The current festival climate in NSW is a scary one, that’s for sure. With the Liberal party’s re-election into power, the fate of some of our favourite festivals is shrouded in fear and worry. But, until their dying day arrives, the state still has plenty of festivals to cling on to and enjoy while we can. And one of those festivals is Hot Dub Time Machine’s nationwide event, Wine Machine.
The NSW leg of Wine Machine went down on Saturday, 23rd March and – for the most part – it went off without a hitch. Sunbeams glistened across Roche Estate in Pokolbin as people piled in for the afternoon. The day was electrified with energy right from the start, as MC Alex Dyson took to the stage and set the bar high with his typical larrikinism and uncontainable energy. Never before have I seen a DJ do a literal sprinting lap of the festival grounds while his set was finishing, and I’m not sure I ever will again.
Up-and-coming pop powerhouse Graace took to the stage next, with a coolness that acted as the perfect come down to Dyson’s high. Her inimitable smoothness married with her poised stage presence gave the perfect soundtrack to the golden hour sun.
Then, Kinder made their hometown return with an explosive set that showcased everything they do best. Their unrelenting beats met girl group-style choreography as the two sisters looked on to the massive crowd in awe. On top of all that, they brought out their Nan for a dance on stage, which is just about the most heart-warming thing any festival has seen this year.
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But, as Confidence Man brought their quirky electro pop and completely cooked choreography, the sun had set and the weather had started to worsen. By the time Hayden James had blessed the crowd with fan favourites ‘Better Together’ and ‘Just Friends’, dark clouds began to form over the event. This all culminated in a severe and chaotic way when a freak electrical storm cracked on above us, and The Presets’ set was cut short by 15 minutes and the remainder of the festival – including the entirety of Hot Dub Time Machine’s set – was canned.
This is where the discourse around Saturday’s event goes astray. As the event was hastily evacuated, it was easy for punters to lose their heads. But, the next day as reports started to swirl that the security and police on site were roughhousing punters and that some punters felt legitimately scared for their safety, people began to forget the brilliant six or so hours that had preceded the storm. It was, somewhat inevitably, dubbed ‘Fyre Festival 2.0’ and therein lays a huge problem.
Not only is the comparison an easy joke that holds little weight – Fyre Fest was a literal scam – but it damages an already damaged festival scene. While complaints are always valid and there are questions that need to be asked – What was the evacuation plan? Why weren’t punters ushered into shelter that was available? – it is completely frivolous and, dare I say, entitled to, say, ask for whole refunds due to a festival ending 90 minutes before it was supposed to.
People also had complaints about long bar lines. Had people bothered to walk a couple of metres, they would’ve found another bar – just not as centrally located – that had a far shorter line. On top of that, the festival said that the lines were long due to the state’s strict licensing laws requiring them to only serve two drinks per customer. Slamming the festival and comparing it to something as disastrous as Fyre Fest for what is ultimately a minor inconvenience serves no-one but those already trying to remove music festivals from the state’s culture. All people really get from it is a few likes on Facebook and stirring up mob mentality as opposed to actually helping to solve problems.
Was NSW Wine Machine handled perfectly? No. Was it their fault? Not really. Was the majority of it a brilliant day? Absolutely. We don’t need to paint all festivals with a damning brush, and we can’t afford to do it now especially. For this all to happen to Wine Machine on the same day as Gladys Berejiklian’s re-election is cruel, but pedantic vindictiveness against the very events we’re trying to save is much crueller.
Photo by Patrick Stevenson
Words by JACKSON LANGFORD