We’ve spoken at length about how Perth has one of Australia’s most underrated music scenes, but did you know it’s also home to one the country’s most exciting up-and-coming music festivals?
Perth’s Wonderland Festival is now in its fifth year and they’re going all-out for their latest event, with a lineup that boasts the likes of Alison Wonderland, Broods, Dune Rats, and more.
Not bad for something that started off as somebody’s 19th birthday party, no? That’s right. The organisers of Wonderland basically fell backwards into running a music festival and had to pick everything up on the fly.
To get the full story on how Wonderland Festival came to be, we caught up with co-creator Luke Whelan, who took us behind the scenes and into the past of Wonderland Festival.
The Beginning of Wonderland
“Our company which was Metric promotions, now Metric events started about six years ago. The directors were all at uni together throwing uni events and uni parties, social clubs studying engineering and architecture and stuff. One day I tried to book one of Perth’s new concert venues Villa for my birthday when I was 19. They kinda just brushed me off and said you’re not a promoter so you can’t book the venue.
I was like ‘ah ok’ so I called Alex [Paioff] we were doing the parties and stuff at the time and said ‘we have to become promoters if we wanna throw this party’ so we went out and started a promotions company and started doing weekly events on a Wednesday. Then we started having two or three weekly events and eventually started getting more involved in the booking and touring of shows which become Wonderland.
We were pretty young when we started, we would have ben 21/22 so we looked at all the summer festivals happening at the time so like Summerdaze, Good Vibtaions, Big Day Out, Future. We looked at them and said we didn’t really like what they’re about, we went to them, but we thought having all these massive stages in a big field and fucking huge artists all clashing wasn’t really what we’re into.
Also we were also uni students so we were super price sensitive, we didn’t wanna spend like $160 on a ticket then $200 on drinks and other things at the festival so we sat down and traded to create a more affordable, hand picked one stage event that delivered more of an experience.”
The First Festival
“It was at the Fremantle Arts Centre, it was 3000 capacity. We had Cut Copy, Bag Raiders, Tim and Jean, and Sparkadia filled out the bill.
It was a big step for us ’cause Cut Copy was the biggest act we’d ever delt with and we were trying to google what back line meant and what riders were, totally winging it the whole way pretending we knew what we were talking about.
We just tried to deliver what we thought would be cool while trying to emphasise how good the venue is as well. It’s a really picaresque venue, and it’s not really a place people would usually go. I think it’s an old mental asylum with a stage and a natural amphitheatre and ocean views to the side.”
Curating The 2015 Line Up
“We have always focussed on triple J and Australian artists. This year we’ve had a few internationals creep in with Sweater Beats and Broods, but I still think we’ve kept true to our formula of supporting the best Aussie acts and to get them on one stage thats an all killer no filler line up.
We try not to book too far in advance, we did Flume and Alison Wonderland like three years ago and they were at the bottom of the bill at that time. Because we’re so involved in the Aussie music scene with Pilerats and we do other festival events we’re in tune with what’s going on in the music scene.
We try and give up and comers a leg up and when they usually start to blow up we try and get them back. That’s why this is the second time Alison Wonderland has played and RÜFÜS, they also played two years before at a ‘nothing’ sort of slot. We try and nuture these guys and bring them up and help them break into the mainstream.”
Evolution of Of The Festival
“When we started we were doing what we could without much thought, but as it’s grown up we’ve gotten better at planning and getting our stuff sorted. We’re getting more professional learning skills of the trade, like what it takes to put on large scale events.
We’ve gone outside of venues and done our own event sites, and council submissions, all that grown up stuff that isn’t much fun as the early days but they’re really important skills to have when throwing large scale events.”
Hurdles that Perth Promoters Have To Deal With
“The distance is a logistical nightmare, having to fly people over from eastern states is something we have to deal with. Plus Perth in itself is quite an expensive place and liquor laws are quite stringent so there’s another minefield of things you have to navigate through.
We’ve been lucky with the council, they’ve been quite supportive, so we’ve shared sites with a Variety charity event. We share a stage and try and help them on the site. We’ve managed to help save an extra $30,000 which they’re happy about, so now we have a good working relationship with those guys, and we have support of the council.
I think sometimes when council hear the world ‘festival’ they get pretty scared, they think of these massive drug fuelled events, which we’re happy to say isn’t what we’re about and we’ve never had that cutlure at our events. I guess with the line up and feel we’re always trying to build on that community feeling so punters can come and enjoy themselves without having to feel like they have to take their shirt off.”
“You have to be more creative and you have to be able to hit the nail on the head because people here, if you get the product wrong there’s not the buffer of people (population wise) who will fill in the gaps. You have to make sure you know what you’re doing if you want to pull of something successful nd sustainable.”
Big Vs. Boutique
[include_post id=”459823″]”I think because Perth is a small market it’s not as economically viable as other cities, then you add things like noise constraints and that sort of red tape it’s tricky. Being from here we know the market really well, and as we’ve grown our skills and built relationships we’re on good terms with outside parties.
We’re proud of our city and we think people want and deserve these events and cultural delights so we try really hard to make we can do everything by the book and make everyone happy.
The big touring festival model isn’t as relevant as it was. People are more price sensitive and with accessibility of things like the internet people know what they do like and what they don’t like cultural and musically. So just stacking a line up with the same three headliners every year over three stages and trying to force people into a stereotype doesn’t really work, the rise of the boutique festival is a display of that. Times have changed. It’s only better for the scene.”
The Main Failures Of Music Festivals
“Festivals showcasing the same acts gets tiresome, people are more experience driven now. As well as Wonderland we do an island event called Castaway and then we’ve done Circo which is an audio-visual underground thing, so they’re all different products but they’re all going to the same 18-30 demographic.
You have create something special. You can’t expect 15,000 people turn up to a field to see two big names. People are getting more intelligent with what they want they want to experience more.”
“This year is the first time we have properly nailed it. The line up is great, the planning has been great, we’re getting more access to artists so we’d like to grow it to a point but not let it get too big.
This year we wanted to try and do an art part with different statues and installations with different artists. We want to get the cultural elements that aren’t music involved, so we’re building on those elements to make it a more well-rounded festival. Hopefully you can come and see some cool art and check out local vendors and see great acts.
This year we have themed bars, there’s going to be a teepee village and a beer garden as well as Sailor Jerry bar different cocktails and barber. We’re also teaming up with Red Bull and doing a sand bar, like a Thai full moon party.
We want to deliver as many experiences around the place as possible and keep evolving them, and put in new products to try and grow that way rather than number wise or finacaially. We want to deliver a day that is different to what everyone else is doing, I think that’s really the aim.”
Kite String Tangle
Sweater Beats (USA)
+ so much more…
Saturday December 19, 1pm – 10pm
Langley Park, cnr Plain St & Hay St, Perth
Tickets from www.ticketbooth.com.au