The 23rd Queenscliff Music Festival sold out in record time this year with punters flocking to this picturesque coastal town over the weekend to soak up the sounds, dancing down memory lane with the heritage acts on the line-up while also discovering some new favourite artists.

Header image: Ash Grunwald by David Harris

This year the festival’s War On Waste upped the ante by introducing reusable, sustainable rice husk plates, bowls, cups and cutlery (which punters dumped in allocated bin hubs for staff to collect, wash and redistribute to vendors) and eating out of proper receptacles was an absolute win. As such, we ate way too much (even accidentally putting away two dinners on Saturday night!) and the highlights – musical and otherwise – were too numerous to list here so we narrowed it down to a digestible ten. See you at the 24th edition!

Mojo Juju: Political Call To Action

Mojo Juju

Image by David Harris

During her Friday night set on Lighthouse Stage, Mojo Juju (Mojo Ruiz de Luzuriaga on her birth certificate) introduced Think Twice, the funkiest diss track we’ve ever heard, as per usual: by calling Peter Dutton, “a f-ckwit.” She then went one louder and encouraged festivalgoers to email a link of this song to the Australian Liberal Party politician serving as Minister for Home Affairs since 2017. Let’s do it!

Ross Wilson: A Touch Of Paradise

Ross Wilson

Image by Lucinda Goodwin

During Ross Wilson’s classic hit-filled Friday night set on Hippos Stage – which featured songs such as Chemistry and Come Said The Boy (during which we wondered whether the former frontman of Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock might consider updating chorus lyrics to “Come said the man,” which kinda rhymes better with “sand” anyhoo) – he ripped into the song made famous by Farnsey: A Touch Of Paradise. Fun fact: Wilson cowrote this song with Gulliver Smith and Roger McLachlan; it was originally recorded by Mondo Rock and appears on their 1982 album Nuovo Mondo.

Fenn Wilson: Remembering Chris Wilson

Fenn Wilson

Image by Lucinda Goodwin

We collectively got something in our eyes shortly after midday on Saturday when Fenn Wilson performed an a cappella cover of his late father Chris Wilson’s version of Bee Gees’ To Love Somebody. Fenn’s astonishing bass baritone washed over us during verses and his backing band – brother George, Jack Meredith and Fin Strijker all sharing a mic, stage right, on Hippos Stage – joined in on glorious chorus harmonies. Completely enthralled, all present were given an opportunity to not only remember Fenn and George’s father – who sadly passed away earlier this year and whose tireless work within the local music community opened up opportunities for emerging musicians of all ages – but also Robin and Maurice Gibb.

Surreal McCoy: Keep Your Eyes On Your Fries!

surreal mccoy

Image by David Harris

The antics of Surreal McCoy’s irresistible roving street performers had punters in hysterics at regular intervals throughout the festival. Whether The Sniffer Dogs were on the case, trailing punters to sniff out suspicious smells as they entered the festival, or The Giant Seagulls were making chase, trying to stick their beaks into buckets of chips, hilarity ensued. Hells Cockies were in high demand for selfies this year as well, and when Big Rory (a giant Scotsman) and Ochie The Dog unveiled their ‘secret weapon’, it was ROFLcopters all ’round.

Dallas Frasca: “Who The F-ck Do You Think I Is?”

dallas frasca

Image by Lucinda Goodwin

A late addition to the line-up after U.S. singer-songwriter Ian Poe was forced to cancel his QMF appearances due to illness, Dallas Frasca pulled a massive crowd at Glanuese Stage early Saturday afternoon – those lung-busting, sustained high notes could be heard from the moon! Frasca performed without her longtime collaborator/guitarist Jeff Curran (who’s currently recording in Texas and couldn’t make it back from the States in time for this last-minute booking!) and his onstage presence and beard were obviously missed, but guitarist Jack Wiesler, drummer Liam Burgan and the fierce BV trio Glitter Bitch Club were absolutely on fire. Frasca’s banter is always on point and we’re still singing, “AAAAAAALL MY LOVE IS GONE!” Props go out to Frasca for deleting the expletives from that killer Beyoncé cover Don’t Hurt Yourself for this kiddy-friendly event, and we definitely need to know where she purchased that flocked velvet kimono in autumnal hues from as well.

Vince Peach: Dancefloor Edutainment

vince peach

Image by David Harris

If you ever strutted into Cherry Bar on a Soul In The Basement night, you’ll completely understand what a privilege it is to pull shapes to a selection of Vince Peach’s original Northern soul and Motown 45s. The Liverpool-born DJ hosts Soul Time on PBS FM and it’s always a hoot to clock the expressions of dance enthusiasts as they recognise Tainted Love when Peach drops it in the mix – the 1965 Gloria Jones version – and suddenly realise the 1981 Soft Cell version that topped the Kent Music Report (old-school ARIA chart) was a cover. Watching punters of all ages beaming while dancing uncontrollably to classic cuts by iconic artists such as Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder as the delicious smell of chai wafts through Ozone Lounge (which doubles as a café selling hot beverages and munchies) is food for the soul.

Charlie Collins: From Tigertown To Snowpine

charlie collins

Image by David Harris

Opening Lighthouse Stage on Sunday with a voice that made us melt (while also playing guitar and harmonica), Tamworth-raised Charlie Collins and her excellent, yet-to-be-named four-piece backing band (hello, slide guitar!) charmed the pants off us. You may recognise Collins from her previous indie-pop four-piece Tigertown, which disbanded in 2018, or even before that through another group, Chasing Bailey. Introducing Please Let Me Go as her “self-pity song”, Collins went on to explain it was written at a time when she felt like giving up on her musical dreams (lyrics: “I don’t know if I can do this anymore”). Wearing threads so fresh they surely must be custom made, we’re collectively thankful that Collins pushed through her feelings of doubt and persevered with her vocation. Being nominated for an ARIA Award for the first time this year off the back of her debut solo album, Snowpine, has gotta count for something, right?

Alysha Brilla: New Favourite Artist Discovery

Alysha Brilla

Image by David Harris

This Indo-Tanzanian Canadian songwriter/producer was so bloody brilliant that we had to prioritise a repeat dose! After catching the tail end of her set on Glaneuse Stage Saturday night, we made sure we were front and centre at Hippos when she hit the stage on Sunday afternoon. Honestly, Brilla’s smile just oozes kindness and positivity, and getting involved in her singalongs (“Jenna/Oh, Jenna/Jenna, I’m in love with you!”) is therapeutic beyond belief. Backed by Australia’s own Julia Rose on bass, a two-piece brass section, drummer and keyboardist, Brilla’s name came up a lot when discussing new favourite artist discoveries across the entire weekend.

Missy Higgins: The Special Two

Missy Higgins

Image by David Harris

Confession time: experiencing Missy Higgins performing The Special Two live during the closing set on QMF 2019’s Lighthouse Stage was always gonna be a highlight for this scribe. The chorus melody, that unexpected key change – ouch, my heart! Obviously there was a deafening crowd singalong while Higgins performed this “sorry letter”, accompanying herself on piano. Her flawless vocal and the way Higgins sings without trying to hide her Australian accent, which somehow this never grates, transports us back to 2004 when The Sound Of White (released 15 years ago!) was a permanent fixture in the car stezza. “And we could only see each other, we’d bleed together/These arms would not be taught to need another’s/’Cause we’re the special two…” – I’m not crying, you’re crying!

Merpire: Spontaneous Backing Dancer Squad

Across the entire weekend it was heartwarming to see kidlets experimenting with their dancing styles, searching for cool new moves to try out (yep, flossing is not all there is!). When Rhiannon Atkinson-Howatt (stage name: Merpire) noticed a few people within her audience knew the choreographed moves executed in her Habit film clip, she called them forward to lead the Queenscliff Music Festival massive. Cue a whole bunch of delighted children joining in, learning this quirky dance and feeling pretty chuffed to be part of it all.