“I initially started busking there, then ended up on the bill after a few years. Then after the committee came to a few of the other festivals I’d been running, they invited me to apply for the position of director.” Rosser stressed the community-oriented nature of the festival, stating that, “The people who started it have been there the whole time, which is a beautiful thing about Apollo Bay. There’s something great about the whole community getting behind a movement.”
The whole town of Apollo Bay lends a hand with the running of the event. “Sound, lighting, act selection, production, the works! They’re there every step of the way. There’s a lot of inclusive programs in the schools down here – they keep things running smoothly and they’ve been doing it since the beginning so there’s the expertise. The same group of people that have been doing it the whole time, teaching their kids, their families, and a whole host of ever-growing volunteers. The whole town gets behind it.”
“We’ve gone through a festival boom in this country,” Rosser says, touching on the state of Australian festivals, “and it seems like we’re coming out the other side of it now. It’s been a huge cash cow for many years, but the people who’ve stuck to their roots of being a social and cultural thing are the ones that are still surviving.”
The ethos of Apollo Bay and their point of difference is offering an alternative and showcasing culture that doesn’t necessarily receive mainstream love. “We try and have our lineup with a bit of familiarity, but really aim to provide a cross section of new artists from around the world. We feel punters trust the Apollo Bay brand and come here to discover world class acts they may not have seen before, while getting involved in the culture of it – the workshops and the atmosphere.”
This year’s lineup is no exception, showcasing act like Everlast (House of Pain) who is doing his first Australian acoustic tour, including an acoustic cover of his own song, Jump Around, The Basics, New Zealand’s Hollie Smith, Luke Sinclair’s project Raised by Eagles, Kate Miller-Heidke, Shane Nicholson, Ngaiire and bucketfuls more.
Rosser is very passionate about new music, which is reflective in his approach to putting on a festival. “I feel like people are really starting to get fed up with the mainstream. Industry acts and festivals keep getting bigger and bigger with more and more hype, and Apollo Bay feel like people are becoming disengaged, looking to community radio and smaller boutique festivals to find new music. We aim to keep things small, at 2,500 people, and not get ahead of ourselves while providing an alternative atmosphere.”
Rosser’s refreshing attitude is reassuring for the future of festivals, focusing on community, atmosphere, and new live music. With Australian festivals seemingly in limbo, maybe smaller festivals are the answer for a sustainable future. “We just want to provide the best possible atmosphere, and an alternative point of difference to what everyone else is doing, and we want to do that every year.”
BY REI BARKER