As bigger festivals collapse under their own weight, little boutique festivals are stepping in to pick up the slack. Each one provides for a niche market by creating something well thought out and executed with care. This weekend, a rather new festival, By The Meadow, will be hosting their second official event. In anticipation for what is sure to be an intimate and spectacular weekend, we sat down with the brains behind it all, Ruby WeatherHead and Cameron Wade.
What lead you both to turn your party into a festival?
Ruby Weatherhead: It was very different to what it originally was. It started at Cameron’s house, for his 21st. We know all these people with equipment and our friends were musicians. It just clicked “We could do a festival”. Cameron’s place was a bit too close to residential areas so we opted for my parent’s farm.
Cameron Wade: I think people just wanted it, people who came to the birthday parties were saying even if there were no more 21’s, we should keep doing it. The first year, we just asked our friends ‘do you want to come and play?’ It wouldn’t have taken us a month to organize. We just rocked up out there and went –
Ruby Weatherhead: “Dad, help us”
Cameron Wade: “Can you help us build the thing” and he did.
So what is it that you offer that people want compared to other festivals?
Cameron Wade: I think it has more to do with the growth of the boutique festival in general. Even if we weren’t offering something totally different, people want more and more of these intimate, almost family, music events. It’s great to be part of that movement. On top of that, the place where your (Ruby’s) farm was originally is just awesome. I think people see it and think “this place is really cool”
Ruby Weatherhead: There is also not a lot for young people to do in the area. There’s a few smaller festivals around like Kennedy’s Creak, but then it goes from that to Falls Festival. In the first year we had so many young people who would really want to be involved. That was really encouraging for us as well, to see that people were really keen to see it happen.
Cameron Wade: All the people involved in it are super keen on food and wine. Now that we’ve established the music side of things, were spending a bit more time on bringing other elements to the festival. Things like cool food offerings and a bar that we’re stocking full of alcohol. All of which has been sourced within 60km, maybe even closer. The beer is from 10 minute down the road.
Ruby Weatherhead: We make sure that the things we use are kept very local.
So would you say this year you are creating an event based on what you two want or targeting an audience?
Cameron Wade: Definitely what we want. We’re not sitting here thinking “What do the people want” it’s kind of selfish I guess.
Ruby Weatherhead: We like to think “If we could go to this and have a great time, what are we going to eat?” It’s actually quite a selfish project.
Well the people seem to be responding well to it. When you start preparing, what’s the first thing on the list?
Ruby Weatherhead: Planning permits
Cameron Wade: Yeah, the never ending battle. Everybody who is involved has to be super happy.
Ruby Weatherhead: It’s such a long process with the council. You have to start it as soon as you can. Last year we got pretty close to the date of the event
Cameron Wade: Last year was our first year of running it officially, we were a bit naive. This year, more people know about it, so more people have to be kept happy. It’s all about balancing the people that want a say, like the CFA and so forth. You have to approach them early on and say, “Hey, what do you want to see in the event this year’.
So what’s the most common problem you get with the council in getting your permits?
Ruby Weatherhead: The council is there to facilitate the discussion between different interests. So it will be through all the emergency services. They have to approve the event before the council will grant you your planning permit.
Cameron Wade: The biggest problem early on is getting the council to take you seriously. When we started it, I was 23 and Ruby was 20. Imagine going to the police inspector in Geelong saying ‘Hey this is what we are doing and there are going to be 400 people coming down and we want them to bring down whatever drinks they want’. – We don’t want to have to tell people they have to drink at our festival – You tell this to the stake holders…
Ruby Weatherhead: The police just laugh at you and shake their heads and think ‘Ah I don’t know if these guys can pull it off’
So do you think that may be a problem for larger festivals? That they have so much more pressure put on them to force the punters to behave in a certain way?
Cameron Wade: There’s definitely some appeal in smaller events that have much more freedom. If you go to any of these boutique events popping up around the state, it feels like someone has just invited a bunch of friends, and got these bands together. Then you can enjoy it how you want to enjoy it
Ruby Weatherhead: People do tend to behave a lot better at smaller scale events than their larger counter-parts.
Cameron Wade: if you build that family feeling, you don’t have to tell people not to step out of line. They think “I’m not going to step out of line, people are going to look at me and think I’m an idiot.”
In regards to music, when you are choosing your artists, is there an ethos behind what music you want to have at your festival? Do you target specific bands or is it a shotgun method?
Cameron Wade: Ruby says “I want a klesmer band” and I go “No, we’re not having a Klesmer band”
Ruby Weatherhead: I want this in the article, I’ve been fighting tooth and nail for a Klesmer band for the third year.
Cameron Wade: Well if people want to provide feedback from the article and let us know if they want a klesma band, we’ll get one for next year.
Ruby Weatherhead: The people are calling for Klesmer!
Cameron Wade: Around the time we are booking a line up, there are big events like Big Sound going on. Artists start getting announced for South by South West. So you get an idea of some of the up and coming acts that are around. They shape some of the direction, the rest of it is just who we have seen throughout the year or who has put out a really cool album.
Ruby Weatherhead: Last year we went to New Years on the Hill and saw Bad News Toilet. We agreed, we need to get them to perform at By The Meadow. It’s what we enjoy listening to. We fight about it for a while and then at the end it’s like “Shit, we haven’t got enough bands”.
What does it take to get these artists involved?
Cameron Wade: Lots of emails. Bands are always fluid in their planning. They might be touring somewhere or putting out an album. So you’re sitting there 6 months out thinking “I just want to get this locked in” and they are going “Aaahhh I’m not sure yet”. If you’re in a band, you don’t know what you’re going to be doing 6 months down the track unless you’re really established.
Well considering how stressful this all is, when it gets really hard, what is it that keeps you two going?
Cameron Wade: We’ve been to these kinds of events. We know how good they are. There are 600 people coming, who we get to provide that to.
Ruby Weatherhead: It’s really cool when you go out somewhere and people ask what you have been up and you mention that you’re organizing By The Meadow and people have heard about it. It’s really satisfying. Last year was stressful for us since it was our first official year. I was stressed out and exhausted the entire time but on the Sunday afternoon, Cameron’s brother’ band, Velvet Bow, were performing. It started raining, everyone got up and danced. It was really beautiful, and I thought this is exactly what I wanted to happen at this festival. Where everyone is tired, hungover and having a great time together.
Cameron Wade: You always walk away from a festival so depressed that it’s over. So if we can create an event that gives people a massive come down the next week…
Ruby Weatherhead: That’s what we’re going for!
What’s the highlight for this upcoming festival, for you two personally?
Ruby Weatherhead: We have changed location this year to one of our neighbours farms. Not too far away but it has been a challenge. Over the past few years we have relied a lot on my dad, who’s a builder, to have everything we need in a moment’s notice. This year we needed to be on top of everything a lot more. We’ve also gone from the bottom of a valley to the mountains, literally a 500 metre diagonal raise. So the view is amazing.
Cameron Wade: We have a bar now. If we get to sit at the bar, on top of the hill, at 6 o’clock as the sun goes down with a new cocktail, we’ll be sorted.
Ruby Weatherhead: I would love to see a Klesmer band at The Meadow. I think the kind of people we have at our festival would really embrace it. Everyone would be up dancing, having a great time, and it’s something a bit different
Cameron Wade: We do this because we are creating a platform for younger bands. We aren’t going “Lets get the most established bands”. We want to be an intermediate stage between performing at the tote for your Ep release and the really big mainstream festivals. Because in between, what have bands really got besides a few boutique festivals across Victoria?