After 22 years, Queenscliff Music Festival remains the benchmark of inclusiveness and diversity

3 minute read

It was another incredible festival for all involved.

In its 22nd year, the Queenscliff Music Festival was as relevant, exciting, and diverse as ever. Held over three days on the beautiful Bellarine Peninsula, it’s hard to fathom a setting more picturesque to serve as the backdrop for the stellar line-up that was on show.

Queenscliff Music Festival is probably the only major music festival on the event calendar where three generations of one family can all be in attendance with none of them looking out of place. There’s such a casual, family-friendly, no dickheads-allowed energy that surrounds the festival and the very young, young, not so young, and everyone in between, mesh in complete harmony. 

With everything from folk, rock, hip-hop, blues & roots, country, soul, kids’ entertainment and comedy represented, skipping from stage to stage was a happy business for everyone.

The weather was sub-par for the big festival opening on Friday evening but The Whitlams, Dan Sultan and MDRN LOVE made quick work of getting everyone in the mood for good tunes and good times.

Saturday at Queenscliff offered a long day of varied musical performances across 15 venues. The Little Stevies used their pretty harmonies and folky sound to envelope their audience like a warm fluffy doona on a chilly day at the Hippos Stage. A short time later at the nearby Lighthouse Stage, Australian country music darling Kasey Chambers wooed the audience with her trademark honesty, genuine nature, and gorgeous performance of crowd favourite ‘The Captain'. In keeping with the theme, Fraser A. Gorman brought the relaxed Americana tunes from his second album Easy Dazy to his equally chilled out audience for a delightful 45-minute set.

The calm was disrupted when veteran hip hoppers The Herd hit the stage ready to bring some real bite to the festival. And it didn’t take much prompting to get the audience fist-pumping as the outfit rallied through several politically-charged favourites like ‘The King Is Dead', ‘77%', ‘The Sum Of It All', ‘2020’ and a particularly stirring version of ‘Only 19'.

Sarah Blasko fans thronged to the Lighthouse Stage in the evening to catch the stunning performer showcase work from her last couple of albums. Despite many much-loved older songs being overlooked, the audience was kept enthralled by Blasko’s emotive vocals and mesmerising stage presence.

After grabbing some nourishment from one of the many food trucks available, DJ Vince Peach served the perfect party mix of nostalgic tracks from decades past to get everyone dancing in the bulging Ozone Lounge.

On Sunday, Jen Cloher rocked, Bombino energised, Tim Snider electrified with his rich sounding one-man-band, and, as his name aptly suggests, Mike Love, was the festival cupid with his positive messages of hope and acceptance as well as his house blend of sweet Hawaiian sounds and earthy reggae beats.

The late Gurrumul’s acclaimed album Djarimirri was performed in full by a 16-piece orchestra; a clear festival highlight. For many, hearing his music played out so grandly was an emotional experience and a deserving tribute to the musical legacy that Gurrumul left behind.

As the afternoon ambled on, relaxed smiling faces lounged on the lawns enjoying the sun and the music. But come 5pm, Courtney Barnett stepped out onto the Lighthouse Stage and as expected, the crowd raced from all directions as if they were swarming to the Boxing Day sales. Playing songs from her latest album Tell Me How You Really Feel to an audience who were ready to rock was pretty neat. As always, Barnett slayed her set. There were also favourites from her debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, as well as some killer tracks from The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas strewn through the performance.

No music festival review is complete without considering and commenting on the site facilities, amenities, and conveniences. On this point, the Queenscliff Music Festival gets two big thumbs up. As an environmentally-conscious festival keen on sustainability and reducing its impact on the local coastal environment, a commitment was made not to sell single use plastic products on the site. There were conveniently-placed drinking stations where you could refill your own water bottle, the toilets were kept in good order and there were enough of them, and there were compost, recycle and waste bins with friendly Queenscliff Music Festival staff directing people to the most appropriate avenue for their rubbish.

Festival director Andrew Orvis has done it again, piecing together the very best parts of music festivals while cleverly removing the undesirable and tiresome aspects to make Queenscliff Music Festival an absolute winner.

This article was first published in Beat Magazine.