Last Saturday I rediscovered the joy of music festivals.
Long since packed away with my backpack and tiny red hot pants, my desire to attend a big outdoor music festival has well and truly faded in recent years. For some confounded reason, standing on my feet for hours on end inhaling the odoriferous scent of thousands of writhing, sweating bodies, while having my ears abused by the poor sound levels set by a deaf bearded man, is no longer the way I choose to spend my leisure time.
But that’s now all changed thanks to the Gorgeous Festival – a music, food and wine festival that showcases the best of South Australia’s McLaren Vale, with some gutsy live performances from some of Australia’s leading musical artists.
The brain child of local McLaren Vale musicians Sally and Alistair Cranney, this is the Gorgeous Festival’s second year, and from the looks of things, it’s going to be a regular feature on the Australian music festival calendar.
More than 2,600 people (myself among them) settled comfortably into the little ground behind the McLaren Vale Visitor Information Centre on November 24 to hear headline act Missy Higgins, who was supported by the cream of Australia’s musical talent like Butterfly Boucher (wow!), Gossling (also wow!), The Preatures, Dan Sultan (possibly the best looking musician in Australia today. And yes, he plays good tunes too), Hayden Calnin, Johnny McIntyre and many more.
But this was unlike any music festival I’d ever been to.
The Gorgeous Festival’s motto is “Gorgeous Music, Gorgeous Wine, Gorgeous Food” and all three were used to perfection to create an exceptional entertainment experience.
Lobster Medallions with Prawn Ravioli and Lobster Bisque anyone? That was just one of the many gourmet food offerings available from the local McLaren Vale restaurants who set-up-shop on the festival grounds for the afternoon to feed the hungry crowds. (The Lobster is the signature dish from d’Arry’s Verandah).
And of course, there was plenty of wine to match whatever you selected from the menu.
Wines by the glass or the bottle – complete with full sized, elegant, shatter-proof wine glass – were being served up by cheerful locals who were obviously thrilled to be showcasing some of the regions best vino.
In the searing 35 degree heat, big glasses of Chapel Hill Sangiovese Rose with several ice cubes thrown in, was the clear crowd favourite.
Not just content to be a food, wine AND music festival the Gorgeous Festival also contained an art exhibition with live demonstrations by contributing artists, and a food “cook-off” challenge between two of the areas top chefs. And by doing so, it successfully demonstrated that not only is it unlike any other music festival, but that it is ready and willing to embrace and celebrate everything the region that hosts it has to offer.
What I loved most about the festival, though, was just how damned relaxed and civilised the entire event was. People came to chill out, listen to the music, enjoy themselves and kick back with good food and wine on the grassy lawn. There were no sweaty mosh pits. No hooligans spraying their freshly opened beer over the crowd. And the numbers weren’t too big to at any stage make you feel like a squished sardine, but were sizable enough to create the right atmosphere of community and shared experience.
Maybe it’s because I’m (gasp!) of a “certain age”, or maybe it’s because I just love good food and wine, but a music festival that caters to those of us who no longer get our thrills from stage diving is both welcome and refreshing.
The musical performances were outstanding. The food and wine sensational. The staff and volunteers all looked thrilled to be there and their enthusiasm was infectious. The grounds were immaculate and the entire event was well organised and run.
If this is a music festival then I want more of it. Bring on Gorgeous Festival 2013! (Hot pants not included.)
(Jane attended as a guest of the Gorgeous Festival)