IT’S a town with under 2500 people, two pubs and Australia’s oldest cinema – but to international folk rock band Mumford and Sons, Dungog was the perfect place to hold their first music festival in Australia.
The band approached festival promoters about two years ago and asked for help to put together their own event. According to Laneway Festival and Gentlemen of the Road promoter Danny Rogers, the band had one specific request.
“Part of the brief was to try and find a town that had not been used for any kind of major music festival before, something right off the beaten track,” he said.
And so the research for the perfect festival venue began. Dungog was shortlisted.
Mr Rogers said organisers visited the town during the annual Dungog film festival and had fallen in love with all it had to offer.
“We were impressed by how the town had coped with the film festival,” he said. “It seemed to be right in line with ourselves and seemed like a no-brainer, it was a long way from Sydney and we thought this was perfect.
“It’s such a pretty, quintessential Australian town, pretty old school and there are no commercial, big franchise restaurants here.”
Of course, the final decision on where the festival would be held was up to the quartet of Mumford and Sons themselves.
“For a moment”, Mr Rogers said, it looked as though Gentlemen of the Road would be held in Australia’s country music capital of Tamworth.
“We were very serious about Tamworth and would definitely consider it for events in the future,” he said. “The band really wanted Dungog, they loved it and while their music is slightly leaning towards country music, the band were absolutely adamant they wanted to host the event in a small town that had never hosted a music festival.”
Mr Rogers said the band had been hands-on in determining what they wanted for their first festival. That means Mumford and Sons - Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, "Country" Winston Marshall, and Ted Dwane – had a say on who joined the bill. They preferred acts they had met previously while performing in Australia.
Mr Rogers said organisers have kept in close contact with Dungog tourism bodies, police, council, schools and local shop owners.
“There’s been a lot of work put in by a lot of great people, “ he said. “The ultimate goal is to put on a positive and exciting event.
“These are music fans who are there for the music and not to cause problems. It’s going to be a huge positive for the area.
“The site is fantastic, we’re really confident it’s going to operate well, the sound is going to be amazing and visually it’s going to be great. We feel like we’re ticking the boxes with all those things.” The biggest challenge? Moving people in and out of the grounds, Mr Rogers said.
He said while there are still buses available to the grounds, seats are filling up quickly but details are available on the Gentlemen of the Road website. Car-pooling, he said, was encouraged.
A free event will be held at the site on Friday and Mr Rogers said organisers hoped to get about half the festival-goers to the town on the day to ease traffic congestion. As for who’s performing at the free event Mr Rogers’ lips were sealed.
“We’re keeping it all quiet, but whoever is up for a Friday night warm-up will be rewarded,” he said.
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