Caloundra Music Festival: a boast-worthy 21st Century holiday camp

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A diverse line up brings a diverse crowd to the Sunshine Coast

Last Saturday morning I swam in the surf and lay on the beach for an hour or so, before slipping on my thongs and stepping through the gates of the Caloundra Music Festival, board shorts still wet, sand all through my hair. I bought a beer, went back to the beach, sat on the sand under an umbrella and watched a band.

It was glorious.

Caloundra Music Festival blurs the line between a beach holiday and a music festival in a way that no other seaside festival seems to achieve. It’s the full Australian beach holiday experience so many of us know and love, just with a heap of world-class musical talent thrown in the mix.

If this is what school holidays have become, I grew up too early. 

George Clinton at Caloundra Music Festival 2017. Photo by Bruce Haggie.

Let’s get one thing straight, the festival’s line up was weird as hell.

It featured pop stars like Ronan Keating, Aus rockers like Grinspoon, Spiderbait and Wolfmother, icons of yesteryear like Pseudo Echo and Daryl Braithwaite, old-time Americana string band Old Crow Medicine Show, Aus hip hop heroes Drapht and Thundamentals, and the Godfather of Funk, George Clinton leading his legendary Parliament-Funkadelic, all on one line up.

That the festival can command a line up of such depth is astounding. But that’s been the festivals formula since its beginnings a decade ago; pick a bunch of quality bands that people like and throw them together whether they fit or not.  

Of course, this diversity of talent meant a diverse crowd. Testosterone-charged surfer dudes elbowed their way into the mosh pit, teenagers ditched their parents to get high and make out on the beach, baby boomers let their hair down in the bars while their grandkids ran amok in the ‘Funky Forest’, and locals and tourists stood together to enjoy great music in an even better location.

Spiderbait at Caloundra Music Festival. Photo by David de Groot.

But it didn’t appeal to everyone. There was one group that were notably absent. The kind of person most of the crowd at Caloundra would deem to be a ‘hipster’. There was a noticeable dearth of the fashion-conscious, cider drinking, ciggie smoking 20-something music lover at this festival. This is usually the major audience for a big music festival, so it feels strange when they’re not around.

Considering this audience is already so well-served by festivals – Splendour, Listen Out, Laneway and even the Sunny Coast’s own Big Pineapple Music Festival are designed for them – perhaps Caloundra’s greatest strength is not trying to engage them at all.

Caloundra Music Festival felt more like a family event than a typical music festival. An enviable add-on to a beach holiday that kids and parents alike will boast about when the holidays are over. I only wish it was around when I was a lad.