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Bendigo Autumn Music's eclectic lineup is a recipe for success

Four days. 14 venues. 150-plus performances. The inaugural Bendigo Autumn Music festival lineup is enormous.

Contemporary Australian acts Cash Savage and The Last Drinks, Saskwatch, Emily Wurramara, No Mono and Mojo Juju sit next to canonical figures Tex Perkins, Deborah Conway and Jeff Lang. The international delegation includes headliners Kurt Vile & the Violators, Z-Star Delta, Tiny Ruins, Moussa Diakite & Wassado and Sibusile Xaba. 

“We needed to have a culturally diverse lineup,” says BAM programmer Lior Albeck-Ripka. “We needed to have a diverse lineup in terms of gender equality and also non-conforming artists. And also this [balance of] emerging and established.”

Along with Zulu-folk experimentalist Xaba and Malian guitar hero Diakite, BAM highlights the cultural diversity of the Australian music community. Zimbabwean-born R&B powerhouse, Thando, ukulele-touting West Papuan activists, The Black Orchid String Band, and festival favourites, Lamine Sonko & The African Intelligence, are all on board for the late-April festival. 

Plus, rather than just crashing into town and hosting a big event, 30 per cent of the lineup is devoted to artists with ties to the City of Greater Bendigo region.

“You can walk around and see a real variety and mix of artists,” says Albeck-Ripka. “This festival showcases artists who may get 60 people to The Old Bar in Melbourne, but they might play before Jeff Lang or Kurt Vile or Tex Perkins. So there is a real mix."

BAM is the brainchild of Red Square Music director, Glenn Wright, who initiated NSW boutique regional music festivals, Mullum Music Festival and Bello Winter Music. BAM follows the lead of these festivals by boasting an eclectic program featuring established, emerging, local and national touring artists all playing inside venues throughout a regional town. 

The program stretches beyond live music to include a screening of the documentary film, Waiting: The Van Duren Story. Premiered at US film festivals in late 2018, Waiting looks at the career of obscure Memphis musician Van Duren, who’ll also perform live at the festival. 

“Van Duren’s an amazing story,” says Albeck-Ripka. “He’s a ‘70s singer who had a touch with potential fame, but then went off and did something completely different. But he’s been rediscovered and there’s this incredible documentary that we’re going to be screening. Van Duren’s going to be doing a Q&A and introducing the film and then the following day people can come and hear him perform live.” 

Festivalgoers are encouraged to get active, too, with an impressive workshop program featuring drumming, flamenco dancing, Melanesian ukulele and gospel singing.

“Tracey Miller heads up 45 Packin’ Mama, which is an incredible gospel/blues show that showcases women of the 1920s to the ‘40s who were amazing blues singers. She will be teaching a blues/gospel singing workshop.”

Suffice to say, Bendigo Autumn Music has a lot to offer. But you’ve got to wonder, why Bendigo?

“Bendigo’s a beautiful, charming, historic town in regional Victoria which has an amazing history,” Albeck-Ripka. “It’s got one of the largest cathedrals in the Southern Hemisphere. The Ulumbarra Theatre – where Kurt Vile’s playing and Tiny Ruins is playing and Ryan Downey’s playing – is stunning. It’s an old gaol. 

“For Melbournites it’s something different. There’s an element of a holiday and you’re not camping, you’re not walking around a massive field in the sun. You can stay in a hotel. You go see a show at a venue and then you go across the road and you’re in a café and then you go back across to another venue. It just has a different feel. You’re not out there battling the elements.”

Bendigo Autumn Music festival goes down from Thursday April 25 to Sunday April 28. Head to the festival website for information on the program and lineup.