Goodbye NSW Music Festivals, You Were Good to Us

You pile into the car, a mishmash of smiling young faces. Someone plugs in the aux cord and the festival playlist blares through the speakers before you manage to pull out of the driveway. The boot’s packed to the brim with cheap festival tents and Aldi sleeping bags, gum boots and containers of body glitter. Your costumes are in your backpacks, every velvety clothing item and pair of fishnet stockings accounted for.

Your esky’s full of biscuits and fruit and leftover pesto pasta from the night before. You don’t fill it with alcohol because you’re not allowed to take any in. You decide to break the rules and try anyway. You’ve heard of people replacing their windscreen water with vodka and turning baby dolls into flasks. Instead you stuff bottles of liquor into your sleeping bag and underneath your seats and fill squeezy yoghurt pouches from Woolworths with tequila. You pray security won’t uncover it. You’re too poor to spend thousands at the festival bar, but you know that no matter how much you manage to sneak in, you’ll probably end up spending a few hundred anyway.

Maybe you’ve got drugs, because you’ve done the research and they ignite something in you. You stuff them up your butt or shove them deep in a peanut butter jar, praying that the drug dogs won’t sniff them out. You know you’re safe with acid and shrooms, so you keep them in your glovebox.  

You’ve all saved for this. You saved cash for the ticket, because a bunch of your favourite bands are playing and they’ve been flown out just for this event so they won’t be doing any side shows. You’ve saved up for petty money and food and grog and band merch. This weekend will cost ya, but it’s worth it. Festival season is your favourite time of year.

You drive for hours, stopping at the roadside pie shops to dig into the steak and mash or vege delight, letting the tomato sauce dribble down your arms and onto your lap. Someone pulls out a film camera and snaps you mid-bite. You’ve only budgeted for one meal on the drive up, but the country towns are begging for visitors. You stop in for a schooner at a local pub and stock up at the IGA. Someone smokes a durry outside the public toilet block. 

The excitement mounts as you pull into the venue. The cars are snake around the bend, punters are hanging out their windows smiling and waving and cheering. The nervous energy radiates as you make your way through security and ticket booths.

Hundreds of people are working this festival, staying up late to design interactive sets and write programs that tell stories. They’re donning fluro vests and bum bags and their smiles tell you it’s going to be a good one, that all their energy over the last year has culminated in an event that is worth every penny of your ticket.

~

Festival veterans with a big group of mates know to rock up early. You race in and snag a spot, near the toilets (but not too close) and near to the festival entrance. You haul out your stuff, pitch your tent and your marquee, wrap some lights around the roof and sink into your fold-out chair. You rub your hands together. You made it. Camp looks sick.

You crack open a beer and pull on your outfit. You bought the top from some shop online and borrowed the flared pants from a mate’s brother who has a repository of rainbow costumes. Someone in the group attacks your face with glitter and your lips with coloured lipstick.

There comes a moment where everyone decides to zip up their tent and run into the festival. You’ve befriended your camp neighbours and joined forces, and you’re already eyeing one of them off for a hookup later on. You split off to the stages with the bands you love and promise to meet up later- maybe at that toilet block over there, after the next set? You forget the dead phones and loud music and thousands of people when you make the promise. You have faith that you’ll find them.

You race into the sun.

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You’re watching your favourite band, screaming the lyrics beside your best mates and happy strangers, a cup of beer sloshing in your hand. Tears fill your eyes as you jump and dance and swing your arms with a freedom that reminds you of what it means to be young. There are girls without shirts on and boys with skirts on and nobody cares, nobody cares what you’re wearing and who you are because you’re here for the music, united by the feeling that the drop gives you, assembled because the collection of people on stage with the sweat dripping down their faces, create music that makes you feel something.

We’re here for the art of it all, and we’re committed to two full days of it.

~

Back at camp, in a tired, content slump, you replay the songs and the stage dives over and over. Glitter is caked in the crevices of your smile lines and crusted on your sticky arms. You haven’t showered for two days and you’re not planning to. The toilets are overflowing with sewerage. Your tent is a mess and the beers you’ve brought in are luke-warm. But you’re stoked, you’re fucking stoked. Because you saw those bands, you spent time with your mates and you pashed your camp neighbour.

At the end of the weekend, you push your sleeping bang into its case, roll up your tent and pack your bags. You haul your recycling to the designated rubbish booth and haul your general waste to the other. You’re exhausted, your dead phone’s full of footage and your camera’s full of shots. You’ve got a shirt from your favourite band draped over your body.

You pile into the car, put your head on your mate’s shoulder and fall asleep. You’ve rigorously planned your recovery day tomorrow - naps, greasy meals, a long shower. You’ll be talking about this weekend for months.

You stop in at a different pie shop. You stop in at a different country town. You smile sleepy smiles and reminisce when a song comes on the radio that you heard only days ago.

You get home, sit down in the shower, scratch off the glitter with your fingernails and close your eyes.

What a weekend.

~

We’ve said a teary goodbye to Mountain Sounds and Psyfari and Bohemian Beatfreaks and Secret Garden, and more are expected to close their gates in NSW with new legislation. We don’t want to say any more goodbyes. Sign the petition.