When I emailed the Gympie Music Muster asking for a ticket to write a “fish out of water” article for our doof magazine, I truly had no conception of how fruitful the exercise would be.
I’d pitched the story as a “what can these diametrically opposed scenes learn from each other” piece, secretly holding little faith in the GMM delivering much enlightenment.
How wrong I was.
In only two days at the Gympie Music Muster, my eyes were opened to the inner workings of a music festival with over 20,000 attendees and 40 years of history.
Here’s what I learned:
Lessons for doofs
Embrace the spoken word
There’s got to be at least one poet in every 100 people. Yet, many poets won’t speak their lyrical musings aloud unless invited to. At the GMM, those poets got a voice. A Bush Poets Breakfast was held every morning at the Muster Club, wherein punters were invited to drop a 1-minute yarn in the box for the chance to perform it the next day.
Starting the day with an hour of two of intelligent, hilarious one-way conversation is a brilliant idea: It gets people feeling sociable and happy, and it lets poets speak.
Facilitate artist meet & greets
I was granted a wristband that allowed me into the “VIP Bar” (la, la, la!). At this bar, big-name artists were available for interviews with the media (who were emailed in advance a list of times the who’s who would show up for a chat).
While bush doofs pride themselves on having artists who are just like the attendees, standing around the campfire or punching darts by the main stage, there is something to be said for a pre-arranged opportunity for the public (not just the media) to meet artists.
Fans get a chance to meet the creative minds behind the tracks that get them bopping. Artists who are striving to have their hard work heard get much-needed feedback and recognition from those who appreciate them most.
Get on the folding chairs
Take this suggestion with a grain of salt.
The old-timers at the GMM (of which there were many) had one unifying feature (other than a penchant for flannos, jeans, and Akubra hats): They brought folding chairs everywhere. And, I have to say, as a result, the entire festival did seem more comfortably seated than the punters at your average bush doof.
And, I’d also like to mention that, despite debates within the doof scene over the appropriate proximity of camping chairs to the dance floor, with crowds over 10,000+ at the main stage, GMM fans somehow delineated between the dancefloor and the plank-your-butt area without incident.
Think about it, that’s all I’m saying.
Lessons for Muster
1. Incorporate workshops
Doofers love making stuff – macramé, henna, fabrication, horticulture, shitty dreadlocks… the scene is full of artisans and teachers.
And the same can be said of the GMM.
Do I want to learn how to crack a whip, grow fruit trees, or tabulate a ballad? Heck yes I do!
More workshops at the GMM, please!
2. Provide hand sanitiser
If bush doofs with 1000 attendants and razor-thin profit margins can provide an uninterrupted supply of hand sanitiser at their events, the GMM should too.
Also: Hooks on the backs of toilet doors is a good idea. Fuck plopping your handbag in an ambiguous half-soaked-in puddle of liquid. And fuck shitting with your jacket on too.
3. Ban single-use plastics
From Glastonbury to Elements, many prominent music festivals are introducing single-use policies that reduce consumption and waste.
At Glastonbury, banning single-use plastics has seen 1.3 million disposable bottles replaced with cans or reusable water bottles. And, at your average forest party, dropping something even as small as a ciggie butt is looked upon with disdain.
So, it was a shame that the “leave no trace” ethos was not present at the GMM.
While the event did have waste reduction strategies in place, such as water fill-up stations, recycling bins (note: our American friends did not understand the colour coding), and can-disposal boxes made out of wire (bringing literal transparency to the process), the dance floor was still littered with plastic water bottles and other single-use crap on Saturday night.
Until its ticket buyers find littering socially unacceptable, the GMM would benefit from taking the challenge head-on (as other festivals have done) and exploring top-down approaches to the issue of plastic waste at festivals.