The Gum Ball turns 20: Why this is the festival for anyone who feels like they might be over festivals

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The Gum Ball turns 20: Why this is the festival for anyone who feels like they might be over festivals

The Gum Ball
Words by Joshua Jennings

The Gum Ball has a lot of history to celebrate, and it continues to get better with age.

As The Gum Ball festival’s organisers have said before, the hard part of running the festival is getting people to come in the first place. Convincing them to come back? That’s easy.

This year, the Gum Ball turns 20. That’s two decades of camping mythology that’s kept a lot of regulars regular, and converted first-timers into evangelists.

About 3000 campers will arrive at the three-day festival this year to see acts such as Tropical Fuck Storm, Dan Sultan, RVG and Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds. So what are the drawcards that keep the crowds coming back to The Gum Ball?

The Gum Ball

  • Thu 25th Apr – Sun 28th Apr
  • Wonnarua Country | Lower Belford, Hunter Valley NSW
  • Tickets here

Keep up with the latest music news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

The Music

The original Gum Ball music lineup was a little on the niche side (remember Dirty Pink Jeans and the Great Dividing Range?).

As the festival has matured however, so has the lineup.

Subsequent iterations of The Gum Ball have seen the staging of international acts such as Turin Brakes, The Creepshow, and Mudhoney, along with a long list of Australian acts including Custard, Vika and Linda, Front End Loader, Wagons, Tumbleweed, Adalita, Regurgitator, Cash Savage and the Last Drinks, and King Stingray.

The lineups have become more comprehensive too. At the inaugural Gum Ball, in 2005, you could count the number of bands on your hands (that includes The Australian Beef Week Show), but recent lineups have hit the 40-band mark.

Another cool characteristic that’s become a signature of The Gum Ball in recent years is Young Gums, a mentorship program for young creatives (high school kids aged 13-17) interested in music festival production and performance. Students involved in Young Gums engage with music industry mentors in all things music festival production, for five days. That experience culminates in a group performance on the main stage during the last day of the festival, adding further diversity and colour to the lineup.

The Vibe

The thing about queuing is that it makes everybody feel stupid and miserable. That’s an especially problematic way to feel in the middle of a music festival. Thankfully, at The Gum Ball, this isn’t a headache you’ll have to deal with.

One of the big draw cards The Gum Ball has retained over the years is its BYO drinks policy. Many bar-loving festival fans have been glad to enjoy the convivial vibe at the onsite bars over the years too. This year, you can saddle at the tinny and woodsy Swoop Inn, or pick up an armful of cans from the Bird Bath, which neighbours Ruby’s Pizzeria.

With only around 3000 people inching around the expansive Dashville space over the three-day festival, the vibe is relaxed. Bands are easy to see from any vantage point that piques your interest, and you’re fully immersed in some of the most idyllic bushland you could hope to have some of the best times around in.

As the festival’s organisers have stated themselves, The Gum Ball really appeals to anybody who feels like they might be past festivals – because they feel too old, too spooked by festival crowd scarecrows, or because they have children to look after too. As great as the bands and artists are this year, festival folk are well accustomed to ambling around on their own watch, without worry about missing anything they don’t want to miss, given the site’s vantage points are immersive from anywhere.

And as for the kids, many festival fans love to bring their own. For a very reasonable price, they can even pencil in some onsite childcare while they’re at it.

Things to Do

The Gum Ball has continued to add to its repertoire of things to do. There might have been spit roasts and a more distinctive backyard vibe in the early days, but now the festival is a pretty functional civilisation.

The proof is the emergence of market stalls and gourmet food, creative workshops, kids’ programs, and the iconic silent disco that quietly switches the party into another gear after hours (let’s not forget the increasing popularisation of glamping either).

The Gum Ball takes place between April 26-April 28 this year. Get your tickets here.

This article was made in partnership with The Gum Ball.