3 November 2023

New music festival to change the tide on what punters expect from music events

| Kellie O'Brien
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The Jungle Giants

The Jungle Giants are among some of the big-name acts performing at the inaugural Changing Tides Festival. Photo: Supplied.

A history of running successful music events through the family business has inspired Simon Felice to branch out on his own, hosting the inaugural Changing Tides Festival in Kiama in December with a line-up straight from his Spotify playlist.

Simon’s family had owned Crooked River Wines at Gerringong until about two years ago, which is where he first got a taste for running music events.

“My family had a business for nearly 25 years and my brother and I helped out about six years ago to produce some additional income for the business and that crazy idea was to start a music festival,” he said.

“What started with a three-by-three metre tent and a local unknown artist with a guitar and probably about 15 guests, turned into sellout events.”

Simon admitted he wasn’t the biggest Australian music fan before, but grew a passion for Australian music through hosting the events and seeing the support for the live music scene on the South Coast.

“That passion grew and I was like, ‘OK, I think I really want to go out on my own and give this a really good crack’,” he said.

“So I started an event company, and this will be the very first one where I’m doing it solo.”

He said that vision had been three years in the making, having been delayed due to COVID-19 and other music events making it challenging.

“Being independent and very small and then being on the South Coast, it’s difficult to try and get great calibre music artists when you’re starting off,” he said.

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However, Simon has managed to pull it off, with an incredible line-up boasting rock drummer G-Flip, electronic music group Peking Duck, indie rock band Spacey Jane, rock duo Royal Blood, indie rock outfit The Jungle Giants and dance music trio Pnau.

“Well, I mean, talk about going out with a bang,” he said, laughing.

“I’m really passionate about the South Coast. That started with my grandfather. He started that business 25 years ago, and he absolutely loved the South Coast.

“So, I wanted to put something forward that’s going to create a platform for music artists and put the South Coast on the map and say, ‘Hey, we are a proper destination for upcoming music artists and international artists’ so it becomes a sought-after and very recognised destination.”

He admitted the diversity and calibre of talent in the line-up had helped ensure tickets were already 80 per cent sold.

“This line-up has been like looking into my own Spotify playlist,” he said.

“I’ve literally had to blink twice and three times looking at this line-up.”

As a massive foodie, Simon said the festival would also showcase South Coast food and wine.

“You usually get at a festival a pizza or a hotdog and they’re OK, it gets you through the day, but I really wanted to bring something that showcased the South Coast and the produce that we have,” he said.

“We’re surrounded by a lot of great wineries and restaurants, especially in Kiama, so I wanted to bring that together.”

Working with the South Coast community has also extended to giving away close to $10,000 in tickets to community clubs and charities for fundraising.

He said doing things differently like this had inspired the Changing Tides name.

“We wanted something that was a little bit coastal, but we wanted to send a message that we’re a bit different to every other festival and we’re changing the tide of usual music festivals out there,” he said.

“A lot of these big festivals, it’s like a circus tent act where they roll up and they do their thing and then they go, and I didn’t want to be like every other festival that’s out there.”

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Simon said another way they were achieving this was through a focus on sustainability to reduce waste, encourage recycling and “be the first festival that is completely plastic free”.

“From what I’ve researched, there’s no one out there on a big scale that says they are a festival that is completely plastic free,” he said.

“At this stage, we will be close to being plastic free, but we’re just reducing the amount of wastage at this stage and our goal is to be completely plastic free within the first five years.”

The final element setting the festival apart from Sydney festivals was the picturesque seaside Kiama Showgrounds location, which showcased the South Coast’s “natural beauty”.

His event company Harlow Events has a request with Kiama Council to extend capacity, due to demand outgrowing what was planned three years ago.

“We had 2500 tickets sold in the first eight minutes, so the demand was absolutely huge.”

Simon is now putting out a call for up-and-coming music artists to open the two days.

Changing Tides Festival will be held on 16-17 December at the Kiama Showgrounds. Tickets and more information are available via the Changing Tides Festival website.

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