Image via Shaan Ali Photography
In the past few years it’s become clear that one-day festivals like Groovin’ the Moo, Future, and Big Day Out are dying. Their ailments are varied, but also non-contagious, as a counter insurgence of bush doofs apparently proves. Yes, bush doofs. The one-day festival model might be out, but those ratty weekend acid trips in country towns are thriving. So what have the one-day guys done wrong? And what are the hippies doing right?
In 2014 alone Harvest Music, Peats Ridge, Homebake, Pyramid Rock, Playground Weekender, Push-Over, and the second Sydney BDO show were axed for the simple reason that nobody bought tickets. Groovin’ The Moo only managed to sell out three of six shows, while poor Perth lost both shares of their BDO and Soundwave tours. Australian touring mogul and Soundwave promoter AJ Maddah jumped on board for the 2014 BDO tour, describing the experience as “rowing the lifeboat back to the Titanic.”His company lost an estimated $8 million in the process, while Future Music Entertainment is also now in liquidation and owing creditors $5 million, which by the way, is a rough equivalent to three Avicii appearances.
Image via Jurassic Melbourne
Now, compare all of that with what we’re currently seeing in ticket-sales for anything in a multi-day format. Earthcore’s second round tickets just went on sale, while Strawberry Fields has about 360 tickets left of their second round release. Co-founder of Strawberry Fields, Tara Benney, explained that ticket sales this year have been ridiculous—early birds sold out in an hour. In two and a half days, they’ve sold more tickets than they did in four months last year.
The granddaddy of bush doofs, Rainbow Serpent, this year also sold a record fifteen thousand tickets, which was about the same size as the Adelaide Big Day Out. That comparison might make Rainbow seem small, but keep in mind that bush doofs are traditionally a niche show, while BDO has always aimed to please everyone. Indeed, Benny attributes the failures of more mainstream festivals to their dedication to producing a “balanced and international line-up”, leading to shows where Flosstradamus and Pearl Jam are jammed together. Sort of like putting a shot of tequila in a glass of wine. Individually they’re good drinks, but…
Meredith, Splendour, and Golden Plains know they’re niche and they’re sticking to it, without that hotchpotch trying-to-please-everyone thing. As MONA FOMA curator Brian Ritche argues “people want to feel like they're part of the festival, and that means giving them more than just a predictable and safe array of musical junk food.”
Installation art at Yemaya Festival. Image via UE Industries.
None of this suggests that the one-day crowd have ditched their Vans for gumboots. They are of course, totally different crowds. But the one-day juicehead crowd is getting old, and their festival format doesn’t appeal to the new kids. Basically, the one-day shows crowd has moved on, and there’s been no one to fill the void.
So what’s so appealing about the multi-day format? According to the supplier of bush doof sculptures and lighting, doofs are the celebration of communities coming together. “You can escape the real world to camp, meditate, massage people, dance and be reborn,” he said, without wanting to be named. Doofs are about getting weird with your closest friends, getting in touch with yourself and sharing a goon-bong with a girl named Strawberry, and for whatever reason, that suddenly appeals to private school kids and not just the hippies.
Personally, I love leaving the city and heading so far out to boogie in the forest that my phone’s GPS doesn’t know where I am. It definitely beats a sweltering hot day surrounded by fake-tanned teeny boppers at a one-day festival that charges $9 for a bottle of water, $45 for lunch and $90 for a piss-weak vodka redbull. When you think of it like that, it’s seriously no surprise that spiritual doof adventures and multi-day festivals have completely taken over the Australian music festival landscape.
Follow Dani on Twitter: @DaniLeever