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Grampians Music Festival: The homegrown event you need to experience

"The scale of the landscape really makes you comprehend your place in the world. Having that rawness, that natural aspect, it does things for our artistic lineup.”

Mackenzie Falls, Mount William. Towering sandstone cliffs and wildflowers unfurling in the distance. The Grampians National Park is already a remarkable little pocket of the world, but lately a whole new kind of landscape has been forming in the town of Halls Gap. Come February, the second Grampians Music Festival will echo through the ancient hills with an impressive lineup of homegrown talent including Polish Club, Ruby Fields, Tired Lion and more.
 
“Halls Gap is smack in the middle of the Grampians,” Festival Director Carly Flecknoe explains. “It’s hard to describe unless you’re actually standing there. Around it is National Park, and I mean all around it. You’re not allowed to have cats in Halls Gap because of the National Park. My husband and I also own a cafe here, and on top of normal life we also find ourselves having to manage cockatoos wanting to steal customer’s breakfast, and kangaroos trying to get in and eat our herb garden.
 
“But that location is also what makes it so amazing. Halls Gap only has 650 people, so you have this quaint little town that almost feels like it’s been shrunk compared to the scale of these beautiful red granite cliffs that are around it. I moved here from Melbourne in 2015, so I’m a relative newbie, but I find the scale of the landscape really makes you comprehend your place in the world. Having that rawness, that natural aspect, it does things for our artistic lineup – which is one of the reasons we wanted to keep it Australian. From where we are you can see it’s quintessentially Australian.”
 
It will be wildlife of a different variety that will converge on Halls Gap, though despite the influx of festival attendees, ensuring that the natural site is respected and ecologically sound is fundamental to the festival’s heart. With such splendour surrounding the festival, it became vital to not only keep the celebrations green, but to celebrate that inspiration between artist and landscape.
 
“With the natural scale, these huge mountains and this small paddock between them, that’s made us want to keep things quite intimate. You need to be able to have the opportunity to feel what it’s like to be in such an ancient, beautiful place without being overcrowded and overexposed. On Friday we have Best in the West, which is all Western Victorian artists. We really wanted to connect the location back to the artists that are playing there.
 
“It also makes us really conscious of how we treat the site. We’ve got really strong environmental policies around rubbish and recycling, we won’t be doing a paper program but an electronic one instead, all kinds of things to make sure we’re taking care of this place.”
 
At its heart, the GMF is a festival committed to finding the best live performers currently tearing up the Australian music scene, and with acts like Didirri, Localles and many more, it’s certain not to disappoint.
 
“In the middle of 2016 we started compiling a wishlist of bands that we’ve been listening to that have triggered our interest, and what we listen for [are] those bands where when you first hear them, there’s something in that song that makes you sit up and take notice. Because we’re looking at Australian up-and-coming musicians, we want somebody who’s already on a bit of a trajectory, and we want to grab them before they really explode. We’re an intimate setting, so it’s a great opportunity to see these bands before they get really big.
 
“We do sometimes have the challenge where, most of our committee is located in the Grampians, so we can’t get out to see bands live ourselves. We have one amazing member in Melbourne, and she’s the lucky one who gets to go out and see everyone,” Flecknoe laughs. “We’ll do our shortlist, and from there we’ll do a lot of assessment of live performance. When you’re standing in a paddock between two massive mountain ranges, if that band can’t hold your attention, the audience is going to get distracted very easily. There’s a lot of grandeur and visuals around you, so we really want to make sure when they hit that stage they perform with a bang.”

Grampians Music Festival will transform Halls Gap from Friday February 2 to Sunday February 4, featuring Polish Club, Tired Lion, Ruby Fields, Crepes, and more.