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By The Meadow started as a 21st birthday, now it's a spectacular annual music festival

By The Meadow returns for its sixth edition this weekend. Co-founder Cameron Wade reflects on how the boutique event has grown over the last half dozen years.

“It was a birthday party before that six years. It was a 21st for two years in a row – my 21st and my younger brother’s 21st. It was 120 people maybe at that stage,” he says. “The following year we didn’t have a 21st to have so that was the first festival. I think it was 150 people and that was when we moved it out to Bambra, the location it’s currently in now.”

Bambra is situated in the Otway hinterland, roughly 90 minutes out of Melbourne. Offering exceptional views and ridiculous sunsets, By The Meadow has blossomed since moving to the Bambra farmland site. 

“We’ve gone from trying to fund it from donations and running the whole thing on $500, which basically paid for a generator to keep the stage going, through to now being quite a larger boutique event,” Wade says. “We’re able to afford to pull bands from overseas and still somehow make it all work. This year our capacity’s quite big, 1100 or so.”

Headlining this year’s edition are swamp rockers The Murlocs, US indie songwriter Lucy Dacus and jazzy dance musician Harvey Sutherland. There’s plenty of depth to the rest of the lineup, from alt-R&B singer Thando to afrobeat-inspired psych rock band The Seven Ups and party oriented inclusions, Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange and DJ Roza Terenzi. 

You can also catch some artists in the early stages of their career like Sydney’s Not A Boys Name and local folkies Grand Pine, as well as circuit doyens The Vasco Era and Collarbones.

“We’ve got an overall vibe that we’ve built and strengthened over time and that guides a lot of the booking,” Wade says. “There’s not a general theme, it’s quite diverse still, but we know what we’re looking for when we’re out booking. A lot of it is emerging local stuff and then the stuff that’s not local is more established interstate stuff or stuff that hasn’t been able to make it to Melbourne too much.”

There’ll be ample food and drink options available across the weekend, predominantly sourced from local businesses. 

“Having restaurants like Brae blooming in the area and having this weekend foodie traveller culture, there’s heaps going on,” Wade says. “We have our own bar that serves wines from the Otway hinterland from a winery called Heroes and another called Dinny Goonan. We get our beers from the Aireys Inlet Hotel who have a brewery out the back called Salt Brewing Company. And all our cocktails that we make at the bar, we source all of the spirits from local producers as well.” 

The festival runs from early Friday evening until just after midday on Sunday. There is music for the majority of that time, but it’s not an overwhelming program. It all happens on one stage and everyone camps at the event site.

“It’s really based on events that we’ve really enjoyed going to. We’re a very young festival compared to a lot of successful events that we love so we have the luxury of being able to pick and choose the things that we like from other events, and atmosphere is one of those things,” Wade says.

“We’re all massive fans of the festivals that take place at Meredith. There’s all these festivals doing different versions of a no dickhead policy, but I don’t think you can avoid what that policy has managed to build for Meredith. So we borrow that same thing and try and say that we’re providing a space that people can totally unwind in. So vibe-wise it’s super relaxed, a lot of room to do whatever you want and enjoy it in whatever way you want.”

By The Meadow comes to Bambra in the Otway hinterland from Friday March 29 to Sunday March 31. Check out the lineup and grab your tickets via the festival website.