How The Dig It Up! Gamble Paid Off
News posted Tuesday, May 1 2012 at 06:00 PM.
Related: Hoodoo Gurus, Dig It Up.
The Hoodoo Gurus’ Dave Faulkner has described it as a “huge gamble”, but the inaugural Dig It Up! may well have proved there’s a gap in an over-crowded market for genre-specific events.
The series – which travelled to Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, before wrapping up in Perth over the weekend – brought together complementary bands spanning psych, garage and ’50s-’60s rock’n’roll for the 30th anniversary of the Gurus’ watershed single ‘Leilani’. It featured iconic acts such as The Fleshtones, Redd Kross, The Sonics, Kim Salmon, The Sunnyboys and Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate), but also some “newer” bands including the Straight Arrows, Beaches, The Frowning Clouds and Royal Headache.
The response from fans was overwhelming, especially for an event in its first year. Perth and Brisbane legs sold out weeks in advance, while Sydney and Melbourne were close to capacity. And yet it was initially considered an “unlikely enterprise” when promoter Tim Pittman from Feel Presents first raised the idea with the Gurus. “Most people in the industry thought it was a very ‘brave’ undertaking (meaning: way too risky),” wrote Faulkner following the final leg in Perth on Saturday (April 28).
So why has Dig It Up! succeeded where other fledgling events have failed?
Some have put it down to demographics – a user on Facebook described it as the Big Day Out “for the beer bellied Rock Pig Fraternity” – but Pittman doesn’t really subscribe to that theory. He told M+N this week there was a sense of commonality between the acts that isn’t replicated at major festivals. If there was a demand for a new type of experience, he says, it was driven by genre, not age.
“For me this is a genre-based event as opposed to the lazy journalism analogy of ‘Big Day Out for grown-ups’,” he says. “It’s not a festival as such. It’s not any number of different types of bands thrown against the dartboard, and you want to see three out of the 17 that are playing. This is a genre-based event where you want to see everything. Perhaps if you’re an older person, you don’t know some of the new stuff, so you go and check it out. Or if you’re a younger kid, you go see some of the old stuff.”
Still, it’s hard to deny that an older demographic was drawn to Dig It Up!, despite the presence of some younger acts such as Royal Headache and Straight Arrows. “It was largely over 35,” Pittman concedes, “but after 20 or 30 years of loving this stuff, they still come out. You mightn’t be able to say the same thing about lots of other genres or styles. I can’t imagine people of that age group going to a dance festival.”
He says he was particularly pleased with the response from an older segment of the crowd to bands such as The Lovetones, Royal Headache and Straight Arrows. “What was great about Dig It Up! was introducing that stuff to them. Straight Arrows went down a storm to people that hadn’t see them. Royal Headache were great for anyone over about 35. Equally, reading forums, plenty of young people caught The Fleshtones and thought they were fantastic – they’ve been around since 1976. I reckon you’d have a hard time getting a younger person to [see] Kraftwerk at a bigger festival, and they walk away going, ‘Wow, Kraftwerk were amazing.’ I don’t think that really connects.”
"For me this is a genre-based event as opposed to the lazy journalism analogy of ‘Big Day Out for grown-ups’."
Dig It Up! may well be the first time an event of its kind has taken place in Australia. The short-lived Flip Out was a more contemporary take on a similar theme, while Melbourne’s Sugar Mountain encompasses a much broader cross-section of acts and scenes. In some respects, it’s comparable to Soundwave, the metal-oriented behemoth that’s taken the festival market by storm since debuting in Perth in 2004.
“A couple people have said it’s the best thing in 10 years, and I have to ask, ‘What happened 10 years ago?’ I can’t even think what it was,” Pittman says.
As for Dig It Up!’s future, Pittman says he’s hopeful it’ll take place again next year. “The response has been overwhelming really – not to the announcement or the build-up – but once were done people seemed to be pretty much out of their minds with excitement. I think it’d be silly not to go back and revisit it, or try and make it annual.”
(Photo by Robert Carbone)
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