Australia’s rock carnival Under the Southern Stars sets its sights abroad with this year’s lineup

Australia’s rock carnival Under the Southern Stars sets its sights abroad with this year’s lineup

Stone Temple Pilots
Words by Augustus Welby

A troupe of rock titans are hitting the Mornington Peninsula.

The touring rock carnival Under the Southern Stars is back for 2020. Three heavyweights of ‘90s alt-rock lead this year’s lineup.

Under the Southern Stars has had more of an Oz rock focus in previous years. Jimmy Barnes headlined in 2018 with support from the likes of Richard Clapton, Diesel and Dallas Crane. Hoodoo Gurus headlined 2019’s event backed up by a cast of ‘90s and 2000s triple j favourites such as You Am I, The Superjesus, Eskimo Joe, British India and The Getaway Plan.

But this year promoter Andrew McManus wanted to move his focus away from Australian artists.

“There’s two strong Australian one-day festivals already in the marketplace. It’s pointless to be creating three,” he says. “As much as we were trying to be a different thing, it was better to step back and have a complete new look at what we were doing.

“Our first year out with Jimmy – that was fantastic,” says McManus. “Last year with the Hoodoos – great, done that. But you have to be fresh. So my whole component is three internationals and three great Aussies. And that’s our formula.”

So, who are the internationals he speaks of? Live, Bush and Stone Temple Pilots will headline the 2020 tour. Then it’s Rose Tattoo and Electric Mary who make up the festival’s Australian contingent as it stands.

Under the Southern Stars also has much to offer outside of its live music programming.

“[We wanted to create] a one-day type of Coachella experience for that 35-plus marketplace,” says McManus. “So we’re going to have the village experience, which brings in all these other aspects – Ferris wheels, dodgem cars. To be honest, it’s all about the fan experience.”

The range of amusement and amenities will depend on the size of the event site. Under the Southern Stars visits places that are otherwise starved of live music including coastal ports like Tuncurry, Gosford, Newcastle and Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula. 

“I’ve invested heavily in Hastings,” says McManus. “Hastings on the water is a magnificent site. We have a capacity of 15,000 now. I’m hoping that when we do Under the Southern Stars this year with Live, Bush, Stone Temple Pilots, Tats, Electric Mary, we’ll smash it, we’ll get to the 15,000. And that’s a proud moment.”

There’s also a second Victorian instalment happening in Yarrawonga, which sits on the south bank of the Murray River.

“Yarrawonga’s amazing,” says McManus. “We planned it to stay away from Bluesfest in Easter. So we’re down in Victoria. And then when we come back up [the coast] it’s after Bluesfest.

“From a Yarrawonga point of view, they used to have a great festival there and the town’s been incredibly supportive. In 2021, I’m going to expand to another two to three festivals. If I get the support from a town that’s as magnanimous and supportive as the Yarrawonga people and council, we’ll come there.”

All three of Live, Bush and Stone Temple Pilots started out in the late ‘80s or early-‘90s, but became mainstream rock artists in the mid-90s. Live had their biggest hit with 1994’s Throwing Copper LP, which yielded the singles ‘Lightning Crashes’ and ‘I Alone’.

Bush were peaking around the same time, with their debut album Sixteen Stone also released in 1994. The single ‘Glycerine’ was a standout and the band continued to enjoy chart success with later single ‘Machinehead’.

Stone Temple Pilots sat adjacent to the ‘90s grunge movement. However, led by brothers Robert and Dean DeLeo and the late singer Scott Weiland, the band displayed a fondness for classic rock and heavy metal. 1994’s ‘Interstate Love Song’ and 1992’s ‘Plush’ are STP’s most enduring contributions to the ‘90s rock canon.

Under the Southern Stars 2020 consists of 11 dates in total. It’s much longer than an international act’s average Australian tour, which could add to the appeal for visiting artists.

“It’s a long run and next year’s going to be longer. We want to add Tasmania. We want to add Western Australia as a region instead of being like a sideshow,” McManus says.

“We have our visions of longevity and how we’re going to do it. The most important factor is, with the festival side of it and the village side of it, it’s going to be a fantastic fan experience. It’s not beers and bands like the others just throw up. There’s got to be more to a one-day music festival. We are doing it.”

Under the Southern Stars comes to Hastings Foreshore Reserve on the Mornington Peninsula on Saturday April 11. Grab your tickets via the festival website