The Briars, Mt Martha outside Melbourne, Vic, Oz
Last March I attended Womad NZ, pretty soon after borders shut, doors slammed and the world has never been the same again. Due to a mix of good luck, good management and geographical isolation Australia has fared better than most , though my town, Melbourne has had it tougher. A 5 day lockdown threw plans into disarray but in the end it went ahead.
The music was ok, everyone was enjoying being out, especially the bands. The Teskey Brothers are now slicker, better sound, Josh’s voice is still incredible and they are trying to have more of a stage presence. On this they fail. Josh and his brother Sam on guitar have no stage presence, no sex appeal, no charisma. Live they are still a bit boring. Cat Empire started as a latin, ska, rap fusion. As with all curate’s eggs they were good in parts. They have been touring internationally and a pretty slick now. I particularly liked their latin jazz pieces which sounded a bit like Weather Report/Return To Forever and Caravanserai era Santana. High praise in my book.
There were others too but the main story is how did they cope with running a festival?
It was an affluent suntanned/fake tanned crowd that seemed to be more locals enjoying a “day on the Green” than music fans. You’d think a malleable and manageable crowd.
As we arrived we are required to do the QR scan thing, except the internet is choked and the app wont open. Fail 1.
Everyone queues with masks on. Pass.
We are allocated a zone. Each zone has its own bars, food stalls ,loos etc. So a good idea for trying to contain potential infection. Some zones had better positions so there was some sneaking in, presumably people in different zones wanting to meet up to. The organisers tried to get heavy about this. I think they would need much more prominent zone identifiers and vigorous policing for this to be effective. So bare pass for that one.
Festivals usually say picnic rugs and low chairs only.For Summer Salt this was reversed. High back chairs only, no rugs no low chairs. This was to keep people in orderly seating and to curtail intermingling. Sort of worked but the seating areas weren’t marked out and there were no entry /exit points so people were stumbling across and over people increasing contamination risk. As the night wore on this became more of an issue.
We were requested to remain in our seats all day unless going to the loo, for food and drink or some shade respite. If up dancing we were to shake our booties in the square metre in front of our chair and to not transgress into our neighbours patch. Well, this proved impractical and unrealistic. For starters it was Melbourne in the middle of summer. It wan’t a scorcher but it was a hot humid day with approaching clouds creating more anticipation than the next act. And you are there from 2 pm to 11 pm. A long haul stuck in a pen. Baaaaaah. And people are drinking from 2 pm on and its hot. So the idea of pissed bastards not dancing/falling over everyone was ludicrous. Admittedly most people were “orderly” but I just don’t know how this is going to be curtailed. Add on top of this people seeing friends and hugging/high 5ing and the COVID protocol is right out the door. So I’m giving this a fail.
Last there is the most epic fail of all. We are instructed to wear masks if not in our seat area – while in transit or at the stalls, loos etc. From the get go this was near to universally defied. oIt was just too damn hot. The organisers went over the PA and told us to wear our masks and guess what – nothing changed. Everyone just said fuck it. So the myriad COVID marshalls, presumably there to enforce mask wearing were helpless in the face of mass civil disobedience. Fail, big time. Maybe a cooler day and maybe many many marshalls located all over the place to enforce the protocol early and creat a culture of compliance. Maybe a cooler day. Maybe a shorter event. Maybe maybe, but they’ve got a problem.
As described – the Peninsula area is affluent, bushy and with lovely beaches. A lot of blonde a lot tan , fake tan, jewellery and expensive haircuts. Not my usually demographic for music events.
It made me think..
If I was a COVID wallah watching this event, especially as the sun went down and the booze started to take its toll, I’d be saying nope. Not going to work, people are not going to adhere to protocols that we think are necessary to mitigate risk to an acceptable level. Maybe classical events, jazz, sorter duration concerts, but not a day of drinking in the summer sun.