Narara Music Festival

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Music festivals have definitely experienced a bit of a renaissance over the last few years. Though the Coast felt the loss of the Peats Ridge Festival after 2012, we soon had Mountain Sounds and Lost Paradise to fill the void, not to mention the recent Norah Head Lighthouse Festival. But if you’re feeling nostalgic for a ‘true’ music festival – more rock, beer and mud than glamping, yoga and kombucha – now is your time.

The Central Coast’s ‘newest’ festival, the Narara Music Festival rolls into Mt Penang Gardens, Kariong on Saturday May 6 with 13 of Australia’s best indie rock, blues and psychedelia bands taking to the stage at this true music lovers event.

Older Coasties might recognise the name. The Narara Music Festival brought around 45000 punters to Somersby back in 1983 to see a memorable line up of Aussie bands. The Angels headlined the show and recorded an epic album on the night, as a blood red moon rose behind them. Cold Chisel, coming off a year of hits like “When the War is Over” and “Forever Now”, played one of their last shows at Narara, breaking up later that year. Men at Work were on a high with the number one single and album both locally and in the UK, a first for Australian music. Australian Crawl were at the top of their game and would release the single “Reckless” later that year. Among the relative newcomers, INXS had just released Shabooh Shoobah and were on the cusp of stardom, and The Church, fresh from touring their first two albums in Europe, brought a nice psychedelic note to the festival.

It was the cream of early 80s Aussie rock, with Narara also giving stage time to newer acts, like Choirboys, the Uncanny X-Men, Divinyls and The Radiators, as well as those at the top of the local music industry.

Running over the Australia Day long weekend, the festival was a major success, despite many festival goers getting a bum steer from the festival name and ending up temporarily stranded at Narara station …

The festival returned the following year with a bigger billing of local and international artists. Notable for a memorable performance by Talking Heads, the second outing was perhaps a little ambitious, plagued by delays and bad weather, and was unfortunately the last Narara Music Festival. Until 33 years later when promoters Adrian Buckley and Dan Burrows decided to resuscitate the old beast.

Despite the resurrection vibe, the new Narara Music Festival is no nostalgia fest. Don’t buy tickets in the hope of seeing Brian Mannix, though who could blame him for going? What you will get is some of Australia’s best emerging indie rock, blues and psychedelic bands.

There’s a sweet nod to the past with each band covering a song by an original act from the 1983 festival. Like a revolving ‘Like a Version’ segment you’ll hear these unique renditions of classics from INXS, Cold Chisel, The Angels and more throughout the day, a salute to the original festival and its artists.

The line up is a classy one. I use the word ‘emerging’ cautiously – while many of the acts are fairly new to the music scene, others have been regulars on the festival circuit for a few years. But all are going places, honing their sound and increasing their fanbase with each show and each recording.

Hot four-piece The Vanns will be there with their dynamic mash of blues and indie rock. Currently touring their new EP, fans will hear some new tunes and a more mature sound from the Kiama musos. These guys will be playing stadiums before you know it!

Festival veterans and blues fanatics The Snowdroppers will be joining them. You might hear some reworked blues classics from the Sydney quartet but they overlay their blues sound with boisterous rock and a bit of grime, silky, dance-ready pop, roots, punk and a whole lot more. With clever and honest lyrics, clean, slick sounds and Johnny Wishbone’s crisp vocals, The Snowdroppers are nostalgic yet dangerously modern.

Three-piece Chase the Sun almost defy categorising, they range in and out of blues, roots, soul, 70s funk and rock and roll. They’re loud and energetic with driving guitar mastery from Jan Rynsaardt, combined with his rich, soulful vocals. An absolute treat to see live.

Dos Enos will get you up dancing with their unique combo of dreamy 90s-esque pop rock overlayed with grunge and psych. Groovy, funky, trippy, they keep you guessing with sharp drum beats and solid rock chords. Masters of melodic light and shade you’ll have their Unicorn on repeat for weeks.

Polish Club is a club of only two but their music is much louder and richer than would seem possible. It’s soulful and its raucous, it’s like a trip back in time with classic bluesy rock, down and dirty. And nothing will prepare you for David Novak’s vocals – raw and powerful, soulful and rich of timbre.

Upping the numbers is Papa Pilko and the Binrats, a horn-heavy seven piece out of Sydney. These guys give you a lot of swamp and a lot of grit, with their versatile sound combining country, rock and blues, with a little jazz influence for good measure. Cyrus Pilko’s booming vocals and onstage charisma, combined with a fascinating mix of horns and strings, give this group of black-clad cowboys a lot of swagger and make them one of the most exciting live acts on the festival scene.

You’ll also be treated to Lepers & Crooks, Wild Honey, Bones Jones & the Skeletones, Transvaal Diamond Syndicate, Space Carbonara, Ivy and RedHook on the day.

There’s also regular type (potentially muddy) camping, some awesome food stalls and two fully stocked bars to keep you happy through day and night. Roving performers will bring a touch of late70s/early 80s energy to the festival and the night will end with a silent disco playing classic rock and 80s tunes.

Narara Music Festival, while no trip down Nostalgia Lane, is set to spark the re-emergence of the classic Aussie rock festival, where you can get a good beer and a good feed but you’re really there for the sounds and a stonking good time.

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Tickets start at a modest $79.00 plus booking fee. All ticketholders are in the running to win a Signature Hendrix Stratocaster, thanks to Fender Australia.
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