Lemonade Festival is the infusion of live music and entertainment Gippsland so desperately needs

Lemonade Festival is the infusion of live music and entertainment Gippsland so desperately needs

Words by Lexi Herbet

The past few months have been an absolute whirlwind for Australia’s eastern states. Victoria’s Gippsland hasn’t been given a breather from Mother Nature, with both fires and then floods tearing through the region.

This is a catalyst for the beginning of Lemonade Festival in 2020, says Antony Hilf, Director of Lemonade Festival and co-owner of the Wy Yung Pub in Wy Yung, Gippsland.

This month, Lemonade Festival will take place in Sale – a town in the eastern region of Gippsland – for a single day of bevs, boogies and beautiful scenery. Unsurprisingly, the lineup is stacked with Australian artists, such as Hilltop Hoods, SAFIA and Slowly Slowly, while also harvesting rising local talent, like Jesswar, Alice Skye and Desert Alien.

“My partner and I always aimed to one day have a huge name as part of a festival we’d organised,” Hilf said.

“Hilltop Hoods were definitely a goal a few years ago and now we’ve got them playing at Lemonade. It’s like bringing the city into the country.”

Slowly Slowly are one of the hottest bands on the circuit right now and are about to release their much-anticipated third album on Friday February 28. They’ll be hitting Lemonade at breakneck speed.

SAFIA don’t need any introduction – one of Australia’s leading electro-pop exponents, their 2019 album, Story’s Start or End, consolidated their global audience. Performing tracks like, ‘Make Them Wheels Roll’, ‘Starlight’ and ‘Embracing Me’, it’s going to be a huge party.

Jesswar made an appearance at 2019’s Meredith Festival, which was lauded by Beat’s Alex Watts as “hypey [and] modern” style hip hop that kicked off Meredith in the right direction, while Alice Skye is one of Australia’s leading up-and-comers, with a ripper 2018 LP and a fresh single on the records.

Desert Alien is a force unto itself; Jack Hookey and Jesse Kidd’s previous project, Small Town Alien, was a shit-stirring meme of a band that seems at odds with Harry Hookey’s sultry folk vibes. Alas, Desert Alien is a gamble that has paid off, and are a band to keep tabs on as they will definitely rise to the occasion of Lemonade’s huge stage and amped up crowd.

Additionally, 14 food vendors will be present at the fest, with mostly local brands and businesses repping the stalls.

Now, as Australians we are well-versed when it comes to a good old music fest. We’ve all crammed three people into a two-person tent, and we’ve all had the marquee fly away on a gust of wind.

However, while Lemonade Festival may sound similar to most countrybound fests like Meredith or Lost Lands, it is one of the few large fests to currently call Gippsland home. And in Gippsland’s current time of crisis, this is vital for the region’s spirit and income.

“The reason most organisers are hesitant to host [festivals] here is because it’s so far from everything, like getting equipment out there is costly. Our stage is coming from Adelaide, a lot of our vendors are coming out from Melbourne, like it’s a good few hours drive and it’s usually pretty indirect. You can sort of understand why organisers avoid it,” says Hilf.

The mid-2019 drought in Gippsland was understandably eclipsed by the devastating fires that ripped through the region, and, as such, Hilf and his colleagues are giving directly back. A portion of all revenue from ticket sales will be donated to drought relief via Rural Aid, while there is an upcoming announcement regarding financial support for fire-stricken businesses and communities in the area.

“Sale is a beautiful area, and they’ve been suffering. We’re looking to lighten the load a bit. Despite all this, the locals are keen to be involved, and we have a lot of kids who want to volunteer and learn the ropes.

“We have a sort of work experience thing happening where we have a few students from event management courses coming in to help out. They don’t often have the opportunity to work on events as big as this, so we’re aiming to be as transparent and clear with them in the set-up and take-down – so that they can learn as much as possible.”

If this sounds like both a community-minded and stacked festival, it’s also aiming to be incredibly sustainable.

“We have a sustainability plan, like there are no single-use plastics at the event. There’s currently no camping, so the rubbish should be pretty minimal. We’re not yet completely carbon-off set, but that’ll be a goal for the next few years. Again, the means of getting the equipment out there is a bit of a setback for our footprint, but we’ll continue to work on it.”

In light of recent climatic events, it’s a weight off to know you’re boogieing to some of Australia’s best new and established artists while celebrating and helping out a resilient community.

Lemonade Festival goes down at Sale’s Stephenson Park on Sunday March 8. Check out the festival website for tickets and the full lineup.