Leave your wellies, steel-capped boots and elbows at home because Caloundra Music Festival is all sun, surf and rubber thongs baby. Four glorious days (ignoring a slight bit of drizzle on the last one) spent on a pristine Queensland beach for the tenth annual event, with a world-class lineup. Does it get much better – or more Australian – than that?
Everything about this festival was easy. Camping? Just rock up, pay up and pitch up. Ready to head in for the day’s action? Walk 100m, wait 5 minutes, a shuttle arrives and 20 minutes later you’re watching Blue King Brown absolutely own the Surf Stage with her irrepressible swagger and message-laden lyrics. Suddenly realise Tower of Power is about to start? No worries. Five minutes walk to the Soul Stage bar to grab a $4 beer and BAM, in another five minutes you’re witnessing one of the world’s best R&B legends with a cold one.
Surely one of our most diverse festival offerings, this not-for-profit, council-run event delivered a musical buffet of new and legendary pop, hip-hop, funk, reggae, soul, rock and just about every fusion in between, which, from all reports, drew record crowds through the gates.
From international soul rockers Michael Franti & Spearhead and Aussie heavyweights Cat Empire, Guy Sebastian and Illy, to rock legends Thirsty Merc and Icehouse, not to mention a swag of home-grown Sunshine Coast favourites, this was a festival for the people.
The line-up, as well as the site setup made this event so accessible. In addition to festival frequent flyers, there were babies, young families, a plethora of teenagers and music lovers in wheelchairs and on crutches, all revelling in more than 100 performances over 4 stages and VIP areas.
A tour-weary, but ever-engaging Cat Empire played one of their last Australian shows for a while to a massive first-night crowd, “We’re not going to tour much next year,” said percussionist Felix Riebl. “We’re going to take some time off because the last two years have been kind of crazy.”
From solo albums to indigenous community projects, Riebl said, “It’s really nice to do things outside of the band because it keeps the band fresh in a way.”
Thirsty Merc, on the other hand, are shifting gears up with a rocking Caloundra Music Festival set to kick off their 37-date national tour. Almost a year to the date since the band’s tragic car crash, which killed stage manager Shane Cooper, and seriously injured drummer Mick Skelton, bass player Phil Stack tells the crowd, “It’s a bit of a sign of moving on. It’s a celebration of being on the road again.”
“There’s a new kind of found enthusiasm. We’ve had things knock us round. So it’s kind of like all bonus time from here.”
The Preatures, Kim Churchill, Caravana Sun and Bullhorn packed out the tents, while Sunshine Coast locals AYLA, The Floating Bridges, Cheap Fakes and Band of Frequencies proved popular too. Meanwhile, a small ‘Song Stage’ provided the perfect opportunity to kick back on the grass in a more chilled out, intimate setting to enjoy the likes of The Lyrical, The Coconut Kids and IVEY.
An absolute blast-to-the-past highlight for many a punter was the Aussie forefathers of hip hop, funked-up dub, Skunkhour. Playing to a heaving Caloundra crowd, it became clear to the old and newly initiated that Skunkhour were well ahead of their time, blasting out track after timeless track.
Of their first come-back gig, singer Aya Larkin said, “When we played the first song, there was like this echo and I thought something was wrong with the sound system, but it was half the crowd singing along to the lyrics. It’s really special.”
Song of the weekend went to Kate Miller-Heidke for her epic, operatic, psychedelic cover of Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’, dedicated to a fan’s 15th wedding anniversary no less.
This festival isn’t for absolutely everyone. But it is for most. Year on year the organisers pride themselves on keeping the best bits and improving those that aren’t. Caloundra Music Festival Director, Richie Eyles said this was the strongest line-up in the event’s 10 year history – one he was very excited and proud to curate.
While incredibly diverse, the line-up does have certain flavours, which vary from year to year. This is something Eyles says depends very much on who’s touring at the time and what exciting discoveries he makes on his annual jaunt to New Orleans. This year was definitely “Year of The Brass” with trumpets and saxophones galore. Richie’s favourite discovery for 2016 was soul songstress, Erica Falls, who certainly created a growing festival buzz over her weekend’s repeat performances.
So, who would make for Richie’s all time line-up? He drops just one hint: pick up the phone already, Harry!
By Kylie Cobb