What started out as an “if you know you know” insider’s delight has long since expanded into its own fantastical empire. These days, Secret Garden Festival is able to completely sell out without so much as announcing a single artist on the bill – and that’s already well on the way as the 2019 edition begins to take shape.
If this is your first time, or you’re simply a curious onlooker, allow us to walk you through the finer points of what makes this such an entertaining getaway. Welcome to the Secret Garden.
1. The Location
Folks always used to say the festival took place in “Sydney”, but anyone who knows the Garden knows it’s not quite Sydney. To get to Secret Garden, you’re headed inland to a “never ending forest” on the outskirts of Sydney with more wide open spaces than a Dixie Chicks album.
Unlike your typical main stage festival set up, each Secret Garden stage is nestled within enchanted col-de-sacs inside an old forest. Adventuring through a maze of stages amidst picturesque greenery is far different from any other festival experience in Australia.
There are plenty of testimonies out there to affirm that the destination is very much worth the journey. Plus, being out from the city means there’s so much more noise to be made.
2. The Lineup
You might be under the impression that the lineup is secondary to the experience, especially if tickets go on sale before the acts are announced. The reality is that the festival offers one of the most sonically diverse grouping of bands you could probably ask for — enough to satiate more or less any tastes.
There have previously been big names like DZ Deathrays and Gang Of Youths, on-the-rise artists (D.D. Dumbo in 2014, Cub Sport and The Preatures back when they were Cub Scouts and The Preachers respectively) and even heavier acts like Totally Unicorn and Party Dozen.
2018’s edition also brought in two of the most hilariously-niche bands to ever grace a festival stage: Bris-182 (a supergroup of Brisbane musicians playing ensemble covers of Blink-182 songs) and Birdman, Or The Unexpected Virtue Of A Tony Hawk Pro Skater Cover Band (a band that literally just plays songs from the various Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtracks).
Next year’s lineup is still to be announced.
3. The Extracurricular Activities
If you have any downtime between any of the bands on offer, Secret Garden is sure to fill it. There are a myriad of art installations to look at, a ballpit to drown in, a kissing booth for those feeling a little adventurous and even a spot where you can do karaoke. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg; you honestly never know what you might find wandering around the festival grounds.
Idiosyncratic in its nature, Secret Garden has always gone the extra few kilometres (or mile, depending on which system you use) in order to create a complete festival experience you’re unlikely to get anywhere else.
4. The Costumes
Normally, those who pick out a particular bit of fancy-dress or costuming for a festival are in the minority. At Secret Garden, not only will most of the audience be on board, but you might even end up winning prizes if you put in the most effort.
Each day of the festival comes with separate themes to work with, so keep an eye out to make plans for something elaborate. Have a look through the photo galleries of any previous editions of the festival to nab yourself an idea or two, but don’t forget to use your imagination, too.
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5. The Community
When Music Feeds asked Gang Of Youths’ irrepressible lead singer David Le’aupepe about Secret Garden back in 2016, the frontman described it as one of the best festivals in Australia. “I’ll be honest… I’m not the type to enjoy festivals all that much,” he said. “This had a really great vibe to it, though. It has this subversive, Alice in Wonderland style vibe to it. It’s pretty cool.”
A lot of that has to come down to the people that have made it their home, whether it’s their first or fifth time. The organisers have done everything within their power to create something welcoming, inclusive and wholly positive. If you’re quick on tickets, that can include you, too.
Secret Garden Festival takes place on Friday, 22nd and Saturday, 23rd February 2019. For more information, visit the official website.
Secret Garden Festival 2019
Friday, 22nd — Saturday, 23rd February 2019
Brownlow Hill, NSW
Tickets: Official Website