Good Island was the first festival of its kind. Curated by two of Australia’s most eclectic labels, Good Manners and Wondercore Island, Good Island took place over two adjacent venues on a perfect evening in February of 2017. The first but hopefully not last instalment of the festival provided a tangible joy to the tight knit community of patrons that gathered between The John Curtain Hotel and Bella Union in Carlton.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues facing festivals in Australia and the world is the occasional lack of safety provided to patrons. With long days and rowdy crowds, some festivals can leave sour tastes in attendees mouths with assault and abuse being all too common. For Good Island, the absolute opposite was true. From the inception of the festival, there were clearly a few points that were of paramount importance to the organisers – inclusivity, respect and creating a safe space for punters. The festival organisers shared the following message on Facebook in the lead up to the festival, and plastered it along the walls of the two venues that Good Island occurred between.
In addition to this, Good Island added to the dialogue of breaking down the walls of hatred and fear that surround those seeking refuge in our country by donating 100% of their profits to The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. When a festival actively spreads an important message of inclusion and identity rights, while also selflessly assisting an organisation whose sole purpose is to improve the lives of those seeking refuge, it ceases to be just a music festival – it becomes a social enterprise. This was the most striking element of the first instalment of Good Island – it was seeking to express an idea bigger than itself, which is both noble and necessary in these times.
The unique set up of the festival between two venues on four stages meant that there were many different environments for punters to immerse themselves in. Every artist on the line-up played two sets at different times of the day, and in some cases a staggering four sets (looking at you, Oscar Key Sung.) The line-up was entirely devoted to some of the most incredible Australian acts on the scene at the moment, including the likes of Nai Palm, Lossless, Swooping Duck, Jaala, Corin, Kllo and Luicanblomkamp. Downstairs at The John Curtain, an intimate eye level stage and a DJ booth with a continuous live stream hosted a wide array of performers. Vulture St. Tape Gang‘s set, which was punctuated by a recurring air horn, and Nai Palm‘s beautiful stripped back crooning provided major highlights. Upstairs at The John Curtain, Corin had an entire room mesmerised, mouths agape at the intensity and sheer wonder of her solo performance. Some of the most technically proficient musicians in the country ignited the upstairs stage, the consecutive sets of Swooping Duck and Billy Davis causing jazz fans to melt on the dance-floor.
Over at Bella Union, a huge floor space allowed for every person in attendance to have more than enough room to dance, which was very necessary during Lossless‘ (HTML Flowers and Oscar Key Sung) powerful and infectious set, during which they performed pretty much every cut from their debut album. Closing out the evening in this room was Oscar Key Sung‘s fourth performance of the night in the form of a DJ set, and it was nothing short of perfect – the gathered revellers wished he could continue when it was all over and the house lights came on at around 3am.
Good Island was an ambitious project for two indie record labels to undertake. But the result that they achieved, and the terrific atmosphere of the festival cannot be understated. This festival was not intended to make its organisers rich, nor was it intended to exploit its audience. Rather, it was a festival geared towards a diverse audience, a festival with a social conscience, and above all it was a festival which celebrated the musical variance and skill of the Melbourne and Australian music scenes.