona Logan)

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