For decades Newcastle’s seemed like Sydney’s poor cousin, a city overshadowed by the big smoke a couple of hours down the Pacific Highway. However, in recent years I’ve seen my hometown and the nearby Hunter region experience a real renaissance thanks to festivals which as impressive as any you’d find in the New South Wales capital. Events like these make Newcastle and the Hunter much more than Sydney’s lesser relative.
Fat as Butter
Fat as Butter is one of Newcastle’s leading music festivals, with an eclectic line-up of retro acts and up-and-comers taking over the Newcastle Foreshore around September or October since 2007. Where else would you see acts like Wheatus, Naughty by Nature, and Eiffel 65 sharing a stage with our own Living End, Calling All Cars, and The Jezebels? Sadly the 2014 event didn’t go ahead after organisers failed to secure a worthy line-up, but they promise they’ll “definitely be back in 2015 with a smashing show.”
Jazz in the Vines
Image via Sounds of Oz
Jazz in the Vines is one of my favorite festivals for its chilled-out atmosphere and consistently stellar line-up. I hated missing this year’s event; my parents travelled abroad and I didn’t think it’d be the same without sipping Semillon with mum while we sang along to artists like Joe Camilleri, Leo Sayer, and Tom Burlinson. Add in some of the Hunter’s best food and I’ll definitely be grabbing early bird tickets next year.
Newcastle Jazz Festival
It doesn’t have the wine, but it’s still worth checking out the Newcastle Jazz Festival, held at the Newcastle Jockey Club on the last full weekend of August. The line-up’s always eclectic with traditional jazz artists and big bands performing alongside modern masters who fuse jazz with funk and soul, like Psycho Zydeco, Fish Fry, and the Funky Do Das. This premier festival, which has run for 27 years, is considered one of the best in its genre in the nation.
Wollombi Music Festival
Image via Sounds of Oz
When I took my sister to Wollombi a few years ago, she fell instantly in love. As a single mum, she loved that there was a music festival where we could enjoy awesome new blues and roots acts while her young daughter played happily in the Kidsfest zone. I was out the moment she mentioned camping the next year, but she’s been attending ever since. I might be too much of a princess to embrace the overnight accommodation, but I could definitely appreciate the quality line-up, which this year featured King Tide, The Peep Tempel, and Holly Who, as well as the family-friendly atmosphere.
The Newcastle Weekender Festival
This year saw the launch of a new kid on the block, The Newcastle Weekender Festival run in conjunction with the This is Not Art event. A massive crowdfunding campaign saw up-and-coming and experimental acts like Horse Macgyver, Philippa Omega, Hedonist, and King playing intimate shows across four days at the Terrace Bar and the Croatian Club. Its commitment to celebrating the talents of left-of-centre acts make it one to watch.
Have I missed any Novacastrians? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the music festivals that make Newcastle and the Hunter great.