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Festival of the Sun – Don’t change a thing

Written by Thomas Mitchell on August 29, 2010

Festival of the Sun has established itself as one of the coolest festivals of the summer. With an awesome beachside setting, great lineup and a BYO policy that saves you lining up in the heat for drinks, Fotsun is a must have ticket for the holiday season. We caught up with Fotsun organiser Scott Mesiti to find out what goes into making it all happen.

MF: Festival of the Sun is different to other music festivals; is it getting difficult to attract punters with so many festivals in operation these days? What is it that sets FOTS apart?

FOTS: I feel we are very different to other festivals. When we initially put this together we wanted to put on a festival that we wanted to go to: 1) no expensive beer prices, so we made it BYO: 2) location and facilities had to blow people’s mind, people can literally hear the music while surfing; 3) it had to be boutique, 3000 is our capacity and we love it – no pushing and shoving: 4) the line-ups had to look and feel different to other festivals; and 5) provide an experience and culture that would bring people back year after year.

MF: The line-up for this year is impressive, with Regurgitator and Xavier Rudd heading it up as well as Sharon Jones and the Dap kings from NY. What criteria do you go through when it comes to selecting the line-up?

FOTS: We have been proud of every year’s line up. We have been able to improve on the stature of line-ups each year as the festival builds its reputation. We always set our criteria on bands that will compliment the amazing setting. Those of you who have ever been to Sundowne in Port Macquarie will know what I’m talking about. Regurgitator were the first band I saw at the Metro in the early 90s and made me want to play music so while I knew they would be great for our festival, this one was also for personal choice. Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings and Xavier Rudd I have wanted for years. For me it’s about being patient, talking the bands and working around their schedules; eventually it will happen. I don’t think I have been this excited I have to say.

MF: How has the festival evolved since it started?

FOTS: Originally we started out as two mates who just wanted to see a festival happen in a town that was, at that time, starved of good Aussie music. We have not moved from our game plan; the event is still capped at 3000, is BYO and we feel everyone is a VIP. Each year we improve facilities, sound, decor and overall customer service.

MF: FOTS is beachside, with camping; any plans to change the venue as the Festival of the Sun grows in popularity?

FOTS: I don’t think so. If you saw the site I think you’d agree. We actually did a survey last year and the message we got back from attendees was DON’T CHANGE A THING.

MF: As organisers, is there an obligation to attend many other festivals to see how they’re run and what the crowd wants? If so, what have you learnt?

FOTS: I don’t feel an obligation, but we are in the festival game because we love it and we have been attending festivals for twenty years. It is hard not to notice things when you attend other festivals like: how long were we in line; how expensive is it; or were the toilets clean etc. I do take notice of crowd reactions to bands and the type of demographic that band has attracted.

MF: People complain that festivals are becoming too policed and too strict. However, FOTS is known for being chilled out, BYO etc. Can you sense the frustration from punters?

FOTS: Not at our event. We have a great relationship with Police and the BYO factor actually makes people more chilled as they are not as eager to drink quick to get through the next bar line again.

MF: Homebake has been cancelled for 2010; do you feel the need to compete with the major festivals, or is it different markets?

FOTS: We are the little guy on the festival circuit and that’s the way we like it. We know we have a strong product that does not need to compete with bigger festivals. Our market is the people who don’t want to stand among 10,000 people and be 80m back from the stage.

MF: What kind of competitions will you be running at this years’ Festival of the Sun?

FOTS: I think this year we have the comp of all comps. We are giving one lucky person the chance to play percussion on stage with Barrel House in front of a festival audience. We have had some awesome video entries already. They also win a two-bedroom spa cottage, which is on the festival site, for four people for three nights, and four tickets to the festival. We also have a surfboard giveaway, Facebook competitions – you name it. Check out the for more details.

MF: What is the best moment you’ve ever had since FOTS began?

FOTS: I love when a young band comes to the festival virtually unheard of and leaves on the tip of everyone’s tongues as a highlight of the weekend.

MF: What plans do you have for the festival in the future — plans to incorporate arts, film, etc?

FOTS: We are always open to new ideas and ways we can engage our audience. We actually ran a music video competition for independent artists called SunScreen.

MF: If you could have one headliner out of any musician, who would it be?

FOTS: If you asked me last year I would have said Xavier Rudd, Regurgitator, Sharon Jones and British India. Ha. I really don’t know how to answer that without giving some secrets away.

MF: When do you start planning for FOTS 2011; how long does the whole process take?

FOTS: It’s a year-long process. Some months are busier then others, but there is always something to be done – good times.

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