Musical talent from SA’s regions will join the Beer & BBQ Festival line-up alongside some of the country’s biggest names thanks to a funding pipeline aimed at pumping up local content.
In Mount Gambier, the hometown of SA band Stokes, there’s not a plethora of opportunities for getting in front of new audiences.
“We love playing for the Mount Gambier mob,” says guitarist and lead vocalist Mikey McInerney. “We usually attract the same people. Nothing wrong with it… but not a huge amount of opportunity to build your audience and get out there a little bit more.”
Since Stokes formed in 2019, McInerney and bandmates Jack Lockwood (bass and vocals) and Jimmy Wallace (drums) have worked to develop and find their sound.
Influenced by Australian bands like Babe Rainbow, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and classic acts like Queens of the Stone Age and Jimi Hendrix, McInerney says their original songs fit comfortably in the “modern alternative rock scene”.
After releasing their self-titled debut EP late last year, the trio is ready to test their work with more regular performances, but their geography can make that difficult.
“These days the chance to perform only really comes down to maybe when we have any good events coming up,” says McInerney. “We don’t really have any venues that are consistent for live music, unfortunately.”
Untapped is a pathway for undiscovered regional musicians to make it onto the festival’s bill and in front of its tens-of-thousands strong crowd. Four battle-of-the-bands style heats are held in regional areas, with winners from each heat then paid to play the festival’s main stage, with their performances used to decide an ultimate Untapped winner.
The program is supported by the Live Music Events Fund (LMEF), through the South Australian Government’s Music Development Office (MDO). The office aims to help grow the local contemporary music industry by attracting unique music events to the state. These events provide local jobs for musicians and crews and attract local, domestic and international visitors.
Beer & BBQ Festival director Gareth Lewis says music has always been an important part of the event’s DNA, but that the multi-year LMEF funding received across 2022, 2023 and into 2024 is enabling them to grow their offering.
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“When we started, this is going a long way back now… there were all these cool events. There were good beer events, good food events and good music events, and we wanted to be all three,” Lewis says.
“The Live Music Events Fund was an opportunity to expand the music program at the festival. The nuts and bolts of it is adding a full second programmed live stage and running the Untapped program alongside what we [already] have – we now have five stages of entertainment.”
In 2022, the festival recorded an increase of more than 5,000 additional interstate attendees compared with its pre-COVID numbers in 2019, and a 15 per cent uptick in intrastate punters – a change linked directly to the Untapped program.
The MDO funding has helped the festival achieve impressive attendance growth. While the economic outcomes are valuable, equally important is the impact that live music has on communities. The LMEF, through Untapped, has fostered some golden moments. Lewis cites watching toddlers dancing to a prog metal band at Woolshed Brewing in the Riverland as a recent highlight.
“I fundamentally think pubs and live music venues are the cornerstone of culture,” he says. “So, I think it’s vitally important to have a thriving live music scene.
“And there’s plenty of awesome artists. I mean, one of the other major problems is, there’s so many great artists in South Australia that just don’t get seen by the right people. So, giving people the opportunities to play in front of more people or play in front of the right people, is so important – maybe they will get picked up by an agent or a management group.”
Stokes will have that opportunity on July 15 when – as the winner of the Mount Gambier Untapped heat – they line up to compete in the finals against Twitch, Shadow Monarchy, and Storm the Crown on the Beer & BBQ Festival main stage.
For McInerney, playing a bill that also includes names like Magic Dirt, The Living End, 1300 and Dune Rats is a huge step in a quickly evolving music career.
“The chance to have the exposure – that really means a lot to us,” he says. “Just having the opportunity to do what we do in front of all the people that will be watching, regardless of whatever the outcome is.
“It’s the first show we’ve played at this scale, so it is a bit daunting for us, but at the same time we couldn’t be more excited.”
You can read more about how the state government is helping support South Australian musicians here.
Adelaide Beer & BBQ Festival is taking place July 14 – 16 2023 at the Adelaide Showground. Tickets on sale via Moshtix