With the tagline “What a music festival should be”, Disconnect 2015 is being touted as a European-style festival experience, featuring a diverse, monster lineup of both international and homegrown talent, as well as art, comedy, burlesque, vaudeville, sport, adventure activities, spoken word shows, gourmet food and more, set against its lush historic village backdrop.
To get the goss on the new WA festival, set to feature the likes of Chet Faker, Flight Facilities and Father John Misty, we had a chat to Festival Director Chris Knight about how it all came together.
Music Feeds: Music, art, comedy, burlesque, vaudeville, adventure, sport and gourmet food & beverages. To the casual observer, it would appear that the concept of Disconnect is based on what most people’s idea of what heaven – should it exist – might be like. If not, what did inspire you to create Disconnect?
Chris Knight: It’s all about the festival we have always wanted to put on. We have been traveling the world, looking at the very best festivals and they can be summed up, as a “total experience”.
It’s about the music, but it’s also about so much more than that. Its about community, not a virtual social community, but a “real” community, where people come together in an arts inspired playground, for one special weekend. If we can only achieve one thing from the festival, it would be that everyone goes home with some new real “friends” not someone they have never met, except for on social media.
Fairbridge Village, also helped inspire Disconnect. We believe that it’s the “best festival venue in Australia”, not only are we taking over a whole beautiful, heritage listed town, with a Gothic Chapel, historic homes and buildings, Venues, roads, a natural amphitheatre, swimming pool, oval, sporting facilities, and heaps of beautiful trees and wildlife. but there are no neighbours! No one to impact, thus we have the freedom to present, a completely uncompromised show, that goes on until the wee hours of the morning! Let’s face it, day time festivals are great but it’s all about the nights… All within one hour of the city!
MF: Perth is often overlooked when it comes to big tours and music festivals. Would you say Disconnect is the music festival Perth deserves… or the one it needs right now? (The Batman-themed way of asking how you think Disconnect will be good for Perth?)
CK: Ha, that’s an interesting one! In some ways it’s both and neither, but it’s the festival we are putting on though. We are truly, trying to create a world class festival experience. We live in Perth and it’s a wonderful city, which has bloomed in recent years, from the awkward teenager into a city that is really embracing art and culture, and is one of the most fertile “creatively speaking” places in the world. The Festival is more a reflection of this than a response to outside influences.
We are seeking to create a vehicle that not only delivers the very best of Music, Comedy, Big Ideas, Art, Burlesque, and Circus to people, but also allows the development of the artist and the artistic enterprise, to inspire us all and enrich everyone’s lives. I think of Disconnect as the bastard love child from the ménage à trois between a Music, Art and Fringe festival.
Watch: Chet Faker – Gold
MF: The scale of Disconnect on paper seems nothing short of mind-blowing! From its inception til now, how long has this festival been in the works?
CK: Disconnect has been a concept that has grown and developed over the years. I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in festivals for my whole life, and have been privileged to see festivals all over the world.
It really all started to come together when I had a meeting, in a Melbourne wine bar with Jenny Jennings and Declan Forde in February 2014. I had met Jen and Dec at Electric Picnic in 2009 and together we hatched the concept of Disconnect.
MF: Do you think Australia has ever seen anything quite like this before?
CK: I think Australia, has some truly great festivals, and we are aiming at becoming their peer, The venue is what makes us special, we are not in a paddock or on a football oval, we are taking over an amazing village and endeavouring to create an experience that is truly unique with an Australiana twist. One that we do not need to compromise for the sake of the local residents because there are none!
The exciting thing is the collaborations with some truly inspiring people who are curating the Disconnect areas:
Anton Maz the maestro behind the cool electro vibes of the Secret Garden.
Bonnie Davies from Bootleg Comedy who is delivering the Mess Hall with 3 days of Comedy, Big Ideas and Inspiration,
Jasmine Clea Danks from Danger Cabaret looking after the Vaudeville inspired Risqué, The Late night speakeasy 1933 and Imaginarium for the little people.
Kellee Aberg all things artful and beautiful on site.
Kelkel and her Sisters of Disco who have something special planned but shooooosh it’s a secret.
MF: You’ve said Disconnect draws inspiration from the European festival format, are there any European music festivals in particular that you’ve modelled it after?
CK: I have had the privilege, to visit Electric Picnic and its off shoot festival Body and Soul in Ireland, these are both truly inspirational events especially in the arts programming. Both of these festivals had the global financial crisis as a back drop which particularly devastated Ireland, yet they managed to flourish, it says a lot about the importance of art and culture, socioeconomically in the world.
Of course mother of them all Glastonbury, if you survive, you either come out completely disheartened because of the enormity of the event or completely inspired, fortunately I was the latter.
One thing we have taken from the Europeans, is a kid friendly festival with a full program of entertainment and activities in the Imaginarium for the 13 and unders. It’s not about modelling ourselves on other festivals, its about inspiration, and the manifestation of that inspiration, in unique ways, to achieve a creative and interactive environment full of unexpected surprises.
MF: Can you give us any hints about what the yet-to-be-announced art and comedy programs have in store?
CK: We are just putting the finishing touches on these programs and will be sending them out shortly! There will be riotous laughs, amazing human feats, lots of colour and even some stuff to tweak the cerebral mass, at Big Ideas for Breakfast, so stay tuned! Live at the Chapel, Imaginarium, Risqué, The Mess hall and the 1933 late night speakeasy programs all to be announced shortly!
Watch: Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
MF: I was struck by one of the activities mentioned on the program at the Mess Hall. Would you mind explaining to us the logistics behind “bogan bingo”?
CK: Hmm I can’t give too much away but… half game-show/half party! There’s a little bit of bogan in all of us, so let your mullet down and dust off your flannie for a bloody good one with the Bogan Bingo crew.
MF: There are some super impressive names on the music lineup – both national and international – as well as artists from right across the genre spectrum (including a gospel choir!) What was your game plan when it came to booking acts for the festival? (Did you have a specific vision in mind?)
CK: Yes, you have to have a game plan, it’s the music that sets the tone and the vibe of the festival, its got to be credible, cohesive and above all entertaining. I’m stealing one of Jen’s phrases here but it also needs to be “knees up” as its important to have some fun.
We are amazed ourselves at the incredible talent that will be playing Disconnect and we see it as a privilege and a responsibility to present so many great artists. It was a definite aim that the line up needs to be genre bending, but in a balanced and considered way.
Personally I’ll be front and centre for most of the acts and may find it hard to leave the Chapel, its amazing, we have a Gothic Chapel with a full program of striped back almost acoustic sets from some amazing musicians, and yeah I can’t wait for the Gospel Choir either…
MF: I’m a fully-grown adult. Would it be inappropriate for me to go on the flying fox? Or the tyre swing? Or just spend a whole day at Adventureland?
CK: Of course not! I’m there with you on that one, can’t wait to shoot down the flying fox myself.
MF: What’s your vision for the future of Disconnect, should it be the amazing success that we all hope it will be? Will it stay in Perth?
CK: Yep that’s the plan, we have the best festival venue in Australia, the plan is to work with the Good Folks at the Fairbridge Inc. an amazing youth based charity and keep developing the site and the festival we already can’t wait for 2016 we have some more surprisers instore.
Watch: Flight Facilities – Sunshine
MF: Flights to Perth are sadly very expensive. Are there any plans to subsidise airfares for punters who want to travel from interstate?
CK: Wish we could! but the interest from the east coast has been amazing and there is a lot of people who are road tripping for Disconnect, The Good Folks at Scoot will also be bring a bunch of peeps in from all over the world, we are actual very humbled by the interstate and international interest that Disconnect has generated.
MF: In conclusion, this festival just seems like the most fun, possibly ever. Have you considered what your response will be if you get to the end and people simply refuse to leave?
CK: Me, don’t tell anybody, but I’ll probably join them, and when they finally run out of steam, it will be “thanks heaps for coming and see ya next year!”
Friday, 11th December – Sunday, 13th December 2015
Fairbridge Village WA