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| 15 March 2019 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

One cannot simply discuss Download Festival Australia without mentioning Soundwave Festival, the late lamented heavy fest which disappeared up its own butt in what appeared to onlookers as a clusterfuck of epic mismanagement and ego in 2015.

Soundwave left a lot of people high and dry and out of pocket, not to mention shattering the dreams of Australian rock fans more than once (does anyone remember the ill-fated Soundwave Revolution Festival in 2011, which was to have featured Van Halen as headliner?), so it’s only natural that Download have approached the Australian market with caution.

Launching their Aussie campaign carefully, the internationally proven brand started with just one Melbourne show in 2018, and expanded to feature both Melbourne and Sydney this year. With around 20,000 at both shows (attendances were likely to have been higher had headliner Ozzy Osbourne not pulled out due to illness, and that withdrawal gave Download a financial hit, with all ticket holders compensated with a $45 merch voucher), rock fans around the country are eager to know what happens next.

In a perfect world Download Festival would became a capital city staple right around the country, but with political showboating and unrealistic paranoia from certain NSW politicians forcing extra costs and limitations onto the organisers, it remains unclear whether a festival on this scale can survive travelling across the great red dust out West.

There is another way of looking at the problem which organisers may not have yet considered.

If we assume that Adelaide and Perth events might have a slightly lower attendance than the bigger cities over East, then wouldn’t it be logical to consider a slightly smaller festival?

Personally, I can’t say I’m a fan of five- or six-stage events at the best of times. No-one needs five stages and forty-plus bands to have a good time – you’re realistically only going to see a dozen at best for any sensible length of time. The more bands on more stages that are scheduled, the more clashes there are of bucket list acts, and the more disappointment for attendees stemming from bands missed. It’ll also avoid legendary bands (such as Anthrax this year) coming all the way to Australia to play a measly 45 minute set like some spotty newcomers.

Add to that the fact that many Eastern States industry people simply don’t understand the West Australian and possible South Australian landscape, so are unwilling to even stage Sideshows all the way out West.

Hence, we propose Download Lite.

Stage the full festival in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Pull in 20,000 people at each, pay for all the expenses and make your money there.

Then send a smaller line-up to Adelaide and Perth – and Darwin or even regional venues if possible.

If there’s six major headliners, select two or three of them to play the add-on shows. Keep the event as a simple affair – two main stages which alternate non-stop music from, say, ten acts all afternoon, and only one side stage, featuring another eight or ten acts.

That would be twenty acts – and ensure that four of them are locals. So the transportation costs would be greatly reduced from the thirty-six acts which appeared at Download Melbourne this year. The latter Soundwave Festival shows, from memory, drew about twelve thousand punters in Perth.

Surely the numbers could be made to work?

Australia needs a festival like Download, run by a professional organisation who know what they are doing and can draw a stellar line-up. Scale down the vision to bring it to more people, and build the brand that way. It’s a win-win for all.

Category: Opinion

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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