FESTIVAL MATTERS: How The Gum Ball remains relevant decades on

Just when you thought The Gum Ball couldn’t get any tastier, the master chefs of fun times at Dashville go and add a saucy queer cabaret to the mix. And it’s lineup choices like this that help The Gum Ball keep its status as one of the most relevant and celebrated festivals of music and culture decades since it first began.

Held in the bush out the back of Lower Belford, between Branxton and Singleton, The Gum Ball festival is renowned for being an inclusive and safe space for people of all ages, stages, and identities to come together to celebrate a love of culture, music and fun times.

The adults-only mix of drag and burlesque included in Vikky B’s Bedtime Stories was the rainbow glitter on top of this well-loved festival, and lured in big crowds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, with many Gum Ballers returning for second and third helpings of the 2024 festival treat.

While music is the core ingredient of The Gum Ball, in the washup of this year’s festival it’s this unique inclusion that everyone keeps talking about. But that doesn’t mean that the 2024 music lineup wasn’t top-notch. Magpie and the crew once again curated a wonderfully eclectic mix of genres and styles.

One of the best parts about The Gum Ball Festival is putting your coins in the gum ball machine and turning the crank. You’re not sure what flavour you’re gonna get, but you can rest assured that it’s gonna be tasty, and you’ll have a whole lot of fun getting into it.

Seeing local acts take to the main stage or playing in the more intimate setting of The Grateful Shed is always a Gum Ball highlight for us.

Standouts this year includes up-and-comers Krisp, with their mix of surf and pub rock, a captivating Gum Ball debut by Elestial and the funky good times of the SF Wrens who played as the sun went down on Friday night. They were magic moments for the bands and the crowd.

The songwriting talent of Newcastle Live favourite, Dave Wells also shone, with a large crowd drawn to the front of the main stage for his set. Local songwriter Georgie Winchester showcased some of her new material in her first performance on the main stage at Dashville as a solo artist. And alternative rock local outfit, Butterknife were a popular addition to the Sunday morning line-up, with tracks from their new EP Lilith a standout of their set.

Undoubtedly the highlight set from a local artist on the lineup was delivered by the magically talented singer and songwriter, Melody Pool.

With her eight-piece band, including a two-piece string section, Pool promised the audience that she would pull at their heartstrings, draw on emotions and evoke some tears. And she delivered. Her mesmerising set included ethereal moments from her Lost In Time EP, a stunning version of her 2016 single Love, She Loves Me and new tracks from a forthcoming album due for release later this year.

By the end of her time on stage, Pool’s spell had been cast over the now-silent crowd and there wasn’t a dry eye or an untouched soul left in the paddock.

Another treat of this smorgasbord of good times was the addition of acts that celebrate their craft with a flair for theatrics and intoxicating crowd participation. The sassy duo Don’t Thank Me Spank Me and the comedic rumpus of The Main Guy and the Other Guys were genius additions to the Friday programme and whipped up a wonderful sense of fun. Vaudeville Smash got the crowd doing choreographed moves and going crazy with their ’80s disco grooves as the sun set on Saturday which perfectly set the tone for the metal madness of Battlesnake later that evening.

The celebration of the slightly absurd continued on Sunday with a doubleheader by Gum Ball favourites, Burger Joint who opened the day of music with their kids’ group Junior Burger during the regular Gum Ball morning family-friendly slot, before reprising their track Bin Night for the ‘adult’s performance’ as Burger Joint later that evening, to the great delight of the audience.

Other standouts included an acoustic set from Dan Sultan, spots by Dallas Crane, Karl S Williams, Hard Ons, Tropical F*ck Storm, Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds, RVG, Chimers, and Queenie – who have now taken their rightful place as Gum Ball royalty returning after wowing crowds at The Gum Ball’s sister festival, Dashville Skyline, in 2023.

In a time of uncertainty for music festivals around the country The Gum Ball once again stood like a guiding light of culture and relevancy. We can’t wait to see what the Dashville crew have in store for us during the upcoming Skyline Cosmic Country Weekender, which rolls into Lower Belford on the October long weekend (October 4 – 6, 2024).