Monday, 10 May 2010

The Frustration With Splendour: Sideshows and Alcohol-Free Camping

Yes, we all are crying into our pillows because we all missed out on Splendour in the Grass tickets. Did all the ‘true’ music fans miss out or did they all simply dodge a bullet? You may recall my first effort in the wake of missing out on tickets to the festival in which I fruitlessly blamed a website for my misfortune. Well, here is my second tourney at beating the living crap out of a dead horse.

Regardless of how the splendour debacle played out for you, the fact remains that some very capable artists will be docking at our shores at the end of July. A few of them will engage in the sideshow extravaganza that Splendour organisers have helped promote. While this happens every year, one may speculate that promoting the sideshows is even more important considering the ebb tides of bleeding hearts that washed up dead on the shores of the moshtix website. A cursory glance at tweeted headlines promoting ‘sideshows galore’ prompts heart palpitations. After all, Grizzly Bear, Surfer Blood and Broken Social Scene don’t often make the journey to Australia on a regular basis. However, on closer examination of the various press releases floating around the interwebs reveals a not so subtle sucker punch, one that comes with a message that reads ‘$%!^ YOU BRISBANE’*.

Ok, so we’re not “New York of the Southern Hemisphere” Sydney or “Art and Cultural Centre of New Holland” Melbourne, but you know, we’re sad that we’re not considered important enough to warrant even a drop by for a quick visit before or after the greatest camping festival in prohibition history occurs.

Well, I’m annoyed and empowered by the fact that I have this blogging platform in which to complain loudly. I feel for the many locals who missed out on tickets to the festival due to the demand, but I feel even more royally screwed by the fact that seemingly none of these great international bands are playing anywhere near Brisbane. Unless you’re wealthy enough to spend as much as the cost of one Splendour camping ticket to travel to Sydney or Melbourne, you’ve got zip all chance of seeing the likes of Grizzly Bear come July.

Now, I’m going to engage in some reasoned speculation. While I'm aware that this has not always been the case, it seems that come Splendour and Big Day Out times, many bands curiously skip Brisbane. While geographically, Brisbane is close to both Byron, Woodford and Big Day Out, I often feel frustrated that this assumption seems to inform decisions not to play Brisbane, particularly when such festivals sell out in nanoseconds.

In the case of Splendour in the Grass, one suspects that the contracts between the festival organisers and the individual artists may contain contract terms stipulating that certain bands cannot play Brisbane. Naturally, such a clause would make sense in some situations, particularly to smaller more regional music festivals. You don’t want pesky sideshows in major cities luring your market away. But in the age of Splendour such a clause seems ridiculous since a) it sells out every year and b) many people attending splendour come from all over the country.

So why are there no shows scheduled for Brisbane? If the above speculation is incorrect, and barring band’s having touring commitments which prevent sideshows (hard to swallow considering that no band has Brisbane down as a date), what is the real reason? My point is here that any contractual arrangement that renders the chance of Brisbane sideshows during festival seasons seems very harsh considering the fact that these festivals sell out so quickly.

While I’m on the Splendour bashing parade, I might as well mention my other grievance. A multi-day camping festival in this day and age where punters are not trusted enough to be allowed to bring alcohol into the campsite? Are you having a laugh? This is outrageous.

I don’t condone extreme binge drinking but I suspect other motivations lie at the heart of such a decision. Key question at the Splendour Annual Board meeting on how we can make more money out of people who have already spent $450 to attend a music festival?**

I know! Ban alcohol and charge overinflated prices for a paper cup of midstrength.

Give that wo/man a promotion.

As far as I’m aware, such issues have slipped under the radar. We should be thankful that the Splendour organisers have arranged to bring a significant international line-up, complemented with capable local talent, to Australia. But, as consumers, I think we’re entitled to be upset at the way the organisation of the event has played out (c’mon, ballot system anyone?). I know I am. Now excuse me as I return to writing an essay on mediation and conflict resolution.

If you haven't got your fill, check out another interesting article on the subject by Marieke Hardy on the ABC website.

* Two things. Firstly, in making such a statement, I have to apologise to the wealth of regions that never get to see international bands. It seems a bit petulant for me to make such complaints considering Brisbane generally gets to see more international acts than say Hobart or Darwin and probably Adelaide or Perth. Secondly, I cannot confirm there are absolutely no sideshows for Brisbane, however looking at various websites including Triple J and the Splendour website, at this stage, there seems to be no gigs scheduled for Brisbane by any international band who is gracing the stages at Woodfordia.

** Glastonbury Festival in the UK cost around $300 Australian dollars and permits people to bring their own food and drink into the festival grounds.


Will said...

You're spot on here Darragh. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket (thankfully I was at work so a friend went through the hassle of buying them). I guessed something along these lines with sideshows would happen, which was why I still got a ticket despite the organisers' questionable marketing tactics.

As for the alcohol ban, my question is, how is it going to be logistically possible to police this? Are they going to check every tent bag, every suitcase, every camper trailer? If so, that's going to be one heck of a line to get in on Wednesday.

Darragh said...

You're lucky Will. Nearly all my Brisbane friends who were trying to get tickets missed out, including me. I might attempt to get tickets again come the re-sale, but I don't have much hope. I hope you enjoy the festival!

It probably won't be logistically possible to police this, but I guess whats the point in attempting to enforce the ban. Why not simply allow alcohol? Why not treat the public with a bit of respect rather than assume we're all criminals.

Perhaps I'm being a bit too melodramatic here. I assume that it will play out as you suspect. Blind eyes will be simply turned.

Yas said...

Yeah, the "no Brisbane sideshow" trend annoys me too. I'd say that you are probably right in thinking that restriction clauses are at play here... But I'm not sure why there can't be a triggering-event clause which allows for Brisbane sideshows upon Festival tickets selling out.

Anonymous said...

"I don’t condone extreme binge drinking."
-- D. Murray, veteran of the Alcoholocaust

Such hypocrisy I have ne'er before read on these hallowed interwebs.

Darragh said...

Yas - A good suggestion.

Anonymous - Much like Bill Clinton, I was caught drinking, but I didn't swallow! Is that you Kewn? :-)

Kewn said...

Guilty as charged.

ed said...

We didn't get much in the way of sideshows when the Brisbane 'sideshow' meant going to a festival in another state, so it's no surprise that now it's in the same state there's nothing (other than Violent Soho).

One of the things that's always annoyed me most about lack of SITG sideshows is that Secret Service, who co-organise SITG are a Brisbane company. It makes it even more a two-fingered fuck you.

Darragh said...

Ed - Yeah. I wonder where the line is drawn. Perhaps if they held SITG in freakin Newcastle it might be considered far enough away to warrant a Brisbane sideshow.

Darragh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darragh said...

From the facebook feed.

Josh Donellan:

daz- I have it on good authority that the no-brisbane sideshows policy is contractual. A few years ago bloc party played splendour but only a DJ set in brisbane, making it clear that it wasnt that they didnt have the time or inclination, just lacked contractual clearance to play a proper live set.

I don't get why people have so much love for splendour when it takes great gigs AWAY from Brisbane. Imagine if one of your favourite people in the world was visiting from overseas for the first time in years and another friend in byron bay (or woodford this year) locked them in a basement and told you that you'd have to drive there to hang out with your much missed compadre.

Rhys said...

Is no one outraged over the actual price of the tickets? $450! Sheesh. Makes the UK look inexpensive.

Darragh said...

Rhys - Yes, there are a few people who are not going because of the price. Though, it didn't stop it being sold out on the first day. They made a bucketload!

Anonymous said...

Don't you know that Splendour artists (at least the international/more well known artists) usually sign a contract saying they won't play Brisbane & surrounds side shows?!
You are a Brisbane-based music blogger, right? I thought it was common knowledge........

Darragh said...

Hi Anonynmous. Yes, I'm aware of that. That was one of my points wasn't it? My problem is that having such a contract clause is useless. Presumably the it is there because they want as many people as possible to go to Splendour each year without having local sideshows undercutting the market. But its pointless. Splendour ALWAYS sells out regardless. So really it seems pointless.

Also, the no-sideshows rules isn't always applied. There are exceptions occasionally. I recall Mogwai playing a show in Brisbane the night before playing at Splendour.