Rewind Festival Wound Up

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 25th October 2011.

A few weeks ago I penned a column about the upcoming Rewind Festival, a two day music festival featuring an array of eighties acts planned for this coming weekend. Last Monday came the announcement that the event had been cancelled. There’s no doubt that this decision was due to poor ticket sales. This is bad news for the few who had purchased tickets and now have to scramble for refunds, and whilst the notion of a retro festival appears attractive, there are plenty of reasons why Rewind was doomed to fail from the beginning.

Firstly, the planned event location was too far from a major city to be viable. Bluescope Field in Kembla Range, near Wollongong, may have been an acceptable site for campers, however, for day ticket holders, who would have been the majority of attendees, the distance to travel was too great.

As the event date drew closer, an attempt was made to shift Rewind to the Hordern Pavilion. This is a good indication of how much the promoter’s expectations fell as ticket sales stalled. Bluescope Field has a maximum capacity of 30000 compared to the Hordern’s 5500. A promotion for two tickets for the price of one a month before the event was another ominous sign that sales were not going well.

I decided not to attend the festival as I didn’t fancy camping out in the elements, particularly if rain turned the grounds to mud. Perhaps my thoughts were indicative of the majority of Rewind’s demographic, Generation X’ers. I now find it difficult to stand through a regular two hour or so concert. There’s no way my knees would make it through a two day festival. Bring on the comfortable chairs and hotel rooms.

I also think that the night time is the right time for concerts. Darkness adds a ferly atmosphere to a gig and many of the Rewind acts were unfortunately scheduled to play under the sun.

The Rewind Festival has previously been a success in the UK. Of course, they have a much bigger population and a longer tradition of music festivals. In Australia, the festival scene is highly competitive. With The Big Day Out, Homebake and Splendour by the Grass soaking up the majority of festival dollars, smaller festivals have to virtually sell out to be feasible.

A strong Aussie dollar compared to the greenback also makes Australia more attractive to overseas based acts. Defunct eighties and nineties performers are reforming to cash in on an increasing demand and interest in all things retro. The successful Day on the Green franchise proves that Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers will pay top dollar to see quality retro acts alongside contemporary artists. Of course, most of these retro performers have a deep back catalogue of hits, which is more than could be said for most of the artists on the Rewind Festival bill.

The rise of MTV in the eighties led to many iconic music videos. These classic clips have been on constant rotation on TV ever since. Why would I want to see a much older Bananarama lip synch their way on a sparse stage through their biggest hit, Venus, when I can watch a much spunkier and younger group from the comfort of my living room?

So another music festival bites the dust. It’s a pity really. I would suggest to the promoters that an arena tour of the capital cities with a rapid fire format similar to the Countdown Spectacular concerts in 2006/07 would have been a much better choice.

Published in: on October 27, 2011 at 01:26  Comments (2)  
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Nineties Retro Revival

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 23rd August 2011.

I had the pleasure of catching up with three of my favourite early nineties bands this past weekend. Almost twenty years had passed since their commercial heyday but a packed Enmore Theatre is clear evidence that there is a demand out there for revived and revamped retro acts.

First up were Australian alternative darlings The Clouds. Formed in Sydney in 1990, they were renown for the trademark female harmonies of lead singers Jodi Phillis and Trish Young. I’m pleased to report that both were in fine voice and the band sounded as tight as the last time I saw them at one of the very first Big Day Out festivals, way back when it didn’t sell out in one day and I was young enough to not be annoyed by so many young people there.

In a short and sharp forty minute set, The Clouds had the mostly thirty-something crowd moving with all of their hits, including Say It, Soul Eater, Bower of Bliss and my favourite, Hieronymus. I loved the latter so much that I named my dog after it. Hieronymus Young still lives in Sydney with my parents.

Next up were UK alternative rock icons, The Wonder Stuff. Best known in Australia for their 1991 hit collaboration with Vic Reeves on lead vocals, Dizzy, the band released a string of popular albums between 1986 and 1994 including The Eight Legged Groove Machine, Hup and Never Loved Elvis. With charismatic red wine swilling front man Miles Hunt and original guitarist Mal Treece onboard, the rest of the band’s personnel have changed since they last toured Australia in 1991.

An hour long set breezed by as The Wonder Stuff pumped out favourite after favourite, including Unbearable, Circlesquare and The Size of a Cow at a million miles an hour. My mildly arthritic knees are still sore from all of the jumping up and down that seems to be the dance move of choice in a general admission crowd situation. Why can’t we all just sway?

Headlining the show were Jesus Jones, a London based group who formed in 1988. Their biggest hit, Right Here, Right Now, has set the band up financially after its use in multitudes of advertising campaigns worldwide. Remarkably, the band’s lineup has not changed over the years, and they have never stopped touring.

In their distinct, rock fused with techno style, Jesus Jones delivered all of the hits and more, including Real, Real, Real and International Bright Young Thing. They last toured Australia in 1990, and I’m certain that except for an upgrade for their musical programming from floppy disc to hard drive, they sound exactly the same.

After a well deserved encore from the headliners, the show was over and the appreciative crowd poured out into the streets of Newtown bound for a nice cup of tea before bed. Well, we’re all quite a bit older now.

For a few short hours this weekend, the early nineties were back. I was studying for my HSC. Mickey Robbins and Helen Razer were hosting the Triple J breakfast show which I tuned into religiously in my mum’s station wagon as I drove to high school on my P plates. Kurt Cobain was still alive and life was good.

It doesn’t take much to work out that Generation X is all cashed up and looking for a retro good time. With Roxette, Bachelor Girl and 1927 reforming for reunion gigs soon and the upcoming Rewind festival, the interest in all things nineties is huge so expect to see other long dead acts be resuscitated for your enjoyment.

Published in: on August 23, 2011 at 07:27  Leave a Comment  
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