Australia Day: Festivals Down Under

Find your ideal Auzzie party for 2009

Shelley Jones - 26 January 2009

Over the last decade the Australian Festival scene has blossomed. Many quirky, original and popular festivals have been launched that reflect Australia's evolving music scene.

Artists like The Presets, Cut Copy, Architecture In Helsinki and Midnight Juggernauts are shifting the progressive electronic music focus from Europe to Oz but how do their festivals compare?

Here we look at the look at the different types of events on offer from the best festival to discover a new band to the best boutique bashes Down Under. Let us turn your world upside down…

Best for big buck names:

V Festival (AUS) 2009 -
28 March to 5 April
Its 1995, Britpop is on a roll and Jarvis Cocker is somewhere in a field in Hampshire wondering if he’ll ever come down. Instead of bothering with that he announces that he'd love to play two outdoor venues in two days – boy, he never wants to come down - and V Festival was born. Since then American, Canadian and South African spin-offs have been launched and in 2007 there was V Festival Australia. With a shed-load of money, V will book the biggest bands in the music world for the huge audiences eager to see them.

Three to watch:


Winners of last year's Mercury Music Prize and festival veterans with a gritty, rock vibe.

Took the music world by storm last year with her retro singing and songwriting in the vein of Dusty Springfield and Dolly Parton.

The Killers
Glamorous indie rock and roll.

Best for new bands:

St Jerome's Laneway 2009
- 31 January to 8 February
Those with their finger on the musical pulse should head to St Jerome's Laneway where the hottest new underground acts and trendiest established names rock out in the streets. What literally started in a small laneway by St Jerome's pub in Melbourne has become a national phenomena drawing huge crowds and buzz bands of the moment.

Three to watch:

El Guincho

Addictive beats that sound like a calypso MIA.

Four Tet

Goosepimple-inducing mixes from this DJ will raise the hair on the back of your neck.

Architecture In Helsinki
This Australian collective will feel right at home tinkering away in the lanes with their sweet lyrics and catchy riffs.

Best boutique festival:

Playground Weekender
2009 - 6-8 February
This colourful weekend of fun, frolics and fancy dress should re-awaken the child inside you. Set in lush countryside an hour and a half from Sydney, the Del Rio Riverside resort is a paradise surrounded by trees, hills and the Hawkesbury River. You'll have time to lounge about with kangaroos in the campsite or sunbathe on the deck of your houseboat before checking out the six stages on site and the tantalising international food stalls. There's even a swimming pool, an open-air cinema, yoga classes and cabaret entertainment to make sure there’s something for everyone.

Three to watch:

Crystal Castles

Discordant electronic beats from a Canadian duo whose front woman Alice Glass is renowned for her anarchic live performances.

Who Made Who
These three Danish boys perform their brand of indie, disco-house, funk in skeleton suits.

Jose Gonzalez
Sensual acoustic melodies that will linger in the air while the sun sets and the water sparkles.

Best for rock and metal:

Soundwave Festival 2009
- 21 February to 2 March
This no frills one-day festival takes place in five different locations across Australia. There is a tough, stripped-down ethos to the festival which offers stages, a signing tent and “some crappy installation art for you to laugh at,” according to the website. Rock and metal enthusiasts should have this festival inked in their diary between Taste of Chaos and Give it a Name.

Three to watch:

Nine Inch Nails

Their live show is a cacophony of big electronic and instrumental sounds usually resulting in the destruction of their equipment.

Minus The Bear
This Seattle quintet produce epic and atmospheric arrangements akin to Mogwai and Biffy Clyro.

Rival Schools
After reforming in 2008 there's no knowing how long this post-hardcore band will continue to rock their catchy lo-fi riffs. Watch them before it's too late.

Best festival for the family:

WOMADelaide 2009
- 6-8 March
Peter Gabriel's unassuming attempt to take over the world with his famous WOMAD festivals has made it over to Australia. Even if you're not a world music fan, this green, and vibrant weekend in Adelaide's Botanic Park is perfect for the family. The festival is aimed at people of all ages and backgrounds with an extensive Kids Zone that boasts workshops, music and animals. There is also street theatre, art exhibitions and craft stalls and the line-up prioritises fun crowd-pleasing acts over prestigious names.

Three to watch:

Ska Cubano

This Latin, ska and reggae act specialise in big brass sounds.

The Cat Empire
Fast percussion, a crooning singer and sultry trumpet backing.

Dengue Fever
The combination of organ and haunting high-pitched vocals give this eerie band an apocalyptic sound.

Best festival for the blues:

2009 - 9-13 April
Bluesfest is more of holiday than a festival as it runs for five days. The event prides itself on its eclectic mix of artists from different ethnic backgrounds and it proves to be a hotchpotch of bluegrass, roots and acoustic acts all set against the beautiful Byron Bay surroundings.

Three to watch:

Seasick Steve

A bluesy storyteller that sings about his times living rough.

Missy Higgins
This mellow singer-songwriter ruminates about love and heartache.
John Butler Trio
Australia's most successful independent artist John Butler teams up with drums and bass for folk and acoustic tunes with a hip twist.

Best surroundings and scenery:

Good Vibrations Festival 2009
- 14-22 February [l-zone 7]
Set in four beautiful and unique locations, Good Vibrations is a beat-driven festival that's backed by breathtaking views. Sydney's stunning Centennial Park, a prestigious racecourse, Gold Coast countryside near Surfer's paradise and a nature reserve, gives the festival its twist while a roster of electro dance acts will make sure that shops sell out of glow sticks and klaxons.

Three to watch:

Stanton Warriors

Fabriclive favourites who relentlessly build up and drop the beat to a rapturous response.

Cuban Brothers
Comedy, break-dancing, beat-boxing and Latino sounds.  

Fatboy Slim
The superstar party DJ will bring his big beat collection Down Under, with a few you'll know and some surprise belters too.


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