“I’ve run 44 festivals,” says Simon Daly, on the phone from the Sapphire Coast of New South Wales. Daly founded the long-running Falls festival in 1993 and Lost Lands festival in 2016-2019. But if you thought 44 festivals was enough, think again.
Daly will launch Wanderer, a new festival in the coastal town of Pambula Beach, this September. So, what’s driven Daly back to the live events industry? A few things; some pragmatic, some elemental. “I moved to Pambula in 2020,” he says.
Prior to this, Daly had spent his whole life in Victoria, 30 years of it in the Great Ocean Road town of Lorne, where the Falls began in 1993. Daly stepped aside from Falls in 2013 to spend more time with his family. But family drove him straight back to the festival business several years later, by virtue of the Lost Lands.
The Lost Lands was conceived as an event for kids and their festival-loving parents. The festival took place at the stately Werribee Mansion in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
Then came COVID, leading Daly and his family to decamp to Pambula Beach caravan park, ten kilometres south of Merimbula, where he dreamed up the vision of a new festival. The weather in Pambula is unusually tranquil—day on day, the place resembles the vision of Australia pictured on gift shop postcards.
But don’t just take Daly’s word for it. Since moving there, he’s become friendly with an 80-year-old Pambula resident, who previously worked as a senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, South Australia.
Upon announcing his retirement from the BoM 20 years ago, the forecaster relied on his professional skill to locate the best climate in Australia. “And he landed on Pambula Beach,” says Daly.
So, Pambula is a good, stable place to run a festival, but there’s more to Wanderer’s inception than factors of convenience and climate. As demonstrated by the Lost Lands, Daly’s interested in filling holes in the festival market. In terms of demographic and atmosphere, Falls and Lost Lands are basically at opposite ends of the festival spectrum. The idea is for Wanderer to sit somewhere in between.
“I felt I could grab the very best of the Lost Lands and the best of the Falls and pull together something really unique where you can actually have a tailored festival for a wanderer.”
In the process of conceiving and planning Wanderer, Daly and the team began using the terms “wanderer” and “lost lander” to refer to their anticipated patrons. “Wanderers are an over-18 festival lover,” Daly says. Whereas “a family or [a person of] an older generation who still loves a festival experience is a lost lander.”
They’ve named two of the festival’s three stages accordingly, with family-oriented action such as The Burnt Sausages and Dr Hubble’s Bubble Show on the Lost Lands stage and the more outré indie acts, such as grentperez, Maple Glider and Old Mervs, on the Wanderer stage.
“There’s nothing stopping a wanderer from enjoying the family program at Lost Lands, and there’s nothing stopping a lost lander from wanting to see that breaking artist,” Daly points out. “So, it’s very much shared, but it’s just tailored.”
Meanwhile, everyone will come together at the main stage, which is hosting a range of bright stars and established acts in the course of Wanderer’s three-day inaugural event. Josh Pyke, The Teskey Brothers and Emma Donovan & the Putbacks will get Wanderer off to a rootsy, soulful start on day one.
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The intensity picks up on day two, with Confidence Man, Wolfmother, and DZ Deathrays all set to hit the main stage, along with the more relaxed sounds of Winston Surfshirt and Ziggy Alberts. Many of the event’s biggest acts are saved for the final day, when Sarah Blasko, the Dandy Warhols, DMA’S and Harvey Sutherland are all scheduled to appear on the main stage.
The Dandy Warhols are one of two international acts on the Wanderer lineup; the other is Michigan soul and funk artist Curtis Harding, whose Wanderer appearance is an Australian exclusive.
“I just think he’s an incredible artist,” says Daly. “He’s probably been at the top of my record collection for years. I haven’t understood why he hasn’t actually toured here before.”
Harding’s recruitment is an indication of the passion injected into the event programming. After securing council approval to host a festival in Pambula (on the land of the Thaua people of the Yuin Nation), Daly wanted to sculpt a unique identity for Wanderer.
“It’s really important to have a theme and a feel and not to try and be everything to everyone, but to create something that makes sense,” he says. “[Wanderer is] really broad, multi-generational, and so it does let me tap into the new and the breaking and it does lend itself to your favourites of the past.”
While Wanderer is the first festival of its kind in Pambula Beach, the Sapphire Coast is home to the annual Giiyong Festival, an all-Indigenous festival that happens each April. “There’s a really strong Indigenous community in the region,” says Daly. “We’re working with people from South East Arts to really engage local community in that way.”
There’s also significant Indigenous representation on the Wanderer lineup. “We have Djinama Yilaga, which is an amazing Indigenous choir collective of female performers. We’ve got a great hip hop artist, Gabadu,” Daly says.
On the festival’s final day, dancers representing the Yuin nation will take centre stage. “That is celebrating Yuin culture on main stage,” says Daly. “And that’s a really important part of our charter—to be inclusive.”