Pt. Nepean Joins Easter Parade

The inaugural "Point Nepean – A Music Experience" festival is now a firm fixture on the Easter-long weekend’s round of festivals around Australia.

"There’ll definitely be one in 2008," said Glenn Wheatley, who put on the two-day event with Daryl Herbert alongside East Coast Blues & Roots festival organisers Michael Chugg and Peter Noble.

The 90-hectare site, 100 kilometers from Melbourne, is the old Quarantine Station. In the 1850s, immigrants (and later returned servicemen) were hosed down there for diseases including scurvy.

The area had been closed to the public for 150 years. Wheatley said they capped the audience at 7,500 for each day to protect the heritage grounds.

"But I’d like to increase the crowd, maybe extend this to a three-day, maybe a four-day event," Wheatley said.

Shortage of toilets and lengthy traffic delays for people trying to leave on the Saturday night marred the experience. But organisers had the audience off the site 30 minutes after the final act.

Ben Harper was the star of the show, turning the place into a dance floor. Singer/songwriter Ryan Shaw, unfortunate to have his set overlap with Harper’s, suspended his set 30 minutes early as his audience vanished to see the headliners.

Other highlights of the bill included Missy Higgins, who previewed her second album, John Mayer, Taj Mahal, the Waifs, the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars and U.S. bluesman Eugene Hideaway Bridges.

Up in Byron Bay at the 18th Annual International East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival, the rain came tumbling down, making gumboots an instant fashion statement for the 80,000 attendees.

The rumours were that the Red Hot Chili Peppers, in the country for their own tour for Michael Coppel Presents, were going to show and jam with headliner Ben Harper.

They didn’t show. But "new Aussie" Jack Johnson materialised unexpectedly and received a thunderous greeting. Johnson has built a house in nearby Lennox Head and plans to flit between Australia and Hawaii.

Harper also brought on a pregnant Kasey Chambers as well as Xavier Rudd during his blistering set with his band, The Innocent Criminals. Johnson also joined Animal Liberation Orchestra for several songs (he signed them to his Brushfire Records).

Other standout sets came from John Butler Trio, John Mayer, who was accompanied for the visit by Jessica Simpson who escaped the notice of the media by dyeing her hair black, Vanessa Amorosi, Wolfmother, Ziggy Marley, Bonnie Raitt, and Paolo Nutini.

Ben Kweller caused a stir of another kind when he almost drowned when he went for a surf at Lennox Head.

"Is this our best year yet?" promoter Peter Noble mused on the afternoon of the final day. "The truth is, I just don’t know. I think because we’ve reached this terrific peak over the last few years, each event now is simply incredible. There are different things to love every year. The main feedback I’m getting is that artists now consider Bluesfest to be one of the world’s best festivals, up there with New Orleans Jazzfest, Montreaux and Glastonbury."

Up in Toowoomba, Queensland, 40,000 attended the ninth Australian Gospel Music Festival at Queen’s Park. Of the 800 acts, highlights included Aussie singer Michelle Tumes, New Zealand’s The Lads, Chicago-based Superchic[k], American sister act BarlowGirl, Swedish metal band Blindside, pop singer Jimmy Needham and Australian gospel rock band Planetshakers. It climaxed with Australian jazz virtuoso James Morrison followed by a raucous set by U.S. hard rockers Day of Fire.

Festival spokesperson Wes Jay said the growing popularity of gospel music now has it at 5-6 percent of the total sales, equal to country music. What was important, Jay said, was, "People are looking for home-grown talent which they want first, and I think that’s the same in Australian Christian music."

In Sydney, on the site of the old Newington Armoury, Great Escape drew 32,000 over three days to see 160 acts, said promoter Brendan Saul.

Among its highs was the entire crowd chanting hip-hop leaders Hilltop Hoods’ name and demanding an encore, Sarah Blasko joining Darren Hanlon for one song and The Living End finishing their set with guitarist Chris Cheney taking a huge leap over the drum kit and almost landing on Scott Owen, who was on his back cradling his double bass.

The question, though, came about during The Lemonheads’ set. Evan Dando raised eyebrows when he told the crowd that George Bush caused September 11. He later thanked the crowd for coming in early to see him without realising it was already mid-afternoon.

In the final minutes of the performance, the lanky frontman was clearly having an argument with someone in the wings. Afterward, witnesses said, he threw himself on the floor, threw a bottle of wine against a wall and was whisked off by a minder.

In other news from Australia:

Kid Confucius frontman Rob Hezkial was violently attacked in an unprovoked and brutal incident on the eve of the Sydney band’s seven-date Stripes album tour.

He was walking back to his car after a mid-morning coffee with a friend as an extremely agitated man came the other way smashing car windows as he walked up the street.

When Hezkial passed him, the man started yelling and beat him. The singer was knocked unconscious, ending up in hospital for two days, and left with a broken leg that will take at least six weeks of rehabilitation to heal. The tour will continue, the band’s management said.

Two 22-year old Australians are behind the making of a film on the ‘90s punk rock explosion, titled "One Nine Nine Four." They’ve been in the U.S. interviewing NOFX, the Offspring, Blink 182, Rancid, Bad Religion, and Lagwagon among others.

Robot Academy Films was set up last November by Jai Al-Attas, who stars in "The Jai Show" on Channel [V] and runs Below Par Records, and Matt Wordle. The film is being edited for a 2008 release, with Tony Hawk narrating.

Los Angeles’ Nettwerk Music Group and radio Indie 103.1 will showcase Pete Murray, Tyrone Noonan, and Dead Day Sun May 3 at the Sync club as part of Nettwerk’s "Passport Approved" unplugged series with acts from abroad. The show will be streamed on

The three acts are in Los Angeles for Musicexpo as part of the Queensland government’s support for its music industry.

Promoter Harry M Miller Group is expanding into management in pop music, with plans to sign up recording acts and projects.

First cab off the rank is actor/singer/songwriter Michael Falzon, best known as lead in the Australian run of the Queen-themed musical "We Will Rock You."

Miller will work closely with Falzon’s corporate entertainment company SMA Productions.

New Zealand punk-pop act Goodnight Nurse and The Dukes are getting high – 37,000 feet high, to be exact – with a little help from MTV.

Air New Zealand Flight NZ1703 departs April 28 from Auckland to Sydney bearing fans en route to the MTV Australia Video Music Awards at Accer Stadium.

The two bands will play sets during the flight.

"We’re buzzing about playing the MTV Mile High Gig. Rocking out at 37,000 feet with people getting ready to party at the AVMAs is not just your ordinary set," singer Joel Little said.