Guide to Summer Festivals Part 1: Preparation

The Gum Ball 2011 Story and photos by KT Bell

Everyone’s excited about Christmas, but here at Timber and Steel we’re gearing up for a huge Summer Festival season, especially for the New Years period. There have been 4 main festivals lining up loads of Timber and Steel friendly acts to get excited about, namely Woodford Folk Festival in QLD (you may remember my 35 Hour Woodford experience from last year), Peats Ridge Festival in NSW and two VIC festivals on either side of Port Phillip Bay, Pyramid Rock Festival and The Falls Festival (also on in Marion Bay, TAS). We’ve managed to rustle up a couple of reviewers to give you the wrap up of some of these festivals in the New Year. But in preparation, let’s take a look at how to make the most of the New Years festival experience.

Our four festivals are all multi-day festivals set in lush settings away from the hustle and bustle of the city, leaving festival goers two accommodation options. 1. pay for a hotel away from the site and drive to and from the event every day (access to some festivals are limited on 31 Dec) and limit your experience ,which is no fun, or, 2. camp. Having camped through a number of different scenarios, here’s a short list of tips which will make your camping festival experience that much better. Peats Ridge offers some sustainable camping tips to check out before the festival too.

Bluesfest Saturday
Tent Options
Woodford offers Tent City which is a great option for those who need to travel light – a tent, bed, light and basics are supplied for an additional fee, you just need to buy tickets with camping and bring your own bedding (pillow, blankets etc).  Peats Ridge has begun offering Tepee camping in recycled Tepees with both 2 person and up to 4-6 person camping options and you even get to take your Teepee sleeping bags home with you.  Both are a stress free, easy way to experience a camping festival, with none of the effort of camping.

For all the other camping events, either take a tent you can stand up right in, or be prepared to spend very little time in your tent, most of which will be in a half sitting/ laying position.

Dealing with Mud and Rain
Proof I was there, in my gumboots. Given the very unseasonal start to Summer, it would be wise to steel yourself for the likelihood of rain and eventual mud. Lots of mud. Best things to do are to take gumboots, extra socks (thick socks deal with chaffing better) and why not think about a gel or wool inner sole for your gumboots while you’re at it – I can say from days dancing in boots at Peats Ridge 2009, your feet will be worn out before the end of the festival.

Take a poncho or rain coat – not umbrellas. Alternately take a couple of heavier hoodies, they’re also quite good at keeping the rain off, but they do soak through. If you’re at Woodford, I did pick up a beautiful waterproof parasol from a vendor who I believe goes regularly and it’s gotten me through a number of both sunny and rainy days since.

Take extra changes of clothes and some gear that you don’t care if it’s ruined by mud. If you are going to go sliding in the mud, whether in clothes or not (yes, another fun Peats Ridge image yet to be removed from my memory), make plans to get through the shower or dip in a creek before your favourite act hits the stage, otherwise you’ll be sweaty, tired and still muddy.

Best tip: Take a bucket, an old towel and/ or a bathmat – leave them outside your tent and use them as a door mat and to rinse off your feet before climbing in to your tent to avoid the mud spread through all your belongings. And make sure to take your gumboots off outside before entering, leave them outside or just inside the door.


There are a couple of elements to the whole multi-day camping festival and keeping yourself clean. Showers are often hugely sought after at the usual peak times, mornings and early evenings. Mind you at both Peats Ridge and Woodford, I walked past the shower blocks very late at night (as late as 2am) and they were well in use. Plan your showering/ bathing times ahead, have a look at the timetable and see if you can pop back from a quick shower before the next act.

Alternately, if you’re tough, you could forgo the showers altogether – in some locations there’s rivers to have a nice dip in and keep yourself fresher, but you will need to wear something in, be decent people. Even if you take to bathing, take along some baby wipes or wet ones and give yourself a good wipe down all over at least once a day and apply deodorant liberally. You might be able to cope with no showering, but the people around you might not cope with your odour.

Toilets at most of these festivals have moved towards the sustainable compostable toilets. No flush toilets can be challenging, especially after a few days in to a festival. Firstly, learn how the toilets work – usually there’s a tub or pile of sawdust available. If you’re heading for number 1s, just go without sawdust, and you can pop some toilet paper in after you if you need. If you’re going number 2s, take a cup/ handful of sawdust to throw in after you’ve finished. If it’s a big number 2, well, take some back up sawdust. ALWAYS close the lid no matter what number you’ve been to so that insects are not attracted to the contents – no one wants to use a fly infested loo. If everyone uses them properly, these toilets can work very well. And boys, you’re always welcome to take to the bushes if that’s easier.

Bluesfest Saturday Most festivals are no BYO and all would be No Glass – there’s nothing worse than some broken glass to ruin your day by slicing your foot, or worse, your butt, open. Some festivals have fire bans – check the FAQs for your festival and check what you can and can’t take in. If you can afford it, budget to buy your meals, it supports the vendors which in turn supports the festival and allows it to go ahead every year. The same goes with alcohol and festival bars, bringing your own alcohol might seem like a sneaky and clever idea but it jeopardises the festivals liquor licence and can have a detrimental effect on the bar provider which may lead them to choosing not to be involved in the future. Everyone likes to save a buck, but bars and food vendors are the life blood of funding for festivals and events, so spend with them to help your favourite festival continue year to year.

Check out your festival’s website for information about the dos and don’t’s at your festival and travel information. Also don’t forget to take some important items that are often forgotten including sunscreen, a hat, jumper/ warm clothes, a water bottle, toothbrush and paste. It’s a good idea to invest in some ear plugs, they cancel out much of the noise and volume but none of the music, you can even hear the lyrics plus they save your hearing. Having now attended a few festivals with ear plugs, they’re a staple in my stash.

Woodford has both an Eating at Woodford and a What to Bring section available from their home page.
Falls Festival has a What to Bring section which reminds punters to bring tickets. Believe it or not, I’ve seen it happen.

If all of that planning and packing seems like too much trouble, you could check out a new venture called Festival Kits which is an online service able to deliver a package to your at home before you depart which contains all the essentials, and they’re catering to all of our festivals and more.

Get In To It!
The Gum Ball 2011
Plan your festival, work out who you want to see, and read the bios of acts you’ve never heard of and check them out, you might find a brand new favourite you would have otherwise missed. Make a note of what non musical things you want to see like arts, workshops, talks and displays so you don’t forget to catch them. A number of the festivals have lantern and New Year parades complete with fancy dress or masquerade themes which you can get right in to the thick of helping create and perform. If you don’t want to be involved, at least make sure you have your camera handy for some amazing photo opportunities.

Bluesfest Saturday If you’re taking technological devices like phones and iPhones, why not download relevant information to your phone, or if you’re lucky, there will be an app for that. However, think twice about how you’re going to power and recharge your device – it’s a good idea to take a car charger with you and plan some time recharging. Also keep an eye out for recharge bars seen at many festivals which allow you to plug in to solar power and recharge your devices. However, you’ll need to stick around and wait for your device to charge as the people running it sure aren’t going to babysit your phone for you.

If you’ve got some time free, or you’re not really feeling the festival experience, try volunteering. All of these festivals rely on volunteers to make the magic happen and being involved in helping the festival run can be really rewarding. All of the volunteering programs have closed except for Woodford, however no matter which festival you’re at, if you’re bored, find the volunteer tent/ center and ask about volunteering. If you do enough hours, you might even get your ticket price refunded – but you will definitely have a unique experience of the festival.

Tickets are still available to all of these festivals, except the Lorne edition of The Falls Festival, however if you feel like crossing the ditch to Tassie, you can still get tickets to The Falls Festival at Marion Bay. Why not treat yourself to an early Christmas present and grab yourself a ticket if you haven’t already!

Plan and prepare now, and stay tuned for our next installment of our Guide to Summer Festivals.

Pyramid Rock Interview: Grace Woodroofe

Grace Woodroofe
Image Courtesy of Grace Woodroofe

Grace Woodroofe is probably one of those artists you’ve heard of but can’t quite remember why. A regular on the festival circuit for the last year or so Woodroofe has had a pretty spectacular rise through the music industry that has culminated in her recent tour of the US supporting Ben Harper. Returning to Australia soon for the Pyramid Rock Festival over New Year Grace Woodroofe graciously accepted a long distance call to her LA pad to have a chat to us about touring in the US, the evolution of her blues sound and the remarkable circumstances that led to her discovery.

Evan Hughes: Can you give us a little background of how you got your start in music? Because I think it’s quite an interesting story.
Grace Woodroofe: When I was 16 I was discovered by [actor] Heath Ledger because I’d put some demos on the triple j Unearthed web site and it was passed along to him. And then he passed it along to Ben Harper and, long story short, Ben ended up producing my album Always Want. It’s coming out in the US in January but it came out in Australia in December last year. I’ve been touring for the last few years and I just came over to the States and did a US tour.
EH: It’s got to be a pretty surreal experience first getting discovered by Heath Ledger and then to be introduced to someone like Ben Harper, record with him and now tour the US as his support.
GW: Yeah, it’s amazing. But I never take it for granted because I know how lucky I am. It’s just been an amazing succession of opportunity and luck but also a lot of hard work. It’s just been phenomenal really – I’ve been really lucky.
EH: How have the crowds in the US been reacting to your music?
GW: It’s been really good. It’s kind of amazing – I’m really surprised to be honest. I came over here thinking I’m going be really insignificant in this ginormous pond of artists and musicians because the American market is so much bigger than the Australian one and I’m still tiny in Australia anyway. But so far the response, from the Ben [Harper] tour in particular, has been incredible – people have been so positive with great feedback. And we sold albums after on the tour after the shows and we’ve had so many people come up. It’s just been really surprising – so far so good touch wood!
EH: For people who don’t really know your music can you explain the type of music you do? There’s kind of elements of folk and blues and roots and jazz all mixed in.
GW: I primarily describe it as blues but there’s definitely folk. And I’m getting more into punky-rock now – the live show is definitely taking a turn into a more intense rock show. People listen to the album and they’ve been saying it’s subdued and subtle music but with the sound I’ve been developing over the last few years I’m starting to really embrace the blues and rock elements of it.
EH: I guess touring with someone like Ben Harper that bluesy-rock sound is bound to rub off a little.
GW: Yeah, I guess we’re a good pairing in that respect.
EH: You’re heading back to Australia for the Pyramid Rock Festival. Will you be here for long?
GW: I come back to Australia in late November – I want to do a bunch of shows in Perth then possibly on the East Coast – until maybe March. Then I’ll come back over to the states again. So I’ve got a few months to do some touring which will be really great.
EH: You’ve played a couple of festivals before – East Coast Blues and Roots and Splendour stand out – how do you find the festival crowds respond to your music?
GW: Every festival is different. There are major ones like Big Day Out, Southbound and Splendour in the Grass and then there are smaller boutique ones like Playground weekender so it differs for each one. With festivals you never really know what you’re going to get – people are never specifically there just to see you. I do really enjoy it because there are so many different types of shows you can play and that’s another one that’s part of the job and so far I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve done festival-wise. I’m just really looking forward to Pyramid Rock because, it will sound cliched, but being [in the US] and playing the size of crowds I have been playing with the Ben tour and the scale and impact of them I feel has really help me evolve and learn and get more confidence. So I’m looking forward to coming back and just owning it in Australia.
EH: I think that new-found confidence is only going to help your profile in Australia.
GW: I hope so. I’m just going to come back stronger and better than before. I’m so excited about the next bunch of shows I’ll be playing there.
EH: After you get back to LA will you be working on some new material?
GW: Hopefully. I’m in LA for another month now and I’m going to be doing demos and stuff for the next album and fully working out the plan for that. And who knows where I might end up recording? Maybe I’ll do some recording for the album now but I think most likely when I come back in the New Year it will all be about putting down the next record.
EH: Sounds awesome. Well thank you so much for chatting to us today. We wish you the best of luck with Pyramid Rock and the rest of your plans!
GW: Great – thank you so much for chatting with me today!

Grace Woodroofe is part of the amazing lineup for this year’s Pyramid Rock Festival, held from the 29th December to the 1st January on Phillip Island. Tickets are still available on the official web site.

Georgia Fair, Bonjah In Second Pyramid Rock Lineup

Pyramid Rock
Image Courtesy of The Pyramid Rock Festival

The second artist lineup has been announced for the Pyramid Rock Festival and while it’s pretty sparse on the folk/acoustic/roots front there are a couple of notable mentions: Georgia Fair and Bonjah have both been added to a lineup that already boasts Boy & Bear, Cloud Control, The Panics, Ash Grunwald, The Bamboos, Grace Woodroofe, Graveyard Train and Owl Eyes.

Pyramid Rock is held on Phillip Island from the 29th December to the 1st January. Check out the official web site for more details and the full lineup.

The Pyramid Rock Festival Lineup

Pyramid Rock Lineup
Image Courtesy of The Pyramid Rock Festival

Its getting to that time of year when the big New Year’s Eve festivals are announcing their lineups and the latest cab off the rack is The Pyramid Rock Festival. Held on Phillip Island from the 29th December to the 1st January Pyramid Rock is, as the name suggests, primarily a rock/indie festival. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely bereft of folk with a number of Timber and Steel friendly acts making it onto this year’s lineup including Boy & Bear, Cloud Control, The Panics, Ash Grunwald, The Bamboos, Grace Woodroofe, Graveyard Train and Owl Eyes.

For the full lineup head to the official Pyramid Rock Festival web site. Tickets go on sale on the 14th September.

Pyramid Rock Lineup

Liam Finn
Image Courtesy of Liam Finn

The latest summer festival to get the lineup-announcement treatment is Phillip Island based New Years Eve event Pyramid Rock. Unlike other festivals Pyramid Rock is pretty light-on in the folk department but a few gems including Liam Finn (above), Basement Birds, Little Red and Xavier Rudd will be making an appearance. For details on the festival check the official site. The full lineup is below:

The Temper Trap
Neon Indian
Future Of The Left
Born Ruffians
Shout Out Louds
Mystery Jets
Xavier Rudd
Arrested Development
Basement Birds
Lightspeed Champion
Tinie Tempah
Spit Sindicate
Built To Spill
Violent Soho
Hungry Kids Of Hungary
Philadelphia Grand Jury
Gypsy and The Cat
The John Steel Singers
Trentemoller Live
Liam Finn
Little Red
Miami Horror

%d bloggers like this: