(Pic – a very happy Mario Valenti, General Manager of NW Group at WOMADelaide 2022)
When the Foo Fighters played Geelong’s Kardinia Park on Friday 4 March, it was like a starting pistol was fired for the Australian live music and event industry. The first international act to play Australia since 2020, this was a deep and spiritual sign that gigs were back, touring is possible, borders are open, and we suddenly have A LOT of work to do.
A day later, Sydney’s iconic Mardi Gras Parade proudly marched into the SCG, capping off almost a month of festivities. Next door, gigs are back at the Hordern Pavilion. Corporate events of all types and sizes are running across Sydney, and the spectacular Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour will open March 25.
Meanwhile in the southern states, Adelaide has hosted the Adelaide Festival, Fringe Festival, and WOMADelaide, with the epic world music festival boasting attendance of 90,000. On March 26, SA Opera will attempt to out-do Sydney with ‘Boheme on the Beach’ in Glenelg. Adelaide is also celebrating the announcement of Hindley St Music Hall, a new live venue in the old HQ nightclub that will host gigs for 1,800 punters.
Over the March 14 long weekend, Melbourne saw 30,000 sweaty EDM punters at Flemington Racecourse for the inaugural Karnival ‘hardstyle’ music festival. More sedately, The Brunswick Music Festival ran in the inner-city enclave from 4 to 14 March.
Up in Brisbane, the hip Nine Lives Festival ran at the Tivoli on 5 March, and Spring Loaded, a nostalgic 90s alt rock festival featuring Grinspoon, Regurgitator, Frenzal Rhomb, and Magic Dirt, brought the grunge to Eatons Hill Hotel. The Triffid is running gigs again, as is Fortitude Music Hall.
The big challenge in all of this is staff. I’ve spoken to several companies that are flying people in from interstate and even overseas to make gigs happen; this was certainly true for Foo Fighters and WOMADelaide. The www.cxnetwork.com.au jobs board is running hot, with unheard-of levels of new postings coming up each week. As the gigs pile up due to pent-up demand, we will not only see continuing staff shortages, we will also likely see equipment supply issues as well.
The huge smiles on the faces of live events crew, performers and support staff are healing us. While I was in Adelaide to cover WOMAD and the festivals last weekend, I ran into an old colleague who was out touring with James Reyne. They’d just played Victor Harbour and were heading to their next gig on The Red Hot Summer Tour. “We’re doing as many gigs as we can, while we can!” he told me, with an air that suggested he couldn’t quite beleive he was working again.
Closer to home, a full-sized bus pulled up next door yesterday, which is not something that happens in our quiet inner suburban crescent. A dozen dishevelled and dusty 20-somethings disembarked, and loaded backpacks, tents, and eskies into their nearby parked cars. One of these was my neighbour. “Where have you lot been?” I asked. “Pitch Festival,” he said, a four-day bush doof out in the Grampians for 7,000. The familiar smile of the drained, exhausted, and utterly elated spread across his face. “It was awesome!” he chuckled.
This is why we do what we do.
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