As the rain crashes hard on the roof of the Transit Lounge, I study the banner at stage right. ‘Excellence, Discovery, Community Spirit’ it says below the words ‘Queenscliff Music Festival’, written in stylish font. I shift my gaze to various corners of the room where young hipsters are conversing with conservatively dressed, middle-aged men and women. Hipsters, organisers, promoters and musicians alike toast each other, then wince as flashbulbs go off. Two ladies flanking me either side lean into each other and discuss their luck in finding seats in front of the split-system heater. I am attendee at the funeral of the generation gap. With each person that fills the room, I can feel the gap closing under an overcast Melbourne sky.
I’m handed my press release as Evelyn Morris, who goes by the stage name Pikelet, introduces herself over the PA. She begins looping glockenspiel and tambourine as her band casually adds to the groove. They ride the snake for a good half hour, giving the crowd a taste of twee-pop in the Hacienda. They sound like Arcade Fire for six-year-olds, sitting right in the lap of Play School kitsch. “Interesting” I hear some say, which is a succinct and accurate assessment. It was a thoroughly enjoyable spaced-out cacophony.
Derek Guille, some ABC Radio DJ, takes the stage and launches into a spiel about the places from where we might know him. Most of the crowd looks blank, but nonetheless he makes it clear that he’s strongly associated with the Queenscliff Music Festival. Virtually his sole purpose is to introduce the new festival director, Michael Carrucan.
I recognize Michael Carrucan as one of the aforementioned middle-aged gentlemen from the crowd. He discusses the festival’s new slogan ‘changing up’ and half-apologizes for its resemblance to Julia Gillard’s ‘moving forward’ platitude. Eclecticism seems to be the word of the day. Carrucan goes into detail about how calculated the line-up is, placing Kate Miller-Heidke on the same bill as Little Red and Public Opinion Afro Orchestra. He makes no apology for ‘creating dilemmas in the punters’. You can hear from the tone in his voice the effort and passion that steers his direction. To him the festival is steeped in the punter tradition in its direction, aesthetic and, of course, the line-up.
So here’s a select breakdown…
If you’re not out on a Saturday night then chances are your post-Iron Chef tradition is RocKwiz and top of the bill is RocKwiz Live, which takes the half-hour trivia show out of the Espy and on to the big stage for two hours; your sister’s favourite Sarah McLachlan rip-off Kate Miller-Heidke returns for her second appearance; be ready to have your teeth delightfully rot with Triple J’s favourite saccharine pop band Little Red; one of the few acts worth a damn at 2010’s St. Kilda Festival, Megan Washington; the guy whose voice you hear before every AFL Grand Final, Mark Seymour; Kaki King, whose guitar chops are better than yours, seriously; The Vasco Era, who blew the minds of all present when I saw them open for The Grates; the aforementioned Pikelet; and Katie Noonan & The Captains, who can’t be much worse than George, really.
Looking over the line-up it seems the kids and the grown-ups are partying together. Much like the crowd inside the Transit Lounge, the Queenscliff Music Festival itself strings threads through the Australian and international music scene and pulls together a diverse selection of artists.