Why all-Aussie festivals are a hit

ALL-AUSTRALIAN outdoor concert tours are enjoying a fair-dinkum revival.

The Red Hot Summer Tour, headlined by John Farnham, sold out a Mornington show in six minutes today, with a second show at the venue added instantly.

A companion Red Hot Summer Tour by the same promoter, headlined by Icehouse, is also selling strongly — both tours are likely to sell over 100,000 tickets over summer — mainly in regional and rural areas starved of original live music.

“Australians are happy to buy tickets to see all Australian bills,” Red Hot Summer Tour promoter Duane McDonald says.

“How good is that? You’ve got Bruce Springsteen going on sale this week, you’d think the furthest thing from anyone’s mind would be going to see Aussie acts but they are. It could be the fact we’re not getting smashed with international acts this summer, not yet anyway. There’s more room in the marketplace for these shows.”

National outdoor festival A Day on the Green, which celebrates its 16th birthday of shows at wineries this summer, helped create the recent surge in homegrown multi-band bills by accident in 2012.

ADOTG founder Mick Netwon was outbid on an international act by a rival promoter and found himself with a handful of winery shows to fill.

“We had this massive gap so we put together a five band bill — Ian Moss, Noiseworks, Richard Clapton, Dragon and Choirboys,” Netwon said.

“We kept the ticket price down, we already knew people liked going out to A Day on the Green but this just went gangbusters and sold out everywhere.”

They’ve followed it up with multi-band homegrown bills every year since, which have seen the likes of Baby Animals, Diesel, The Whitlams, James Reyne, Mark Seymour, The Angels, Jon Stevens, Bernard Fanning, Ross Wilson and Pseudo Echo all playing to thousands across the country’s wineries.

They now stage between 35 and 40 A Day on the Green events around Australia each summer, with a mix of local and international acts.

The success of the local bills has seen other all-Australian outdoor line-ups curated by other promoters follow suit, directly catering to a mainstream audience ignored by youth-focused indie/alternative festivals like the Big Day Out, Laneway and the Falls.

It also comes on the back of opening in the summer festival market, since the demise of the Big Day Out and Soundwave.

“The summer festival market was cooked,” McDonald says. “Especially for the younger demographic, there was something on every weekend over summer, they had to put their hand in their pocket every weekend. The older people were missing out.”

Newton says a mainstream Australian rock festival was an untapped market, especially tied into wineries.

“It was something that was waiting to happen. It was a real revelation to us. There’s a sh — tload of outdoor shows in Australia now doing a very similar thing. We’ve done a lot of bills like that since, Red Hot Summer Tour has done a lot of bills like that since. They do great business.

“It’s great value for the audience, as it’s hit after hit an in outdoor environment. With regional radio, and also Gold, WSFM and Smooth FM in the cities, a lot of these artists are still getting a lot of airplay. They still resonate with audiences. It’s more than just nostalgia.

“These bands still release new music and they can still deliver live. And it’s great for the bands, it gives them something else to do, other than just playing the same venues on every tour.”

The Red Hot Summer tour will see Icehouse, with Daryl Braithwaite, James Reyne, Shannon Noll, Pseudo Echo and Dragon tour around Australia between January and April, while an alternate line up with John Farnham and also Daryl Braithwaite, James Reyne, Shannon Noll and Taxiride, will play different areas in the same time frame.

McDonald launched the Red Hot Summer Tour series in 2010 when Jimmy Barnes, who had a single out at the time called Red Hot, wanted to tour over summer, but out of the big cities.

“Jimmy said ‘I want to tour the towns where there’s caravan parks and beaches in January’,” McDonald recalls.

“That was the start of it. We originally decided to base these tours going to country areas and tourist destinations. Following the rivers. It’s all your campers and holiday-makers. It’s a different audience to what you’d get at a theatre show. It’s a happy crowd who are there for a party.”

The Red Hot Summer Tour shows are around 6000 capacity — smaller than other events — keeping them intimate.

“Some of these regional towns, like Mannum in South Australia, the town’s capacity is 1200 people,” McDonald says. “We can put 6000 people in there on a Saturday, it’s fantastic for all the local traders, the local service clubs, we try and leave as much money as we can in the town. And the country crowds aren’t spoiled. They don’t have three options a week to go to a theatre and watch these acts, this is their one chance

“There’s eight hours of music for around $100 or $110 a ticket. That’s where the value comes into it. It has to be classic hits all day. As much as we try to blood new acts, it’s a big day out for adults. It’s hits and memories for everyone, it’s fantastic.”

McDonald is already working on next year’s line-ups, but admits he’s running out of Australian bands with enough hits to fit the bill.

It’s a problem Newton also recognises, on with only a handful of household name Australian acts who can safely be relied on to headline a festival — people like John Farnham (who played A Day on the Green last year), Jimmy Barnes, Icehouse, Paul Kelly, Noiseworks and Hoodoo Gurus.

“It was a revelation when we first did (the all-Australian line-up), the danger now is it’s saturated,” Newton says. “The problem now is we’re fast running out of headline acts to do it again and again and again. For the other promoters doing it, for us, you don’t want to keep rehashing the same line ups.”

Last year Newton had a bill with Died Pretty, Ratcat, Hoodoo Gurus, the Sunnyboys and international act Violent Femmes — alternative bands from the 80s and early 90s.

This November Newton has an ADOTG line-up that looks like a Big Day Out bill from the late 90s and early 2000s — You Am I, Something For Kate, Spiderbait, Jebediah and the Meanies.

Triple J listeners from that era are now grown up — and a good fit for winery shows.

“So many punters have come out of the woodwork for this show,” Newton says.

“One of my friends said ‘I really want to go to that show, does that mean I’m old now?’ We did shows like Blondie, Roxette, Lionel Richie and Fleetwood Mac where we had heaps of people in their twenties. It’s not just an older audience I’ve realised. I had a group of friends’ kids, all in their twenties, get a 40 seater bus and go to Lionel Richie. It’s not just Baby Boomers at winery shows. In that environment they can get loose, have a drink, have a dance, sit around on the grass, relax, it’s all about the day.”

McDonald says Red Hot Summer Tour has a different market to A Day on the Green.

“They’ve been around a lot longer, we’re targeting areas they generally wouldn’t go. We try and stay out of their way otherwise the market becomes flooded. They’re popular in Geelong and the Yarra Valley, we don’t go out that way. We try and steer around. There’s enough out there for everyone.”

The Red Hot Summer Tour has also benefited from Shannon Noll’s resurgence among the 20-somethings who felt he was “robbed” on Australian Idol and have been creating memes about it for the last year.

He’s a perfect fit for classic Australian pub rock, despite being a relative newcomer by comparison.

“He’s been around for 12 years now, he keeps doing his thing, he’s as Aussie as they come,” McDonald says of Noll. “If you were in trouble and you called him up he’d be the first bloke there to help. That comes across in his music and everything he does. People love him for that, there’s no facade with him.

“There was a push to get him on Groovin’ the Moo this year, which didn’t happen, but it grew his social media popularity. He put out a video the other day, it had 220,000 hits in the first hour, that’s unbelievable.”

And like A Day on the Green, McDonald is also seeing a younger audience drawn to the festivals, lured by timeless Australian classics like You’re the Voice and The Horses — as well as Noll’s Moving Pictures cover What About Me.

“John Farnham is ecstatic about playing these shows, and it gets him out of the theatre and playing to an audience who are standing up and moving around,” McDonald says. “It also brings a younger audience to him. There’ll be just as many kids singing The Horses and You’re the Voice down the front as there will be people 30 and over and that’s a great thing.”

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