Can Melbourne’s south side take the live music crown off the north?

First staged in 1980, the two-day St Kilda Festival is the largest of its kind in Australia.


Across his four-decade career, Hoodoo Gurus frontman Dave Faulkner played in most of St Kilda’s legendary venues in the ’80s and ’90s, many of those now gone. He says headlining the festival in 2008 still looms large in his memory.

“It was fantastic,” Faulkner says, about closing the festival last time. “It was a big occasion for us and the atmosphere and the energy of the crowd was great … it was a glorious day.

“St Kilda was rock ‘n’ roll central for many, many years,” Faulkner said.

“Over the years we played all the hallowed haunts of St Kilda, from the foreshore to the fleapits.

“We’ve played the Espy, the Seaview Ballroom, the Prince Of Wales and the George. At one point we held the house record at the Palace, which is now long gone.”

Dave Faulkner (left) and Brad Shepherd on stage during last year’s  Hoodoo Gurus 40th anniversary tour.

Dave Faulkner (left) and Brad Shepherd on stage during last year’s Hoodoo Gurus 40th anniversary tour.Credit:Jordan Munns

He’s thrilled the Hoodoo Gurus are back for this weekend’s 42nd St Kilda Festival with a main stage show on Sunday, when Confidence Man, Yothu Yindi and Genesis Owusu join a line-up of more than 50 live performances throughout the day.

The festival’s opening day on Saturday is a celebration of First Nations music with performances from Christine Anu and a special tribute to the late Archie Roach featuring Sally Dastey, Emma Donovan and more on the main stage. Family-friendly activities and live music from First Peoples’ artists will also be staged on Saturday in the O’Donnell Gardens.

Tamara and the Dreams’ singer and songwriter, Tamara Reichman, is among the emerging artists performing on the New Music Stage – one of seven stages – on Sunday.

Emma Donovan joins a tribute to Archie Roach at St Kilda Festival’s First Peoples First program on Saturday.

Emma Donovan joins a tribute to Archie Roach at St Kilda Festival’s First Peoples First program on Saturday.Credit:James Brickwood

“I’ve been coming to St Kilda Festival every year since I was a kid, seeing my idols play,” Reichman told The Age.

“I wrote a song called St Kilda Beach about how special the place is to me. Getting to play it at the festival, facing the beach is a big full-circle moment. I’ll probably ride my bike down with a guitar on my back the same way I used to do in summer.”

Port Phillip mayor Heather Cunsolo said the festival contributed to St Kilda’s “prized reputation as a cultural hub” and was one way the council was “future-proofing live music in our city”.

“Our council’s long-standing investment in the two-day St Kilda festival provides significant cultural and financial returns for Port Phillip,” Cr Cunsolo said.

The Council is also developing policy to create designated live music precincts to “protect established and emerging live music activity”, which could be adopted by the middle of this year, she said.

It would make Port Phillip the first Victorian council to deliver protections for creative industries, based on planning control changes introduced by the state government in 2020.

“While St Kilda has a long history of live music in venues and in public spaces, the pathway to putting on live music is not a simple one, nor is living in a suburb famous for it,” Cr Cunsolo told The Age.

“As high-density living increases, recent years have seen such tensions escalate and result in distress to residents and businesses, and closure of live music venues.

“This is why we are planning to release a draft Live Music Precinct Policy mid-March this year for community consultation.”

Other artists performing on Sunday include Jen Cloher, Mick Harvey, Alice Ivy, Delsinki, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers, Heavy Amber, Phoebe Go and Asanti Beats.

Fifteen years since Hoodoo Gurus last rocked the foreshore, Faulkner looks forward to making new festival memories, down St Kilda way.

“I’m curious to see quite a few things that are happening across the day, but we’ll focus on what we’re doing and let everyone else have fun,” he said.

“The weather looks good, so that’s the last piece of the puzzle. We’re looking good.”

For the full St Kilda Festival program, go to stkildafestival.com.au

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