Why Vanfest sets the bar high for regional festivals

Vanfest has drawn to a close for another year, proving itself as one of the best regional festivals Australia has to offer.

Taking place in Forbes, a five-hour drive west of Sydney, the festival is a hike to get to but well worth the effort.

This year, the line-up included some of Australia’s finest talent such as PNAU, Mallrat, Ruel, Golden Features, Thundamentals and Eves Karydas; and brought international acts Broods (NZ) and Example (UK).

With a line-up this strong, it would be hard for the festival to flop. But if Wine Machine taught us anything, it’s that a well organised event goes a long way, particularly when faced with tumultuous weather.

As the Friday rolled into the evening, sheets of rain and freezing winds began to batter the Forbes Showgrounds. However, with shelter on offer and a forethought of fire-pits to keep patrons warm, the weather was not going to stop these festival-goers.

The half-day line-up saw newcomer Tori Levett perform her festival debut, however her set is notoriously heavy and probably not the best suited for a crowd that needs warming up (literally). It was excellent to see Tori in what is sure to be her first of many festivals and what better an event than Vanfest to test out that material.

She was followed by Nyxen and an energetic banger of a performance by Thundamentals. We caught up with them after they left the stage for a truly mental interview.

UK export Example kept the hip-hop rolling into some club bangers and really made it feel like a big festival, despite the regional size. He now calls Australia home, making it a pretty special set for the artist. He took us back in time to some of his hits including “Kickstarts” and “Changed The Way You Kissed Me” as well as more current tracks like “All Night”. Artists backstage mentioned their surprise to see this international act on the bill, but it was clear the programming was pulling out all the bells and whistles. Check out our little catch up on his new Australian lifestyle.

Day Two saw a full day of supreme acts and even featured motocross across the day. As well as that, there were handmade stalls, an array of food vendors (woodfire pizza, hello) and sponsored tents such as Furphy’s and Red Bull to keep patrons hydrated. The best part, hardly any lines. Vanfest also had cashless wristbands implemented so punters didn’t have to carry their cards or money and could budget out the weekend – felt very new-age flashing that wrist to pay.

Hitting the stage first was Miiesha and then Tyde Levi, notably Troye Sivan‘s younger brother, who performed his first ever live set. In terms of how first performances go, he was excellent – comfortable with charming banter and only a few pitchy nervous notes here and there. At this point in the morning, there was a scarce crowd on the field, but what a platform to have your first live set – a large stage, endless space and not an overwhelming crowd to psych the nerves.

Artists such as WAAX and Eves Karydas showcased some of the insane talent coming out of Brisbane, but a highlight of the afternoon was the 17-year-old pop artist who has been called the “Australian Billie Eilish” by Perez Hilton, Ruel. The crowd swelled on the oval to watch the Sydney teen belt out his catchy tunes, including one he dropped the day earlier with SG Lewis, “Flames”. With a superstardom air about him, it was wild to think that Ruel had made the trek to this rural town like the rest of us.

Following Ruel was another Brisbane export, Mallrat, who has been releasing hit after hit at only 21-years-old. She had the festival-goers singing along to nonchalant tracks such as “Groceries” and “Nobody’s Home” as the sun sunk in the horizon.

Skeggs and Methyl Ethel played to the fairly packed grounds, followed by New Zealand brother and sister act Broods. Lead singer Georgia Nott had some dazzling dance moves and her brother Caleb bopped along on keys while the crowd yelled the lyrics to their tracks like “Peach” and “Heartlines”.

But the headliner PNAU, who brought along their friend Kira Divine, were the ragers of the night. They had a light show that utilised blue light to make their fluorescent face masks and Kira’s green outfit pop. It was like we were in the middle of an epic club night and everyone was tripping on changa. The psychedelic set was an intense but perfect way to end the festival.

Vanfest was an excellent showcase of Australian talent and international acts. Despite the freezing cold, it was warming to see a community come alive and gather for quality music in the middle of nowhere. With a line-up as good as this, this small town festival is one to add to your list for 2020.

To see all the interviews from across the event, including chats with Miiesha and WAAX, and extra game content with the acts above, check out our YouTube channel.

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Vanfest took place on Friday May 10 – 11 at in Forbes, NSW.

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