Keeping up with any kind of news this year can be tough. Even music news is getting stranger and harder to track.
Rather than exhaust yourself trying to swallow an endless stream of push notification updates, MTV Australia have knocked up a bite-sized rundown of the most important happenings in the Aussie music biz this week, and why they matter.
Laneway Festival cancels 2021 Auckland event, foreshadowing more cancellations to come
The dream of music festivals and stadium gigs seems ever distant this week, with the news that Laneway Festival has cancelled its Auckland event for summer 2021. In a statement, the festival cited “the current circumstances surrounding border closures and the unpredictability of future Covid-19 outbreaks“. Updates on the Australian legs are set to arrive in the coming months, but it’s difficult to imagine circumstances being radically different across the ditch.
The one advantage Australia has over New Zealand in this respect is a larger domestic population, and a greater breadth of local acts that could carry the festival with international borders closed – provided there are no future outbreaks à la the Melbourne situation. But the reality is there will be no summer festival season – Meredith, Falls and Strawberry Fields music festivals have already called their events off. More niche genre festivals including Tamworth Country Music Festival and Port Fairy Folk Festival have decided to axe events set for February and March – a premonition that perhaps even Splendour In The Grass’ planned event for July is ambitious.
...But West Australia has invented a COVID Safe music festival with the world’s first rotating stage
The latest coronavirus live music ingenuity/compromise has been announced for West Australia’s Good Day Sunshine festival in Busselton – the world’s first rotating stage. A total of 5,000 punters can attend, though they will be confined to one of four crowd quadrants of 1,250 – each named after Busselton surf spots. The stage will complete a revolution every few minutes, featuring performances from John Butler, Xavier Rudd, Josh Pyke and the Waifs’ Vikki Thorn throughout the day. The plan keeps the state adhering to the current (loose) rule of two square metres per person. Most extraordinarily, it’s set to go ahead next month; October 31.
Without throwing a wet blanket on the idea, there are some important caveats. The interstate artists must still quarantine for 14 days prior to the performance, and punters are firmly encouraged to stay seated on picnic blankets and low back chairs in their own “social bubbles”. The folksy, mid tempo lineup reflects the intended state of enjoyment. Expensive socially-distanced exercises like these can feel more like stunts to simply prove they can be done, rather than promoting a sustainable return to business for live music. West Australia however has the laxest coronavirus rules in the country, and is something of a test case for COVID normal – this festival is still probably the most important experiment to date.
Falls Festival Crowd Crush Victims to Receive $7 million
Over 70 victims of the 2016 crowd crush at Falls Festival in Lorne will share in almost $7 million, after the settlement of a class action in Victorian court last week. The 77 festival goers had sustained various serious injuries, some permanent, when crushed in a stampede leaving a DMA’s set at the Grand Theatre stage in 2016. Court documents describe the range of injuries as from “bruising and scratches to extreme ‘burn-like’ grazing, fractured limbs and ACL injuries”. They add that many plaintiffs believed they would die in the crush, and subsequently developed post-traumatic stress disorder.
A class action was launched the next year by lead plaintiff Michela Burke, now resulting in Falls Festival parent company Ash Sounds Pty Ltd admitting liability and paying out $6,975,000 in damages. The festival issued a brief statement to triple j’s Hack: “We hope that the settlement will bring some relief and closure for all of the participants.” It puts an end to the lengthy court case, and tops off a bad year for Falls Festival who were also recently forced to cancel their 2020/21 events due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The issues around festival design and crowd control that this tragic incident highlighted will hopefully be front of mind for all music festivals upon their return – if anything, COVID safe events will force festivals to not be on autopilot when it comes to safety.
Despite bizarre Ticketek denial, Harry Styles will not come to Australia this year
For a minute, it felt like Harry Styles knew something about changes to Australia’s international border closures that the public didn’t – Ticketek insisted the pop star’s November-December stadium shows would be going ahead in a tweet denial to a frustrated fan on the weekend. But just four days later, Styles instead confirmed his 2020 shows in South America, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand were postponed until further notice. Rescheduled dates are set to be announced “in due course”.
It’s another case of promoters and ticket operators playing chicken with coronavirus rules, and one that is ever tiresome nine months into this year. Behind the scenes of many of these decisions to delay the official postponement or cancellation of events are complicated insurance clauses which won’t pay out unless your event is effectively cancelled – an immediate postponement might mean a festival isn’t eligible to regain the cash they’ve lost. This is a nuance though that punters aren’t exactly willing to swallow, particularly when they’ve likely lost money on the tickets. This has bubbled over with The Drop Music Festival, who has still not dispensed refunds nearly six months after the event’s cancellation – their comment sections are a cauldron of rage.
The Skyhooks’ Peter Starkie dies in ladder accident at 72
Peter Starkie, the original guitarist of The Skyhooks, has died after falling from a ladder aged 72, his brother and fellow band member Bob Starkie revealed on Tuesday this week. Peter formed The Skyhooks in 1973 with Steve Hill, Peter Inglis, Greg Macainsh and Freddie Strauks. He left soon after, replaced by his brother Bob, but kept up a playing relationship with Inglis.
Bob wrote a touching obituary on Facebook, describing the circumstances of his sibling’s death as “one of those stupid ladder accidents”. He continued, describing their “fine family life” growing up, and the beginnings of Peter’s fascination with guitar during a living stint in London – “They were exciting times with the emergence of the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Peter started guitar lessons and when we returned to Melbourne He was ahead of the game.”
He finished by writing, “Apart from being a fabulous guitarist he was a brother who I looked up to. He went on to father three wonderful daughters. A step daughter Alice and Ruby and Stella to Mother Carmel. Cousins to my daughters Indiana and Arabella.
“Quite honestly this is just a fucking tragedy especially for Dianna [Peter’s wife] and the girls (and in lockdown!) So one and all, as my mother would say – ‘count your blessings’.”
Aussie Album Of The Week: Mildlife – ‘Automatic’
Any music in 2020 that has tried to tackle the events of this year explicitly has failed miserably – there are only so many “lockdown blues” parodies and doom-ballads we can take. The circular quality of Mildlife’s new album Automatic (Out September 18) captures the sensory experience of lockdown with fewer words. The airy Tame Impala-isms of their first record have been replaced with tight, krauty grooves and technophobic musings – each bass loop almost leading to an instrumental climax, before folding it back into the spiralling mix. It has a crossover appeal most other psych, neo-soul or jazz fusion outfits in Melbourne wish they had – a genuine intersection with dance.
Aussie Track of the Week: Gregor – ‘Senseless’
Gregor’s fuddy duddy croon could see him settle into the ironic retro that Alex Cameron and Donny Benét comfortably peddle – instead, his instrumental vision is far grander. “Senseless”, the second single from his forthcoming album Destiny, is a minor epic, shifting through three distinct instrumental movements – dark synth wave, spanish guitar and dubby strings – while repeating the same metaphysical mantra: “The smell of senselessness/ I drank up all my senses/ I thought I would like it, but I was wrong”. The shifting textures resemble Arthur Russell’s more melancholy work – Gregor appears to emulate him directly in the last third of the song, with a sonorous ad lib.
Aussie Music Tweet of the Week:
Joyride unmasks the man behind Telstra.
coming soon on mtv australia:
Struggling? Feel like today’s advice columns don’t speak to you? Tropical Fuck Storm’s Gareth Liddiard hears you. He’s taking questions as MTV Australia’s new advice columnist – send Gaz a question via our Twitter DMs and he'll answer them right here on mtv.com.au.
Main Image Credit: Mildlife