Festival Review : Queenscliff Music Festival

December 19, 2010


Queenscliff Music Festival (QMF) is a festival set up you could never begin to imagine. Obviously in Queenscliff, the festival is contained within the majority of the 52 acre town, closing down nearly all of the streets and placing stages through out cafes, bars with the added attraction of the 3 main stages set through the gates down beside the beach. Never have I seen a town come together as one, every toilet door, every poster board and every wristband had some piece of information linked to the businesses of the town. Very rarely do you see a whole town come together to sponsor a whole festival, so there is no need for the likes of Red Bull, Triple J or the other larger companies taking over.


The Queenscliff Music Festival Inc. came to life through a series of public forums held in 1996 that established community support for the dream… for Queenscliff to host a great music festival. The Queenscliff Music Festival is a registered not-for-profit organization. A big newy for QMF and in history was the first ever live filming of the SBS, RocKwiz show, in front of a thousand odd music freaks. Hosted by the lovely Julia Zemiro, who is very talented with her presenting, singing and of course comedy. The RocKwiz Show is a less commercial version of Spicks and Specks. The show involves local, lesser known musicians, pitted against each other over 6 rounds of questions to find a winner. It was quite amazing to see a music based show being held at a music festival jam packed with music lovers. Another event getting to pop there QMF cherry was the morning Yoga session. So all that dancing, too much of the amber liquid, or just a bad nights sleep on the lilo were a distant memory. Also available, The QMF Express train with its four carriages, a stage in each, where you could sit and listen or if brave, try to throw some grooves in time with the sway of the train. It had the same vibe as the QC Blues train which is up and running again and offers you four hours of food and music on the move.

There were many great moments at the festival. Watching Colin Hay watch thousands of the QMF audience singing our alternate anthem, “We come from the Land Down Under”. Still making him smile 32 years later!
It was astonishing to see a festival line up solely filled with Australian based artists. The line up was strong and varied covering all types of music, so here are a few that had a lasting impression on me…

Ash Grunwald:

Ash Grunwald has been heard to describe his music as mixing Electronica with Blues, achieved just that sound. Ash was in his element playing his dirty, earthy, bassed up sound just metres from the waters edge. The moment he stepped on stage you could tell he was feeling right at home, being a boy from Torquay. It was easy to see how much Ash has developed his skills and talents from his days of weekly sets on Triple JJJ, to now, when he mastered almost the whole of the QMF crowd. The crowd abandoned many of the other artists for a massive groove session. He also showed his respect for the local area by giving “big ups” to some of the crew and local shop owners that have help through out his career.
Each of Ash’s albums shows the progress of his personal journey as he becomes more attuned to his own sound. This can be seen in the many collaborations , including our own Aussies Hip Hop group Funkhorns or his single with the lesser known Astronomy Class. You all need to listen to this epic sound of hip hop crossed with his sound.


Ash’s raw smashing beat had everyone throwing their bodies around. The sound created by his drummer on his eclectic mixture of percussion instruments at times derailed the lyrics as he played his car door or kitchen sink. Having Ash Grunwald on the first day of the festival, readied everyones shoeless feet for hours of dancing for the rest of the festival. If you are interested in hearing more of Ash, his next live album will be released in January. It is a live set recording at the Fly By Night in Freemantle.

Clare Bowditch:

Clare Bowditch did not appear on any of the promotional material, but kindly agreed on tight notice to appear as Megan Washington was taken down by some murky respiratory disease.
Clare is one of the original ground breaking solo female Australian singers. She was there right in the beginning with the likes of Sara Blasko.
The joy of Clare’s performance was that you became mesmerized by her sound and that of the gentle back up singers swaying from side to side getting a tiny bit emotional. Even if you were initially disappointed that Megan Washington wasn’t there, it was almost impossible for your ears to let you leave. Clare was magical in her ability to relate to the younger crowd that had taken over the QMF. She shared her journey with the need to be thin when she was younger and then continued to connect with the audience via the lyrics of her songs.
It was pure luck that saw Clare and here whole band all able to drop everything to get to the QMF to perform. Otherwise we all would have missed the truly stamina filled performance by her guitarist during the “Run” song. The poor bloke ran around the whole arena, sweating like a dog and was still able to finish the song


I have listened to Clare and seen her perform heaps of time over the last four years, during that time it always amazes me that a complete stranger can sing a song that has you searching the depths of your soul. It is hard to find a show that has crazy antics, meaningful debates and all round stage joy. Clare’s music covers the whole range of emotions from sadness, to the need to grab the girl beside for a good old folksy throw down.

Little Red:


To appreciate the true brilliance of Little Red you must listen to them live, it is only then you understand how great they are. When the five boys are put together and the layers of sound slowly build into that devastating sound, the hairs on the back of your neck stand with pure ecstacy. Then the tent becomes a time machine that flings you back to the 70’s and their bangin’ sound that sends you mental. In short Little Red did what they were there for and brought down the tent on the first night. Whether it was filled with teeny boppers or not, the five boys packed on the stage and at the right time off night let it tear loose.
Tom Hartney (vocals, keyboards, tambourine and harmonica), made it with his dynamic, crazy stage presence. N Quang (bass, vocals) quickly changed it all with a combination of his bass riff and layed back and mellow vocals attitude. There was a slight downer when all the teeny bopper, Nova listeners, packed into the mosh. They didn’t know the majority of the songs, except the over played singles. Give it to the boys though, with a well planned set list and there pure stage presence, Little Red kept the vibrance and the tempo flying throughout the set.

Kate Miller-heidke:


To all you facebook lovers, go out and find Kate Miller-heidke’s ”Are you fucking kidding me?” her Face Book Song. This song can show you in a couple of minutes her skill and humor all wrapped up in one.

Even with the 5 or 6 technical mess ups, Kate kept it going getting closer and closer to the audience, as well as getting dirtier than dirt. Kate even ventured to talk about her vagina, or in her own word “Sausage Sandwich”. And with the help of her guitarist, Nicole Brophy, who brought a massive perfomance to the stage without over shadowing Kate


Never have I head a voice like Kates that’s been classically trained in opera be mixed with folk, pop/ rock to create such a unique sound.Her voice is a musical instrument with a range that makes your hair stand on end, thia ability would have to make her one of the leading female artists of this country.

On a bad note, the alcohol set up was a little poor. There were only 2 small fenced areas where alcohol was permitted. These were situated a bit too far away from the 3 main tents, so, you had to choose your timing for a drink precisely or no drinks. So many people weren’t drunk enough for there liking or they missed too many artists.

Of course there are the stand out favourites but there were tons of other great bands for the listening. The Go Set with their Punk/Irish style filled the small brick hut with a true punk moshpit. The Pikelets, with there psychodelic sound either made you want to get up and dance or just lay on the wooden floor under the tin roof and just let the musictake you away. These are but a few.

words by Casey Richardson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>