Loch Hart Music Festival 2022: Creating magic to be bottled and taken back out into the world

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Loch Hart Music Festival 2022: Creating magic to be bottled and taken back out into the world

Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
Credit: Kirsty Renee Hill
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Words by Kyra Gillespie

There was a different energy this year at Loch Hart Music Festival. 

From the very beginning of the January 14-16 event there was an extra layer of excitement and gratitude for being in the beautiful rolling valley of the Kangaroobie festival site, overlooking the Great Ocean Road. 

There wasn’t that same nonchalant automation that usually accompanies the drive in, the hauling of bags, the setting up of tents; there was a buzz in the air. Everyone waving at everyone else. Looking from left to right thinking: is this really happening? Are we really back here, after all this time?

Because for me, and I’m sure many others, this was the first music festival in almost two years, when the pandemic arrived in Australia in March and theatres and stages and pubs fell silent.

It was a homecoming. After what felt like forever, we could finally be together again experiencing the pure joy of live music.

Festivals have such a unique way of transforming a place so that even for the briefest of moments, a kind of magic with a community of people is created and bottled and taken back out into the world.

Here’s a look into Loch Hart number three.

Day one, Friday evening, enter Stevie Jean: a fiery powerhouse of an artist, commanding the stage with an electric guitar in hand and a haunting voice that had the audience captivated. At only 20 years old, the Northern Territory singer-songwriter’s blues-rock sound packs a punch, with a voice evoking the likes of Meg Mac and Regina Spektor – paired with a huge dose of fuzzy rock. 

Melbourne six-piece Sunnyside had the whole crowd vibing with their oozy, time-bending funk-soul-jazz set. Sinking into the smooth saxophone as the sun set over the eucalypt, it was the perfect way to leave all worries of the outside world at the door. 

Upping the pace and turning up the amps were heavy-hitters Bad//Dreems, who had heads banging and crowds moshing to their electric guitar-soaked jangling pub rock sound: queue crowd surfing, ripped shirts and plenty of sweat. 

Dance duo extraordinaires Sugar Bones and Janet Planet turned it up for their Confidence Man DJ set, and Milo Eastwood held the night owls in good stead until the early hours of the morning. 

Day two saw brave morning coffee seekers and music history enthusiasts gather under the large comedy tent to hear guest speaker Peter Evans – author of Sunbury: Australia’s Greatest Rock Festival to talk about his experience designing and operating the stage lighting for the first three historic festivals.

Known as Australia’s Woodstock, Sunbury and other home-grown festivals were emerging at a time of political upheaval when the Whitlam government came into power in 1972, marking the end of 30 years of conservative politics and the Vietnam War.

In the words of iconic Australian musician Billy Thorpe: “Sunbury was really the turning point in Australian popular music… culturally and musically.”

Evans spoke about Michael Gudinski and the festival’s role in the making of Mushroom Records.

He was just 22 when the first festival kicked off in 1972 which was attended by up to 40,000 people, up from the expected 15,000. It was a teenage Jimmy Barnes’ first rock festival and he and many used the word “magic” to describe the event – it was a transformative period for Australian music. 

Warrnambool artist Flynn Gurry kicked off Saturday’s packed line-up of talent, brightening the drizzly morning with his vibrant, upbeat original acoustic tracks including latest single ‘Sunrise to Sunset’. He tore through the quiet morning with a rousing cover of Goanna’s ‘Solid Rock’, swapping the 12-string acoustic for an electric guitar with exceptional drumming from Port Campbell’s Lewis Macstone, with what he dubbed a rather “unorthodox” drum kit completed with a spiral trash.

A highlight was an afternoon set from psych-rock outfit Murmurmur. Their winding, twisting dream-like sound was the perfect backdrop to the lazy sun as people sprawled on picnic blankets, played lawn games and enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of the festival. Wearing nothing but underwear, Melbourne femme rock group Sandy Dish came in hot with their garage punk-rock set. Frontwoman Brook Storti’s energy was infectious, with songs like ‘Conspiracy Mum’ perfectly capturing the last few divisive years of the pandemic and flipping the bird to the patriarchy through playful, no-fucks-given lyrics. 

Staying true to her word, Melbourne based neo-soul rapper KYE did a shoey during her late afternoon set. She had the crowd jumping with her upbeat disco-pop set, backed by DJ Teejae Mai. The duo got us up and dancing, ready for the night ahead. 

Attendees packed in for the festival’s beloved Comedy Hour for a session of laughs from Alex Ward, Brett Blake, Fergus Neal, Sashi Perera and Tess Birch. The instalment offered the perfect interval to recoup and relax ahead of the biggest night of music. 

Another highlight was Melbourne’s Telenova for their effortlessly cool, highly danceable Saturday night sunset performance. Behind a floral-woven microphone stand, frontwoman Angelina Armstrong channelled sepia vintage-pop sentiments of Lana Del Ray and St Vincent, blended with a bass-driven 90s cinematic trip-hop accompaniment by Edward Quinn and Joshua Moriarty. Their Like A Version cover of Madonna’s ‘Hung Up’ and triple j Hottest 100notching track ‘Bones’ were standouts. 

It was high energy from then on, with Dorsal Fins, ARIA-winning outfit Mildlife and Haiku Hands rounding out the night. 

On day three Maxwell Brady and Holly Hebe sent off the festival with gentle Sunday sets, soundtracking scenes of final breakfasts and hungover campsite packups. 

Loch Hart Music Festival has a unique way of building a community over three days, curating the perfect blend of acts to a large crowd while maintaining an intimate, grassroots feel. Patrons could easily navigate the environmentally-friendly offerings from Better Cup, with reusable plates, bowls and cups replacing single-use plastic, and the BYO policy meant people could pull up an esky and enjoy incredible homegrown Australian acts without queuing hours for overpriced drinks. 

It’s no wonder the event saw a staggering 85 per cent return rate in guests from its inaugural 2018 event to 2019 – it’s the kind of event you want to return to and bring even more mates.

It also showcases the perhaps lesser-explored end of the Great Ocean Road, home to tight-knit environmentally focused communities like Princetown, Port Campbell and Timboon, along with regional city Warrnambool just 40 minutes down the road. With coastal towns like Lorne, Torquay and Apollo Bay becoming busier and more developed, Loch Hart showcases the best of the south-west in a stunning locale. 

It was a nail-biter for the team behind the event, with organiser Jayden Bath forging ahead despite almost half the team impacted by COVID-19 isolations and a general unease around gatherings. The arts has been battered over the last two years, despite so many turning to creatives for solace in lockdowns – whether it’s music, Netflix or a good book. It’s never been more important to get behind creatives to ensure there’s a scene to return to when all of this is behind us.

Ultimately, Loch Hart have again gone above and beyond in delivering an amazing event, further securing their footing as one of Victoria’s best boutique festivals

Like the sound of this? You’re in luck! The team is already preparing for another festival later this year for 18-20 November 2022.