Last Saturday, the enchanting Mt Samsun held host to Red Deer Festival. The overnight camping festival featured an array of upcoming artists including Machine Age and Ayla, alongside a great selection of well-known acts like Frenzal Rhomb and Andy Bull. The boutique festival offered a picturesque campsite barely an hour from Brisbane, and has managed to cultivate a relaxed and fun-loving crowd that support the event – and why wouldn’t you? More backyard-party than music festival, punters are invited to bring their own booze and furniture, and join in the festivities. From the jungle jewellery stalls to the market cuisine, the festival is one of the most welcoming environments I have ever experienced.
The staff were always willing to help and look out for their guests: including finding my partner’s phone, car keys, and keycard which were all returned to her promptly in the morning. Where else would you find a staff member walking around a music festival shouting out the names of punters with lost property, making sure they were returned to their rightful owner? Seriously, thanks guys!
As for the music, the superb line-up delivered a diverse range of tunes to lull punters through the hot afternoon.
The highlights included a fantastic performance from Machine Age, who we had the pleasure of interviewing at the event. After opening with lead single Chivalry, Adrian Mauro and his one-man-band launched into a dizzying set filled with improvisational samples, sharp guitar parts, and a voice that hovers above all the music, holding the whole thing together. With so many different sounds and ideas permeating his music, it’s a marvel how Machine Age managers to masterfully control all of the elements into fascinating music. Washing over a still-sober-but-not-for-long crowd, Machine Age was the perfect entree for a night that was sure to get wild.
Sunshine Coast songstress Ayla played us into the early evening with her unique and powerful voice, giving us a taste of her Ayla EP, set for a November release. Wish I Was washed over the crowd as they welcomed the sunset, finally escaping from the sweltering sun. Her gentle sound was a welcome friend; a moments peace before the real partying began. The band were on point and really highlighted one of Australia’s emerging artists, as she entertained audiences with her whimsical songwriting. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Ayla, and what unfolded was a discussion with a thoughtful musician with a soul of gold and truly an artist to keep an eye out for in the future.
Like all festivals, a reasonable amount of time needs to be dedicated to palette cleansing back at the campsite and sinking a few beverages before re-launching the musical assault. Red Deer in particular is filled with music lovers all sharing the love, all having a great time. With table tennis and beer pong, as well as welcoming campers with shade and couches, Red Deer really manages to make everyone feel as if they are away on a trip with their buddies, rather than stumbling around with strangers.
As the night wore on, Andy Bull serenaded the small site with his magnificent voice. Dog and Everybody Wants to Rule the World had the crowd hyped, and got those willing to leave their comfortable couches to the front of the stage to share a boogie.
Headliners Frenzal Rhomb brought the festival to the penultimate moment. Haranguing audiences with their brash punk, it demanded the crowd’s most outrageous dance moves. Jumping around the stage with the same vigour they’ve had their entire career, the band is so comfortable with themselves now, it’s impossible to imagine them not having fun on stage. The fun was infectious, and the vibe carried on well into the late night DJ sets, courtesy of Rolls Bayce and Blake Thompson. Many punters retired after a long day of sun and brews, but for those looking to charge on the now trampled site became a sweaty dance floor filled with fun-loving patrons.
Red Deer is exactly what is right with music festivals. It’s about community, having a shared experience, and never feeling hassled or stressed. Oh, and the music was pretty good too! With many festivals now feeling like more of an ordeal than an enjoyable experience, with sloppy drunk fans and questionable duty-of-care procedures, Red Deer reminds us that it doesn’t have to be that way.