The Queenscliff Music Festival
For those of us lucky enough to have become dedicated QMF pilgrims, the last Friday in November is imbued with a dizzying and magical sense of freedom and artistic adventure as a weekend of beautiful views, vibrant music and positive vibes stretches tantalisingly before us. With the 2010 festival boasting a jaw-dropping line-up that features artists such as the vocally spectacular Kate Miller-Heidke, the ARIA-Award winning Megan Washington, foot-stompin’ blues god Ash Grunwald, sizzling soul sisters Vika and Linda, frenetic punk legends The Meanies, the entertaining Colin Hay and the ascendant Little Red, it seems the ideal time to share our barely concealed excitement with new festival director Michael Carrucan who generously answered our five thousand queries.
When asked about the musical highlights awaiting the unsuspecting punter this year Carrucan enthuses that “The RocKwiz live show that toured around the country is very popular. The ability to put that on down here and open it up to a few thousand people under a big top tent is pretty unique.
“Straight after that we have John Williamson…” he nods. “Kate Miller-Heidke, who blew everyone away two years ago to a select Friday night audience, now finishes the festival off for us this year.”
One of the most enjoyable features of QMF is the inspired eclecticism of the programming. This is a festival that truly embraces musical diversity and never gets bogged down in the stifling confines of one genre. “There is a lot of variety,” Carrucan agrees. “At any one time, no matter what your age, there’s something there for you: we have programmed it that way.
“For our two main stages particularly on the Friday night and the Sunday, if you’re a bit younger and into what’s hot and contemporary, you’ve got the main stage. If you are older, a bit like myself – if you’re a Black Sorrows fan for example – you have got the other main tent stage so at any one time there’s something for everyone…
“Our line-up is already attracting a younger demographic,” he adds. “You look at that Sunday line-up and it’s just great. We have Sally Seltmann, Megan Washington, we have got the boys from The Vasco Era pumping it up and finishing up with Kate.”
With so many local, interstate and international festivals vying for our attention, QMF appears to have relished the competition and gone from strength to strength. According to Carrucan, it’s QMF’s sense of uniqueness that has helped it remain robust in terms of crowds, attractive to high quality acts and resilient in the face of increased touring competition. “I think it’s the way it incorporates the town,” he explains. “It’s pretty unique that you can walk down the main street during the festival and there’s venues which are associated with the festival and you can walk through the markets… it is very accessible for everyone
“Even New Orleans isn’t really like that,” he points out, “the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is at the racecourse, so it’s a bit of a drive out from the main hub. But here everything is walking distance down that main street and it’s safe!”
As the festival is located in the town itself, the community’s support is central to its success. Carrucan speaks about the crucial and positive relationship that the QMF has with the locals. “The festival is a rallying point for the whole community,” he explains.
“It’s the region’s stand-out event. This is why we get 400 volunteers; a lot of them from the local community. The local venues and organisations all contribute to it. Everyone seems to have a bit of ownership of the festival, and it’s a real kick-start for the region in terms of summer.
“If you get back to the mid-‘90s,” he adds, “before the festival was here, my understanding is that it was a really quiet time. It didn’t really kick off until later in December, come summer holidays.”
There must be something about the fresh sea air that breeds musical talent. From Queenscliff to Port Fairy there appears to be youthful musical prodigies conjuring sonic delights on every street corner and in every pub, garage and café. “I have been blown away by it!” Carrucan exclaims. “We have started up a small competition called River Riff… it’s aimed purely [at local talent] as we get a huge number of submissions for what is a very small number of available slots, so we want to do something for the local musos. We try our best; we’re doing a lot more live events in the lead-up to the festival [to showcase as many as possible]. We’re even going to put musicians on the ferry this year… there is huge huge talent down here!”
One of the rather novel and memorable characteristics of the festival is the fact that it is possible to enjoy live music while riding the QMF Express steam train, which literally rocks and rolls its way through eye-catching scenery. According to Carrucan, “The train is a unique venue. This year we are putting on acoustic acts, children’s performers, comedy, blues, folk. It’s a great venue. It’s active and interactive. You can stare out the window or dance up close and personal with the band and try not to fall on them… you have to go a long way in the world to find a train that allows music on it to that extent.”
At last year’s QMF the crowd was treated to the impressive Rolling Stones Artist Tribute Showcase which featured luminaries such as Dan Sultan and Bonjah dipping into the Jagger and Richards back catalogue. This year they will be treated to the Stevie Wonder Tribute Showcase. “It’s exciting!” Carrucan nods enthusiastically. “We’ve been doing this now for three years; it’s a way of providing our artists with a brief to go for it… We have picked a number of artists that we think will be appropriate…” When invited to spill the beans on which artists will be participating in this tribute concert Carrucan responds enigmatically, “We’ll keep the artists fairly under wraps.”
There’s nothing like a touch of suspense to whet the appetite for what promises to be another weekend of thrilling musical discoveries.
THE QUEENSCLIFF MUSCI FESTIVAL takes place in Queenscliff this weekend, from Friday November 26 – Sunday November 28. The festival features RocKwiz live, Kate Miller-Heidke, Colin Hay, Little Red, Washington, Katie Noonan & The Captains, Kaki King, Frank Yamma, Sally Seltmann, Shawn Mullins, Ash Grunwald, John Williamson, Vika And Linda, Mark Seymour, Andy Bull, Gareth Liddiard, The Vasco Era, Mary Gauthier, Dan Kelly’s Dream Band, Andy Bull, Pikelet and many, many, many more… don’t miss out this weekend. All info and tickets can be found at qmf.net.au.