Caloundra Music Festival 2018

Author: Brian  

This was the 12th Caloundra Music Festival, held each year to coincide with the October public holiday. It is run by the Sunshine Coast council and is a well organised, family friendly event. It's held at Kings Beach, across two local parks surrounded by high rise holiday apartment blocks. Because it is a fairly compact site it was quite easy to move from stage to stage. The facilities are good, and there was a great range of food available. The alcohol available was as usual disappointing, with a very limited selection of mediocre wines, and the usual beers and mixers.

Paula and I went for the entire four days, and had the chance to hear a varierty of performers across four stages. Unfortunately the sound quality varied considerably between them. The largest stage, Soul, was ideal for the big crowd bands and the sound was very good, but as with all of them it was louder than necessary. Considering that it is a child friendly festival and there were lots of babies and toddlers I am concerned at the effect of such levels on young ears.  

The Sun stage was a smaller, more intimate venue and in general hosted lesser known, single performers and smaller groups, and the sound quality there was mostly very good. We were impressed with local artists Sally Skelton and The Dreggs, also Tay Oskee from Byron area, and the Stomping Ivories.

Another local, Jason Daniels, was at the Sand stage and although very good, his performance was spoiled by obvious distortion of the vocals when singing loudly. At lower levels and on other numbers the sound was quite good. Whether the problem was a microphone overloading I don't know, but I am surprised that such an obvious problem wasn't corrected. On the Monday when Tay Oskee performed at the Sand stage the wind was gusting and he didn't sound anywhere nearly as impressive as the previous day at the Sun.

The Surf Stage was another large venue but we didn't hear any group over the four days where the sound was pleasant enough to sit through a full act. In particular, Tim Finn, performing towards the end of the last day and someone we had hung around to see, was spoiled by over bassy and ill-defined sound, such that we left during the second number.

Leaving aside these technical criticisms there were some great musicians, the pick of the artists for me was Mama Kin Spender who performed accompanied by a chorus of singers in striking yellow robes. Other groups which really had the crowd jumping at the Soul were Sheppard, The Rubens, Arrested Development, and Birds of Tokyo. The Waifs and Sasta were also great, partticularly because they didn't overwhelm the eardums.

It is disappointing that an event like this is marred by poor quality sound. It is unfair to the performers, and I suspect a lot of people wince when the sound is uncomfortably loud. The sound techicians are presumably professional people, so maybe they suffer from industrial deafness due to their regular exposure to such high sound levels. Perhaps festivals like this and concerts in general need to have qualified people to monitor the levels and quality of the sound and advise the technicians when they just don't get it right.

Despite these issues, overall the sound was OK (although louder than necessary) and we had a very enjoyable four days. If you live in South-East Queensland this is a music festival well worth attending.

Comments (1)

"Sound engineer" incompetence?

By: on 8 October 2018
I am in complete agreement with your comments regarding the sound quality and volume at concerts. As you say "as with all of them it was louder than necessary" and "spoiled by over bassy and ill-defined sound". I have just turned 60 and still enjoy getting to out to the odd gig but most concerts in recent years have been blighted by too much volume and way too much bottom end/bass sound. The Sydney Opera House (and I 'm not watching opera) is one venue where they generally get it right but even venues like the State Theatre in Sydney suffer from poor sound quality, particularly if you are upstairs, where the sound bounces off the back wall and you experience far more bass in the sound than if you are in the stalls. I don't think the sound guys ever think to head upstairs in these sort of venues during a sound check to see what you will be hearing up there. I guess the average (younger) punter is not too fussed with a bellyful of beer and no concern about potential hearing loss but it is a shame that there is a view amongst those operating the sound desk that louder is somehow better.

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