Festival Review: The Spirit of Bundaberg Festival – Bundaberg Distillery (10.10.15)

For the release of their latest, hugely anticipated release of the Master Distillers Collection Black Barrel – Distilled 2005, Bundaberg Rum threw a day-long celebration of all things rum, music and community. The Spirit of Bundaberg Festival featured performances from the Antipodean Rock Collective (which comprises members of Spiderbait, Jet, Powderfinger and You Am I), The Grates and many more Australian acts. Lachlan brings us this review…

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With the sugar mill next door chugging along, full-carparks lead the way to the entrance of the distillery grounds. After a rare night of rain, a strong breeze and sunny skies accompanied the easy walk past smiling Bundaberg staff. Mounds of pallets and cushioned chairs were scattered around an area to the left in front of the stage, and stalls of food lined the right. Everything from pancakes, to German sausages and burgers were available, and all had a Bundaberg Rum infusion incorporated into the meal.

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We arrived for the start of local Bundy band, Young Dingoes. Runners up last year in the battle-of-the-bands, the three-piece were a powerfully vibrant rock band. Lead guitarist, Jarred Hahn’s Led Zeppelin shirt was a reminder of greatness, but this youthful act which is driven by drummer and lead singer Jordy Carr, were an excitingly layered, riff-heavy, low-fi group. “Talking To The Dead” was a favourite, as were their refreshing instrumental numbers in a set that closed with a cover of “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” by The Arctic Monkeys. Hopefully we see them picked up as supports by a band for a national tour soon.

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After a quick attempt in the Xbox One powered Bathurst marquee (where hourly winners of the fastest Bathurst lap were awarded prizes), the smooth sounds of Jose Gonzalez-esque Michael David Thomas were drifting through the festival. Armed with an acoustic guitar, the sultry ballad “Jump In” had kids in the front swaying and adults looking on in delight.

Throughout the entire event bars were never overloaded with extensive wait times or inferior service. Staff had a continuous cheerful attitude and numerous times it was noticed staff were greeting returning punters by name. Two different marquees housed Bundaberg Rum staff who gave walkthroughs on how to prepare stunningly delicious and easy cocktails. One dedicated to the new MDC Black Barrel release, and the other to the new Pineapple & Coconut/Mango & Passionfruit Bundaberg Tropics line that was also launched on the weekend.

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Spacey and smooth, three-piece act Zefereli were next. They were the perfect complement to the heat of the sun as the audience swayed slowly to them sipping on expertly prepared cocktails. Their charming hit “5 4 3 2 1” was the standout track that drew people out of the drink marquees and into the rays of Alistair Richardson’s electric calm.

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After a stroll along the food tents, Alowishus Delicious won our vote. Their pulled pork burger with apple and bacon braised cabbage was forcefully sweet before the oak and charcoal of the house-made Bundy Rum-infused bbq sauce cut amongst the tender pork.

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Pop-laden duo Eden Mulholland were the first act of the day to fully bring scores of punters up to the stage fence. Their heavily danceable and stamping beats were balanced between waves of harmonies that would often erode into haunting chills.

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It’s been 6 years since I last witnessed The Grates, and not much has battered their ability to successfully enchant an audience. “I like to light fires on the weekend” Patience Hodgson roared early in the set on the track ‘Holiday Home’. It was around this time she sprung into the crowd to organise “Bundaberg group hugs” as she continued to sing into the microphone that was draped around people’s backs. Classic favourites “Science Is Golden”, “19 20 20”, “Turn Me On” and “Burn Bridges” were featured in a set that saw Hodgson adorned in a multi-colored, sparkly, flailing coat that accentuated her flamboyant parade around the stage. Children who held hands at the front, and their parents behind, were equally swept into amazement and captivation.

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Running perfectly on time, Antipodean Rock Collective (ARC) swaggered onto stage at 6:45. With Kram on vocals they burst into “High Voltage” by AC/DC. Darren Middleton helmed the vocals for a cover of “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS that featured a punching, stronger guitar presence. A Split Enz cover of “One Step Ahead” developed into a psychedelic drum solo track. Constant smiles were exchanged between all the band members, and their genuine fun, party atmosphere was easily transferable to the dense mosh pit that had assembled. Middleton joked that Davey Lane wrote the next, before Powderfinger’s massive hit “(Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind”. With Lane on vocals, the song was an anthematic, gritty cover that endeared itself into a full-blown singalong in the crowd. Further covers of “Four Seasons In One Day” by Crowded House, “TNT” by AC/DC and “It’s Because I love You” by The Master’s Apprentices had the crowd ecstatic. It is clear ARC is a collaboration between seasoned professionals, and friends.

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It was during this Master’s Apprentices track that it was noticed that a group of Bundaberg Rum staff had assembled close to the stage. Dancing, smiling and taking selfies, their happiness at the end of a hard day of work was catching and delightful. Mostly locals, the festival staff were comprised of usual distillery workers who had been pulling late nights and early days for a week in advance. The concert was more than a party for them, it was a celebration of their brand. This brand continues to proudly represent the town, and the festival was a showcase of their sense of community. And with the joyous closer of “My Happiness”, it was a successful merriment to all things Australian.

Stay tuned in the coming days as we bring you an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the Bundaberg Rum distillery as well as our review of the new and exceptional MDC Black Barrel – 2005 Distilled release from Bundaberg Rum which is available here: http://www.bundabergrum.com.au/mdc-black-barrel-distilled-2005-clear-glass

To find out more about these acts:
Young Dingoes: https://www.triplejunearthed.com/artist/young-dingoes
Michael David Thomas: https://www.facebook.com/michaeldavidthomasmusic
Zefereli: https://www.facebook.com/Zeferelimusic
Eden Mulholland: https://www.facebook.com/edenmulhollandmusic
The Grates: https://www.facebook.com/thegrates

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