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Why aren’t we doing this more? Volumes 2016 proved that when done right, a street festival is as good as it gets

We’re a little spoiled at the moment in the way of festivals. The last month alone has surely seen thousands of frantic Facebook group messages waging e-warfare over which NYE festival to go to.

Aussie punters are up to the neck in sick festivals, especially in Summer. However, unless you’re the most hippy-living, combie driving, nomadic festival full-timer, it can be hard to arrange yourself to get to these great events.

Pics by Liam Cameron

A well-done street festival is the link between the massive campers’ fest and an intimate gig near your home. Volumes 2016 proves that when done right, it boasts the best of both worlds.

Volumes 2016 was the weekend before last, and several Happy team members were there. For those who are unfamiliar, it was a ‘festival’ takeover of Sydney’s venue-ridden Oxford St drag. Over Friday and Saturday nights, you could grab a wristband at the start of the party and thereafter be granted entry into any of of the four participating venues.

One of the greatest things about a multiple day camping festival is the interconnectivity, how close you are to everything you need. It’s an easy trek between stages, and if you’re needing more sunscreen, a bite to eat or you’re just plain too fucked up, there’s always the safety net of your camp within reach.

This isn’t an option at the usual city based festivals. Unless you live next door to the venue, you’ll be trekking god knows how far to make it there. Furthermore they’re infamous for not allowing pass-outs, so once you’re in you’re in.

This lack of options and a home base, combined with rampant beer prices, only encourages punters to squeeze hard liquor and pills into whatever gaps they can find, and cut any other hygiene, health and safety corners they are pressured to. Not to mention the transport to and from these gigs is always a complete shitfight.

At Volumes, you’re on one of Sydney’s best-stocked streets in terms of bars, public transport and shitfaced fast food options. On the first night between Koi Child and Rainbow Chan you could duck across the street to grab a normal-priced beer at the Brighton, or secure yourself a kilo of burrito to keep the body functioning.

This is where Volumes delivered in spades, finding the happy medium between the closeness of a city festival and the interconnectivity of a campsite festival. It was the community vibe of Lost Paradise, or Splendour in the Grass without the drive to get there, or the hassle of setting up a 12-person tent you probably won’t remember falling asleep in.

The second night of the event saw the opening of every venue on the ticket, and Oxford St came alive. Normally when walking into a festival you’re met with a barricade of riot-gear cops and a platoon of sniffer dogs, but when walking through the doors of each Volumes venue, you just held up a neat silver wristband.

It all felt so completely unrestricted. The sad truth is that these days, buying a ticket to an Australian festival often writes you up as guilty, until proven innocent. The crowd at Volumes was, if anything, much less fucked up than your usual gronked-out festival mosh. Restriction itself breeds bad behaviour.

We got to watch as DARTS rocked the Brighton Up Bar, Donny Benet stole the hearts of every soul in Cliff Dive, Marcus Whale lit up the Burdekin sound system and Mall Grab closed the Oxford Arts main stage in a monster set.

Five venues in one night didn’t feel like a chore, it felt like a pub crawl with your mates – or strolling between stages at your favourite festival.

Given the success of Volumes, hopefully other bookers jump on the idea of a well-curated street festival as an alternative to the single day, security heavy, no pass-outs festival that has become popular of late. Until now, there was a simple lack of attractive alternative.

Not to mention, in a prolific act of voodoo coincidence, the main night of Volumes happened to fall on the day several Sydney bars won a class-action lawsuit against the NSW Government’s lockout laws. The Brighton and Oxford Art Factory, both Volumes venues, now boast extended licences past the restricted 3am standard.

Whether it’s just coincidence or people take this as some form of astounding symbolism, it does highlight the fact that Sydney can still put on a world-class event in the middle of its’ locked-out ‘danger zone’, where the bands enjoy playing, the ticket holders get their monies’ worth and nobody ends up in the St Vincent’s emergency room.

Is that really so much to ask? In it’s second year, Volumes has created a street festival formula to follow, and we look forward to their next installment, and any influence such a killer event has on the scene at large.

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September 6, 2016

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