I took my dog, Elton, to Dogapalooza and had an absolute blast

I took my dog, Elton, to Dogapalooza and had an absolute blast

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Words by Jonti Ridley
Photos by Matt Jowett

If Elton had thumbs, I’m sure he’d give it two thumbs up.

Festival season has gone to the dogs, in the best way possible.

Dogapalooza may be the only festival in existence that you’ll find yourself excited to be approached by dogs. The thing I hate most about full-day festivals is worrying my dog at home is lonely while I’m out having a great time. I thought this was just me, but it turns out I’m certainly not alone. The concept of a dog-friendly music festival is exactly the kind of Melbourne tomfoolery that makes me proud to live here. Dogapalooza is also BYO, which is rare in itself but the opportunity to enjoy a bev or two while hanging out with a bunch of dogs is one I’d never pass up.

It’s all for a good cause, held on behalf of raising awareness and funds for Oscar’s Law. For those unfamiliar, the anti-puppy farming cause focuses its attention on stopping the factory farming of pups as well as prohibiting the sale of puppies in pet shops while advocating for adoption – all things we can, and should, get behind. Proceeds from Dogapalooza also go to a number of fur-friendly causes such as Puppy Tales, Melbourne Animal Rescue, Kaya’s Mission, Stafford Rescue, and a whole bunch of others.

It’s hard to get a dogs opinion on a dog-friendly event, but I took my own dog (Elton) along for the fun. More than anything he got the most out of the participating vendors’ free samples, which I can understand. The event is 80% on leash, however Scratch’s cinema area had it’s own fenced-in area and allowed dogs to reign free. This was a welcomed break from any lead pulling and was an opportunity for any leash-anxious dogs to unclench.

I was a little apprehensive as to how dog temperaments would go, lumping in a bunch of dogs together in one area with a crowd (plus loud music) could’ve been a recipe for disaster. There was a close call here and there, with a few stray growls, but luckily most participating humans were on top of defusing the situation quickly.

With so much doggo-friendly stuff going on it was easy to forget that this wasn’t just a dog festival, but was a music festival as well.

Indie-folk singer-songwriter Amie Grisold started the day off with a series of acoustic covers which were perfect as punters rolled in. It also allowed any accompanying dogs to adjust to the sound without being rushed into a pop-frenzy.

Sophia Brown treated the crowd to a series of R&B and acoustic covers, putting a soul spin on a number of top hits. Brown’s vocal were complemented by the electric guitar beside her, on both covers and artist originals. ‘Hotline Bling’ was a particular highlight, for a song that’s been flogged everywhere, the singer-songwriter’s smooth vocals put it in an entirely new light.

Liona Tatafu’s set featured three sisters making easy work of covers and mashups, joined by only a guitar and drum set. Their voices blended so easily I really hoped it wouldn’t end and the crowd certainly agreed, joining in to sing along as well as get up and dance. Judging by participation levels, crowd favourites included Charles Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ and Amy Winehouse’s ‘Valerie’.

To answer your question, yes, multiple people danced with their dogs. Was I one of them? Not this time, because Elton decided this would be the time to take a nap on my legs and it’s often best to let sleeping dogs alone.

GraceJean closed the show, thankfully warming the cloudy afternoon with their warm vocals. Performing both covers and singles from their new LP, Long Black Road, the duo’s indie-folk sound was a perfect wind-down treat. Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’ was played and so was Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ – what more could you ask for.

If the tunes weren’t for you, there was plenty of other things to do. A little friendly rivalry never hurt nobody, and the festival competitions were a great way to keep everyone entertained if they wanted a break from the music stage. The MC was the best-in-show in my eyes. Keeping intense ‘dog parents’ laughing along and not taking anything too seriously is no easy feat, but he did a ripper job.

For a Sunday sesh, you really couldn’t ask for more. Whether you had a pal alongside you or went completely dog-free, there was a little something for everyone. Between the tunes, food and merch, Dogapalooza had all paws on deck. If Elton had thumbs, I’m sure he’d give it two thumbs up.