The best 10 summer festivals

Spend too much time by the pool this summer and you may just miss some of the year's best performances. They will be happening all over the country at the best festivals this summer.
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Living is easy in summertime. Days are long and languid, the hours sailing with the sun slowly across the sky. Streets are deserted, while shops and schools are closed. The beach beckons and the surf seduces. Everything is at a standstill.


But then that’s not entirely true is it. Summer days are more likely to sprint than limp and they don’t wait for you to catch up. Natural amphitheatres fill with music from the world’s best bands. Spiegeltent stages introduce cabaret to the uninitiated. Top international performers tread Australian boards for the first time and emerging artists greet their inaugural audience in backroom bars.


The living might be easy, but spend too much time lazing about and some of the year’s best performances might pass you by. To ease you into 2013 in style, we’ve drawn up a summer blueprint of the best festivals from December through to March.


Sydney Festival

January 5 – 27

This list wouldn’t be credible without including the Sydney Festival, afterall, their tagline is ‘This is our city in summer’. While the rest of the country is struggling through the first days of their resolution, the Harbour City is gearing up for 23 days of dance, theatre, music, visual arts, talks and family events.


Soak up the vibe and catch live music at the Honda Festival Garden or immerse yourself in traditional Chinese theatre at the Sydney Opera House. Celebrated, avant-garde circus fills the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta while a giant Rubber Duck docks in Darling Harbour. Even if you’re time poor, the About an Hour program at Carriageworks gives festival-goers a taste of everything Sydney Festival – both local and international – all available to see in one day.



January 4 -5

The organisers of the Falls Music and Arts Festival don’t want their friends in WA to miss out on the action. When the dust settles on the festival sites in Lorne and Marion Bay, the best of the fest are heading out West.  


This year the bill includes alternative-rock pioneers The Flaming Lips, Scandinavian rockers The Hives, Two Door Cinema Club, Hot Chip and SBTRKT as well as local favourites, Matt Corby, San Cisco, Boy & Bear and Flume.



January 13 – February 3

Melbourne’s premier celebration of Queer culture is turning 25 this year and you’re invited to the party. The program for Midsumma 2013 features performing arts, visual arts, spoken word, film and music, as well as community and social events. They’ve even got a sports day, which we haven’t seen in any other festival anywhere in the country. 


The theatre program includes performances from Bent Burlesque, the Australian premiere of Jordon Harrison’s gender-bending production Act A Lady, and a Bohemia Cabaret Club Midsumma Showcase. They’ve got their own film program, Movies Under the Stars 2013,  as well as music from Drew’s Dirty Dozen, Goddess Grooves and The God Particle. For those looking for a more hands on experience, there will also be writing and storytelling workshops, as well as spoken word events, including a Queer reading of the bible.



January 16 – 20    

Considering Tasmania’s MONA won our inaugural ArtsHub Engagement Award, we’re pretty sure that you’ve got a good idea what’s going on down south this summer.


For those who needs a refresher course, MONA FOMA will feature performances from David Byrne and St. Vincent, a giant theremin from Robin Fox, the Pretty Lights from the US, Indian drum extraordinaire Bickram Ghosh, Spain’s Los Coronas, American music acts Death Grips and Dirty Projectors as well as France’s Orchestre National De Jazz. Elvis Costello and the Impostors have also recently been announced in the MOFO Encore.


All those excuses about the Hobart cold don’t apply in summer. Get down there.  


Woodford Folk Festival

December 27 – January 1

This regional Queensland celebration is a stalwart of the Australian festival scene. Naturally the musical line-up features the best Australian folk, blues and roots acts including Angus Stone, John Butler Trio and Mama Kin, but also international acts like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.


There’s also a huge arts component featuring circus and vaudeville acts, variety and comedy and a thriving village of artistic energy called Artisania, where festival-goers can enjoy visual arts and crafts. There’s even panel discussions with leading writers and workshops galore where people can try their hand at felting, printing, sketching, costume making, pottery and more.


Laneway Festival

January 26 – February 9

It started out the back of St. Jerome’s bar in Melbourne and then got too big for its britches. Or so good it attracted too many punters and had to move out of the city streets it had previously spewed spectators across. The only indicator that it was once connected to bar remains the name, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival.


Since then it has become one of the most revered festivals on the scene has expanded to every Australian capital city as well as spreading its wings to Singapore and Auckland. A smaller, more exclusive alternative to events like the Big Day Out, Laneway has hosted the big names before they became big, including Florence + The Machine, The Gossip and Mumford and Sons.


This year Chet Faker, Bat for Lashes, Of Monsters and Men, Real Estate, Pond and the Rubens will lead a stellar line-up across the country.


Adelaide Fringe

February 15 – March 17

Outside of Edinburgh Fringe, South Australia’s Adelaide Fringe is one of the biggest festivals of its type in the world, with 900 events staged in pop-up venues across parks, warehouses, laneways and empty buildings as well as established venues such as theatres, hotels, art galleries, cafes and town halls. Last year alone around 4000 artists took part. Now that’s a festival.


Beginning in February and stretching into the beginning of March, the city will become a cavalcade of arts, from theatre to spoken word and circus and cabaret as well as visual arts and design. Aside from their huge open access program, the good folk behind the Adelaide Fringe also host a number of special events, including an Opening Night extravaganza, the voyeuristic peep show, Window World and the Adelaide Fringe Street Theatre Festival.


Peats Ridge

January 29- December 1

One hour north of Sydney is Glenworth Valley, a natural oasis to escape the New Year’s Eve insanity in the city. Ushering in 2013 at Peats Ridge Sustainable Arts and Music Festival are the likes of Kaki King, Clairey Brown and the Bangin’ Rackettes, The Medics and Gossling. Aside from the 200 musical acts that will be appearing, Peat’s Ridge also features a stellar line-up of the arts.


At the pinnacle of the arts program is The Night Odditorium, brought to you by the Pork Collective, an immersive and surreal space featuring theatre and installations as well as a coterie of crazed carneys.  Umbrella Theatre Company are staying true to their name and offering pop-up theatre while circus groups SURCAS and Sacred Circus will be tumbling, summersaulting and clowning their way across the festival grounds.


Vic Johnston, co-founder of Peats Ridge Festival and manager of the arts and culture program, says this year’s arts program aims to show ‘interactive; inspiring work that will make people reflect and smile so they enter the New Year happy and optimistic, having seen lots of colour, great art, heard wonderful music and had an amazing experience.’


Golden Plains  

March 9 – 11

Meredith Music Festival’s younger, more exclusive sister, Golden Plains is the Victorian festival for those that want to ditch the crowds and chill out. Now in its seventh year, this boutique event has a strict no dick-heads policy (how they enforce this, we do not know), meaning you can enjoy the likes of Cat Power, Toro Y Moi and No Zu without beer-slugging bogans peeing on your tent.


They’ve also got a reputation for bringing some of the best acts of yesteryear, with Plainfield, New Jersey’s 1960s funk, soul and rock collective, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic joining the bill, as well as alternative rock pioneers Dinosaur Jr.


See you by the pink tree.


Darwin Festival


Okay, this technically isn’t in summer, but while the rest of us are soaking up the rays, our NT neighbours are in the middle of their wet season. By the time August rolls around the city is ready to celebrate the dry season with 18 arts filled days.


While it’s a little early to announce next year’s program, if 2012 is anything to go by then the 2013 edition will be as hot as the Northern Territory sun. Last year featured Aamer Rahman and Nazeem Hussain tackling taboo topics as comedic duo Fear of a Brown Planet, acclaimed musical acts Graveyard Train and Lanie Lane, the lauded La Soiree by La Clique as well as visual arts exhibitions, workshops, as well as the National Indigenous Music Awards taking place during the festival. 


Oh, and they had Kenny Rogers.

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