With multi-day festivals on the wane, government backs mini-fests on the wine | Riotact

With multi-day festivals on the wane, government backs mini-fests on the wine | Riotact

Chris Isaak and band at Centennial Vineyards, Bowral. Photo: Tim Bradshaw Photography.

With so many multi-day live music festivals closing down around the country, more regional wineries appear to be doing an excellent job at filling the void and satisfying the Aussie thirst for a great time. And the government’s doing what it can to support their (vig)noble endeavours.

In this time of economic hardships for many, a single-day event is a much more palatable proposition than forking out for festivals spanning entire weekends or longer.

Enter entrepreneurial winery owners who have seen and seized the opportunity to open up their sprawling acreages to music-loving spenders – but just for one day at a time.

For the most part, these wineries lease their land to events such as A Day on the Green, whose logistic specialists build massive stages, fence off paddocks for parking, arrange shuttle buses from local towns, and handle all the ticketing and security.

It’s not a new thing – some wineries have been hosting concert events for decades – but with the demise of more music festivals, more wineries are coming to the party.

It’s a win-win-win-win situation.

Wineries (many that have been battered by fires and floods in recent years) have found a way to bolster their viability; the music events industry reaps the benefits of adapting to the festival scene; musicians are getting gigs; and music-lovers and festivalgoers alike keep getting more of what they want.

The government’s noticed the trend.

Arts Minister Tony Burke recently launched the Live Music Australia program, describing music festivals as the lifeblood of the live music sector in this country.

“That’s why this government is backing them in,” he said when announcing an initial $2.5 million funding initiative.

“We know the live music sector continues to face challenges, which is why we’re determined to support it.

“This program will help artists and musicians do what they do best – sharing Australian music and stories with audiences right across the country.”

In addition to supporting established festivals, grants are also aimed at assisting up-and-coming, grassroots-level events. The recently opened next round of funding through the program targets small—to medium-sized live music venues.

outdoor music festival

A Day on Green at Centennial Vineyards, Bowral. Photo: Region.

A Day on the Green is a well-established event. In developing its marriage with regional wineries, it is on the right course to ensure that its mini-festivals will last far longer than the struggling big festivals.

It’s found a formula that works and is doing it well.

Take Centennial Vineyards in Bowral, for example.

A Day on the Green events held there attract roughly equal patronage from Canberra, from Sydney and from the local districts of the Southern Highlands.

It is ideally located to be close enough for festivalgoers to either travel home the same evening or make an early start home the following day.

Tom Jones played there recently. James Taylor will be there on 28 April, and last Sunday (14 April), it was Chris Isaak.

But the formula works because it’s not just the headline act, which is often a big international name, but a whole afternoon of world-class Aussie acts on the same stage.

And organisers know not to put the weakest act on first. Put on a class attraction first up and the punters will be there from the get-go (any buy more wine).

Vika and Linda Bull, and Mark Seymour made the most of the Day on the Green. Photo: Tim Bradshaw.

Before Chris Isaak took to the stage on Sunday, the glorious Vika and Linda Bull opened the event to wild applause.

They invited Aussie rock legend Mark Seymour to join them, who also returned after their set with his own band.

The mature members of the crowd (there were many of us) were already in their element long before the main act. It’s their music.

Boy & Bear came out next, giving the younger crowd something to drool over before Isaak himself brought out his hybrid show of San Francisco and Las Vegas to an adoring crowd.

Isaak and his band of more than three decades were simply outstanding.

Big hits like Wicked Game, Blue Hotel and the sexy Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing caused raptures in the audience, as did Isaak’s nods to Elvis and Roy Orbison with a few crooned covers.

He even paused the show himself to draw everyone’s attention to the moon above and to note that in his whole career in show business, he rarely got to play in such a beautiful setting.

The crowd roared.

By the time lights went up, everyone had enjoyed good food and drink, plenty of laughs, excellent Aussie music and a show-stopping international act.

What more could you want in a music festival? And all in one day.

In these times of uncertainty for many industries – especially the music and live events sector – it’s a formula that is working.

More power to it.

James Taylor and His All-Star band, supported by Josh Pyke and Ella Hooper, play Centennial Vineyards, Bowral on Sunday, 28 April. Tickets are on sale now.