In only its second year, Ability Fest has become music's leading celebration of inclusiveness

Its brainchild, Dylan Alcott, has devised something special.

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Image source: 
David Harris

“I’ve been in a wheelchair my whole life and the first time I ever felt included was at a music festival, and I wanted to give that to as many people as possible.”

This statement, made from the main stage by Dylan Alcott, pretty much sums up the ethos behind Ability Fest – a music festival for everyone, run by volunteers, with 100 per cent of the proceeds helping young disabled Australians via the Dylan Alcott Foundation.

Over a thousand people with disabilities attended the event, most of which had never been to a music festival before. All artists, organisers and the venue donated their time and resources to encourage everyone, regardless of age, gender, ability or race, to celebrate live music and have a good time. And have a good time they did.

Melbourne’s own Eliza Hull was the perfect warm-up for the day, her powerful voice driving the band through her originals and a standout cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’. The energy was then knocked up a notch with E^ST, who kicked off the dance vibes that would be a staple for the rest of the day.

“This next song is about giving a guy a gobby” she calmly stated before we all learned the sign language way to say “blow job”, which is exactly what you would expect it to be. E^ST dropped a fun cover of The All-American Rejects’ ‘Give You Hell’ before the Rugrats theme served as the introduction for her crowd favourite, ‘Life Goes On’.

Rudely Interrupted chilled things out again in the middle of the day also adding a cover to their set, MGMT’s ‘Kids’ before Joyride brought the dance back in with his sexy auto-tuned electronic pop and a Kelly Clarkson cover.

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One of the stand-out performances of the day came from Kilter. Backed by guitarist Tim Lockwood, the big electronic beats and lush instrumentation was a how-to for bedroom producers looking to translate their sounds to a live setting.

Another stellar performance came from ARC (which stands for the Antipodean Rock Collective), a supergroup featuring Kram from Spiderbait, Mark Wilson from Jet, Davey Lane from You Am I and Darren Middleton from Powderfinger. Promoting their upcoming performances of Abbey Road in full, the set of covers kicked off with AC/DC’s ‘TNT’ and included some Paul Kelly, INXS, and a solo acoustic rendition of Powderfinger’s ‘My Happiness’ from Middleton. The set ended with a sample of The Beatles show with ‘Come Together’.

The smaller, dusty dance stage built its momentum throughout the day. The crowd slowly grew to the point where Boogs had everyone moving in time to jungle beats as a good lead into the headliners The Presets, who reminded everyone just how many damn dance anthems they have in quick succession followed by the closer, Hot Dub Time Machine.

Offering a shortened version of the usual in-depth musical timeline of the show, Hot Dub started in the ‘80s, spent some time in the ‘90s then quickly offered up some modern day hits culminating in a little What So Not. The ‘90s won, however, and Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’ is an all-time banger, not even ironically. It was the moment of the night.

The second run of Ability Fest was a huge success and hopefully will continue to grow next year. Keep an eye out for it and head along to support a fantastic cause and have a bundle of fun while you’re doing it.

Highlight: The sign language interpreters on the side of stage who gave it their all and put on an attention-grabbing show of their own.

Lowlight: The dust of the Velodrome.

Crowd favourite: A quick run through the ages with Hot Dub Time Machine.

By Luke Carlino